Here’s your weekly fix of Q&A! As always a big thanks to my buddy Christy over at Haphazardly Hobbying who gives me so much help to get the questions answered. Keep sending those questions in – we love hearing from all of you!
Remember--there is a tab at the top of the site called “Q & A” where I organize the questions and answers from this feature so that it can serve as a quick reference!
Here are this week’s questions:
- Where can I find coupons for free products?
- Can I use a name brand coupon for a Publix brand item?
- Does Publix have quantity limits on rain checks? Will they split the quantity on a rain check or issue multiple rain checks for a single item?
- Do you know if and when the BP Gas Card Coupon will return?
- Is it ethical to use new coupons on a rain check you received weeks ago?
- When a grocery store doubles (or triples) a coupon - who pays for the doubling, the store or the manufacturer?
- What do you do with your grocery budget surplus?
- What are the best ways to make money while I surf the internet?
- Where is the best place for a new couponer to start?
- What should I do when a store doesn’t take particular coupons and I think they’re wrong about their store policy?
And here are the answers!
- Stephanie from the comments wants to know: Often in your weekly shopping tally, I notice that you use coupons for free products. Where can I get those?
- Katy wants to know: I had a Publix cashier tell me that you can use any name brand coupon on the equivalent publix brand item. By doing this I was able to get some publix allergy medicine really cheap with a Zyrtec coupon. I was wondering if this is really the rule or if the cashier has misinformed me. Do you know what the official policy is regarding using coupons on publix brand items?
- Monica wants to know: Does Publix have quantity limits on rain checks? Will they split the quantity on a rain check or issue multiple rain checks for a single item?
- Sam wants to know: Will the BP Gas Card deal ever return? Now that the leak has been stopped, I need cheap gas!!
- Danae wants to know: Here’s the scenario: you have a rain check for a few weeks because you either forgot about it or just haven’t had a chance to use it. The coupons you had paired with the rain check items have either expired, you found a better deal to use them on, or they aren’t as good as new ones you found. Is it ethical to use new coupons on a rain check you received 3 weeks ago?
- Kris wants to know: When a grocery store doubles (or triples) a coupon - who pays for the doubling? I bought something at Kroger last week that cost 89 cents. My coupon was for 50 cents so Kroger only gave me the 89 cents. I'm not complaining as I still got the item for free but it just made me think about who pays the extra money - the grocery store or the manufacturer?
- Amy wants to know: When you are under on your grocery budget several times in a row, do you ever move the money to another budget category, or do you always keep the grocery budget there and do something like stock up on meat?
- Jen wants to know: I know from reading your website that you spend a lot of time on the web and use a lot of websites to make some extra money.
I spend a ton of time on the internet and I was thinking there has got to be a way to make a few bucks with all of the time I spend surfing the internet. I already use the inboxdollars.com but wanted to see if you know of any other way to make a few bucks while surfing the web?
- Sherri wants to know: I often refer people to your site and try to explain some of the basic ideas of couponing. Where would you suggest I start with someone who is completely new to couponing (much less stockpiling or menu planning)? Should I point them to a specific place on the website, or just give them an overview of couponing, stockpiling and menu planning and turn them loose?
- Marilyn wants to know: After researching Publix’s coupon policy on your site, I thought I was ready for a good shopping/saving experience at Publix. I contacted my local Publix to make sure that they would take Target Web coupons and manufacturer’s coupons together; they said “yes” that is fine. I was excited because I had a lot for cereal so I new I would be saving some money. I had to go to work and knew there was another Publix near me (with a Target close by), so after work I went to that store instead. I gathered up the items that matched the coupons and proceeded to the checkout. When the cashier went through my coupons, she checked with her manager and the manager came over to tell me that they did NOT take Target coupons with manufacturer’s coupons. I told her that I had spoken with corporate and called the store about it and she kept telling me "no" that was not their policy. I ended up walking out of the store with nothing and took my coupons to my local Publix, where they took all the coupons with out any hassle. I did verify once again with the customer service representative at that store that they do take target coupons along with manufacturer coupons and she said "yes.” What would you do? Should I contact corporate about this issue?
The easiest way to find free coupons is to watch the site – whenever I find an offer for a free coupon, I post it right away! Often you’ll have to sign up for a company’s mailing list or “like” them on Facebook in order to receive your free coupon. Look over the packaging of items you’ve already bought, too – sometimes you’ll be able to send in for a free or high value coupon with your proof of purchase. Vocalpoint and Kraft First Taste are also good resources for free or high-value coupons and samples, too.
You might also consider contacting (emailing) your favorite companies and giving them feedback about their products! Often companies will compensate you with coupons -- those few minutes of effort can really pay off!!
Christy: I’ve not heard of this policy before (as with everything coupon-related, though, it depends on the individual store’s policy; there won’t be anything that is a policy chain-wide). I’m curious to know if other readers have been able to do this – commenters??
Michelle: I have never heard this one either--I would definitely double check on this one as the store will not be reimbursed for the coupon if it is used on the incorrect item!
Christy: I think we should make IDOYS (It Depends On Your Store) the official Ask I Heart Publix acronym - I certainly type that phrase a LOT :). In my area, each store has a slightly different rain check policy – one of the more lenient stores will write you a rain check for as many deals as you want, another will only write a rain check for 6 items or 3 BOGO deals, a third puts expiration dates of 10 days on their rain checks (the other two stores don’t do this at all). I have been able to ‘split’ a rain check, or in other words only purchase a portion of the total value of the raincheck, at all three stores – in each case they just wrote me a new raincheck for the remaining number of deals. I haven’t ever asked if they would issue multiple rain checks for a single item, so I’m not sure about that one!
Michelle--Definitely will vary by store. Most of the stores in my area write rain checks for a limit of 4 or two BOGO's. I have needed a rain check in a while but I think mine are now preprinted to use within 30 days of issue. By the way I love the acronym Christy!! :-)
Christy: Sam, I was just wondering this myself the other day!! (I was also wondering if it was politically correct to WANT a BP gas deal. :) ) I guess we’ll just have to wait and see – cross your fingers with me!!
Michelle: I too was wondering if this one would return--I just used my last card a week or so ago. Fingers and toes crossed on something soon!
Christy: I don’t see any problem with this – after all, if the store had HAD the item you wanted to purchase at the time, you would have used the coupons you had then. Since they didn’t, I think you’re free to use whatever coupons you have when you actually cash in the rain check.
Michelle: You are welcome to use any valid coupon with a rain check! Often stores will even allow you to use a coupon that was valid when the rain check was written but has since expired. I personally don't feel it is unethical to use a better coupon if you are forced to buy an item at a later date...sounds like a stroke of good luck :D
Christy: Man, I am so jealous of you coupon doublers (except for when my true BOGO makes for a better deal :) ). I would think that the store ‘pays’ for the doubling, since it is the equivalent of the accepting-competitor-coupons policy in that it’s a strategy to get you to shop at Publix versus any other store. However, I plead doubling ignorance if this is the wrong answer.
Michelle: As far as I know, this is an incentive to get you in the door and paid by the store. The manufacturer is only responsible for paying the face value of the coupon plus a small handling fee.
Christy: I’ve talked before about how I really need to get better about making a strict budget and stick to it, but….um….I’ve been busy (or at least that’s my story), so basically I just try to keep my expenditures as low as possible so that I have more money to pay other bills with. In other words, I think Michelle is much more qualified to answer this question. :)
Michelle: I never pull money from my grocery budget!! My budget is based on several years' worth of tracking and is very appropriate for my family. I don't look at my short term spending---instead, I look at my yearly spending. I think of my budget as if I had a year's worth of money in an envelope. If I am below budget half way through the year I make a point to add splurge items or build upon deficit areas in my stockpile. I expect fluctuations and am more interested in the yearly average.
I think the only time I would move money is if I were having issues maintaining a budget category or if something unexpected created the need for big shift in my budget. I have tried to cover all my bases and have emergency funds built into all areas of my budget. I hope to never touch that money but it is there if I need it! At the end of the year any excess in those funds get dumped into our saving account. Those little safety nets are great when you need them but even better when you don't!!
If you find you have a large excess in your budget after a six month review you might want to consider reducing your budget for that area and creating an emergency fund or miscellaneous fund you can pull from when needed. I can't tell you how important an emergency/excess fund can be!! Did you know that within the past few months we have had a pipe burst and and and air conditioning repair for a total of over $1000 in unexpected expenses!! My house is less than 5 years old and I never would have expected those issues! I can tell you that having my emergency fund in place meant that I had ZERO stress during both of the repairs--well worth the effort of saving!!
I will list you my favorites --these are the ones that I think are the best use of my time:
PineCone Research is super easy they email me a survey. I give honest answers and within a few days they deposit $3 into my PayPal account. You guys know I use my PayPal to buy coupons and for any other deal I might find where I don't want to touch my checking account!
Inbox Dollars is just as easy. There are a ton of ways to earn but I stick with reading the emails and completing surveys here and there. They pay out at $30 and I can usually request a check every few months with not much effort!
MyPoints is another good one. I love them as they let you cash in your points for gift cards. I usually get my CVS & Walgreens gift cards from them. There are a million ways to earn points but I usually just read the emails and I get a decent amount of points that way! I typically get at least 2 gift cards per year through them!!
eRewards is my next favorite. This is an invitation only program where you answer surveys and you get points that you then turn into money deposited into your Upromise account!! I have earned hundreds of dollars for the boys' education just by telling them what I think!! Once you become a Upromise member be on the lookout for an invitation...I am not sure who or how they choose members.
Of course I do Upromise...you guys know that you get money deposited into your Upromise account just by shopping and eating at participating restaurants. They even have eCoupons where you score money for the things you buy. You just have to remember to use those loyalty cards and be sure to have your cards attached to your account!!
Swagbucks is a must. I do a bunch of searches each day for info or to pull pictures for posts so I always go through Swagbucks as I get points that I turn into Amazon gift cards (they have a ton of other prizes but I love those Amazon cards--that is how I pay for Christmas!!)
I have tried many others but honestly I never stuck with them or found they required too much effort!! The ones I listed are super easy and the payoff makes it worth it!! I would love to hear any favorites that you guys might have and if you feel like the payout is worth the effort!!
Christy: I think an overview of couponing and stockpiling is the best place to start, but I’ve also found it helpful to try to sit with (or shop with!) a new-to-couponing friend once a week for a month or so to continue to explain some of the tricks of the trade. As we all know, it’s really the experience of couponing that teaches us the most, but it’s also one of the more daunting things to a newbie – so whenever possible, try to make it less scary and more fun!
Michelle: I am working on a introduction to couponing that I hope to have done in the near future...finding extra time in the day is often difficult--but I will get it done :-D
I always recommend that new couponers start off with the Super Deals. The deals are great and it is a easy for a new couponer to see how effective a coupon can really be!! Getting something for next to nothing is always a great rush and a good way to get you hooked! I also always recommend shopping with a grocery list and sticking to it...just by shopping the sales a person can save close to 50% without using a single coupon! Create a menu and a list based on the sale and you will save money. When you add coupons to this mix you increase your savings and can easily save 60% without much effort!!
Christy: There are a few details to this story that I’m fuzzy on, Marilyn – did you (Scenario #1) call the store near your work that you shopped at, and then that same store turned down the coupons they earlier said they would take? Or did you (Scenario #2) call the store closest to home for their policy, and then go shopping at another store that you DIDN’T call? Since I’m not sure, I’m going to discuss both scenarios, even though my answer for both will be very similar.
If it was scenario #2, and you called one store for their policy but then shopped at another, then you’ve unforntunately experienced the reason why we say “it depends on your store” (IDOYS! :) ) so frequently, because the acceptance policy is not the same from store to store, even when those stores are in the same general area. Always call the store you actually plan to shop at and make sure to get the name of the person you spoke to, so if you have problems you can at least reference the person by name. If this was the case, and the stores in question are in the same area, I would consider calling the distric manager for those stores to discuss your experience; Publix is so focused on customer service that I’m sure they would at least take the time to explain the reason behind the differences at each store. Plus, you never know, your complaint might be the reason that the policy eventually changes!
If it was scenario #1, and you called the same store that later turned down your coupons, then I would call the store manager to explain the situation and find out the TRUE store policy, and to complain about your experience – in this case, your goal is to make sure that everyone in the store knows the policy and that you don’t have to go through that situation again! You could also consider calling the district manager in this case, too, because re-training is likely to be a more serious priority if it’s on the distric manager’s radar.
I hope our answers to these questions were helpful! Make sure you 'tune in' next week for even more Q&A with I Heart Publix. If you have a question you'd like to see answered, email me at [email protected]