Couponing Lessons

Couponing 101

Since I have spoken with so many people lately that are just starting to coupon I want to start a series that will help new couponers become super couponers in less time than it took me to figure all this out. I wanted to start with very basic info. Below is a list of coupon lingo, you will see these abbreviations used on my blog as well as most others and this will help you understand them better.

Sunday inserts:
P&G or PG: Procter & Gamble Sunday insert (in papers once a month)
SS: SmartSource (in papers every weekend except major holidays)
RP: Red Plum (Memphis area: comes in the mail on Tuesday unless you subscribe to the paper and it will be there on Tuesday)

Coupon lingo:
$1/1, $1/2: One dollar off one item, one dollar off two items,
B1G1: Buy one item get one item free
B2G1: Buy two items get one item free
BOGO: Buy one item get one item free
Blinkies: Grocery/drugstore coupon dispensers with blinking lights
Cat: Catalina coupon, prints from a separate machine when your receipt prints
CRT: Cash register tape, usually used when referring to CVS coupons that print with receipt or at CVS machine
DND: Do not double
ECBs: ExtraCare Bucks, CVS loyalty rewards system
FAR: Free after rebate
IPQ or IPC: Internet printable coupon
IVC: Instant Value Coupon, Walgreens' store coupons found in ads and ESR booklet
MIR: Mail-in rebate MM: Money maker!
OYNO: On your next order
OOP: Out of pocket
Peelie: Peel-off coupon found on product packaging
PSA: Prices starting at
Raincheck: Given by the store when they are out of an item, may expire but guarantees the sale for at least 30 days
RRs: Register Rewards, Walgreens' Catalina coupons
SCR: Single Check Rebate, Rite Aid monthly rebates program
WYB: When you buy
YMMV: Your manager may vary, meaning some stores might give you a deal but others might not

When watching blogs they will list where to find the coupon in this format PG 4/4/10 which indicates that a coupon came from a Proctor & Gamble insert that was in the 4/4/10 Sunday newspaper. When you see a RP and a date in Memphis we get this on Tuesday before the weekend the rest get it in the paper so remember to adjust your dates accordingly.

Basics of Walgreens (aka Wags)

Before you try to use your new found super couponer skills at Walgreens you need to become very familiar with the Register Rewards (RR) program and Walgreens’ coupon rules. Walgreens can be a GREAT place to stock up on health and beauty items and occasionally groceries as well. Since they have no limits like many of the other stores you can keep running through the line until you run out of coupons however if you don’t pay close attention you will find the register is beeping and the cashier is giving you that look and people behind you are sighing..not fun. Let’s look at the basics.

Register Rewards (RR)
RR’s are manufacturer coupons that print from a Catalina machine next to the register. They can only be used at Walgreens and are used like cash to pay for your next transaction. The RR prints when you buy a participating product that is advertised in the weekly ad or that are advertised in the store. They expire typically 2 weeks from the time they are printed.

Since RR’s are manufacturer coupons and since Walgreens will not allow you to have more coupons than items you may need to plan your purchases before you get to the register. In other words if you have 3 items and 3 coupons you cannot also use a RR, the register will beep and well you see where that is going. So if you have 3 items and 3 coupons and you want to pay with a RR you will need to have a filler item. Filler items are typically inexpensive items to add to your transaction that will enable you to use your RR. On Sunday I use the newspaper as a filler, since I am going to be purchasing them anyway and never have coupons they make great fillers. If I am not shopping on Sunday I try to find items that are as inexpensive as possible, sometimes it is candy (which then I send as a treat with my hubbie for his lunch) clearance items, and sometimes things that are on sale for a good price but that I do not have a coupon for. Keep in mind that Walgreens coupons, the in ad coupon or one from the coupon booklets found in the store, do not count towards the coupon to item ratio. Also keep in mind that RR’s will NOT pay for tax, so if your total is 3.50 plus tax and you have a RR for $3.50 you will still have to pay for the tax. In the same scenario if your RR is for $4 the register will beep and not accept the RR because it is over the amount before taxes.

A few more facts on RR’s…If you purchase more than one of the same RR participating item in one transaction, you will only receive one RR, not 2. If, however, you are taking advantage of multiple RR deal s you can receive all the RR’s in one transaction as long as they are from different offers. RR’s do not roll, meaning you cannot use a RR to pay for the same item and expect it to generate another RR. Once in a blue moon the system will allow this because of an error in the programming, when this happens the blog world will be abuzz and you can try it too…please note that at anytime Walgreens can fix the glitch and it no longer work. RR’s can frequently net you a profit, we call those money makers. An example would be the have dental floss on sale for $2.99 and they are offering a $3 RR, (technically you are making a penny here but that is not what I consider a money maker) if you have a $1 off 1 coupon then you pay $1.99 and still get back a $3 RR, you have profited a dollar. If you do this each week, which is possible, that profit will help you cover the costs of your papers or you filler items and ultimately help you keep your out of pocket as low as possible.

Walgreens Coupons
Learning how to use Walgreens coupons from the weekly ad or the coupon booklets found at the front of the store will really help you maximize your savings. Walgreens coupons can be “stacked” with manufacturer coupons. When you are using a combo of manufacturer coupons and store coupons ALWAYS hand over the manufacturer coupons first. Why? An example would be if you are using both coupons and present them in the correct order and it gives you an overage, the overage then will apply to other items in your transaction. If you hand it over the other way around you will get the beep, because the register knows that your manufacturer coupon is over the value of the item, but if you have the manufacturer coupon first this will not happen. It is all about minimizing the beeps while getting the entire coupon’s value.

A few other helpful tips
If you are doing multiple transactions at once, try to check out at the cosmetic counter. Typically there is no line there and no one behind you huffing and puffing, I find that frustrating and then I hurry and make mistakes. While you are there ask the cashier if she has any coupons or samples, sometimes they do and it is worth asking.

Walgreens does offer Rain Checks; they are valid for 30 days. I have had instances where the manager offered me a similar item for the same price and gave me a gift card in place of the RR. This is why I ALWAYS carry my binder with me; never know what is going to happen.

Watch for clearance items, Walgreens in known for awesome clearance prices. The clearance tags are normally orange and contain the original price and the new clearance price. Walgreens will allow you to use coupons on clearance items and frequently you can turn this into a freebie and even sometimes a money maker. Yet another reason to always have your coupons with you, the problem with clearance items is that they go fast and may or may not be on clearance at a different store.

Basics of CVS

CVS Extra Care Card
CVS has a loyalty card called an Extra Care Card that you use every time you shop there. Let me repeat what I just said... EVERY TIME you shop at CVS. Frequently you can only get the sale if you use your Extra Care card, so get in the habit of using it every time. You also earn 2% back on all your purchases and they pay you this with Extra Care Bucks (more on those in a moment) at the bottom of your receipt once a quarter. CVS Extra Care cards are FREE and limited to one per person. You can pick one up the next time you are in a CVS or you can sign up for one online and have it mailed to you. If you get one at the store make sure to register it online. CVS occasionally sends emails with printable coupons for card-holders like $5 off a $20 purchase or coupons to be used on a type of items, like $5 off $20 hair care purchase.

Every time you are in the store…ok I am repeating myself here EVERY TIME you are there you need to find the CVS red price scanners that I like to call the magic coupon machine. Once you locate the machine scan the back of your card and watch the coupons appear from the side, keep scanning until the screen tells you there are no more coupons. Typically you can scan twice before you get that message; if you are really lucky you can get a third scan. These coupons are store coupons and can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for added value; they also can be coupons for CVS branded products. Read them closely; when they don’t limit trial sizes they will almost always score you a free travel size of something. Sometimes the machine will print a $x/$xx coupon and may cause you to rethink your visit for the day.  Don't stress there are always deals that will work well with your new coupon.

Extra Care Bucks
Extra Care Bucks (ECB’s) are like an instant rebate of money that can only be used at CVS. When you buy an item advertised as earning extra bucks you will pay for the item and then the ECB’s will print at the bottom of your receipt to be used on your next visit to CVS. Cut these off your receipt and treat them like cash, basically they are, so remember if you loose them then you are out of luck. They typically expire in 30 days and a rare few CVS stores will accept expired ones, but I don’t recommend testing that concept unless you just had no way to get there and use your ECB’s. Basically the next time you are in the store and you buy something use your ECB’s to pay for the transaction. ECB’s can be used to pay for anything in the store except for tax, alcohol, tobacco and other items prohibited by law. The best way to maximize your ECB’s is to “roll” them. Buy something that earns ECB’s then use those ECB’s to buy something else that earns ECB’s. This way you make an initial cash purchase and then use CVS money for all future purchases. Now, don’t waste ECB’s! You cannot use a $10 ECB on an $8 purchase and keep the $2 difference instead CVS adjusts the value of your ECB and you loose that $2.

Frequently you can actually make money by shopping at CVS. An example would be they have an advertised special where something is on sale for $3 and you get back $3 in ECB’s, so in essence it is free, the way to make money here is to have a coupon for that item as well. If you had a coupon for $1 off then you would be paying $2 and earning $3 in ECB’s which equals a $1 profit. Always be on the lookout for money maker deals, I will take advantage of a money maker knowing that I will just be donating the item to charity because it is something I do not need or want. I think this is fine, you win by making a profit on the purchase and your charity wins by receiving the item to use.

Green Bag Tag
If you purchase a Green Bag Tag (they are $0.99) and put it on your reusable bag you also can earn ECB’s. Basically they are encouraging you to think green and not use plastic bags, I think this is awesome and since my average purchase there fits in a single bag this is a very easy way for me to help the environment. Always tell the cashier to use your reusable bag and to scan your Green Bag Tag and then on every fourth visit you will earn a $1 ECB.

A few other helpful tips
Watch limits, unlike Walgreen's there are limits on ECB deals.  Typically the limit is one, occasionally 2 but seldom more than that.  If you purchase over the limit you will still get the sale price however you will not get the ECB.

Make sure you are buying the right items in the right quantity or the ECB will not print, if it does not print look closely at your receipt it will tell you what you missed for the deal and typically the cashiers will offer to return the transaction and assist you in earning your ECB.

Watch for clearance items, CVS like many other retailers likes to move items and when they clearance them they are pretty nice deals.  CVS will allow you to use coupons on clearance items. 

Visit the CVS website often, they will have printable store coupons that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons and sometimes have printable manufacturer coupons that can be used at other stores.

Basics of Rite Aid

Single Check Rebates
Rite Aid has a different type of customer loyalty program that does not require a card, you do however need to sign up for it on line.  It called the Single Check Rebate program (SCR).  Rather than give you instant savings or an in store rebate like the ECB or RR, selected products each week and month are eligible for a SCR. Participating items may be found in both the weekly circular as well as the monthly Single Check Rebate book (available in the front of the store or may be viewed online).  The most important thing to remember about the SCR program is that you may only request a SINGLE CHECK per month, get where they come by the name? If you buy items eligible for a SCR at the beginning of the month and immediately request your refund check, you will be unable to participate in the program for the remainder of the month so don't do that!  After every shopping trip immediately come home and log onto the SCR site and input the details from your receipt, then set a reminder to request your check at the end of the month.  If you are disciplined you will find this is a very rewarding program.  Make sure you watch the limits, typically there is a limit of one on the SCR and occasionally there may be a limit of 2.  Your SCR can be deposited into your account just like any other check, and is more like a true rebate than any of the other drug stores. 

Video Value Coupons
Rite Aid has a system where you can watch videos on their website which are short commercials for products, once you watch the video you are able to print a coupon for the that item, many times these will be store coupons and can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for added savings.  After you have watched the required number of videos you will also qualify for a $x/$xx coupon to be used in the store.  Sometimes you can also find $x/$xx coupons on or  These coupons can make for some super sweet deals!!!  Rite Aid can have money makers too, when an item is on sale for $4 with a SCR of $3 and you have a $2 off coupon you will profit $1, this is also possible with the usage of the $x/$xx coupons.

A few other helpful tips
Always seek out at $x/$xx coupon and work into your scenarios, this will maximize your savings and quite often will net you a profit.  When you have those coupons plan ahead, this will eliminate those last minute purchases that you need to get to the required amount.  Also always you $x/$xx coupons first, before any other coupons are handed over to the cashier.

Get the Single Check Rebate booklet at the beginning of the month and become familiar with what you see there, this will help you stay on the lookout for coupons that pair up with those rebates, the extra time can help you score the best deals.