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Doggone it, Coupons Can be Confusing

With the Memorial Day weekend coming up, and my new profoundly skeptical yet compelling interest in coupons, I went to several coupon sites to collect coupons for hot dogs. I found several for two brand names I recognized, Oscar Mayer and Bar-S, both brands that my local stores carried. I searched further and even got a coupon at Target – supporting their recent foray in to the grocery business.

Armed with coupons and store circulars, I ended up with the following:

6 packages of Oscar Meyer Beef Franks (10 ea per LB)
4 Packages of Bar – S  Jumbo “Meat”: Franks (8 ea per LB)
2 Bottles of Gulden’s Spicey Brown Mustard (Buy one Get one Free)
1 Bottle Of Bullseye Carolina Barbecue Sauce (Free)

And paid a grand total of  $17.31, and thought I did pretty well for my first real experiment with coupons.

I bought 3 packages of Oscar Mayer Franks and got one free at Target with their internet coupon, and used a $1 off 2 packages for two of the three, making it  $8.07 for what would have been $12.16. Funny, my receipt said I saved $5.09 not $4.09, but anyway. At the register, the cashier handed me a coupon that had spit out, for $5 off a future purchase of frozen food.

Okay, the game is to make me a repeat customer, so in theory I get another $5 back. Total savings at Target – not my first choice of grocery store, but “paper” savings were $9.09, on a $12.16 total bill. Pretty impressive.

Next, on to Market Basket, a block away. I learn that Oscar Mayer Franks were .05 cheaper to start, but I had no buy 3 get 1 free coupon , so it was the right move to buy them at Target.

At Market Basket, I grabbed 4 packages of Bar-S Jumbo Franks, at $1.19 each (8 to a pack) and used 2 buy 2 get $1 off coupons, saving $2 off a $4.76 total, which was cool. I had a buy one get one free coupon for Gulden’s Spicey Brown Mustard, saving $1.50 on the $3.00 value, and I used a free coupon for Bullseye Barbecue Sauce.

Altogether, at Market Basket I saved $6.50 on a bill of  $15.74, or 41% off. I was impressed.

Then, I started thinking again….   I went to Shaw’s, since I had another coupon for a free package of a new type of Oscar Mayer hot dog product that the others did not stock. They also did not have it, but I checked the price at their hot dog section, and the Bar-S franks were on sale for $1.00. (Heavy Sigh)

So, actually, since I did not check the Shaw’s circular, I wasted .19 per package for all of the Bar-S franks. The coupons would have been good at Shaw’s also.

And without comparing nuances such as ingredients (they’re hot dogs for gosh sakes, we know what they are made of) I did a unit price check.

Oscar Mayer Franks – 10 for $3.04 or 30.4 cents each
Bar S- Franks   –          8 for $1.19 or 14.8 cents each for a larger frank (half price)
(8 to a pound, versus 10 to a pound).

That’s the base price per unit. Now lets look at the total bargain…

Oscar Mayer at Target = 40 dogs using the buy 3 get 1 free = 40 dogs for 9.12, or  22.8 cents each.
Add in the buy 2 get $1 off = 40 dogs for 8.12, or 20.3 cents each

And at Shaw’s, without any coupons – the sale price on Bar-S this week was $1.00 per package of  8, or 12.5 cents each. (I hardly ever shop at Shaws’ because for the things I usually buy they are a bit more expensive. It’s still a nice store ,and occasionally has some good loss leaders, but I have a preference.)

So, by subtracting out the mustard and barbecue sauce, by using high valued coupons, and even combining coupons on one deal, I actually paid MORE than I would have by buying the hot dogs on sale without a coupon.

So much for the $6.04 I saved on 92 hot dogs using the coupons. I actually paid $13.81 for hot dogs (92 of them)

When by just buying the sale item without coupons, I would have paid $12 for 12 packages of 8. Saving $1.81, and getting 4 more, and bigger hot dogs.

And even without the dogs being on sale, I would have paid $14.28 ($1.19 x 12), So even disregarding the size of the hot dogs, and the extra 4, I saved a whopping 47 cents, by clipping coupons, combining deals, and shopping two stores, and two brands. Total face value of the hot dog coupons was $6.04, to save 47 cents.

And I did not even venture to buying a bulk box of the store brand. That’s my plan for the Fourth of July.

For now, coupons are in the doghouse. I’m hanging up my scissors. This is not a game for amateurs.

Update: And now , for the real kick in the pants. As I write this, Walmart has  Bar-S hot dogs on sale for .88 cents a package.  <sigh> With the $1 off 2 coupon, that’s  38 cents a package, for two.  Less than a nickel per dog.

And I was so proud of getting into the coupon thing and saving money…

ABOUT AUTHOR / Andi

Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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