Wednesday, December 4, 2013

CouponMom letdown

A quick note before we get to the meat of today's blog entry: A week or so ago I noticed that the search feature on this blog (that little box at the right, below the member list) seemed to have stopped working. That is, when I typed in a word that I knew could be found in one or more blog entries, I got no results. I tried messing with the settings to no effect. So yesterday, we did a little experiment: Brian tried adding the search bar to his old blog, The Modern Troll, and it didn't work there either. So as far as we can tell, this problem is occurring across Blogger and isn't limited to my site—which is kind of unnerving, considering that Blogger is owned by Google, the search engine that most of the modern world depends on. I've sent feedback to Google about it, but I don't know whether I'll get a response. In the mean time, if you want to search for a specific topic, I suggest you use the labels, which are just below the search bar. Those still work, though it may take a bit longer to find the entry you want.

And, talking of things not working right: some of you may recall that, after being skeptical for many years about the benefits of coupon use, I was won over by a website called CouponMom, which takes nearly all the work out of matching up the sales at your local stores with the coupons available in the major coupon inserts (SmartSource, Red Plum, etc.). I started making a visit to this website the first step in planning my grocery trips, using it to figure out which stores had enough good deals to make them worth visiting each week. I even featured the site in this year's Thrift Week series, which focused on the best money-saving websites.

This week, however, when I ran my regular weekly search on CouponMom, I was very disappointed. It wasn't because the list of good deals in my area was so short; there are always some weeks when the sales and coupons just don't fall into place, and that doesn't bother me. The problem was that the few deals I managed to find didn't actually work. Here's a copy of my list:

Sort by Cpn DateSort Alphabetically by ItemQty.Sale PriceMfr Cpn.Register Price
Per Item
Final Price
All Savings Per Item
% Saved
Pathmark
General Mills Chex Cereals (12.8-14.25 oz.) Cereals
Other Newspaper Coupons: 11-10 S
2$1.98-=$1.48=$1.4863%
Printable coupon is for $1.00 off TWO BOXES Chex cereals for a final cost of 1.48. 10/20 coupon expires 11/30.
Shoprite
Pillsbury Flour 5 lb. bag1$0.99-=$0.99=$0.9950%
4-Day Price Break item, price valid 12/4 - 12/7 only!
This is a good item to donate to charity.
10-27 RPTropicana Pure Premium Orange, Grapefruit or Trop50 Juice 59 oz.2$2.50-$1.00=$2.00=$2.0053%
Stop & Shop
General Mills Cereals 8.7 - 14 oz. all varieties
Other Newspaper Coupons: 11-10 S, 11-03 S2
1$2.29-=$1.29=$1.2966%
promo: buy (4) and get $6 off instantly
Printable coupon is for $0.50 off ONE BOX Honey Nut Cheerios cereal. Final price is after printable coupon.
11-24 RPNivea Lip Care Kiss of Smoothness or Kiss of Recovery 1 ct.2$1.00-$3.00=$0.00=FREE100%
This is a good item to donate to charity.
Total Price:
$9.24Total Savings: 65%

Those two cereal deals looked intriguing, so I thought I'd check out the coupons for both and see which one would work better for us, or whether there might be some way to take advantage of both. The links to the printable coupons worked fine, but when I went to check the "other newspaper coupons," I ran into problems. The site told me I could find coupons in the November 10 SmartSource and the November 3 SmartSource 2, but when I pulled these two coupon inserts out of the file where I store them, I found no cereal coupons at all in either one. It wasn't that I'd already clipped and used them, because I would still have been able to see the spots they'd been clipped from. They'd simply never been there.

Now, it might seem like this is no problem really, because the printable coupons still work, so I could just use those. This would work at the Pathmark sale, where you only need one coupon to get two boxes of cereal for $1.48 each—but the problem with that is that the boxes are only 14.25 ounces at most, so this price would still just miss our cutoff point of 10 cents an ounce for cold cereal. And the Stop & Shop sale wouldn't work at all, because you need to buy four boxes to get the sale price, and printable coupon sites generally allow you to print only two copies of any given coupon. So there's actually no way to get the $1.29-per-box price shown on the list.

Okay, so that particular deal doesn't actually work. As I noted in my Thrift Week entry, that happens sometimes. But the other deals shown on the list should still be okay, right? Well, no, actually. For example, the orange juice deal at the ShopRite: the list says it's for any Tropicana orange or grapefruit juice, but when I dug out the coupon from the October 27 RedPlum insert, I found that it was for Trop50 only. For those of you who aren't familiar with this product, it's an orange juice blend with "50% less sugar and calories" and no artificial sweeteners. Sounds great, until you check the ingredient list and realize that all they've done is take regular orange juice and water it down. Well, for crying out loud, if I want to drink watered-down OJ, I can buy the regular stuff and add my own tap water, and that will cut the price of the juice in half—a much bigger savings than I'll get with their silly coupon. 

So of the five deals that I found in this week's CouponMom list, only three actually work—and one of those is just a straight-up sale that doesn't require the use of a coupon at all. That's an accuracy record of only 60 percent, which makes me question whether I can continue to rely on this site at all. It's still worth checking, I guess, because it does help me find the printable coupons I can use, as well as the good sale prices that don't require coupons (though I could always find those by just checking the sale fliers). But for helping me make use of my coupon inserts, I'm really not sure whether it's any use at all. I think I might be better off going back to my old system:
  1. skim the coupon inserts when they arrive;
  2. clip anything I think I might be able to use; and
  3. when I search the weekly sale fliers, check my small stash of clipped coupons to see if there are any that will stack.
It's a bit more work, but the results should be a lot more reliable.
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