Extreme Couponing: Understanding Coupon Matchups

04/07/2011. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy.


The next part of the extreme couponing series that I wanted to discuss is understanding coupon matchups.  We talked about how to start accumulating coupons yesterday and I think this is step #2.

I do matchups for several national chains every week like CVS, Target, Walmart and Walgreens.  I also do regional grocery store matchups for stores like Safeway and for stores that are not in my area (like Kroger, Publix, Giant Eagle, Meijer etc..) I will post some highlights and point you toward a person that does a good job with coupon matchups.

So what does coupon matchup mean exactly?  Well it means that I look at the weekly circular each store puts out and I match up the best prices with coupons that are available.  That is how you are going to find the very best deals on products- not by using those coupons the minute they come out but by holding onto them until you find a great sale to go along with it.

I do not matchup every single item in a weekly circular- most of the time the products featured in a sales flyer are at a good price but not always.  If my personal buy price for lunchmeat is $2.00 or less and Safeway features lunchmeat for $4.99 that week with no coupons- well it is wasting everyone’s time to point that deal out.

So if you are looking at matchups that I post you can feel comfortable that I think most of those items are a good price.

This is what a normal coupon matchup might l0ok like:

Jello Temptations $1.99
Use $0.60/1 Jell-O Refrigerated Snack, exp. 5-3-11 (SS 04/03/11)
or Use $1/1 Jell-O Temptations printable
Final price: as low as .99

So the example above first lists the item- in this case Jello- and the price the store has it on sale for.  The next thing listed is the coupons available for that item.  The first coupon is listed as the value of the coupon ($.60), the expiration date of the coupon and finally where you can find it.  In the example, the coupon location is listed as       (SS 04/03/11)- so that means you need to go find your pile of coupons and look for the SmartSource insert from the Sunday paper dated 4/3 to get the coupon.  It also tells you the expiration- so we have awhile before this particular coupon expires but imagine the date was 4/10 instead.  Well that tells you that you need to go and purchase this item on the 10th or before.  The majority of stores will not accept expired coupons so you may need to plan an early trip to the store.

The second coupon is listed as $1/1 Jello Temptations printable.  You should see the word printable as well as a link.  You can click that link and it should take you directly to the coupon to print it out.  So you have two sources for coupons to get a deal on this product- in this case the better coupon is the one that can be printed out so do that and the price you will pay for Jello is $.99.

So the next question is- well what is a SmartSource insert? Each week your paper will have coupon inserts from different companies.  Usually you will find a RedPlum and a SmartSource insert and occasionally Proctor and Gamble will offer inserts as well as General Mills.  We abbreviate these companies like this:

  • SmartSource= SS
  • RedPlum = RP
  • General Mills= GM
  • Proctor and Gamble= P&G

So the picture above is an example of what coupon inserts might look like.  You can see right at the top they have listed either SmartSource or RedPlum as the company that distributed the coupons.  You can also check the spine of the insert which will have the date and the name of the insert.

So what happens if you don’t have those inserts?  Maybe they were before you started couponing or maybe you didn’t get the paper that week.  You are kind of out of luck unless you decide to try and buy coupons.

You can either go to Clipping Services or Ebay and purchase coupons.  Typically you will pay about .10 per coupon and they have different costs for shipping as well as minimum purchase costs.  I would encourage you to be very careful when purchasing coupons.  For Ebay sellers it is very important to read the seller’s ratings so you aren’t buying fraudulent coupons.  For the clipping services make sure you understand the timeline they have to send you the coupons- you want to make sure you actually get them in time for the sale.

Two clipping services I can recommend are:

Now, the drugstores work a little differently than grocery stores because you have loyalty programs in place.  Here is an example of what a CVS coupon matchup might look like:

Zantac 24 or 30 ct $8.99
Get $3.00 ECB (limit 1)
Use $5/1 Zantac coupon
Final Price: .99

So what does that all mean? Well we know the first line is what the store has advertised the product at. We can also see the link to a printable coupon for $5 off this product.  Then you see a note about a $3 ECB and the final price is listed at .99.  So does that mean you grab the $5 coupon and you will go to CVS and pay $.99?  No it does not.  What that means is that you will pay $8.99 for the item- give them your $5 coupon.  Now your total is $3.99- you pay that plus any tax in your area.  The cashier will give you back $3.00 in ECBs.

All three of the drugstores have loyalty programs- +Up Rewards at Rite Aid, ECBs at CVS and Register Rewards at Walgreens.  You can think of this basically as monopoly money.  This monopoly money can be used to purchase almost anything you want in the store. The idea is that you start off drugstore shopping by paying a small amount in cash for an item you might need- in the case about $4 for Zantac.  You now have $3 in CVS money (ECBs) that you can tuck away and use for more items that week or for something on sale the following week.  The idea is to keep using the monopoly money that you get on another item that generates money and then another item that generates money and so on.  That way you are getting things week after week after week for very little money.

Now with the drugstores you do want to be aware of limits.  In the example above I listed the limit as 1.  That means you may purchase a total of 1 and any other Zantac you purchase will not generate the ECB reward.  The limits are usually listed in the weekly sales ad, in my coupon matchups or on the sale tag in the store.

So that is the basics of understanding what these matchups mean.

A few notes:

You will want to pay attention to the dates the sales are available.  The vast majority of stores will run a one week sale- so for the national chains it is typically Sunday- Saturday.  Grocery stores are all over the place, in my city most stores have new ads that run from Wednesday-Tuesday- but every area will be different.  If I can’t make it to that store during the 7 days the ad is running you will most likely miss out on that deal.

One other note is that it is very important to look at the circular in your area before you shop.  Even in ads that run nationally, like Target ads, there can be a few small differences.  Another example is Rite Aid, the ad for residents of California can have a few differences from the ad for Iowa.  So you can go online to look at the circular for your city or you will likely get them in your newspaper just to double check.

You can read about the loyalty programs at all three of the drugstores here.

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