Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reader Question: Coupon Shopping & Multiple Transactions

I received my first reader question about couponing- I'm over the moon excited! Now, I'm no expert, but I'm happy to share what I know and point you in the right direction for more information. Here was the question:

"What’s the deal with splitting up orders into transactions? I’m really thinking I need to start clipping coupons, but why split a grocery order into transactions?"

The simple answer: To save the most money possible! I've said before that couponing is an art form, but it's also a sport as well as a strategic war against the register! Transaction splitting may seem like an advanced couponing technique, but it can be pretty simple.

There are a few different types of stores in which it makes sense to split transactions.

Grocery Stores

Transaction splitting at grocery stores is primarily to make use of Catalina coupons. Catalina is the name of the company that makes those little tape register receipts that print out with your grocery receipt but have coupons printed on them, so we call them "catalinas." The idea is to "roll" Catalinas earned from one transaction onto the second transactions and so on & so forth.

Often times stores grocery stores will have deals like "Spend $20 on the products listed here and get $5 off your next order." Let's say you want to get $40 worth of those items. If you purchased them all at once you would get one $5 Catalina at the end of the transaction and your total cost (in that transaction) would be $40. However, if you did one transaction with $20 of those items you could apply the $5 Catalina you would get from that order on a second transaction with the other $20 worth of products, thus getting the second transaction for $15 AND giving you a second $5 Catalina to use on a future purchase. You total cost for that day would be $35. 

I often see these Catalina deals at my grocery store for things you would buy in bulk if you had kids, like gummy snacks, cereals, etc. Couponers who get more than one Sunday newspaper and have multiple of every coupon (and therefore multiple coupons for the same product) get the best deals doing this, not people like me who try to coupon w/ just one Sunday paper. Here is an example of a recent Catalina rolling deal. (This is an expired deal for Kroger Stores.)

Promotion: Buy 4 Lunchables with Fruit and get a $3 Catalina back.
        Transaction #1
Buy 4 Lunchables at $1.99
Use (4) $1/1 coupons
Pay $3.96 and get back a $3.00 Catalina- OOP price is $.99 each

Transaction #2
Buy 4 Lunchables at $1.99
Use (4) $1/1 coupons
Total $3.96 - $3 Catalina from Transaction #1 = $.96 Out of Pocket (OOP) and get back another $3.00 Catalina- OOP price is $.61 each

Depending on the number of coupons you had for this product, and on the limit (if any) this store had for the promotion, you could in theory continue to roll this deal until the store ran out of that product.

Another type of Catalina promotion offered at grocery stores is "Buy ____ and get a Catalina coupon for _____." A common example would be "Buy 4 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and get a Catalina coupon for a free gallon of milk."

Drug Stores

I do multiple transaction frequently at CVS. CVS has a program called Extra Care Bucks (ECB). (You must have a CVS card to take advantage of this program)

CVS runs deals like "buy this item for $5 and get a $3 ECB with purchase." Extra Care Bucks spend just like cash on any purchase. The idea is if you pay a bit upfront on your first transaction, you can continue "rolling" your ECB so you pay as little OOP over multiple purchases.

Extra Care Bucks can also be rolled over a span of weeks or months. They often have expiration dates about a month away. I like to roll my ECB each week. In other words, the ECB earned in Week #1 will pay for the transactions I do in Week #2 and the ECB earned in Week #2 will pay for the transactions I do in Week #3, etc.

There are websites that will take the current weeks ad and figure out what ECB deals are going on and what coupons came out recently and will tell you how to break-down multiple transactions to get the most items for the least OOP expense.

For example, Passion for Savings posted these CVS transactions last week especially for beginner shoppers (The CVS deals weren't very good this week so there aren't enough ECB deals to roll):

Transaction #1
Buy 1 – Similac Ready To Feed Formula (32 oz.), $4.99
Buy 1 – Carefree Body Shape Pantyliners (20-22 ct.), $0.99
Buy 1 – Buy Colgate Extra Clean Toothbrush Value Pack, $2.99
Use 1 – $5/1 Similac Product, exp. 5-31-11 (SS 04/03/11) *SS stands for Smart Source, a common coupon insert
Use 1 – $1/1 Any Carefree Product, exp. 6-30-11 (SS 5/8/11)
Use 1 - $0.75/1 Colgate Toothbrush, exp. 5-21-11 (SS 05/01/11)
Pay $2.22 and get back $3 in ECBs from the Colgate Deal.

Transaction #2
Buy 3 -  Revlon Eye Shadow, $4.99 – $5.29 each
Use 3 – $2/1 Revlon Color Cosmetic Product, exp. 6-12-11 (SS 5/8/11)
Use 1 – $3/$10 Cosmetics CVS Coupon (Printed from the Red Coupon Station at every CVS Store. You should always find this scanner and scan your CVSCVS to see what coupons it spits out for ya.)
Use 1 – $3 ECBs from Transaction #1
Pay $2.97 Out Of Pocket and get a $7 ECBs from buying $15 in Revlon Products

After 2 Transactions your Total Out of Pocket is $5.19 and you have a $7 ECBs for your next transaction or to save for Next Week!


Target offers it's own set of deals that involve receiving Target gift cards for purchasing specific products. These are often $5 gift cards that the register alerts the cashier to give you when you purchase the required items. Because you do not need to have a rewards card in order to be eligible for these deals, you can roll gift cards earned as many times as you'd like, or you can use them for any purchase but you cannot use a gift card earned in a transaction to pay for that transaction. It must be used on a future purchase.

Here is one example that is a current promotion:

Starbucks Frappuccino (4 Ct), $5.99
Buy 2, Get a $5 Target Gift Card

$2/2 Starbucks Frappuccino or Double Shot, exp. 5-21 (Pepsico Moments insert from 5/1 paper or available for print at Winco Foods)

Pay $9.98 and get a $5 gift card

If you rolled this transaction into a second transaction for the same items, you could use the $5 gift card earned and pay just $4.98 out of pocket. You would also get a $5 gift card for the second transaction. 
To see all of this week's gift card deals at Target, visit Passion for Savings.

I hope this helps the beginner coupon shoppers out there. Here are links to a few websites that offer further information on learning to coupon shop:

Coupon Virgins @ The Krazy Coupon Ladies
Coupon Newbies @ Hip2Save
Shop For Free @ Passion for Savings

If you have a couponing question... or any question for that matter for Mrs. 2010s Housewife, just email me at 2010housewife@gmail.com or leave a comment below. I'll do my best to answer any question you have!


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