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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. Saving money with coupons can be helpful if you’re working on debt management. 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.

The savings from coupons can go towards paying off debt.

The savings from coupons can go towards paying off debt.

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. It was perfect for staying on budget.

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.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


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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