Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Definitions and Instructions for Newbies

I've gotten some requests from all the new readers around here for help getting up to speed when I talk about all this crazy "expert" stuff about the Catalinas and ECBs and whatnot. So here goes. I'll be saving this post in a permanent place on the blog so you can reference it as needed.
Another good starting point: I recently did a workshop on saving money and wrote up this overview guide to budget shopping.

I. Coupons and general deal terms

  • Q is short for "coupon." MQ is short for "manufacturer's coupon." Some stores also distribute store coupons, which can generally be combined with an MQ, enabling you to use two coupons on one item.
  • Stacking means combining two or more coupons, as in the example above.
  • $2/1 means a coupon for $2 off one item; $5/$20 means you save $5 off a $20 purchase. Sometimes we couponers talk about $X/$XX coupons, referring to this second type of coupon in general.
  • Bogo means "buy one, get one free." Other sites also say B1G1.
  • RedPlum (or Valassis) and SmartSource are the names of the two coupon inserts that come in your Sunday paper.
  • Hangtags and peelies are coupons found ON products in the store. Blinkies are coupons you see in dispensers at the store with blinking lights. Tearpads are just what they sound like, found on store displays and shelves.
  • CRTs are cash register tape coupons, i.e., you get them at the end of your receipt at the register. CVS gives out a lot of these; most stores now also have price scanners that spit out such coupons when you scan your card.
  • Overage is when your coupon is for more than the purchase price of the item, and the store applies the leftover savings to the rest of your bill. (Sometimes cashiers will adjust a coupon down to no more than the value of the item, but if they don't, you get overage.)
  • Rolling means taking a coupon or gift card you have earned for a promotion, and using it to do the same promotion again and get more rewards -- sometimes resulting in an unlimited stream of free product after an initial investment. Some promotions do not allow rolling, but many do.
  • GC stands for gift card.
  • Printables or IPs are coupons you can print off the Internet. The top sources are Coupons.com, Smartsource.com, Afullcup.com (especially for Target coupons). Be warned that some stores refuse to accept IPs.
II. Drugstore deals -- CVS and Walgreens

Because they are in such intense competition with one another, drugstores offer customer rewards programs with the BEST opportunities for getting free or very cheap merchandise. By shopping CVS I will probably not pay for toothpaste or shampoo for the next few YEARS, I get to spoil myself by trying new kinds of makeup all the time, and I don't even pay much for diapers. Good beginners guides to CVS and Walgreens can be found on Money Saving Mom's site.
CVS terms you'll see on Shoplifting With Permission:
  • Extra Bucks, Extra Care Bucks or ECBs are the "instant rebates" that CVS gives. If you see in the flyer that a product is $7.99 but "free after Extra Bucks," this means that you pay $7.99 for the product, and when you check out you receive a note on your receipt saying you have $7.99 Extra Bucks. Save that part of your receipt!! You can spend those ECBs on anything in the store (except alcohol and a few other limited items) up until the expiration date.
  • A moneymaker is an item that pays more Extra Bucks than you pay for it. This happens surprisingly often when you use coupons. For example, if a $3 bottle of shampoo is advertised "free after Extra Bucks," and you have a CVS coupon for $2 off any shampoo and a $1/1 manufacturer's coupon for the specific brand, then you're paying nothing for the item but still getting 3ECBs for "buying" it. (By the way this is totally legitimate and you shouldn't feel bad about doing it! Don't worry, the manufacturers are paying CVS back for the coupons and ExtraBucks -- you're not going to drive them out of business!)
  • Your Extra Care Card is the store card you need to participate in CVS's rewards program. If you let an employee scan a card for you, you're not getting Extra Bucks! (Also keep in mind that you will need your Extra Care card or at least the phone number you registered under in order to spend your ECBs.)
  • The CVS coupon machine or coupon printer is a red price scanner now installed in most CVS locations. Every time you visit a CVS, scan the bar code on your card and the machine will usually spit out some coupons. (Tip: scan your card more than once -- I often get three or more rounds of coupons even if the first time resulted in a long, long tape of them.)

I don't tend to use a lot of Walgreens terms on this blog because I don't shop Walgreens (or "Wags") much.

III. Catalinas

I wrote a full explanation of Catalina deals here. Basically these are promotions where you buy certain things, then get a coupon at checkout for money off your next purchase. The nice thing about these deals is that the coupon you get is good for ANYTHING -- it's not for a specific item. So you can earn a "Catalina" (or Cat) for buying air freshener and spend it on bread. When you are able to put together break-even or moneymaking deals using sales and coupons, this is a great way to get free groceries!

Catalina deals are so named after the company that coordinates them, Catalina Marketing. If you have questions about a specific Catalina deal or want to complain that a coupon didn't print when it should have, if you local store manager does not adequately answer you you can call Catalina customer service at (888) 322-3814. They can call up your transaction by the receipt number and help you figure it out.

More coupon slang can be found here -- I don't use most of these abbreviations but you might see them on message boards.


Kathryn Janicek said...

Carrie -- please email me at kjanicek@tribune.com. I'd like to have you on WGN Morning News right away. Please email me asap. Thanks!
Kathryn Janicek