Last month I jumped back on the couponing bandwagon, in an attempt to cut our grocery budget. My efforts were successful, as we only spent $300 on groceries for the month. Granted, I didn’t have to buy a lot of household and personal care items, which helped. But I discovered a new shopping tool: the eCoupon.
What are eCoupons?
eCoupons have been around a while, especially on the East Coast. They came to my area of of the West Coast last June, but I didn’t start using eCoupons to their fullest potential until last month.
Basically, eCoupons are electronic coupons that you download to your store club/savings card. If you buy an item and you have an eCoupon for that item on your card, the amount of the coupon will be deducted from your total when your card is swiped.
I like eCoupons, because they provide people who don’t have a lot of time an option for saving money. Take 5 minutes, download a bunch of eCoupons, and forget about them. If you happen to buy an item for which you have a coupon, you save money.
For those who have the time to put more effort into couponing, it’s great to match sales to eCoupons, the same way you would match sales to a paper coupon.
Using eCoupons at Safeway
I have always lamented the fact that coupon policies on the Pacific Northwest aren’t as great as they are in other areas of the country. I stopped couponing all together, when Albertson’s stopped taking competitor coupons. But now Safeway has a coupon policy that, when combined with eCoupons, provides the shopper with some pretty good deals!
Safeway has partnered with Shortcuts.com, Cellfire.com, and P&G eSaver to offer eCoupons for the Safeway Club Card. In addition, Safeway.com offers coupons that you can choose to print or download to your Club Card (but you can’t do both). That’s a lot of places to get eCoupons!
Here’s the great part. Frequently, Shortcuts.com and Cellfire.com will offer the same coupons for the same products. And if you have two coupons (1 from Cellfire and 1 from Shortcuts) for the same product, and you buy that product, both coupons will be deducted from your total!
But it gets even better. If you have a paper coupon, plus a Cellfire coupon, plus a Shortcuts coupon, you can use them all for the same product! And you can sweeten the deal by using a Safeway doubler coupon to double the paper coupon up to 50 cents! (You cannot double eCoupons). Since Safeway officially accepts internet printed coupons, you can search all over the internet for paper coupons to match with your eCoupons!
For instance, Frugal Living NW has this deal posted (good through today):
Lucky Charms on sale $2
- Use Printable $1/1 coupon
- Use $.55/1 Cellfire eCoupon
- Use $.55/1 Shortcuts eCoupon
- Use Safeway Doubler coupon (-$.50)
- Final price: FREE! (links to coupon and eCoupons at Frugal Living NW)
I know the next question you’re going to ask me is if that’s even legal. Well, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law, so I looked it up. I’m not sure of the legalities of it all, but this is straight from Safeway’s FAQ about eCoupons:
Can I combine coupons?
Yes, you can theoretically combine coupons. This can happen if a manufacturer offers a coupon to multiple coupon providers. However, the price will never go below zero.
So I’m comfortable using multiple coupons on the same purchase.
The Downside to eCoupons
Despite all the upside to eCoupons, there is a downside. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to monitor whether the coupons are correctly deducted, while you’re being rung up at the register. It is only after you are handed the receipt that you can check for an e-coupon redemption.
If the eCoupon doesn’t correctly come off, you need to contact the eCoupon provider or Safeway customer service. I haven’t tried either, yet, so I’m not sure how easy or difficult it is.
Are eCoupons the Wave of the Future?
I believe eCoupons will continue to grow in popularity. With newspapers struggling, manufacturers will undoubtedly find new ways to entice customers to try their products. And I’m not complaining! I’d much rather deal with a a single card, than a binder full of paper coupons!
Last month Fred Meyer, another store in my area, began taking eCoupons as well. When two stores in my part of the world start doing the same thing, I figure it has to be taking off! Fred Meyer’s eCoupon offerings are nowhere near as good as Safeway’s yet, but it’s a start.
If you don’t have a Safeway in your area, look up your local grocery store’s website. You might be surprised to find out they have a liberal eCoupon policy. You can find deals in your area by checking out The Grocery Gathering at Be Centsable.
And for those in the PNW, have fun! I don’t post deals here, but you can find all the best Safeway deals at Frugal Living NW. Rebecca and Angela do a fantastic job of keeping up with the deals in the PNW. They usually have new Safeway deals posted on Wednesdays, after the Safeway ad comes out.
Have you ever used eCoupons? What do you think?
In the long run, the best thing to save money is to teach your children very early on about money. Coupons, or e-coupons, paying off credit cards by due dates etc are some of the ways in which you can make money (= saving money). I always recommend that children learn about money very early on. In that regard, parents should teach them or read to them books about finance. A good read is the series Finance for Kidz.
Father, Author & Professor of Finance
finance4kidz dot com
Wow! I’d never even heard of this! I have usually avoided Safeway, but now I am going to rethink it! Sounds like it might be a great way to save some money!
ANOTHER coupon opportunity:
This is more for “luxury items” (such as eating out, beauty treatments, health clubs, wine class, etc.) rather than daily necessities, but can create a huge savings if you’re planning on something like that already. It also is more likely to be available in metro areas and not so much in rural areas.
Try searching for “groupons” in your area. These websites typically have a featured post of the day with significant savings (most more than 50% off!). When you read the “deal”, it will list all the Tc & Cs of expiration date, limitations, etc. You pay the amount and receive your prepaid receipt for the service.
Interesting stuff. My main worry is that I completely forget paper coupons that I can look up. I shudder to think how forgetful I’ll be of coupons I don’t clip out. Hopefully, there is a place where you can check the coupons you’ve downloaded. Then I’d be willing to give it a shot.
My other main concern, which you already addressed, is making sure all of the coupons get used. I suppose it’s no more cumbersome than any other coupon process.
I am just learning the ropes of paper coupons and now there are paperless coupons? I think I will just jump into the internet and learn that method too. Thanks for detailing this new trick for us fledgling Couponistas!
Is it legal? That is a very silly question to ponder. Of course it is legal! Stores have the right to charge what they wish, and so do manufacturers. If they are okay with giving away a box of Lucky Charms by letting a redneck come in with five combined coupons, that is their choice. Just as its their choice if they do not wish to accept ANY coupons.
Unfortunately my local grocery store won’t even accept coupons printed off the internet let alone have a store card that would be set up for ecoupons. But I shop there as they are ALWAYS the lowest priced store in the area – maybe because they don’t offer any of the gimmicks like other stores do…..
And bonus, they still have packers that pack your groceries, take your cart out, and return it so you don’t have to. This is great support for the community as it gives local kids another oppportunity for a job.