My sister Emily asked some good questions in her comment on my Walgreens Deals. Here are my answers, in case others are interested as well.
Q: Are the catalinas just "cash" to spend on your next trip, or can they only be spent on certain things? And do they expire in a short time period?
A: They are like cash, yes. They can be spent on anything, unless it's a specific catalina like the "$2 off Clear Care" one I mentioned, which can only be used on contact solution. Mine expire in about a month.
Q: Will you actually use everything you just acquired? Or did you just spend $16 on "stuff"?
A: Do I use shampoo, soap, contact solution, toothbrushes, and conditioner? Yes, all of these items are things that either Nathan or I will certainly use. The Excedrin is great because I have frequent headaches and that's my drug of choice, and the Benefiber was worth a try since getting enough fiber in my diet is important to me. Unfortunately I find the flavor weird now that I've tried it, so I'll probably see if anyone I know wants it. There are people who will buy the weirdest things just because those things are free, but I am not one of those people. Shampoo, soap, milk, eggs, cold medicine? Yes. Blood glucose monitor, candy, chocolate? No.
I actually might buy certain things I won't use myself if I think those things would make good gifts. For example, I could give some face wash to someone whose face really needs washing, or go buy this week's Free After Rebate deal of L'Oreal Age Perfect Somethingorother, and give it to someone who looks old. Okay, just kidding.
Did I just spend $16 on "stuff"? Good question. As I mentioned, I actually walked away with an $18 profit in Register Rewards - $18 over the $16 I spent. Now if I can "roll" those rewards, or continue to use them to purchase things that A) I need and B) will produce more Register Rewards, my overhead cost on this whole couponing thing will be remarkably low - in fact, it's already paid itself back. Now the key is to see if I can continue to find deals that will produce more Rewards. I think it's very do-able.
Note: While some of the catalina-producing purchases are surprises, many of them are listed right in the Walgreens newspaper insert each week. If you have coupons for those items that produce catalinas, and the coupon plus the catalina you can expect adds up to the item's price, you can go get it essentially for free.
Another note: One of the reasons this is working for me is because I have pretty much no brand loyalty whatsoever. I don't care if I get Suave, Garnier, or Pert Plus. In fact, if you'll recall, I don't even need to use shampoo at all! So one soap, shampoo, toothbrush, or conditioner is really as good as another, and I'll just buy whatever is the best deal.
Q: It does sound like there has to be a catch somewhere. If there isn't, how is Walgreens making money? Are they just assuming that you won't take the time to find all these deals, or that you'll buy a bunch of other stuff while you're there?
A: Yes and yes. Walgreens is making money because most people don't bother with coupons. When I go through the checkout line, I see other people in front of me buying the same things I'm buying without bothering to pick up the coupons that are right there in the store. People are either unaware of the in-store coupon booklets or they may think that it's too much trouble, and that the savings wouldn't be worth it. So most people aren't getting the deals I've gotten recently - most people are paying full price or a basic store sale price. Secondly, yes, Walgreens is hoping customers who do use coupons will see other things while they're in the store and make those purchases as well. Most people probably do. I don't.
My Dad asked:
Q: Is this fair and legal?
A: Yes, coupon booklets are sitting around waiting to be used. The clerks seem to be pleased to see me actually use those resources and get a good deal. I was recently told: "More people should take advantage of these coupons." If someone has the time and interest to figure out how to "stack" various coupons and end up getting an item for free, and better yet earn Register Rewards back on the purchase, well, good! The reason stores are still making a profit is simply because most people aren't going to go to the "trouble."
(It's really not much trouble, and it's fun!)