Extreme Couponing: Understanding Coupon Matchups


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.


  1. Melissa says

    Thanks for this series and the very clear and understandable explanations. I often have friends that are interested in couponing but they don’t have time to get together for a sit-down lesson with me, so this is a great reference I can point them to.

  2. virginia says

    Thankyou, this is very easy to understand. Now I understand a little bit more about using coupons.Next time i go shoping I will try some of what I’ve learned.

  3. Lisa Black says

    I just got done watching extreme couponing for the first time and that is how I wound up here. Your tutorial is very helpful in many ways to get started in saving money. Thank you very much!

  4. MARY says

    Thank you for explaining why that t.v. show is so unrealistic. it is fun & interesting to watch, but it makes saving money with couponing look impossible!

  5. Feli says

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

    My question is, can i use 2 coupons on 1 product. Because i tought u could not use 2 only one coupon for 1 item ??

  6. silvana says

    Good morning Charlene and thanks again for this great teachings!!! this part of the lesson is a little confusing to me so I will have to read it over and over LOL I do have a question thou,what does ECB means?

    Thanks again
    have a great Sunday

  7. Charlene says

    Silvana, if you want to refresh your memory you can click Drugstore 101 at the top of the blog. An ECB is the little fake money that prints on your receipt. You can keep using that to pay for more stuff at CVS instead of real money.

  8. Kathy says

    I have read this over and over and looking at my coupons and I have yet to find where the number are that I am to look for. So I guess you could say that I am confused.

  9. Karen L Armstrong says

    Thanks so much for the info!! I am learning a lot and using what I’ve learned!!

  10. Jayla says

    I read this 2 times but I’m still not understanding. And If I am not able to print where do I get them?

  11. Charlene says


    If you are asking where coupons are located you can typically find them in the Sunday newspaper or sometimes there are printable versions of coupons.

  12. Lisa says

    Hi I found your information to be very usefull. I have a few questions about couponing so if you can email me at Romero.lisa954@gmail.com I would really appreciate your time in helping me get my couponing to save me more money.

  13. Mrs. Green says

    Hi!I am trying to learn to coupon but i am so confused!If I have a coupon to “buy two” or “buy three” and save, can I use an additional same or different coupon on the 2nd or 3rd product. For example, “buy two save 75©”, then can I add “save $1.00 on one”??Thank you so much…. So confused.

  14. Mrs. Green says

    Thank you much Charlene… I had previously read that area, but that is kind of whar lead to my confusion. The blog states you can use buy one get one free toward buy one get one free sales, but not $1.00 off against bogo sales, the way Im seeing it?? Am I correct? My real area of question is, “buy two, save $1.00″ coipns…. Can I use an additional coupon, for example “buy one, save 50©”, or is the first coupon tied to both items? I really appreciate your time and help. My family is in a tight squeeze, and.Im trying to do what i can..

  15. Charlene says

    OK if you have a coupon that says Buy 2 items and save $1, you wouldn’t be able to use additional coupons assuming you only buy 2 items. The exception would be if you have a store coupon. You can use two coupons if one is a store coupon and one is a manufacturer coupon. Stores like Walgreens, CVS, Target do issue store coupons and they will let you stack them.


  16. Mrs. Green says

    Thank you so much! I had my first adventure at cvs today! Except for a mean cashier, it went great!!!!!

  17. Ruth C says

    I thank you very much for helping us get started. It was very understandable and it seems like it will be fun. Thank you again from the Carroll and Sabala family and Happy Holidays.

  18. anon says

    What I don’t get is how the people on the TV show end up with the store giving them cash. I understand how to cut out a coupon or two, wait for a sale, and save money (pretty common sense and yes, thank you for the tips), but how in the world do those people end up actually MAKING money? Can you explain that part by any chance?

  19. anon says

    I also wanted to add that, often on the show, they say things like “we have to buy 60 of these” or “we have to get 80″ in order to get their savings, and you often see them walking out with (literally) hundreds of the same item–and somehow they save money by doing this. Do you know what that is about? BF and I watched four episodes in a row and became frustrated that they never really explained it, and neither of us could ‘figure out’ how that works.

  20. Shelia says

    Hi, I just started watching the Extreem TV Show and my question is how do they get enough coupons to buy hundreds of the same product. I love your site and am sure I will visit it often. Thank you so much for all of your help!

  21. Charlene says


    Some people buy that many papers, or they buy the coupons online and don’t include any of those costs in the show. Usually a coupon will cost about $.10 for every $1 it has in value and they have shipping fees on top of that. You can buy them from Ebay or other places. Sometimes people go to recycling centers and dig out the coupon inserts to get tons and tons of coupons. They have featured a few people that just steal papers too. One lady would walk her neighborhood and take any of the papers that were there after a day or two. I consider that stealing 😛

  22. misty says

    I Want to start and have look at many web sits but still am not 100% sure of how to do it dose any one know of some one that can show me face to face or over the inter net? I am I’m Oregon city. I am pregnant and want to start saving up plez let me know if any one can help me thanks

  23. tonya cummins says

    hey the is no place that doubles were i live how can i get it most to 0

  24. Kimberley Atwood says

    My name is Kimberley :) you have answered a lot of my concerns and explained so much. Thank you so much definitely will keep visiting.

  25. phillip says

    i am just getting started in this, and im wondering what kind of card one uses to help take the cost down at the register along with the coupons, do i need to purchase a card at the store or what do i need to do?

  26. Charlene says

    Phillip- some grocery stores offer loyalty cards. All three of the drugstores have them as well. It depends on the store that you shop at. For example Safeway offers items at x price. If you have a loyalty card for that store- called a Club Card- you will get the advertised sale prices. You can either ask at customer service if the store you shop at offers any loyalty cards or you can look carefully at your grocery store ad for the week. Check and see if they have any notations on the sale prices- such as “$2.99 with club card” and that will tip you off to get the card the next time you shop. You should not have to pay for a card and not all stores offer them.

  27. Patty says

    I thank you so much you realy helped me out I look at your web all day long I love it again thank you

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