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Extreme Couponing 103 - More Details

This section will cover the littler-known aspects of couponing.  Subjects covered here are:

Section 13 - Overages and Money Makers
Section 14 - Catalina Coupons
Section 15 - Mythbusting
Section 16 - Tips to Avoid the Dreaded "No" From the Cashier
Section 17 - Combining Couponing and Menu Planning for Increased Savings
All these write ups are courtesy of the wonderful people over at
Section 13 - Overages and Money Makers

Have you ever been paid to shop? I know you’re probably rolling your eyes right now, thinking another one of those ‘too good to be true’ kind of deals. Well, I was honestly right there with you years ago. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that some deals can be so good that literally you will come out ahead!! The very idea of walking into a store, paying nothing AND then earning a little bit for next time is so foreign most people don’t even believe it’s possible. I’m here to tell you it happens, although not all that often!

An overage is the difference between an item's actual value and the coupon's face value. For example, let’s say you have a packet of tuna that’s on sale for $.50, and you have a coupon for $1. That’s a strange thing, right? What do you do? Well many stores will honor the $1 coupon even though the item only costs $.50!!! That means by simply using that coupon, you will earn $.50. Now when I say ‘earn’ the stores generally never give you money back, but what they do allow, is for you to get something additional that is $.50 and pay nothing!! 

So, imagine a scenario where you have twenty $.50 coupons for tuna. You are earning a $.50 credit for each one off your bill simply by redeeming the coupon. After using twenty coupons, you have a $10 credit towards anything in the store! I go buy meat, chicken and other essentials that never have coupons and pay nothing! This is an important concept with overages. You must find things to ‘eat up’ the credit you have built up. The last thing you want is to get to the register and have a negative total. They zero it out and you lose the overage! Overages are rare, but they do happen. Another important thing to remember is that an overage is a privilege not a right. Stores can adjust down the coupon which results in a free item (not the worst thing that could happen lol). Some store's registers are programmed to automatically "adjust down the coupon" to the price of the item which means no overage but you still get the item for free.

Many people have asked me pointedly why stores would do that!? Stores allow overage because they will get reimbursed by the manufacturer when they submit the coupons. The coupon will get submitted to a coupon clearinghouse, a machine scans it, and then returns the face value of the coupon back to the store! Some stores allow overages because they aren’t losing money; they are simply passing that savings onto you, the shopper.

The other more common way to ‘make money’ at the store is by finding a ‘money making’ deal. These deals are all over from CVS to Walgreens to many major grocery stores! Let’s take what I’m doing right now at the store. I’m shopping at my local grocery store for Kraft Salad Dressing. Currently it’s on sale for $2. I have a $1 off one coupon from the manufacturer and a $1 off one coupon from the store. They are combine-able, so the dressing is free! Most people would be happy to get free dressing, but wait, there’s more!! When you buy four Kraft Dressings, you get a $3 catalina back to use on your next order.
So let’s stop and think about what is happening here. I purchased four bottles of dressing. I paid nothing because I had coupons and then the store hands me a $3 coupon for my next trip!? WOW. So what if I did 40 dressings instead of just 4?! I would actually make $30 in catalina coupons for my next shopping trip!!! By simply purchasing salad dressing, I can then turn around and buy things like meat, milk and eggs and spend nothing!

What to do with 40 bottles of salad dressing? Well you could fill up your bathtub and rule like Caesar but most just donate it to needy food-banks! Your goal is to obtain the $3 coupon in order to use on milk, meat, fresh produce, or other weekly essential items!! Making money at the store is an amazing thing. Most don’t believe it until they try it for themselves. Generally you won’t ever make much, but simply coming out ahead is fantastic!!

A final note, overages and moneymakers are rare, and in some areas of the country literally unheard of. Just like coupon policies overages vary from store to store, region to region. Overages also vary in success rates. When you find a potential overage, understand that you may not get it. Overages are not a right, they are a privilege, so keep that in mind. Moneymaker deals are a little more common, but still not an everyday thing. They are exciting to find, but keep in mind that these deals are great but often times very rare. 
(thank you MrCoupon at!) 

Section 14 - Catalina Coupons
What is a Catalina?
Many people start to have a strange look on their face when I start talking ‘coupon’!! You have probably seen the long string of coupons that come out of the checkout when you are paying your bill at the grocery store. Those coupons are called Catalinas.

This strange name has been around for a long time and originated because of the company that runs the machines, Catalina Marketing. Catalinas or CATS (the standard abbreviation in the coupon world) are some of my absolute favorite coupons because they not only make so many items free, but they can often make you a profit!! Yes, you read correctly, cats can often make a deal so good, that in the end you come out ahead!

Catalinas are generally found in four different types which are:
- Specific coupons for specific items, and example being $1 off Crest Toothpaste
- Money off your next shopping trip, these are abbreviated (OYNO - On Your Next Order Coupons)
- Register Rewards (RR’s and are specific to Walgreens, these are rewards of purchasing a specific product, check the sales paper every week)
- Sale Previews

Specific coupons that come out of the machine at checkout are nice to hold onto. I purchased Gatorade for free at Kroger using my coupons and out came a $2 coupon on any box of Powerbar energy bars! Well I held onto that coupon and guess what, Powerbar energy bars went on sale a month later for, you guessed it, $2!! By purchasing Gatorade and holding onto my catalina coupons, I was able to get the Powerbars completely free!! If you think that’s awesome, just wait it gets better!!

On Your Next Order coupons will become your new best friend! Last month Kool-aid canisters were on sale for $1 each. In the sale paper, on the first page it said, “Buy any three kool-aid canisters and get $2 back on your next order.” So, let me get this straight, without any coupons, I can get THREE canisters of kool-aid singles for $1? That’s cheaper that the regular price for one!! This deal got even sweeter, I had coupons for $1 off any kool-aid canister! So here is what I did, I purchased three kool-aids which totaled $3.18(tax). Then I used my three coupons for $1 off 1 and it brought the bill to $0.18 because I used three coupons. I paid the cashier and out came a $2 coupon for my next shopping trip!! I just made a PROFIT of $1.82!! OYNO coupons can be a powerful way to reduce your unit item cost dramatically and even make you a little money to pay for produce!

Register Rewards are a Walgreens only system. It works much the same way as OYNO coupons do. For example, if I purchased crest toothpaste for the regular price of $4.19 they will give me $3.50 back in a register reward. Okay that’s a pretty good deal, I’m actually paying around $.69 for the tube of toothpaste. BUT I have a coupon for $1.50 off any crest adult toothpaste. So I buy the product at $4.19, I use my $1.50 off coupon, I then pay the total which with tax is $2.94. Out of the checkout comes a $3.50 coupon off my next purchase at Walgreens!! I made a profit of $.56 simply buying a tube of toothpaste. Register Rewards (RR’s) are much more complicated and we encourage to read more about them in the Walgreens section at

The last type of catalina is a sale preview. These are nice to know ahead of time, and we’d love it if you would share those here at WeUseCoupons!

Common Questions About Catalinas:

So why do catalinas even exist?
Catalinas are coupons plain and simple. They exist as a marketing tool to reinforce product or store loyalty. They all help to move products off shelves and help tempt you into trying the product.

Are they store coupons or manufacturer coupons or something else?
The can be both! Generally the coupon will say if it’s a store or manufacturer coupon.

Can I use catalinas anywhere?
Yes and no. If it’s a manufacturers coupon then it could be used anywhere, BUT generally catalinas have a store logo on it. You need to ask at the customer service if they accept catalinas from other stores. I have two stores in my area that will take any coupon that says ‘manufacturer coupon’. One store won’t take competitors catalinas. This is a YMMV(Your Mileage May Vary)!.

Will a catalina deal that works at Kroger work at Publix?
Let’s say that Kroger has a catalina deal going on that when you buy 5 Jello you get $2 back. Publix may or may not be running the same deal. It simply depends, but often times they will be!!

How do you find out about catalina deals, I don’t see them advertised all that often?
Different store alert consumers different ways, and some don’t alert consumers at all. Many dedicated couponers will discover a catalina deal on their own and post about it on WeUseCoupons! Often times you will see tags next to the product on the shelf alerting you to the catalina deal. If you see that post them here, so others can take advantage of that deal!

What if my catalina doesn’t print out?
Well there could be many reasons why a catalina doesn’t print out. You may not have purchased the correct product. Catalina automatically prints out based on the UPC of the products with which they are associated. Another good reason is that the catalina machine is out of paper! With any of these problems go to the service desk, tell them and generally they will help you.

What stores don’t use the catalina system?

How long do catalina deals last?
They can last as long as 30 days, but can last as little as a week. Every promotion is different.

How can I contact Catalina Marketing?
Catalina Marketing
Toll free numbers are (877) 210-1917

Unfortunately, many shoppers consistently overlook the value of catalina coupons. Don’t be one of them! Catalinas are an important part of your overall coupon strategy!

(thank you MrCoupon at!)

Section 15 - Mythbusting

I think most coupon myths get started by people who don't understand coupons. It's sad because it really discourages people who are looking to cut back on one of the leading household bills - your groceries. I hope that I can explain some myths that I have heard over the years and clear some things up.

Myth #1 You can't save money if a store doesn't double coupons.
Although the grocery stores in my area double coupons, I know several people who's stores don't double or even triple coupons in their area, but they manage to save just as much as everyone else. A couple of my favorite stores to shop at are CVS and Walgreens, who don't double coupons, but have some fantastic store deals. Often times I find I save more at those stores who don't double coupons than the stores that do.

Myth #2 Coupons are only for unhealthy, processed, junk food.
There are just as many coupons for good healthy foods as there is for processed foods. Yoplait and Dannon put out coupons regularly for yogurt. You want salad? Dole and Fresh Express love to help you save $1 on bagged salad and Kraft, Ken's and Paul Newman would never let you go with out dressing for your salad. I personally like stocking up on the frozen veggies rather than canned (which have more salt) and Birds Eye and Green Giant seem more than happy to help you do so. Tyson and Perdue even help you save money on fresh chicken. There are so many other coupons for foods, which I believe are healthy, like good whole grain breads, peanut butter, 100% juices, along with protein and nutrition bars and drinks. Remember, just because your using coupons, you still choose what you eat.

Myth #3 Coupons are for poor people.
Actually, statistics show that middle aged, middle class people who have some sort of collage background are the most likely to use coupons. In fact, people who make below $25,000 are the least likely to use coupons. Even so, when was it such a bad embarrassing thing to save money?

Myth #4 Shopping at discount stores will save you money.
It's been my experience; stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General are just as expensive as other stores. The difference in them is they don't have the store deals and sales like other stores. As far as true dollar stores (where everything is a dollar), I personally stopped shopping in them when I started couponing years ago. The reason being, I couldn't go in there without spending $40 or $50. Those dollars add up fast! Now, I do not doubt that there are some good deals to be had in there, however most of the things I found I could get cheaper or even free elsewhere.

Myth #5 Don't clip coupons for products you won't use.
Why not? For one, there are a lot of things I thought I would never buy or use. However, I've found that when a deal comes along and I end up getting the product so cheap or even free - I have no problem using most things. In addition, if your friend has a dog and you have a cat, wouldn't it be nice to swap coupons so you both get more of what you need?

Myth #6 It's cheaper to buy the store brand product than to buy a name brand product with a coupon.
It is true that store brand is cheaper than name brand. However, store brand is not cheaper than name brand one sale with a coupon. Most of the time I don't even look at the store brand price cause I know with the sale and my coupons, the name brand is going to be cheaper - or at least the same. For instance, recently I went to Kroger to buy 10 jars of Peter Pan Peanut Butter that was on sale 10/$10. I had 10 $1 coupons, which allowed me to get all 10 jars free. I know that no store brand is going to be cheaper than free - so why look. That's a silly (but true) example. A better one might be the price of my store brand bread, which is around $1.29. However, Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread is on sale for $1.49 and I have $1 coupons, making the bread $.49 cents each. I know there isn't any bread cheaper than that. (Now, if you are new to coupons, I wouldn't suggest not looking until you got familiar with your store prices.) Anyways, my point is, in my experience, store sale + coupon = cheaper than store brand.

Myth #7 It's not worth it to shop at multiple stores.
It can be worth it to shop at multiple stores, depending on how far you have to drive. I am fortunate that the four main stores I shop at are all practically on the same block and 5 minutes from home. You do have to consider your time and gas when choosing to travel to a store for a deal, but it can be worth it if your going to get $80 worth of stuff for $20.

Myth #8 Only use coupons for products you normally buy.
I've been couponing for so long I don't even know what I normally buy anymore. This is due to one of the biggest coupon strategies, which is to not be brand loyal. Usually, I find the case to be I buy products that I would never dream of paying for normally, if that makes sense. By combining store sales, coupons and rebates I get things so cheap or even free, I can't imagine paying full price for most of the items, I buy.

Myth #9 People who use coupons spend more than people who don't use coupons.
If you use coupons the correct way, that is, by combining sales and coupons together than you won't spend more. However, if you are just blindly going to the store and purchasing anything and everything you have a coupon for, especially if the product is not on sale, then yes, of course going to spend more. When I am standing in line and the person in front of me is paying for their cart of groceries that come to $175 dollars for their family of four and when my turn comes, my total is $39, I really don't see how I am spending more. In addition, I think this idea came about from an article I read awhile back stating that people who use coupons spend more on luxury items. So, people who don't use coupons never ever buy luxury items?

Myth #10 You can't save money by spending money.
Well, it depends on how much your spending and what your spending it on. If my store is having a sale on meat for buy one package get one free - it's worth it to spend a little extra and stock up on meat for a while. If I go over my budget a little that month, I will make up for it in the next month's buy not having to buy as much meat

So.. I hope I have "debunked" a few of the myths out there.....
(thank you Moonflower at!)
Section 16 - Tips to Avoid the Dreaded "No" From the Cashier

Avoiding Negatives From Your Cashier When Presenting Coupons
Anyone who has presented a fistful of coupons knows the satisfaction of receiving significant savings...but let's face it. Not every transaction goes as smoothly as we'd imagine.

1. Know the store policy – This is the most important step to successful couponing. Most national stores such as Walmart, Rite Aid, Target, and CVS have coupon policies. Nearly all grocery stores have coupon policies as well. You can find these policies in 2 places: on that company's website, or in the specific forum's "sticky" area at the beginning of each forum. Many grocery store chains have individual store policies to compete with local competition. Go to the actual store you shop at and ask for their coupon policy. If they do not have it written, take the time to write it down while you are at the customer service desk. After you write it, note who you spoke to, their title and date. Get the policy directly from a manager, if they don’t have it written.

2. Print and carry the store policies in your binder, box, or envelope - If you need it you can show to the cashier, it will be handy, and will show the cashier why you believe what you are presenting is correcting.

3. Know how your coupon is meant to be used –Learn coupon terminology. Make sure you understand the coupon. If you don't understand what exactly a coupon is for, ask here on the forums.

4. Use your coupon the way it was meant to be used – Using coupons in a manner that is not in the spirit of what the promoting company meant is coupon fraud. You are taking money from the company. The end result could mean an end to companies issuing coupons. We all lose in this scenario.
If you are honest, you will have a clear conscience about your coupon practices. If you are honest, you should never feel bad, no matter what the situation is.

5. Stick to reasonable limits - If you try to use 40 of the same coupon, you may have trouble. Even though you are using the coupon as it is meant to be, most stores have policies on how many you can use in a transaction. This is something that may cause a cashier to immediately red flag you.

6. Take the time to be friendly with your cashiers. Some people believe that “flying under the radar” is the only way to coupon successfully. Be friendly and wear a smile. If a coupon is giving the cashier a problem, I try to help them figure it out. Also, share the wealth with the cashiers. Most of them are curious as to how you are able to do transactions like these. Mention WUC.

7. Know when to say NO thanks. – Sometimes the deal just isn’t worth it.
If you have an angry cashier or manager, keep your cool. There will always be another deal, another store and another cashier. If the situation has escalated to hostile, say no thanks and leave the store. A store cashier should never make you upset or cry.
If you are to that point, you can simply say you’ve decided not to make the purchase. Don’t threaten the cashier with phone calls to corporate or reporting them to a manager. Remain calm and follow up with managers and corporate once you leave the store. If you believe you are in the right, note the date, time, cashier's name ( or physical description if they have no name tag ), register # if you know it, and the name of the general manager or any managers you spoke with. All of this information is vital to presenting a case to Corporate.

Saying "The cashier at CVS was mean to me" is a lot less impactful than saying "On September 10th at 11 am, cashier Mary J on register 3 said X, and then manager John D said Y."

Know the store's policy, know the coupon, smile, and know when to walk away from the deal.
(thank you Mavourneen at!) 

Section 17 - Combining Couponing and Menu Planning for Increased Savings

You've been working hard for the past few months - collecting coupons, buying papers, filing and organizing - but your monthly budget has seen only modest savings. Perhaps you've been couponing for quite some time but you always seem to run out of things midweek and need to make a grocery store run in order to prepare dinner - and inevitably buy something full price which just irks you to no end. Maybe, like me, you work full time outside of the house and your evenings are so full to the brim you just don't have time to think.

The answer to all three of these scenarios is menu planning combined with your couponing efforts.

I keep a running list through the week of items I need at the grocery store. As the circulars come in , I make lists for each store of the loss leaders and items I'll be buying for each store. Then, I go through my running grocery list and decide where I'll buy each item. If I need Sweet N Low, and it is on sale at a specific store, I make sure Sweet N Low gets added to that store's list.

Once I've gone through the circulars and quickly matched up what couponing item I'll buy where, I then look at the front pages with an eye towards dinner. For my family of 3, I try to make the meat or main protein of my dinner $5 or less. Often, I do a lot better than that. ( It should be taken into account that I only have 3 people in my family. If your household has 5-8 people in it - or more - $5 is unrealistic for you. You need to judge that number for yourself. )

For example: Grocery store A has chicken breasts for $1.69 / lb - a great price - but not great beef or pork prices. I make sure to write chicken down on store A's list. Store B has a good sale on ground beef; ground beef goes on store B's list. Store B also has spinich on sale half price. Hmmmm. I could combine the chicken from store A with the spinach from B to make a Florentine. Hmmm.

Using store matchups from the forums, blogs, and my own lists, I'm armed to shop at each store confident I'm buying the right items in the right quantities to feed my family for the week and ( hopefully ) feed my stockpile as well. I don't go and willy-nilly buying what catches my eye. That is how good couponers get into trouble. Lack of planning!

Typically, I will write out a ( brief ) outline of what I'm making for dinner and post it on the fridge. Here's my list for next week:
Monday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, and peas.
Tuesday: Baked chicken, noodles with sauce, broccoli
Wednesday: Spaghetti with meatballs, salad, garlic bread
Thursday: Chicken and tomatoes in the crockpot, rice, green beans
Friday: No dinner; my son's belt ceremony potluck dinner - I am bringing Sweet&Sour meatballs.

In the above example, I estimate each night's meal cost around $4.50. I had to make about 150 meatballs today for my son's belt ceremony potluck on Friday, which I've not factored in as it is an extraordinary occurance. I'll snitch some meatballs for Wednesday night's spaghetti. Chicken was a very good buy this week, so I bought 2 trays - one I'll use on Tuesday, one on Thursday. Broccoli crowns were on sale as well, and I had a great deal last week on canned tomatoes for Thursday's crockpot.

Menu planning goes hand in hand with couponing to whittle down your family's grocery budget. Good luck! 
(thank you Mavourneen at!)