Sunday, October 5, 2008

My KMart Double Coupons Trip

This is what I paid for at KMart yesterday. It cost about $20, including tax:

(That's a storage bin, a colander and four pair of socks.)

And this is what I got for free:

(That's a pack of paper towels, two packs panty liners, 12 Glade Gel Warmer Plug-Ins, a pair of gardening gloves, ketchup, a mandoline for chopping vegetables, a tank top, a compact fluorescent light bulb, two boxes of Special K bars and a Halloween tablecloth. Without coupons, it would have cost $21.36 + tax for the Glade and $19 + tax for everything else.

I didn't technically pay full price for the stuff in the first photo and nothing for the stuff in the second. It's just an illustration of the following: After coupons, including Catalinas, I spent about $20, which would be the full price of the stuff in the first pic.

Here's how it went down:

I brought six bogo coupons for the Glade Gel Warmers, which were to pay me a $2 Catalina each, i.e. 12 Catalinas worth $24. I had also read that the Catalinas would double if used properly. I also brought a file full of grocery coupons, with some $1 and $2 ones set aside to see if I could get any free or close to free stuff.

The first thing I did was ask an employee if Internet coupons would be doubled, since I had read elsewhere that they would not. He confirmed this -- NO DOUBLING OF PRINTABLES. Bummer, since most of my higher value coupons were printables.

Then I found the Glade Plug-Ins. At three different displays, I found a dozen of them, regular price $1.78 each. I threw them in my cart but put only two on the check-out counter, with my bogo coupon.

Sure enough, as soon as they were scanned the two Catalinas spit out of the machine. In fact, I could have just grabbed one to pay for the initial transaction. But instead, I paid about $2 with tax for the cost of one Plug-In. Contrary to some reports, the bogo coupon did not double to make them both free.

Then I put the other 10 Glades on the counter with five more bogo coupons. Some of them were printables, but since I wasn't trying to get them doubled that didn't matter. This cost around $10, which I paid with five of the Catalinas as they spit out. The cashier couldn't believe the huge tape of coupons printing and pointed it out to the other employees. I paid 60 cents out of pocket for the tax.

Unfortunately, these Catalinas did not double. The employees thought that these could NOT double, but actually I think it was because they had to select two items for each bogo coupon, which left nothing for the Catalinas to be attached to. In order to double a coupon, you have to have an item with no other coupons attached to it.

Then I took my remaining seven Catalinas and went shopping.

I only used five manufacturers' coupons:

The Kotex were $1.29, so those were free after my $1/1 coupons.

There wasn't much food at this regular KMart, which disappointed me. Of what was on sale, the only thing I found that I had regular coupons for was the Special K bars. Those were $4 for the 12-count box and $3 for the 6-count, so after the doubled $1/1 coupons I paid $2 and $1.

I got an 18-gallon storage bing with a $1/1 Rubbermaid coupon for $3.50. I should have gotten another of those since I had another coupon.

This is what I spent the remaining seven Catalinas on. They all doubled except one, which went up to only $1.34, I believe because I presented it along with an item that only cost $3.34. Here are the items, along with their pre-coupon prices (and post coupon):

CFL Bulb $5 ($1)

colander $6.29 (2.29)

tank top $4 (free)

2x 2 pr. ladies' sox $4 each (free)

tablecloth $3.34 (free)

paper towels $5 ($1)

With no coupons, I got:

mandoline slicer (clearance) $2.50

gardening gloves (clearance) 74 cents

ketchup $1

Yep, it's a lot of stuff. But honestly, I wasn't that thrilled, and here's why: The trip took me two hours and 15 minutes, not counting several hours I spent clipping and organizing coupons. That was something I'd been meaning to do anyway.

I was on the fence about whether it had been worth it or not when I read an e-mail from my mom yesterday. She and my dad had just returned from 2-and-a-half hours of canvassing for Obama.

Now, I'm sure lots of you readers out there have your own political loyalties and I'm not saying we should all be out there ringing bells for Obama. But to me, in this crucial moment in our nation's history, it felt like a sin to be squandering my time chasing deals when I should be putting in time for what I believe in.

So, two conclusions:

1) When I read about hot deals at stores I don't normally shop at, like a special coupon at Walgreens or this KMart double coupon thing, I should generally resist, because it will likely take me a lot more time than my regular deals at my regular stores.

By contrast, I stopped into CVS on our way to our night out last night and got six bags of Halloween candy, two extra Sunday papers and some makeup (to donate) for a buck and change. In minutes.

2) Now that I KNOW how the KMart double coupon deals work, I would probably do it again, with a more time-conscious strategy:

a) Find out about any Catalina deals to generate coupons that can be doubled. Gather coupons for those.

b) Study that week's flyer and pick out just a few or even one item that would work well with the doubled Catalinas or doubled manufacturer coupons. I did this with today's flyer, in case anyone is still planning to go today, the last day of double coupons.

c) Go to the store, do my Catalinas, and then swoop right to those preselected items. If there's a food item I can get for free, just buy 10 of that one item. Do NOT wander the store looking for items that I might have coupons for or that might work well with the doubled Catalinas.