Advanced Couponing: How to Keep Track Of Upcoming Deals

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I recently posted about a Rite Aid Freebie starting 3/24 and one of our readers asked us for a reminder about it.  As hard as we try to keep you updated on deals we can not always do this.  There are always so many great deals, sales and coupons to keep up with we don’t always remember either.  😮

I wanted to share a quick post with you today on how I keep track of upcoming deals that I personally want to take advantage of at the Drugstores and a few other stores that I don’t always shop.  I call this my “Paper Brains!”  😮

When I first started “strategic couponing”, as I like to call it, I used a notebook to write down the deals I wanted to grab at each store.  Well, I like to be very neat and organized and this notebook was not working for me.  So I set up a quick Word Document and that’s what I’ve been using ever since.  It is very simple and to the point and I have it up and running on my computer at all times.  So as I’m searching the internet and I come across a deal that I want to get I simply copy and paste it onto my word document under the corresponding week and store that it is at.  I also have this set up for at least a month at a time.  Then, when I’m ready to go shopping, I simply print my store list for that week and go shopping!

Here is what my document look likes so far for the week of 3/24:



Buy 2 Nice! One Dozen Grade A Large Eggs $1.00 each, when you buy 2, sale price 3/24-3/30
Use one
$0.55/2 – Eggs, Dozen – (
Final Price: $0.73 each, when you buy 2


18 packs of Scunci Elastic Hair Bands on sale for $1.99
Get back $1.99 +Up
Final Price=FREE






Like I said, I only use this for the drugstores and stores that I don’t regularly shop.  I do not include Farm Fresh or Harris Teeter deals on here.  For those, I use Dana’s printable lists that she posts each week with the coupon mathchups.

Again, I just wanted to share how I keep my deals organized.  I hope this helps you out!

Happy Couponing!!



Couponing Basics: Stacking Coupons

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Can You Stack Coupons?

“Stacking” coupons is one of the great secrets of saving with coupons.  Once you realize that stores will allow you to use both a store coupon AND a manufacture coupon on 1 item, the whole world of coupons seems a bit brighter.  Why?  Because you have now essentially doubled your savings!

Now, not all stores allow “coupon stacking” and not all stores even offer store coupons.  The popular chains do; however,  have this wonderful note in their coupon policies.  This week, we will look at your favorite stores that allow coupon stacking.

Before we more forward, it is important to note that you can’t use 2 manufacture coupons on 1 product.  I am discussing using a store coupon (see post here) with a manufacture coupon.  You must also follow any restrictions set forth by the manufacture or the store.

Coupon Stacking Example:

Buy 1 Trix Cereal @ $2.50
Use $1/1 Trix Manufacture coupon
Stack with $1/1 Trix CVS store coupon
Final: $0.50 each after coupons



According to the CVS Coupon Policy:


CVS/pharmacy accepts one third-party manufacturer coupon and applicable CVS/pharmacy coupon(s) for the purchase of a single item, unless prohibited by either coupon offer.

Make sure to always scan your Extra Care Card at the Magic Coupon Kiosk before shopping.  You might be surprised with an unexpected store coupon or free offer.  You can also print CVS coupons online.


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Couponing Basics: How to Use Ecoupons

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 Couponing  posts

Electronic coupons or ecoupons are next up on the list of topics for Couponing Basics

What is an ecoupon?

An ecoupon is a digital coupon that isn’t clipped or printed.  The coupon is downloaded online directly onto a store loyalty/discount card and is redeemed electronically. The coupon value will automatically be deducted at checkout once the qualifying purchase is made within the redemption period.

Where are ecoupons accepted?

Ecoupons have become more prevalent and are now widely accepted.  However, not all stores accept ecoupons so it is important to know your stores coupon policy.  Simply heading over to the store website will also help determine if and which service your store uses for ecoupons since each store will have a specific ecoupon service they use.  You will need to sign up for that particular ecoupon service and register your store loyalty card to load and redeem coupons.

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Couponing Basics: What is a Catalina Coupon?

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I’ve been talking about all types of coupons, but What is a Catalina Coupon?

A Catalina is a coupon printed at the register from a Catalina machine when a participating product(s) is purchased.  The Catalina machines are little printers next to the register (shown below).

There are several ways to earn a Catalina coupon or CAT:


  1. Purchase X amount 0f products and earn X dollars off your next purchase.  You will need to purchase a specific number of participating products or a specific dollar amount of products to trigger the Catalina.
    • Buy 2 Kikkoman soy sauce and get $1.50 off your next purchase, buy 3 and get $2 off your next purchase OR
    • Purchase $30 of participating Proctor &  Gamble products and earn $10 off your next shopping trip

    These coupons are great because you can use them to help save on items where coupons are rare such as milk and meat.

  2. Purchase X products to receive a FREE product on your next shopping trip.  You need to purchase a specified number of products to either receive a coupon to get a free product or to get money off of a specific product(s).
    • Purchase 4 participating General Mills Cereals and get FREE Milk (coupon printed at register).  You must purchase the 4 boxes of applicable cereal then you will get a Catalina coupon at checkout for FREE milk.  You can’t get the milk free in the same transaction.

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Couponing Basics: Manufacture vs. Store Coupons

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Knowing the difference between a Manufacture coupon and a Store coupon is important to help maximize your savings.  Why?  You can stack a manufacture coupon with a store coupon at most stores!

We have already looked at the Anatomy of a manufacture coupon.  Make sure to head over and read that post if you missed it.

I want to look at in-ad coupons from my local grocery store, Farm Fresh.  I have received questions regarding these coupons over the years, so I wanted to focus on this store.

First, notice the coupon below states “Store Coupon” on the top where it would normally state “manufacture coupon”.  Additionally, you will notice the barcode starts with a “0” and the coupon lacks a redemption address and retailer terms.  The coupon also states “redeemable ONLY at Farm Fresh”.  The store doesn’t get reimbursed by the manufacture for this coupon.

You will also find manufacture coupons that are sponsored by a specific store.  The coupon below is a manufacture coupon with a Farm Fresh store logo. You will notice the coupon has all the same features of as a standard manufactures coupon and says “Redeemable at” Farm Fresh.  The coupon will be submitted to the manufacture for reimbursement.

Some stores will accept competitors manufacture coupons, so read the coupon policy at your local store to see if your store accepts competitors coupons.

Next Up: Learn about Stacking Coupons

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Couponing Basics: Recognizing Fraudulent Coupons

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After posting about the anatomy of a coupon, I realized it was important to step back and show you a few ways to recognize a fraudulent printable coupon. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common to come across fraudulent or modified coupons.

Follow to steps below to reduce your chances of unknowingly using a fake coupon:

  1.  The coupon is too good to be true: If something is too good to be true, it probably is.  A printable coupon for a FREE 12-pack of Pepsi (or $3 off) would raise a huge red flag for me. 
  2. No expiration date or a long expiration date: A coupon must have an expiration date.  If there isn’t an expiration date, chances are the coupon is not valid.  Having an expiration date longer than 6 months would also signal something may be wrong with the coupon.  Most printable coupons are going to be valid around 4-6 weeks depending on the manufacturer.
  3. Lack of a UPC code:  A coupon needs a UPC code to be tracked and to specify the item.  If there isn’t a UPC or barcode, don’t try to use the coupon.
  4. The coupon is a PDF: PDF coupons are becoming increasing rare.  They are easy to manipulate and the number of prints is unlimited.  While not all PDF coupons are fake, research the coupon if it was emailed to you from a friend or found randomly on the web.  Obtaining the PDF coupon directly from a company website or from an email sent to you by a company is the safest course of action when dealing with PDF”s.
  5. Multiple coupons with the same encrypted 2-D Barcode.  This would signal the coupon has been photocopied and isn’t valid.

Also, make sure to use a trusted site for obtaining couponsThe Coupon Challenge and most other bloggers try extremely hard to ensure the coupons we are posting are legitimate.  Yes, we can still be fooled. However, we take measures to prevent sharing with you coupons that are fraudulent.

What are the penalties for coupon fraud?

  • Longest prison sentence: 17 years
  • Highest financial penalty: $5 million
  • Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon. Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.

You can find a list of fraudulent coupons on the CIC website.

Next Up: Manufacture vs. Store Coupons

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Couponing Basics: Anatomy of a Printable Coupon

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Last week I talked about the Anatomy of a Coupon.  We will be continuing our examination of coupons by looking at the security features on printable coupons to prevent fraud.

1.  Pattern of Circles or Dots behind the expiration date to prevent photo copying.

2.  “Watermark” or faded image behind the Coupon Value and Description to prevent photo copying.

3.  Encrypted 2-D Barcode which is unique to each coupon print (even for a second print of the same coupon).  The first 4-digits is the same for each coupon you print, all other numbers will vary.  You can enter this code into the Veri-fi website to verify that the coupon hasn’t been redeemed ( if you’re concerned the coupon may be a copy).

4.  The Border of a coupon is repeating text that shows the time & date stamp of when the coupon was printed, zip code where printed, redemption value and expiration date as well as a unique number sequence.  The information identifies your computer!

5.  Under the expiration date (as part of the border box) you will find the same information as on the coupon border.  You could cut off the entire border of the coupon but the information will still be obtained from the expiration date box.

{Click to Enlarge}

Copying or creating coupons is fraud! Don’t do it!  Learn how to recognize a fraudulent coupon to protect yourself and local store.

Next Up: Recognizing Fraudulent Coupons

 Not sure Where to Find Printable Coupons?  Read my post to learn more.

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Couponing Basics: Anatomy of a Coupon

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It is important to familiarize yourself with coupon anatomy to be a successful coupon user. Today we will look at a manufacture coupon and learn how the coupon works and terminology used on the coupon.

It is important to note that you may only use 1 manufacture coupon per item.  If the coupon states to save X amount of dollars on 1 product,  you must purchase 1 item and only use 1 manufacture coupon.

How do you know you are looking at a manufacture coupon and not a store coupon?  It will say “manufacturer coupon” clearly on the top of the coupon.  Later in this post we will talk about coupon verbiage and images that may indicate a manufacture coupon is valid at a particular retailer.

The Expiration Date will also be prominently displayed on the coupon.  The coupon will be valid until the expiration date shown.  You CAN’T use a coupon that has passed it’s expiration date.

The product image will help you identify the product.  However, the image is NOT necessarily an indicator of the product(s) the coupon is valid on.  You will want to read the coupon terms to identify all products you may purchase.  It is common for manufacturers to use a product image of the most expensive product.

Redemption Value and Terms of the coupon states the value of the coupon and the terms of the purchase.   The terms are important for determining the type of product(s), how many products and what size you must purchase.   You will also find exclusions for size and variety.   A coupon that doesn’t specify a size or exclude travel/trial sizes can be used on the smallest product size available and will make the most use of your coupon.

Occasionally, you will see coupons that may indicate a manufacture coupon is valid at a particular store.    It has become increasingly common to see manufacture coupons stating “redeemable at” a specific store or including a store logo on a coupon.  While these are still manufacture coupons and can be used anywhere, some stores will not accept coupons that mention or are “sponsored by” another store.

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Couponing Basics: Can You Photocopy a Coupon?

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I have spent several weeks discussing where to get coupons and a lot of focus has been put on where to get printable coupons.  One important fact that must be mentioned before we can go any further is…

You may NEVER photocopy a coupon

Coupons have a unique serial number that is specific to that coupon.  Each time you print a coupon, it is given a different serial number (most sites allow 2 prints per computer – the barcode is the same but the serial number is different).  The store will not be reimbursed for duplicate serial numbers.

So, what happens if you DO photocopy a coupon?  The coupon will likely scan in-store and you will save money on the product.  The coupon will be shipped to the clearinghouse (where they process the coupons), and only 1 coupon will be valid while the others will show as duplicate serial numbers.  The store will not get reimbursed for the duplicate coupon value and the store will lose money.  In all likelihood, the store manager and cashier will get reprimanded for accepting the coupon and will be more stringent with other coupon users in the future.

To sum up – Copying coupons is illegal.  Don’t do it!

Next Up: The Anatomy of a coupon and how you’re identified on all coupons you print.

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Couponing Basics: How to Use Recyclebank

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RecycleBank is a program that allows you to earn points by completing Eco-friendly tasks that can be redeemed for coupons, discounts and gift cards.

To get started, you need to sign up for a FREE account.  Then you can earn points for:

  • Home Recycling (if available in your area)
  • Learn and Earn Opportunities
  • Completing Challenges
  • Entering Coupon Codes from Participating Products
  • Referring Friends

If you are planning to use RecycleBank for coupons, you will notice there are “Print at Home”, “Mailed Rewards” and “Online Rewards”.  The “Print at Home” coupons are available to be printed right from your computer before you head to the store, while a “Mailed Reward” will be sent to you via snail mail.

Watch the video to learn more. *This video was taken on the older site design, but all the information is still the same!

Having trouble watching the video?  Click here.

Make sure you know how to Use, &!

Do you use RecycleBank for printing coupons?

Next Up: Can You Photocopy a Coupon?

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