Answers to Reader Questions (actually, one reader's questions) ~
1. How do I get enough ECBs together to start really "gaming the system"?
The key to earning more ecb's than you spend is buying as many free after ecb items (fecb's) and using coupons for them. For example, this month you can get sore throat cooler pops for $4.99, $4.99 ecb's - limit 5. Buy 1 at $4.99, use B1G1 coupon here. Print this coupon 3 times.
Buy 2 sore throat coolers. Use 1 b1g1 q.
Total = $4.99 + tax. Earn $9.98 ecb's. Rip the $9.98 ecb's off your receipt and use them for transaction #2.
Transaction 2: Get 4 sore throat coolers. Use 2 b1g1 q's.
Total = $9.98 + tax. Earn $14.97 ecb's.
So, all together today, you have spent $5 and earned about $10 (14.97 ecb's - $5 cash spent).
Now, wait to roll the ecb's into more ecb's. When you start making more profit, you can start "burning" the extra into things other items you usually buy at the grocery store - like milk, bread, etc. Also, $/$$ crt's (cash register tapes) help you get more things for free. Those $3/$15 or $4/20 or even my $10/50 help save a lot!
Also if you have the right coupons, you can start taking advantage of the system right away. Last week, CVS had Colgate toothpaste on sale B1G1. I had $1.50 off printable q's. I bought 6 (they were limit 6) of the B1G1 tubes for $1.99 each and used 6 $1.50 off q's (You are allowed to use one for each item you are purchasing).
So 6 x $2.79 = $16.74
-$1.50 x 6 = -$9
- b1g1 3 @ $2.79 = -$8.37
Total for 6 tubes of toothpaste = -.63
I'm actually not sure if the cost adjusted down or if the extra 63 cents applied to my total because I bought other things.
2. How do I redeem the ECBs? I usually wait until a receipt prints out that says I have $9 or whatever and then I spend it all.
Redeem your ecb's after each purchase, to pay for the following purchase. Sometimes I take everything in my cart to the register and ask the cashier if I can do 2 different transactions to maximize my savings. If there are a lot of people in the store, I'll do one transaction at a time and go to the end of the line or walk around the store sometimes. If I have a lot of transactions, I'll sit down and make a list before I go. I'll make a list of each transaction and then I'll paperclip those q's (including my $/$$ q's) in the order that I need to hand them over. I even put a post-it with Trans. 1, Trans. 2, etc. on them. This helps me keep my head straight and make my transactions go as smoothly and quickly as possible. Of course, those who know me know I'm no mathematical genius so of course every once in a while, surprises pop up - but I'm usually only off by $1 or less. The last 2 times my totals were way off in my plans, I was charged twice for one package of paper plates and at KMart I was charged $11.40 for 2 cantaloupe that were on sale 2/$3. Even I spotted that one from a mile away!
Hope this helps! Please keep asking questions and if anyone needs help figuring out a transaction, please let me know.