Not-So-Sad Savings

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Last year I tracked how much I saved using coupons, and how much I earned and spent on my points cards. The less you spend, the less you “save” with points and other schemes. Being frugal, I thought it wouldn’t add up to much, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s a little rundown:

optimum

One of our most ubiquitous drug stores, Shoppers Drug Mart, has a points card, and I somehow cashed in 46,000 points for $70.00 in credit. However, I earned this over a couple of years. I currently have a $10 credit waiting to be spent in 2013. I no longer shop there much because I find almost all personal care products can be bought cheaper at grocery and department stores. I do check the sales flyers, though.

Total saved: $70.00

AirMiles

I traded 350 Air Miles points for two $20 grocery cards. Most of the points were earned the year before. Later the “cost” of the cards went up, and I had to “spend” 190 points for my third $20 card, before changing over to their new Air Miles Cash system. That card is still in the mail so I haven’t counted it in my 2012 total.

You get 1 point for every $20 you spend, so at the new rate, each $20 grocery card is based on $3800 of spending! In practice, you do get bonus Air Miles for certain products. Essentially they have bought my loyalty, because I shop at one store rather than another to get their perks.

Total saved: $40.00

Sobeys

By shopping at the same grocery store and using their gas bar to fill up the car, I received $40.23 off my grocery bill and $10.23 off my gas bill, through cash register coupons they issued in tiny amounts. You get 3 cents in grocery savings for every litre of fuel, so my savings were based on 1341 litres of gas!

Total saved: $50.46

Costco

I was curious about whether my $55 annual membership fee at Costco has saved me any money. I spent $544.33 at Costco last year and my membership cost $63.25 including tax. I would estimate that I save about 20% on the items I buy at Costco. I am quite careful to buy only things I need there, and would have to purchase elsewhere.

$544.33 in purchases would have cost $653.20 elsewhere (+20%)

Savings $108.87 minus membership cost of $63.25

Total saved: $45.62 – this is probably about the amount I spent on unneeded stuff!

Whiskas

Using real coupons from manufacturers was my least effective grocery strategy. I received one free item and used 6 coupons for a savings of $11.54, mostly on cat food. The coupon situation has always been unfavourable in Canada (no doubling, etc.) The main reason I don’t save more is that I buy very few packaged foods except for cereal and crackers.

Total saved $11.54

Superstore

At Superstore (a grocery chain), I saved $8.93 on no-tax days. Otherwise I don’t use the PC Points system because I don’t shop there.

Total saved $8.93

Cdn Tire

Every Canadian is familiar with Canadian Tire money, colourful bills printed in cent denominations that you earn from that famous hardware store. In 2012 I spent $8.40 in Canadian Tire money that I earned the year before, and earned $2.50 more this year. The store is trying to get all of its customers to switch over to a card system instead of their “funny money” by offering bonus points on sale items and allowing points for credit transactions. You earn 1 cent or 1 point for every dollar spent, so I must have spent $1090 there over 2 years.

Total saved: $10.90

HBC

I earned a $20 credit at The Bay this year, but it took several years to accumulate the points by purchasing clothing and housewares. I put it towards a nice-quality pepper grinder!

Total saved: $20.00

Marks

I saved $23.00 at Mark’s Work Wearhouse on $100 in clothing purchases. They are one of the few stores that deduct their coupons before tax, so a $10 coupon saves me $11.50. Yes, our sales tax is 15%.

Total saved: $23.00

Plum

Finally, I earned my first $5 credit at Chapters book store with their new Plum Rewards card. I should have another $5 to spend by March or April. W00t!

Total saved: $5.00

Despite my grumbling about never getting any deals, and getting the short end of the stick in Canada, I managed to save $285.45 this year without feeling I had to work for it.

All in all, rewards points and coupons are a minor strategy compared with meal planning, eating vegetarian, becoming more minimalist and just being cheap! But $285 is not small change.

What worked for you?

I was not compensated by any of these companies for featuring their cards.

12 comments

  1. Good job! And great info. I often wonder how much these cards really save people and it looks like, according to your data, that you really can save money this way!

  2. Ah, you really have some loyalty cards going – which sort of surprised me. Assumptions are messy things! I have two main grocery stores cards, even though I shop at a third independent about 80%+ of the time. Otherwise, I used to complete surveys etc and earn gift cards – the last batch totally $100 I donated as a prize for a trivia night, and promptly decided there were better things to do with my time than answer inane questions! There is one site I still visit daily – and they just deposited $100 cash – took me about a year, so that seems nice. You’d be surprised at how quickly hardware purchases add up – I track them in part as part of my ‘house’ expenses – so I can work out how much having my own place really is.

  3. I haven’t really tracked mine to such an extent but might do now as this was quite interesting to me. I collect Reward points in Sainsbury’s supermarket and use them to put towards Christmas food shop or new housewares. In Scotland I shop at Tesco supermarket and if you time it right you can double up their points at certain times of the year. I have £30 at present which means a spending power of £60. I buy petrol at Morrisons and every so often get a £5 voucher for their food store. For every 10 books purchased at Waterstones you get a free one – I have one to go. Other than that I have the odd card for free coffees and free greetings cards. I do quite well with coupons and buy three for two offers. Of course I have to spend more money on an extra large purse to accommodate all these cards!!

  4. I don’t really track anything here. I do use a CVS card at the local pharmacy, but mostly use it to get money off for using my reusable bag when I shop. The grocery store I get gas perks which I save up for the couple of month trip out of town to visit my son and his family. Stores here don’t double coupons and I rarely use them as I find the items with coupons are expensive to begin with and highly packaged items.

  5. Wow, you have quite a few rewards schemes! We don’t really have coupons in Australia, but we have a rewards card for the supermarket that gives you points you can redeem for gift cards (eventually!) and also discounts on petrol. I wish we had a Costco though, they have them in Melbourne and Canberra but not Brisbane (yet!).

    • The Air Miles cards were originally intended for travel but you can choose to exchange points for grocery, pharmacy or gas station gift cards. Compared to most people I know, I don’t use many cards!

  6. I use my reward cards all the time. I don’t like the data gathering companies do with them but I do like the free food, dinners etc I get with the points.

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