I know I write about coupons frequently, but I am not what anyone would call an extreme couponer. I don’t attempt to buy $200 worth of products at the grocery store for $25 using sales and coupons. I never would. Real food costs money. The people who grow and produce real food should get paid good money. Most of the food I buy would never have coupons associated with it, and that’s okay.

I do use coupons on products that I buy when I come across them, though. I recently decided that I wanted to try out some of the coupon apps that have been developed for smartphones, too. I wanted to test their ease of use, the bargains to be had by stacking paper coupons with the app offers, and the use of my time.

I downloaded both the free SavingStar app and the free ibotta app to my iPhone, and got to work combining offers for products I would actually use.

Ease of use

The SavingStarr app requires your grocery store savings card be registered with the app. I usually shop at Wegmans, so I registered my Wegmans number. After that, I browsed through the coupons they were offering. I browsed through the coupon options and picked the ones I was interested in.

When you redeem an offer at the store, which means buying a product that you’ve chosen on the app and using your shopper’s card while making the purchase, you get a credit in your SavingStar app. When you’ve accumulated $5 in credits, you can receive a payout directly to a bank deposit, your PayPal account, your Amazon account, or donate the money to American Forests.

I chose offers for Food Should Taste Good chips, Pompeian Olive Oil, and Green Giant Veggie Snack Chips. I also had paper coupons for each of these products, so I realized I was beginning to play the coupon stacking game and entering into "extreme couponing" territory.

Then, I went to the ibotta app. It works differently from SavingStar. There are many more hoops to jump through. For each product offered, you have a task to do to claim the offer. You have to take surveys, read product information, or sometimes watch videos. Once you do the task, a certain amount is available to redeem once you’ve bought the product, usually anywhere from $.25 to $2.

After you make your purchases, you have to take a photo of your grocery receipt. If it’s a long receipt, you have to take several photos to get the whole thing. Then you have to scan each of the barcodes on the products you bought. Within about 24 hours, the app will let you know if your receipt and the barcodes match the products you chose. If they do, money gets credited in your account. Once you’ve reached $5 in credit, you can add it to a PayPal account.

Money saved

From the ibotta app, I chose baked beans and Pompeian Olive Oil. Now I was really playing the game. I had a paper coupon for the olive oil, and offers from both SavingStar and ibotta. Two of the offers required purchasing two bottles. All told, I would have saved $3.75 on the two bottles. I figured once I got to the store, I’d compare the price of two bottles, minus the savings, with the price of the Wegmans store brand olive oil, and see if it was a better bargain.

However, all my finagling was for naught. Wegmans, at least the location I shop at, doesn’t carry Pompeian Olive Oil. They also don’t carry Green Giant Veggie Snacks. So I couldn’t redeem those offers.

The only item that I ended up having a paper coupon that also matched up with an app offer was the Food Should Taste Good Chips. In total I saved $1.50 on the bag that costs $2.19. Not too bad, but I probably spent a good hour figuring out how the apps worked, choosing offers, and figuring out what I could match up.

Effort verses savings

I’m not so sure that was worth an hour of my time. Add to that the fact that I accidentally took a photo of the wrong Wegmans receipt for the ibotta app at first. There are often stray receipts hanging around the bottom of my reusable bags, and I grabbed the wrong one. When I realized what I had done, I sent a message to ibotta though Facebook and asked if it could be remedied. A representative got back to me in a timely manner and told me to wait for it to be rejected, and then try again. I did, and I did get my savings.

Of the two, I imagine I’ll be using the SavingStar app again. It’s much easier. Once your grocery card is in their system, all you have to do is click on offers and remember to use your grocery card when you check out. The ibotta app has many more steps, and it doesn’t seem to give better offers – it may have different offers, but not necessarily better ones.

There are also few products I buy on the apps, but that’s true with all coupons. Most of the offers are for snacks, drinks, and packaged foods that I just don’t buy.

I think that if I was a more organized person, the whole coupon and app savings stacking game might be worth my time. Since I'm not, I don’t see myself doing all the matching up of coupons and offers weekly, though.

Do you have experience matching up coupons and app savings? Do you think it’s worth your time?

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