Monday, February 1, 2010

What is Swag Bucks?

ETA: As of 2/25/10, Swag Bucks has multiplied everything by 10. So everything below is still correct, but now, for example, it costs 450 SBs for an Amazon card, but you will also be awarded SBs in increments of 10. In that way, nothing has changed, but The Swag Guy has promised future changes that will help you earn more Swag Bucks faster. Keep an eye on the Swag Bucks blog and Facebook page for upcoming changes.

So, obviously I haven't had a lot of time to update this blog with information about coupons and saving. But I had to use Taylor's naptime today to post an entry answering the question that I've been repeatedly answering to friends and family: What is Swag Bucks?

You can get all of this information on the Swag Bucks site, but it can be overwhelming at first, so I'll try to explain what you need to know to make Swag Bucks work for you. Swag Bucks is a search-and-earn program that is totally free to join. There are several easy ways to earn Swag Bucks (SBs), which you can then redeem for prizes or gift cards. My favorite prize is the $5 Amazon gift card, which costs 45 SBs. I have already redeemed for six of them, and I have enough in my account to get six more. That's $60 to spend at, and I only joined Swag Bucks on 12/14/09!

Ways to earn Swag Bucks:

Search the web--Use the Swag Bucks search engine for all of your online searching, and occasionally you'll get a Swag Buck! You could get a higher SB denomination from a search, but 1 SB is the most common. This is totally random, so there is no magic word to search for; you are encouraged to search naturally, and you will often hit several times a day. My advice is to stop using your favorites links and history links--instead, do "Swag Searches" for the sites you visit often. Every search is one more chance to earn Swag Bucks, and you can then just follow the correct link from your search results.

Enter bonus codes--Usually once a day (though that is not guaranteed), there will be a bonus code worth at least 1 SB. You can enter the code on the Swag Bucks home page to earn your Swag Buck(s). But the codes come out at random times and are often valid only for an hour or two, so you have to be lucky and quick. Joining the Swag Bucks fan page on Facebook is a good way to keep up on when the codes come out. I also recommend downloading the "Swidget" from the Swag Bucks home page; you can check the Swidget anytime to see if there is an active Swag Code and get a clue to its location. The code could be on Facebook, Twitter, the Swag Bucks blog, a partner website, the Swag Bucks toolbar (also recommended for easy access to all things Swag!), or anywhere, really!

Complete Special Offers--There are tons of special offers you can do to earn extra SBs, including free trials, surveys, newsletter sign-ups, and much more. Some of the Special Offers require a purchase, but some do not. Special Offers are not for everybody, and you do not need to complete a single offer if you don't want to.

Shop Online--This works the same way as Upromise and other similar programs; shop through the Shop & Earn store links, and earn 1 SB for every $5 you spend at any of the many partner stores. Obviously, you shouldn't shop online JUST to earn Swag Bucks, but if you're going to by something anyway, why not earn some SBs?

Trade in old cellphones, MP3 players, video games and consoles--I have never done this myself, but you can learn more about it on the Swag Bucks home page.

Refer your friends--If you decide to join Swag Bucks, I'd be grateful if you would sign up using my referral link: . If you try it out and you love Swag Bucks as much as I do, give your own referral link to everyone you know (one account per household)! Every time one of your referrals wins a Swag Buck (from searching only, not bonus codes, etc.), so do you, up to 100 SBs per referral! This is a huge bonus for you and can add up very quickly. So email your link around, post it on your social networking pages, blogs, message boards (if allowed) or anywhere else that you have an online presence.

A few final tips/reminders:

Use the search engine naturally
Download the toolbar
Download the Swidget
Sign up for the e-newsletter (arrives once a month and includes a bonus code)
Become a fan of Swag Bucks on Facebook
Follow Swag Bucks on Twitter
Get referrals!

Good luck, have fun, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or post a comment here. Thanks for checking this out--I hope it helps!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A gift from the coupon fairy

I was in a little convenience store on Sunday and I asked the guy behind the register what happens to the unsold newspapers at the end of the day. I have asked the same question in many stores, and I'm always told the same thing--the papers have to be sent back to the newspaper companies. This guy said some papers have to be returned, but some just get thrown away! I asked, "If I came by on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, would I be able to pick up the coupon inserts before they get trashed?" He said if I came back 15 minutes before closing time, they were all mine!

That night, I put Taylor to bed and headed back to the store. I ended up with 12 sets of inserts, and the guy said I can come back every week! I noticed that there was a monitor across from the register showing security camera footage of the parking lot, so I managed to contain my joy and not do a happy dance all the way to my car.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Goodbye Easy Saver

The April Easy Saver catalog was apparently the last, as Walgreens has announced the end of the rebate program. This makes me very sad, because the rebates were the only thing I liked about Walgreens. Also, the Easy Saver catalog contained lots of great coupons I could clip and use at CVS, so the coupons are possibly an even bigger loss than the rebates. Judging by the last few weeks' sale circulars, it looks like Walgreens will be increasing the number of Register Rewards deals to make up for the lost rebates. I wish I could say that appeases me, but it does not. The complicated rules for earning and redeeming RRs (and the poor training of managers and cashiers) make it difficult to "roll" the rewards. I am still trying to make it work because I do want to take advantage of the deals, but it often requires several trips to the store and multiple transactions. I truly hope Walgreens changes over to rewards more like CVS Extra Bucks, which are much easier to keep track of and spend.

Goodbye, Easy Saver--you will be missed!

Friday, April 17, 2009

My stockpiling efforts

Just to give you a visual on what coupons can do for you, here are some pictures of my current stockpile. The shelves and drawers are packed full, and these pictures don't even include food, diapers, wipes, makeup, and items stashed in random closets and cabinets in our home. We have also used tons of stuff ourselves and given plenty to friends and family, which is the best part of couponing.

This is my basement "store," and almost everything you see was 100% FREE, and many of these items were moneymakers. Not everything I stockpile is free (for example, the Electrasol was $.49 a box, but we will use it and I paid for them with Extra Bucks anyway, so it was definitely worth it), but if you added everything up, I definitely made a profit overall on these items. I also plan to sell a lot of my stash at a yard sale this spring, which equals more profit for me.

There are couponers out there who have MUCH larger stockpiles than I do, but I don't have the time to shop anymore than I already do! If this is the first post you have seen on this blog, I hope these pictures get you excited about couponing and stockpiling. The economy is awful right now, so why not get a bunch of FREE stuff for your family and maybe make a little profit on top? I know some of my posts have a lot of information in them, and it can be overwhelming at first, but once you get started, you could very well become addicted to couponing--take it from someone who knows.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shaw's--stock your pantry

While Shaw's supermarket does not have particularly good everyday prices, it does sometimes run awesome weekly sales. The key to buying groceries at Shaw's (or any grocery store) is to stock up on items when they are at their lowest prices. It's difficult to save money on staples, so if you can buy nonperishables and long-expiration products cheaply, the savings help pay for milk, bread, etc.

Shaw's often runs deals such as "Spend $20 on ConAgra products and get a $10 coupon good on your next order." There have been similar deals recently on Kraft, General Mills, and Kellogg's products. These promotions are great for stocking up on items very cheaply and sometimes even for FREE. The amount you have to spend is before coupons, and at many Shaw's stores (including mine), it is also based on shelf prices. The latter is not, to my knowledge,
advertised by Shaw's, but the registers are programmed that way and it is a giant bonus when doing these deals. I generally use the HCW coupon database to see what coupons I have that match up with the items included in a given deal. Shaw's doubles coupons up to $.99 in value, but the register will only double six of the same coupon, so be careful when planning your shopping trips. In the Shaw's forum, other HCW users often post the shelf prices for items as they buy them, so I use those numbers to preplan transactions. I try to get my OOP as low as possible for
the first transaction, and then an "on your next order" (OYNO) coupon prints from the catalina machine at the register. I then "roll" the catalina into another deal. At Shaw's, unlike Walgreens, you CAN roll a catalina back into the same deal.

Other than the catalina deals, Shaw's doesn't have many regular deals worth writing about. Every few weeks, Shaw's has chicken breasts and/or ground beef for $1.99 or even $.99 per pound, so we usually stock up at those prices. At least twice recently, there was a coupon in the circular to get free bags of potatoes, carrots, and onions when you buy a beef roast, which is a pretty good deal.

You do need a loyalty card to get the sale prices at Shaw's. The card is also used to track your purchases so that Shaw's can send you occasional home mailers with coupons for products you buy. There are also rewards programs for people with children (Ducklings Rewards) and pets (Pet's Club)--I do not have pets, but I signed up for the Ducklings program. There are offers such as "Purchase 20 jars of Beech-Nut baby food and receive a coupon for a FREE Beech-Nut Let's Grow Toddler item," but I do not have to buy all 20 jars at once, because my spending is tracked. I get an email every time I buy qualifying items so I know how close I am to earning a particular reward. These are year-round promotions, but the offers do rotate.

Right now, Shaw's is running a gift card promotion--buy a $250 gift card at customer service, and get an extra $20 added to the card for FREE; buy a $300 gift card, get an extra $30 added. It may take a while for me to spend that much at Shaw's, but gift cards don't expire and I can't turn down free money! You can buy as many gift cards as you like, and the offer expires on April 15, 2009.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rite Aid--just barely hanging in there

Of the three drug stores I frequent, Rite Aid's program is the easiest to explain to a new couponer but the least enjoyable to someone like me who coupons for sport. Rite Aid does not have anything similar to CVS Extra Bucks or Walgreens Register Rewards, but it does offer a rebate program called Single Check Rebates (SCR). It is called this because Rite Aid will send you a single check to cover all of your rebates for the month. You can use the check to pay for merchandise in the store, or you can cash it like a regular check. Occasionally an individual rebate will be offered in the form of a Rite Aid gift card, which would be mailed separately from your check. There is a monthly rebate directory displayed with the sale circulars in the store, and you can also view the rebates online and create a "rebate shopping list."

There are usually several "free after rebate" offers (just like at Walgreens); you pay for an item upfront and then receive the full amount back in your SCR check. Of course, you could use a coupon at the register to make profit. Some offers may require you to buy a certain number of products or spend a certain amount to qualify for the rebate. Examples of these are "Buy 3 Huggies product, get a $10 SCR" and "Spend $15 on Dove products and get a $5 SCR." You do not have to buy all of the qualifying products on one receipt. You just enter your receipt information on the SCR website, and it tracks your rebates and tells you when you have qualified or how much more you need to spend to qualify for any given offer.

Some of the rebates are only valid during certain weeks and are featured in the weekly sale circulars, and others are available all month long. Not every rebate will appear in a circular, so it is important to pay attention to the rebate directory as well. Last month, there was a spectacularly vague rebate--"Buy any 3 Bayer products and get a $10 Rite Aid gift card." One weekly ad showed large packages of Bayer on sale for $6.99 (I don't remember if the rebate offer was referenced or not), so even using a $1 on each of the three packages, I would have to spend $17.97 OOP to get a $10 gift card. This was of no interest to me, as I have aspirin coming out of my ears and would never pay for it. But the next week, the 36 ct. packages of Bayer were on sale for $1.99, with no mention of the rebate in the ad. I double-checked the rebate directory, and there were no size/type restrictions on the offer. So I purchased three packages and used three $1 coupons, making my OOP $2.97, and I received a $10 gift card in the mail. The icing on the cake was that I found "100% more" bonus packs, so I got three 72 ct. boxes of Bayer and $7.03 profit. The profit in this case had to be spent at Rite Aid, but that was not a problem--I just rolled it into more rebate offers.

The problem with Rite Aid is that the offers are generally limited to one per customer and there is nothing else to get me in the store besides the SCR program. The rebates are not as good as they used to be, and it has actually been a couple weeks since I even stepped foot in a Rite Aid; there haven't been many good freebies lately, and the stock is low on the few good ones. Rite Aid stopped accepting internet coupons, which brings them down a notch in my book. I read online that some stores are going to start accepting them again, but there will be restrictions on usage. I have also read that Rite Aid is in trouble financially and may be closing some or all locations. I cannot verify the truth of that rumor, but if I was to lose Rite Aid, I'd probably just shrug it off (as opposed to losing CVS, which would render me catatonic, rocking in a corner). There are enough offers to keep me paying attention, but just barely.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Walgreens--I just can't walk away

ETA: As of May 2009, the Easy Saver catalog and rebate program have been discontinued. I will keep the details about it in this post in case it ever comes back (there are rumors of a return in fall 2009), but if you are just learning the Walgreens system, you can ignore the Easy Saver sections below.

I will be honest here and admit that deep down, I hate Walgreens. The cashiers and managers are often very unfriendly to couponers, and I usually feel like a criminal in Walgreens. There are exceptions, of course, and an assistant manager the other day congratulated me on my awesome deals! I have said many times that I am DONE with Walgreens, but try as I may, I can't stop shopping there--I can't pass up a good deal, even if I have to put up with lousy employees to get it.

You do not need a loyalty card to shop at Walgreens, but you should definitely pick up the current month's Easy Saver Catalog, which is available next to the sale flyers in the store (you can also access the catalog on the Walgreens website). I usually grab a bunch of them because they contain Walgreens coupons that I can cut out and use at CVS--take THAT Walgreens! These coupons will often be referenced in the sale circular as "instant coupons," but they are not deducted automatically at the register--you must provide the coupon for the cashier to scan. I often cut the coupon out to give to the cashier just so I don't forget, but the cashier can actually scan the unclipped coupon directly from your booklet so that you can keep it for next time. The register will subtract the correct amount no matter how many of an item you purchase. For example, this month there is an Easy Saver (ES) coupon for $.99 off 3 packs of Eclipse or Orbit gum. When the coupon is scanned, the register will deduct $.33 per pack of gum, whether you buy 1, 3, or 8 packs (or any number). Please note that if you use this same coupon at CVS, you have to buy the packs of gum in multiples of three and you need a separate coupon for every three packs you buy. This is because the registers at CVS are not programmed to accept this coupon and the cashier will have to enter it manually.

The Easy Saver Catalog also contains information about the Walgreens rebate program. Each month there are about 30-40 different rebate offers, including several "Free After Rebate" (FAR) items. There are other offers such as "Get $3 when you buy Triaminic," and "Get $2 when you buy 2 Revlon Colorsilk Hair Color." For rebate items, you pay for the items in the store (using coupons if you have any), and then submit your receipt information online. You can enter as many receipts as you want, and the online program will keep track of your rebates. At the end of the month, you can request a check for all of your rebates. You can also opt to get your rebate in the form of a Walgreens gift card and receive a 10% bonus. This is what I do, because I can then use the gift card to pay for future purchases, and each month my rebate money is loaded onto my gift card. If you have coupons for a FAR item, your rebate will be for the item price before coupons, so you can often make profit. You can make profit on other offers as well--last month there was a special offer to get a $5 Walgreens gift card (separate from monthly rebates) when you buy Clairol Perfect 10 Hair Color. I found one shade on clearance for $5.69 and I used a $1 off coupon, so the $5 gift card gave me $.31 profit (profit that I have to spend at Walgreens, which works out fine for me). I don't dye my hair, but that's hardly the point. Most of the rebates have a limit of 1, but if the limit is higher, it will say so in the ES booklet.

I love the rebate program, but the good rebates seem to have dwindled. I think this is due to the hideous Register Rewards program, which is the source of my hatred toward Walgreens. I assume that the Register Rewards (RR) program was created to compete with the CVS Extra Bucks program, but it is far inferior. The premise is the same--pay for something upfront and get RRs to use on your next purchase. But there are all these stupid restrictions, and I swear the cashiers are not trained at all about this program, because every cashier just makes up her own reasons why you can't use your RR or why your RR did not print. As long as you are willing to deal with the crap, you can get some pretty good deals, which is why I just can't help myself.

Here are some rules for RR deals; as an example, I'll use "Buy 1 Crest toothpaste 4 oz. for $3, get a $3RR back":

You can only do each deal once per transaction--You cannot buy 3 Crest toothpastes and get a $9RR. (This differs from CVS, where if there was a limit of 5, you could buy all five in one transaction if you wanted.)

There are no set limits for RR deals--Since there is no loyalty card to keep track of your purchases, you can do this Crest deal as many times as you want throughout the week, as long as you only buy one per transaction.

You cannot "roll" RRs into the same RR deal--If you use a $3 Crest RR to buy another Crest toothpaste, you will NOT receive another $3RR. (At CVS, you can roll any EBs into any deal, including the same one that produced the EBs.)

You must spend the entire RR amount in one transaction--You cannot get change back, and the RR will not even scan if the transaction total is less than the RR amount.

Here are some lame excuses your cashier may give you regarding RRs, using the same Crest example:

Your RR did not print because you paid with a RR--This is not true; you CAN roll a RR into a different RR deal (Crest into Huggies, for example). As stated above, you CANNOT roll Crest into Crest.

Your RR did not print because you used a manufacturer coupon--This is not true; you CAN use a manufacturer coupon on the Crest, and your RR should still print.

Your RR did not print because you bought items for more than one deal--This is not true; you CAN do as many RR deals in one transaction as you want, as long as they are all different deals. For example, if there are also RR deals on Huggies, Pantene, and Vaseline, you can buy everything in one transaction and get four different RRs.

You can't pay with a RR because you used a manufacturer coupon--This one is possibly true; RRs are considered manufacturer coupons, even though they are only redeemable at Walgreens, and you can only use one manufacturer coupon per item purchased. So if you buy the Crest and use a manufacturer coupon, you probably CANNOT pay the difference with a RR. If you have a coupon for every item you are buying, you need a "filler" item in order to use a RR to pay. I have been using packs of Orbit as fillers, because I found some flavors clearanced to $.65 each, and the previously mentioned ES coupon (store coupon) makes it $.32 per pack. I also often use RRs to pay for FAR items that don't have corresponding manufacturer coupons. I have had cashiers push RR through even when I don't have enough items, but according to the program rules, they did not have to do this. I still count it as a "lame excuse" because I think you should be able to roll RRs regardless of the number of items. Oh well.

The RRs print from a separate machine from the receipt tape, so if one doesn't print and the cashier can't figure out why, ask her to check the machine. It may be out of paper or spooled incorrectly. Also check to make sure you purchased the correct item. Show the cashier the ad and ask to see a manager if necessary, but don't let them tell you that you can't have the RR for any of the reasons above.

Okay, I can't think about Walgreens anymore or I might just puke.