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:
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.