Whether you are into clipping coupons or racking up thousands of miles and points for free travel, it all comes down to saving money. Who doesn’t like that!
As a seeker of deals and savings myself (while trying not to compromise quality or luxury in the process), I have often found that the real savings can be discovered when you think outside the box. Let me explain with this example: Buying Baby Formula.
As many new parents discover, baby formula was a new product that was never before on my shopping list. One of those store aisles I just pushed my cart right by with every visit to the convenience store, grocery store and superstore. Then, six months ago, the arrival of not one but two baby mouths to feed added a new, unexplored element to my shopping routine. And not only that, our little ones demanded special preemie, high-calorie baby formula that was (1) harder to find in most stores, (2) harder to find coupons and other savings options, and (3) more expensive than “standard” formula. Oh, boy! (Well, actually “Oh, two girls!”)
Now, here’s why I might be different that the usual consumer. I do not see this as the added daily expense in our new family budget to worry over. This, rather, is a new challenge.
I’d take it as far as calling it a new “adventure” in finding how and where I can save the most on this new categorical expense in our lives. And that thought process beings with two main themes:
- Thinking outside the box.
- Maximizing savings by repeatedly “stacking” or “dipping” savings options.
Thinking Outside The Box
My method to saving on a specific product or category of products at times is to reverse engineer the product savings. Some general thoughts about baby formula include:
- Brand name vs. store brand options (infants may have a liking to a specific brand used at hospital before going home)
- Commonly NOT on sale
- Coupons exist, but don’t offer major discounts
- Sold at most every grocery store, drugstore and supermarket
- Sold online, but not at any dramatic savings
Now I dig deeper into that second point of formula often selling for full retail price. Stacking coupon savings onto sale items is typically allowed and a great strategy, but let’s assume that won’t apply here.
However, often certain store-issued, non-specific item savings or coupons carry a caveat that they cannot be combined with sale items. Hmmm! How can I use such a strategy to my advantage for baby formula and other products? Where can I look for such a savings strategy that might be commonly considered?
Drugstores! The first instinct of a savvy consumer might be to head to the deepest discount store to find the lowest initial price on formula, such as Walmart or in bulk from Amazon. But at what cost to opportunity lost to stacking different forms of savings that another retail outlet might offer. Who buys formula, diapers, and similar items from a drugstore? Aren’t those some of the highest priced options? Probably. So, in keeping with thinking outside the box, let’s turn to them!
Stacking / Dipping Savings
I’ve been a fan of CVS drugstores in recent years as their brick and mortar presence has expanded in my area and I enjoy, among other things, their rewards program called ExtraCare. Also, I find their staff and managers to be consistently helpful and friendly. So allow me to break down how I saved at least 82% on baby formula at CVS.
As I walk you through the process, keep in mind that when stacking you must make sure that the use of one coupon or savings method does not counter or cancel another. Here is how I quintuple stacked (i.e. five layers) my savings, also known as quintuple dipping! (Or even x6 as you’ll read below!)
Item: Similac Expert Care NeoSure Infant Formula
Retail Cost: $17.49 (not on sale)
Dip 1: ExtraCare Saving Coupon
The CVS ExtraCare loyalty program sends email and snail postcards for 20%-30% off. Watch for both as they can allow for different savings at different times. For the emailed versions, I have two tips:
- Click the link in your email, open the browser and select “Send to card” for using it in the store. This way you do not have to print anything and have something to misplace. I would say you may want to print it to remind yourself of the expiration, but these coupons expire within a matter of days so you want to use it or lose it soon anyway.
- If you don’t want to juggle all those store loyalty cards in your purse, wallet or key chain, I highly suggest (and use myself) the CardStar app to keep them on your phone.
I had a 30% off mailer coupon for this shopping trip to apply to my order on non-sale items. Other exclusions apply such as alcohol and prescriptions.
Dip 2: Veterans Advantage Savings Coupon
While this savings program is a paid membership program, I have found the benefits quickly cover the annual fee. See the membership qualifications here to see if you are eligible (you do not personally need to be a veteran) and the membership fee options.
This 20% off coupon has some pros and cons:
PROS – Redeem in-store or online; free shipping included; no limit to coupons used; no limit on redemption value (Step 1 CVS coupons above are typically maxed at $99.00); 20% off retail price, NOT discounted price after applying other discounts; able to be combined with other coupons and CVS ExtraCare Card savings.
CONS – Not applicable to sale items; excludes prescriptions and other excluded items; must print out hard copies (TIP: each coupon is exactly half a page in size, so print two on the same piece of paper each time); short life span of one week from printing.
Dip 3: Manufacturer’s Coupon
We previously signed up for all the baby goods companies’ loyalty programs before are babies were born, including Similac. We started receiving coupons in the mail right on schedule with their feeding since the company knew their date of birth (after I updated it when they arrived about seven weeks early!). Actually, in the case of Similac, you received what actually are checks to be used as payment for your shopping order that included the purchase of the formula.
A couple thoughts about these checks as coupons:
- I assume your name is on these “checks” to avoid a market for selling them on ebay and the like, even though a store clerk never cares about what name is on the check used.
- Since this form of saving comes after the transaction is closed (all discounts applied), be sure the clerk understands it is a form of partial payment. If the clerk looks clueless, preemptively and kindly ask if the manager on duty can assist.
- Kindly remind the clerk that it is a partial payment, thus needing to have the check amount keyed in before the check is ran or else the clerk and register may incorrectly run the check for the entire transaction.
- Since it is a partial payment method, it doesn’t conflict with other coupons applied at the close of the transaction.
Dip 4: Paying with Discounted Store Gift Cards
Once you apply your MF coupon or check, you are left with your remaining balance due. But the savings haven’t stopped yet! You could pay with a drugstore specific credit card that may offer better incentives for miles, points or cash back when used at a drugstore or otherwise. Those savings or value of miles/points/cash earned should be considered and compared with what you may save if you purchased that store’s gift card online, with consideration giving to the potential hassle and risk factors involved. Allow me to explain.
Say my purchase total was $100.00, some examples of earning payment types are:
- 5% cash back credit card = $5.00 value earned
- Chase Bank United Club Card = 150 United MileagePlus Award Miles Earned = $3.00 value earned (using liberal $0.02/mile value)
Instead, I may go to a gift card comparison website such as GiftCardGranny to see if I can buy any CVS gift cards at a discount for greater savings. My savings for this transaction was 16% off CVS eGift Cards. I do not consider the hassle and risk factors too great for purchasing electronic gift cards that I can print out immediately for use to greatly enhance my convenience and availability to take right to the store for use.
Savings: -$0.60 (16% of remaining total of $3.75, exclusive of tax)
Dip 5: Earn Miles/Points/Cash Back For Online Gift Card Purchase
The final stacking option that you can proudly hook on to your savings belt is the layer of miles/points/cash back you earn by using a specific credit card to make the purchase of the discounted gift card you purchased in Dip 4 above. Heck, if you’re really savvy, you may even find an earnings portal that allows you to click through to earn additional benefits at a certain percentage or multiplier! Yes, that would be a SIXTH DIP! Sextuple stacking… amazing!
I want you to save money when and where you can so you can have more funds to enjoy quality travel and life experiences. That’s my philosophy: be thrifty, not cheap.
$17.49 Retail price
-$5.25 CVS ExtraCare Coupon
-$3.50 Veterans Advantage Coupon
-$5.00 MF Coupon
-$0.60 Discounted Gift Card Use
$3.15 (82% off retail!)
I hope you can apply these techniques to other shopping visits for all kinds of goods and see some real savings beyond the simple 10%-20% off. Even without the MF coupon, you should be saving 40%-60% on all non-sale items using these techniques.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.