I haven't missed one week of thrifty shopping since I started using coupons at Kroger and CVS. It seems like each week I learn something new, usually from making a mistake that reverses a little of my savings. In the last couple of weeks since I last blogged, I've saved never less than 50% off my grocery bill (often much more).
Black Friday at CVS was awesome, and I missed out on some of the great deals only because some of the items were out of stock (and still are - yep, I am learning to ask for rain checks now). CVS had many items that were FREE after Extra Care Bucks. I am learning that it's usually beneficial to buy anything FREE after ECBs as long as you can use it or donate it. And of course only if you plan to use those ECBs in the month (they expire one month after you get them).
Anyway, I am learning the hard way that you DO have to pay attention to your transactions, and to the items you are purchasing that are supposed to be either on sale, or an ECB deal. There are times at my local CVS that some merchandise is not labeled on the shelf as to which is actually on sale or an ECB deal. One example recently was a laundry detergent that was one sale in the ad, but no sign was present on the shelf to identify that it was. After studying the sale ad (I hate to keep asking the nice cashiers at our store too many questions) I was lucky enough to select the right product and got the sale price. Another example was another sale item (Mentos gum) that was advertised in the ad. I chose three varieties of the on-sale gum because I had three coupons for that gum that would have made them free. CVS was busy that day, and I was distracted at the cash register and didn't pay attention to the prices as the items were scanned. I knew my total was a few bucks more than I expected, but I paid and left the store. I noticed (when I got home) that I got the sale price on one gum, but paid full price for the other two. CVS regular prices are not usually prices I'd ever pay, so I was very disappointed.
The same thing happened to me at Kroger recently. I spend a while looking at the Kroger sale ad (I pick up a new one each week on Sunday after church) and I always go in to shop with a plan. One particular sale that Kroger has often is a "buy 10 items" and get a certain amount reduction (like $5.00 off). In order to get those sale prices (or the $5.00 off your total) you must buy 10 items (which can be mixed and matched among the sale items). If you buy less than 10 you will pay the price before discount. If you buy 11, you will get the discount for 10 items, but pay the non-discount price for the 11th item. In other words, when you see these sales, you must buy in multiples of 10.
I love the buy 10 sales. Yesterday I purchased 10 packets of Bumble Bee tuna that normally sell for $1.49 each for only .49 cents each. I got this price using only my Kroger card, no coupons. Hard to beat those kind of sales. I also got 4 boxes of Cheerios for $1.25 each (sale price plus 2 coupons), Wesson canola oil for .80 cents (sale price plus coupon), and 5 boxes of Kleenex for .60 cents each (sale price plus coupons). If you combine coupons with Kroger sale prices, you can save big. You've just got to pay attention to the sale ad, and even ask a Kroger employee to explain it to you if something is not clear. I've only encountered one unfriendly and non-helpful Kroger employee where I shop. Everyone else has been very helpful. One young lady was working the register last week when I went in for batteries that were on sale that I had coupons for. She got so excited when I got 6 packages of Duracell batteries for .25-.50 each! She thought that was so cool!
CVS shopping makes me a little nuts some weeks. I always go in there with a plan too, and never, ever has my shopping gone as planned. Seems that something is always out of stock, which will throw off your plan if you're trying to reach a certain $ amount in order to use a $4 off $20 coupon (which I get from CVS frequently). You can use those coupons as soon as your subtotal reaches the $20 amount (before other coupons, or offers, or ECBs). I try to always use those coupons as it's essentially 20% off, and I usually have plenty of coupons and ECBs to cover all or most of the balance.
When planning your shopping trip at CVS, scan the sale ad and look at all the FREE after ECBs offers (sometimes there are not any). Then look for items that are priced good (with or without ECBs). There are some rip-offs in every sale ad (sorry CVS but it's true). For instance, last week there was a deal for $2 ECBs when you buy Ban roll on deodorant. No price was listed in the sale ad - only the ECB deal. These are usually not good deals. I had a coupon for Ban for .50 cents off so I thought I'd do that deal. When I got to the store and saw that that product was priced at $5.99, even with the $2 ECB and my coupon, I would still be paying $3.49 plus tax for Ban deodorant (a brand that I don't usually even use). I do not consider this a good deal - so I passed on that one.
Rolling Extra Care Bucks is neat. I am still not proficient enough to teach someone the details of this, but I am starting to catch on. Rolling your bucks will help you pay little out of pocket cash (use your ECBs) when you purchase items that offer ECBs. You basically just roll them over and over. In order to get good at this, you need to plan to shop at CVS weekly, and never miss the good ECB deals. www.simplycvsshopping.com is a great place to learn about CVS shopping.