Learning to Use Coupon & Rebate Apps

I don’t know that I’m one of the cool kids just yet, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of the new (to me) money saving options out there. I’m super excited about how things are coming together, and I have several frugal friends who are looking for tips. I’ve also got an almost-seventeen year old (whaaaat? How’d THAT happen?) who needs to get on the ball with testing out these options while she still has olde maternal unit as budget backup. My friend A. and I were discussing things like Ibotta recently and I offered to write up a little post about how I’m working through this process. It’s my hope that this will also help those of you who want to learn more about some of the things I’ve used and rambled about on Frugal Accomplishments posts. I have a very personal request too, though! If you are a more experienced user of frugal apps, please read through this and make suggestions or share how you do things. I really, really want to keep learning how to dial these things in and I’m positive that there will be something I’m missing that would help my family (and others) save even more. So please share your knowledge with us tech newbies if you see something I’ve left out/not learned how to do yet.

That said, here’s the breakdown of the Target trip that the kids and I went on today:

  1. I start all grocery trips by keeping a list of needs and wants on the fridge. As I run out of things, see holes I want filled, or get low on items, I add to the list so I know what to pick up the next shopping trip. (This helps you save money even if you do nothing else! With a list, you are more likely to purchase what you need, not have to make extra trips for things you forgot, or purchase items you already have because you didn’t know how much was left in the pantry or fridge.)
  2. Wednesday night, I sat down with my list, a notebook, and opened the Target Cartwheel app. On my “need” list were: mayonnaise, almond milk, tomato sauce, green beans, Listerine (generic version), and stain spray. First I checked the Cartwheel offers; I found (and applied) offers on Hellmann’s mayo, So Delicious almond milk, Muir Glen tomato sauce, Market Pantry canned vegetables, and Up & Up mouthwash. [EDIT: My store didn’t have Muir Glen, which I found out when trying to price out that product vs any others to see which was truly the best deal. I ended up with Market Pantry tomato sauce at $0.79 a can.]
  3. Next, I read through the Target weekly ad. I noticed coupons for $5 gift card with $25 purchase of health care items; $5 gift card with purchase of 4 personal care items; $5 gift card with $20 of beverage purchases; and $10 off a $40 purchase of household supply items. I made a note of which items were eligible for each type of offers and wrote them in a separate section of my paper.
  4. Using that brand list, I looked for Cartwheel offers that would take an additional percentage off items that would add up to a gift card and help fill our pantry/medicine chest/household supplies. I knew we were getting a little low on toothpaste and vitamins and I’d like to have more toilet paper on hand. I added any Cartwheel offers – either Target specific or manufacturer coupons – that were applicable.
  5. Lastly on Cartwheel, I went through the offers and applied anything that was valid on nonperishable items that we always use up and are handy to get at the best price possible, even if I don’t need them just yet. That included 20% off Cascadian Farm granola, which my husband eats daily, along with a manufacturer coupon on it for $1 off a box, and 20% off a loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread.
  6. Once that list was written up, I grabbed my printed manufacturer coupons. I had coupons on Seventh Generation dish soap (which counted toward the $10 off $40 household item total) and Pringles (which weren’t on any digital offer, but I’ll still buy the kids with a hard copy coupon over a full-price product).
  7. Lastly it was time for cash back offers! I opened my Ibotta app and did searches for Target offers that would get me cash back on anything on my need or want lists. I applied the following offers: $0.50 off ANY item; a $0.25 off ANY item; $0.50 on Classico (which could be applied on multiple purchases – not on my need list but I use it at least weekly, so having a bit extra falls under the nonperishable pantry list); $1 back on So Delicious almond milks (multiple option); $0.25 on ANY deodorant (which fell under the personal care $5 gift card offer), and $0.25 back on ANY bread (which combined with the Cartwheel offer on Dave’s Killer Bread).
  8. While I was working on this grocery list, my mom called and let me know that Kroger affiliates would be doing a 4x points promotion on gift cards this weekend. This bumped my shopping day from Thursday to Friday – I went to the local Kroger affiliate this morning and purchased a $250 Target gift card, which netted the family 1,000 points for next month’s fuel discounts. (Which earns me $1 off per gallon on diesel)
  9. Time to hit Target! We hit the aisles with our list. I started with some bottled water and other beverages that counted toward the $5 gc for $20 purchase, since the cases of bottled water would be heavy and take up the bottom of the cart! (Quick tip: three cases of Aquafina water will completely fill the bottom of a Target cart. You’re welcome. LOL) Then we worked our way through the rest of our list, making sure to scan each and every new product’s UPC with the Target app barcode scanner before it went in the cart. Why would I do that? Because it’s still possible to miss Cartwheel offers when looking through that many categories at home! Every. Single. Time. we’ve gone to Target, I’ve done this and Every. Single. Time. I get an additional percentage off-offer on something. Sometimes it’s just a product that someone will ask to get; sometimes it will be an item on a clearance rack that I wouldn’t have known to look for; and sometimes it will be something that was on a promotion (like the $10 off $40 household items where I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT I’d choose other than toilet paper – today’s trip was the second time that Up & Up trash bags had an offer on them).
  10. We headed to the register – after everything was rung up, the cashier scanned my Cartwheel code (in your “Wallet” section of your app – this is the top barcode when you open your Wallet, and it will show you have XX of 50 offers added), then entered the paper coupons, then scanned the coupon codes for the gift card promotions and $10 off $40 coupon (in Wallet, under Coupons). We earned two $5 gift cards for future purchases (my vitamin purchases had such good discounts and coupons that we didn’t make the $25 minimum – I can’t argue since it stocked us for several months of vitamins for $23.04 LOL). All told, my in-store savings were $42.85 using sales, Cartwheel offers, and manufacturer coupons (electronic and print). Add another $5 since I used a gift card from my last trip to offset my out-of-pocket (OOP) costs. Out of pocket (on my gift card from Fry’s) = $143.34.
  11. Another tip: if your Target has a Starbucks and/or Target cafe, and you’ve worn yourself out with your shopping trip, be sure to check your Target Cartwheel for Cafe offers! (Under Cartwheel Offers, Food, Cafe) I checked really quickly and got 25% off Starbucks Frappuccinos; they also had a %off offer for sandwiches.
  12. Imagine, if you will, that we are now driving home. And unloading the groceries. You might want to complete that step too. 😉
  13. Final step: open your Ibotta app and scan your receipt. Make sure you line everything up so that you don’t miss a line in your submission. (Been there, done that.) Check over your offers and make sure that if you can claim more than one in quantity, like the almond milk offer, you follow the appropriate steps to do so. In my case, I had to scan each bottle of almond milk with the barcode scanner in the Ibotta app. I also had to scan the two bottles of Classico into the app. Make ABSOLUTELY SURE you look closely at the offers redeemed versus the list you made of item offers you planned to redeem. Today’s trip skipped several offers I had applied in my account – most importantly, the almond milk! At $1 back per bottle, that would have been a very disappointing miss for me. Final count on Ibotta cash back: $7.25.

My friend C. has told me there’s another app that scans receipts and looks for offers – I’m in the process of getting that set up and figured out as well. Maybe there will be even more cash back in the mix!

So, app-savvy couponers – did I miss anything? What else could I be doing? With the exception of using a card that earns “points” (which I choose not to do any more, since it’s too easy to lose track of expenditures on a credit card with everything else going on), I can’t think of anything else. I’m sure open to further info though. Teach me how to make the most of this technology! 😀

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