I got this e-mail yesterday and thought I'd share since it's a very good question.
I noticed in your most recent blog (as of 8:57 this morning) that you said that you got some free Tide because of coupon overage. How does that work? As I recall you said to use the Manufacturer Coupon first, and then the Store Coupon, so the overage comes from the store coupons, yes? And then the store owes you?
Also, on a side note, do you put a weekly grocery list together from the coupons? I'm still real new at this and it's kind of fun!!!
Thanks so much!
Well, the first thing to note about overage, is that you don't always get it. It varies from cashier to cashier. I have noticed that overage is easiest to get at Target (at least for me). Fred Meyer's computers beep something horrible when there is overage and most of the cashiers will just adjust down the value of the coupon so you don't get to use the money on the rest of your order. You still DO get the item for free though, so I'm not one to complain either way.
Yes, the best way to get overage (and avoid the terrible beeping from the computers) is to always hand over the manufacturer coupons first and the store coupons last. 99% of cashiers will just accept a store coupon vs. a manufacturer coupon that beeps because it is covered by the store. Period. They don't have to worry about getting in trouble for accepting a manufacturer coupon that was over the price of the item. See, the manufacturer's can request invoices at any time to see what the store charges for their products and if that doesn't match with what they actually put through the coupon for the store actually eats the cost of the overage. With the store coupons, it is easier to adjust for overage because it just adjusts through sales and they don't have to be so accountable to others.
The way that I do my grocery lists is usually like this. First, I have a 100.00 a week grocery budget (for now). I have that in cash, a small calculator I carry around with me and try to be organized. It really does help.
What I do is go through the weekly ads, figure out the stores with the best deals (with and without coupons) that week and see if it is worth going to each store or if there is only one store that truly stands out (you're lucky because you can use the coupon blogs like mine or Alaska's Best Grocery Deals to do this work for you).
I always try to shop with coupons in mind first anymore. Some weeks I just skip them (to give myself a break from trying to do coupons for one and two just because usually I don't need much that week and what I need there is no coupon for). I do try to prioritize though. I try to make my shopping list based on a certain criteria.
1) What essentials do I need that week?
For instance Target may have awesome sales one week and if I only need milk I might just go to there to do all my shopping, thus maximizing my time (even if I pay a little bit extra for the milk). Other weeks, if I need bread, milk, eggs and meat and Target doesn't have great deals I would just probably skip it all together and go to Fred Meyer to do my grocery shopping. Once I figure out what I need and what stores to go to, I figure out which coupons I definitely WANT to use that week with what is on sale, either write that down in a list (with the coupon match-up marked too) or lately (because I'm just pressed for time), I have honestly (this is sort of bad to admit) just started clipping out the picture with the store price on it of what I need and just stack it on top of my coupon. Since I'm carrying around my coupons anyway, this seemed to be a good way to juggle everything. For non-advertised deals (like the travel sized things at Target), I just try to organize my coupons by section as I go through the store (yes I really am this anal retentive).
My stack of coupons for Target usually goes, "Infants, candy/food, cleaners/household, pets, health and beauty, travel section, front registers" because that matches how I run through the store. Shopping with two young children, being organized really is essential to me or I'd miss a whole lot of things I wanted to buy. Once I get the items I need then I'll just restack my coupons so the Target coupons are at the bottom of the pile, make sure that none of the coupons are stuck together so that the cashier won't miss them (dog ear a corner if you are worried about this happening so they won't stick together) and away I go.
2) Where am I shopping and what coupons do I need?
I make as many piles of coupons with stores as I need. I have a binder I store my newspaper inserts in and stuff (clipping as needed), and I just add my internet printables to that stack in the binder and clip internet coupons as I use them to go shopping. I make a pile of "Fred Meyer" deals, "Target Deals" and sometimes "Wal-Mart Deals", and go from there (I'm not shopping at Walgreens much right now). The easiest way for me to keep it all organized is just to put the coupons in envelopes that I've clipped, mark the store name on the front and shove them into my wallet and pull out the envelope when I get to the store. I then have my coupon accordian travel organizer thingie (if you go to 4imprint.com and sign up for an account they'll send you some products to try for free..I think the maximum is three, and if the item is a low enough value you get to keep it...that's how I got my coupon binder years ago :-) with my higher value coupons that are a "maybe if it is on sale" types of coupons. The binder with all the other coupons I just plain leave in the car. That way I can make two trips to the car if I find some really awesome stuff that is on sale or clearance that I can get for free with coupons. I keep a small pair of scissors in my binder just for that purpose.
Now my Target pile I definitely start with "things I can get for free" and go from there :-). I mean how can you not...free doesn't count against your grocery budget *laugh*. Fred Meyer I start with things I absolutely NEED to get (milk is usually at the top of that list) and Wal-mart is always the "I can't find this anywhere else, please God let them carry it" stack or "I know Wal-Mart is the only one that carries these products" or "I KNOW that Wal-mart is the cheapest place to buy this". Usually that list is pretty small anymore and I hit them once every couple of months.
I know that is probably way more information than you need, but don't get overwhelmed. It's really not as complicated as it seems :-). You'll get the hang of coupons really quickly. It's fun and honestly you'll find your own way of doing things that works for you (heck my sister-in-law just keeps her coupons in her purse in a pile and flips through them as she needs them...it works for her!). That's the best thing about coupons. Barring doing anything illegal, there really isn't a "wrong way" to do it. So long as you are saving money and having fun go with it!