Deciphering the Deals | The Difference Between a Store Coupon and a Manufacturers Coupon

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Please read this post and take notes, memorize it, tattoo it on your arm, whatever you have to do to understand and remember it.

One of the most important things to know when couponing is how to tell the difference between a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon.  In my workshops, I stress this over and over again, but I can still tell that many shrug it off as useless information. 

Why is it so important to tell the difference?  At almost every store (excluding K-Mart), you can ‘stack’ a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon on one individual item.  You may NOT use two store coupons on one item or two manufacturer coupons on one item.

When you redeem a coupon, the retailer must submit it to a ‘coupon clearinghouse’.  This clearinghouse sorts the coupons, scans them, tracks the value, and requests payment from the actual manufacturer.  Once the payment is received, the clearinghouse disperses the payments to retailers.  If a coupon is fraudulent or if the total number of coupons redeemed exceeds the products sold, the manufacturer will not reimburse the store (if a store sold 20 packages of Kraft cheese but sent in 30 coupons).  When you break it down, it is the same as stealing.  You’ve went into a store and knowingly paid with an invalid form of payment.  It’s the same to the store as paying with counterfeit money.. They will take the same loss as if you had stuck that item in your purse and walked out the door.  Not many of you would do that, but I’ve heard from several that assume it’s okay as long as you used the coupon.

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

  • It’s super easy to tell the difference, don’t worry!  If a coupon has an address for the store to submit the coupon to for reimbursement, it’s a manufacturers coupon.  That address is where the coupons will be tracked for payment.

  • A store coupon is treated like a discount from the store.  Because there is no reimbursement for the value, the store does not submit the coupon for payment.

  • Many coupons will make it even easier for you and plainly state ‘MANUFACTURER COUPON’, ‘MANU COUPON’, or ‘STORE COUPON’ at the top.  Pretty simple, huh? 

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

  • Just because a coupon is found in the store ad or on store shelves DOES NOT mean that it’s a store coupon.  The coupon pictured above can be found in one of my local ads this week.  It plainly says IN-AD coupon, not in-store coupon.  It has a remit to address that requires the retailer to submit the coupon to Kraft foods for reimbursement.  Kraft foods paid to have the coupons placed in the store’s ad. 

  • Don’t be confused by the ‘Redeemable at Price Cutter, Ramey, or Smitty’s’ wording.  The remit to address trumps any questionable wording.  They are just saying that this coupon needs to be redeemed at one of these stores.

  • On the flip side, just because a coupon is found in the inserts or on a printable coupon site does not mean it’s a manufacturer’s coupon.  There are often Target coupons in the weekly inserts or magazines, and there are even some store coupons on coupons.com right now. 

The current $5/5 Kraft products coupon CANNOT be combined with any other manufacturer coupon. 

HOW THIS AFFECTS OTHER COUPONERS

When coupons are used correctly, stores stand to make a profit off of their redemption.  If a retailer is taking a loss on coupons because of incorrect or immoral redemption, they may change their coupon policy and their attitude towards couponers.  I’ve been in stores that treat couponers like dirt because they believe that they are stealing from them.  Did you ever stop to wonder why this happens?  It’s because of people that constantly abuse the system.

A few months from now, when your store is no longer accepting multiple coupons, printables, or possibly no coupons at all, it’s not just going to hurt legitimate couponers, but you may regret not paying that extra $1 for your shredded cheese when you are no longer saving on your grocery bill. 

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Making a List

Christmas Workshop

I’m sure that somewhere, either in the back of your mind or up front and center, you’re already thinking about the holidays.  Did you know that there are only 80 days until Black Friday? 

As with nearly anything, planning alone can save some money, but when you team planning with the knowledge learned in a Christmas Shopping Workshop, you can save a fortune!  Because not everyone is able to take a workshop, I’ll be running a series of posts that will help you get started.  Please stay tuned throughout the fall for more posts geared at your holiday shopping!

Making a List

One of the simplest and most beneficial methods of planning is list making.  Making the list is the easy part, but keeping it updated and with you at all times might prove to be a bit more difficult.  I like to keep a handwritten copy in my planner- which goes everywhere with me.  You could also keep a small notebook or a paper in your wallet.

I start my list by writing down every person that I need to buy for.  It’s sometimes hard to do that if you start shopping early.  In my husband’s family, we sometimes buy for his siblings, but other years we only buy for the kids.  We leave this up to his siblings to decide.  I go ahead and add them to my list- just in case I find a great deal on something.

My extended family used to draw names- but they never wanted to mess with it until Thanksgiving Dinner (which was held the Sunday after Thanksgiving).  That is not enough time for me, as I’m usually done by Thanksgiving.  If your family draws names late in the year, try pressuring them to draw earlier, or even at Christmas for the next year.  This will give you plenty of time to plan.

Write a full list, one that includes family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, mailman, etc. You don’t want to be caught with unexpected expenses later!

Stay tuned for the next post… Setting the ‘Ol Budget

Deciphering the Deals: Are printable coupons really worth it?

Huggies

So you’ve found some great deals using printable coupons, but cringe every time you have to fire up the ‘ole printer?  Instead of squeak, squeak, squeak, do you hear money going down the drain?

The cost of printing coupons can be a turn-off to many bargain shoppers.  Ink and paper are so ridiculously expensive, how can printable coupons actually save you money?  Here are some of my best tips for printing coupons- on the cheap, of course!

1.  Stick with a cheapie printer. If you have one of those fancy printers that allows you to change your ink out one color at a time (supposedly to save money), printing coupons may cost a small fortune.  You can buy an HP printer at Walmart for around $20 and it comes with a full size black AND color cartridge.  Black replacements are only $13-$15.  I have had my printer for nearly 5 years now and print over 1,000 pages per week. 

2.  Coupons don’t have to be printed in color.  A coupon will scan the same if it’s printed in color or in black and white.  To change this on .pdf coupons, click ‘File –> print –> print properties –> color –> print in grayscale- black cartridge only.  To change this permanently on your computer (so brick’s and coupons.com type coupons will print in black and white), click on your start button, then printers (or drivers and printers in Windows 7), then right click your default printer and change the preferences there.  This will become your default, so if you need to print in color you will need to go back in and change this back.

3.  Forget the high quality printing.  You can print your coupons in draft mode- saving a TON of ink.  Your coupons should still scan perfectly, but if they don’t for some reason, the cashier can manually key in the number at the bottom of the coupon resulting in the same discount.  You can change this setting in the same places as the color settings mentioned above.  Just click on the ‘quality’ tab and select ‘Fast Draft’ as your default.

4.  Have the cancel button ready.  Some of the Brick’s coupons will print a very detailed ad underneath your coupon.  Before you print one, have your printer queue (can be found next to the time in the lower right side of the screen) open.  Once you see an ad is printing, right click on the document and click ‘cancel printing’.  This should stop it in just a couple of seconds.

5.  Reuse paper.  Many coupons will only print at the top of a page.  Flip the paper over and turn it upside down to print one on the other end.  Don’t worry if there’s already stuff there, it won’t matter when it’s time to redeem your coupon.   Save scraps from around the house- I’ve even heard of someone reusing their children’s old school worksheets!

6.  Check for new cartridges on ebay.  You can sometimes find them for HALF of discount store prices!

7.  Take advantage of Walgreens 99¢ refills.  I’ve not yet been brave enough to do this,  because I’ve heard horror stories of overfilling them, then they leak and gunk up your printer.  I’m pretty attached to my printer, so I’m not willing to chance it.  However, if you do refill it and it gunks up your cheapie printer, you’re better off to buy a new one.  It’s cheaper than a new black and color cartridge! 

8.  Recycle your empty cartridges.  Staples will recycle up to 10 cartridges per month and give you $3 each for them in Staples Rewards, which can be redeemed for anything else in the store.

With my cheapie printer, I can print around 600 full sized pages in fast draft, black cartridge only with one cartridge.  When you figure in the $3 recycling bonus at Staples, I can print a coupon for less than 2¢.  Definitely worth it to me! 

Deciphering the Deals: Combatting unauthorized charges on your phone bill

In the Ultimate Couponing workshop, we go over ways to prevent yourself from being scammed while using the internet to find deals.  For every reputable coupon and survey site, there are at least 10 bad ones.

Some of these sites take advantage of your registration by selling your email address to spammers.  Others take it further by selling your phone number to a third party.  In some instances, your phone number can actually be billed for services, otherwise known as cramming.

These services will often be disguised as a voicemail or email service, and fees can range from $2.99 per month to $49.99 per month.  We all know how hard a phone bill can be to read, so it’s a good idea to compare each new bill with a prior month.  These charges are not difficult to remove, IF you’ve not yet paid for them.  Simply call your phone company and let them know it’s an unauthorized charge.  You also need to call the third party to have yourself removed from their billing.  The third party’s number will be listed on your phone bill.  What if you’ve already paid it?  Some phone companies have a policy that states they will automatically credit your account for all ‘cramming’ charges.  You should also contact the third party to attempt to get a credit made to your account.

How can you prevent a ‘cramming attack’?

  • Don’t use a site that requires you to enter your phone number to print coupons.  If you can’t avoid it, use your area code in front of 555-0100.  This is a designated fake phone number.
  • Steer clear of those sites that require you to fill out surveys or skip advertisements in order to print your coupons.  These have notification of third party sales hidden somewhere in all of those advertisements.
  • If you find a coupon on a site such as Couponbug or Eversave (both require surveys and phone numbers), check for that coupon somewhere else.  Many coupons have a print limit of 2 per computer, so it doesn’t matter where you find it- it’s going to be available somewhere else.
  • Check coupons.com or the A Full Cup.com coupon database for another link to print that coupon.
  • Call your phone company to inquire about a third party block.  Many companies offer this at no additional charge.  Having his block in place prevents anyone from charging services to your phone bill.

Remember, attention to detail is everything.  You should always pay attention to each bill you receive, regardless of the type, to avoid being overcharged due to a scam or error.

Deciphering the Deals: Fraudulent Coupons

Fraudulent CouponsIn the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the amount of fraudulent coupons that are circulating the internet.  I’m sure you’ve all received the free coupon for Doritos attached to an email in the last week or so. FAKE, FAKE, FAKE!  That coupon screams fake!  Why?  Because you received it as an attachment to an email.  Because it’s a .pdf file for a free product.  Because it’s been reported by Frito-Lay as fraudulent.  Need any more reasons?

Here’s a VERY brief overview into the life cycle of a coupon:

  1. Coupon redeemed at store by consumer
  2. Retailer ships redeemed coupons to clearinghouse for processing
  3. Clearinghouse tallies up the total due from each manufacturer and bills accordingly
  4. Clearinghouse distributes payment from retailer to stores based on legitimate coupons they have turned in.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to create a fraudulent coupon- just a beginner’s graphic design skill and a barcode font.  It’s very easy to create a fake coupon.  Just because a coupon scans doesn’t mean that it’s legit.  Many cashiers and store managers assume that if a coupon scans they can take it.  So when Frito-Lay receives a bill for.. oh, say.. $200,000 (10 bags per store at $4 each, 100 stores per state- just a LOW estimate) and they haven’t issued a coupon, they are going to look into it.  When shown these coupons, Frito-Lay is not going to write the clearinghouse a check.  If they don’t pay the clearinghouse, the clearinghouse can’t pay the store.  If the store doesn’t get paid, they are going to become more leery of accepting coupons.  Then, when a customer tries to use a legitimate coupon, they might just catch a lot of crap, resulting in a miserable shopping trip and an increased bill (or large empty space in his or her pantry).

So, how do you tell if a coupon is fake?  A lot of it is common sense.  Remember the life cycle of a coupon?  It can take up to 6 months to process and determine that the store won’t get reimbursed for the fraudulent coupon.  Do you know how many coupons can be redeemed in a 6 month period?  There is a website dedicated to fraudulent coupons.  Cents-Off is a good resource to investigate fraudulent coupons.  The problem with Cents-Off is that they are only partnered with a limited number of manufacturers, so you will not see all of the fake coupons listed- and it can take up to 6 months to appear on the list.

Here’s a few tips you need to remember:

  • If you receive a coupon attached to an email as a .pdf file, it’s fake (unless it is directly from the manufacturer).
  • If you get a high value or even free coupon as a .pdf from a manufacturer’s site, although it was obtained legitimately, don’t be surprised if you see it listed on a list of fraudulent coupons.  Sometimes a manufacturer doesn’t realize the impact of the viral internet and pulls the coupon, realizing that it has been printed thousands of times- so they report it as fraud.
  • If a friend ever hands you a coupon that obviously looks printed and is for a free product, it’s fake.
  • If you see a coupon that looks scanned or is not centered on the page- it’s fake.
  • A fake coupon scans just like a legitimate one!

They are really starting to crack down on those who use or create fraudulent coupons.  Cents-off offers rewards for information on those who intentionally take advantage  of manufacturers and retailers. A recent indictment even tells of a group charged with $250 million in coupon fraud!

If you’re in doubt, don’t use it!  It’s that simple.  If a coupon really has you puzzled, shoot me an email.  I’ll be glad to look into it for you.

Deciphering the Deals: Is it really free?

I’m writing this post as an extension of the Deciphering the Deals: OOP post from last week.  I’d like to address a few misconceptions regarding ‘free items’.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche’ that nothing is ever free, and you’re out to prove otherwise by couponing, taking surverys, playing sweeps, etc.  The sad thing is, many of the free deals aren’t really free.  There, I said it.  I know that goes against all of my principles, but it’s true.

The hard definition of free (made up entirely by me) is: getting something for no cost without accumulating additional expense.

If you regularly purchase a Sunday newspaper, your store doesn’t charge sales tax on the pre-coupon amount, and you pick up the items needed on your regular shopping trip, sure it was completely free!  But, if you purchase extra newspapers or make a special trip after them, order coupons, or make additional trips to the store, you do have a cost associated with each item.

Because we live in a very small town, it’s pretty common for people to drive 20 miles to a Walmart or Walgreens, and 40 to Target or Kroger.  I hear frequently from those who made a special trip to Walgreens to pick up $5 worth of ‘FREE’ items.  I’m not sure about you, but if I have to pay $10 in gas to pick up my $5 in unnecessary items, they weren’t really free. However, if I am doing this in place of a more costly hobby, it might still be cheaper.

Don’t forget about the additional expenses that rack up while you’re out shopping.  I am always tempted to buy something or pick up lunch.  It seems that I can’t make it to town without spending $50 on who knows what!

Of course, getting your stuff for pennies on the dollar is still awesome, but it’s not quite free, is it?  Always, always, always, weigh your expense to purchase the item versus the discount in order to determine if it’s a great deal.

I’ve seen a few bloggers that are saving for a totally free Christmas and are documenting their savings.  How are they planning on getting a free Christmas?  By doing online jobs, completing surveys, and other odds and ends.  I’m not sure how that’s considered a FREE Christmas.  When you get paid to take a survey, it is a form of income.  You had to work in order to receive payment.  It might not be difficult work, but it can be time consuming.  I’ve had surveys take 45 minutes with my slow internet!  That sounds strangely like work to me.  I’m devoting a portion of my time to perform a service for someone else and receiving compensation for it.  That doesn’t seem like free money to me.  If that were the case, is your weekly paycheck free money?

Why am I pointing all of this out?  Because I don’t want anyone to be confused as to how deals work and how they will impact your family.  Everyone has a different situation and a different mindset when it comes to finances.  Some will snag anything they feel is free (even if it’s not) and overextend themselves.  Others may see that you can get a ‘free’ Christmas and spend countless hours clicking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bullets.