Would you throw away a fistful of fivers? No?
Well I nearly did this weekend, when I was frantically tidying before visitors came round.
When rifling through a bunch of papers abandoned beside my bed since our summer holiday (don’t judge), I nearly recycled a leaflet with £18 of Co-op dividend cheques. Ouch.
So on the third day of my October savings challenge, I’d like to make the most of my supermarket vouchers.
The promised land of supermarket loyalty schemes
Supermarket vouchers promise so much: pounds off your shopping! money off your fuel! a gazillion points added to your loyalty card! 10p off Philadelphia!
I’m always keen on the idea of getting money for nothing, so will happily sign up for loyalty cards right, left and centre. Help yourself to my spending info, I don’t mind.
On the supermarket front, I have an East of England Co-op card, a Sainsbury’s Nectar card, a Tesco Clubcard, a Morrisons More card (sore point when they ditched the “Match &…” part) and even an Iceland Bonus card.
Heck, if there was a Waitrose handy, I’d get a myWaitrose card in a shot, just for the free cuppa.
Supermarket vouchers: them vs us
Apart from making my wallet difficult to close, these loyalty cards also bung me occasional vouchers.
Supermarket vouchers can help cut food costs, but as with any money off vouchers, I reckon it pays to tread carefully.
Let’s face it, companies wouldn’t hand them out if they didn’t expect to make a profit somewhere.
Cutting the cost of something I’d buy anyway – brilliant.
Cutting the cost of something I wouldn’t have bought, or would have bought cheaper elsewhere – not really saving money at all.
Fundamentally, vouchers are designed to make people spend more: great for supermarkets, less so for cost-conscious customers
Untangling the offers
Currently, I am the proud possessor of a myriad of vouchers from the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, with a bewildering variety of offers and expiry dates.
(As an aside: where were all the vouchers when I was trying to cut food costs in February? Sweet diddly squat back then, thanks a lot loyalty schemes)
£18 in Co-op dividend cheques, made up of a £6 voucher, and three £4 vouchers
£2 off when spending £20 in the Co-op
£3 off when spending £30 in the Co-op
£9 off when spending £60 in Sainsbury’s
£12 when spending £60 in Sainsbury’s
12p off per litre of fuel when spending £60 in Sainsbury’s
4,000 More points when spending £40 in Morrisons
and my personal favourite:
£100 off East of England Co-op Funeral Services. Here’s hoping I don’t need to use that one before the expiry date.
Anyone fancy taking a punt on which one of those is actually the best value?
Almost makes me feel like binning the lot, rather than locking myself in a darkened room with a calculator.
No wonder some of these vouchers have been knocking around in my handbag for a while.
Top 10 tips for making the most of supermarket vouchers
Right. These are my top tactics when it comes to beating the supermarkets at their own game.
Here’s my verdict on how to avoid getting caught out by supermarket vouchers, and make the most of spending less.
1. Count the cost of loyalty schemes
Remember, loyalty schemes may be free to join, but they cost big bucks to run. The supermarkets offering them need to cover their costs somehow.
It’s no surprise that the supermarkets which are typically cheapest – Aldi, Lidl, Asda – don’t offer loyalty schemes.
Don’t shop in a more expensive supermarket simply for the loyalty scheme, but do pick up points if you are shopping in the store anyway.
Weigh up your food costs against any additional benefits, and consider swapping to a cheaper supermarket.
2. Watch out for the minimum spend
The biggest discount amongst my vouchers is £12 off when spending £60 at Sainsbury’s. That’s worth as much as 20% off.
Often, the minimum spend is designed to tempt you to spend more than usual.
I rarely shell out as much as £60 in Sainsburys, because typically Morrisons is cheaper for me.
Also, in a month where I’m trying to cap spending, do I really want to spend that much in one go?
I like vouchers with a lower minimum spend, so I don’t risk buying food that might go off before I can use it, or chucking extras in the basket to pad out the bill.
So stand firm in the face of money off vouchers! Don’t be bullied into spending more than you want or need.
3. Keep an eye on the total at the till
Bear in mind that you get the biggest saving if you spend the amount mentioned on the voucher.
Spend £60, get £12 off, and you’ve saved 20%. Spend a bunch more, say £120, get the same £12 off, and you’ve only saved 10%.
I have been known to wander round the supermarket, pen in hand, adding up the cost of the stuff I put in the trolley.
(NB this doesn’t work so well with two children around to fight, beg, race the trolley or try to sneak in sugar-laden snacks. Come over all Greta Garbo, and insist on shopping alone).
By sticking close to the minimum spend, I can use one voucher to get the biggest saving in that store, and then when I’m passing another supermarket, use their voucher to do the rest of my shopping.
4. Split your spending
Remember how I had two vouchers for money off shopping at the Co-op, worth £2 off £20 and £3 off £30?
I’d have to spend at least £50 to get the biggest saving from both vouchers.
However, rather than blowing £50 on a single shop, and only using a single voucher, I could save more by spending £30 on one visit, with the £3 voucher, and £20 another time, with the £2 voucher.
Even better, if you know you need £50 of food and are feeling brave, use a ‘next customer’ bar to split up the shopping on the conveyor belt. Insist on paying in two transactions, so you can use one voucher in each.
5. Examine expiry dates
Watch out for expiry dates. A lot of vouchers, especially those printed out at the till, don’t last very long. Few things are more frustrating then handing over a voucher, glad to grab a discount, only for the person at the checkout to point out that I’m too late.
Great tactics for the supermarket though – they persuaded me to shop with them, and I didn’t even get a discount. Curses.
6. Keep vouchers handy
On similar lines, it’s pretty damn frustrating to reach the checkout and realise that I’ve specifically come to Sainsburys/Morrisons/Tesco to use a voucher, but that voucher is currently on the hall table / in the bin / buried in a pile of papers by my bed.
My favourite handbag (who am I kidding? It’s pretty much the only handbag I use) has a big pocket on the front, so I try to stash vouchers in there as soon as they arrive.
7. Don’t get dazzled by loyalty points
Vouchers or in store offers promising gazillions of loyalty points sound brilliant. 4,000 More points? And I only have to spend £40 in Morrisons? Yay!
However, I try to take a step back and consider what they’re actually worth.
With the Morrisons More scheme, customers earn 5 points for every pound spent. So normally, I’d need to spend £800 to earn 4,000 points. Wow, that voucher is sounding great!
But actually, 4,000 More points only gets me £4 (it pays out a £5 voucher every time you reach 5,000 points). So the most I could get is £4 off a £40 spend, a 10% discount. Nice, but doesn’t sound as fabulous as thousands of points.
8. Compare vouchers for particular products to the cost elsewhere
Just because a voucher offers you money off a particular product, it doesn’t always make it the cheapest option.
Most of the time, I chuck vouchers for specific products straight in the bin.
Usually the discounts are for big brand products or processed foods, rather than the cheaper supermarket own brand and value range products I normally buy.
Even with a discount voucher, the branded product is usually more expensive than my normal alternative. I try to remember that discount vouchers don’t actually save me money, if I could have spent less elsewhere.
The exception is the Sainsbury’s vouchers offering money off fuel, because we regularly buy cheap petrol there. I’m still not prepared to spend £60 on Sainsbury’s food first though.
If you are tempted, make sure you match the product to the promotion – check all the details of the specific brand, pack size, flavour – or you could get stitched paying full price.
9. Go online before going shopping
If you have the time, and want to be sure of any savings, check online before you leave the house.
When I really want to cut costs I plug my shopping list into mysupermarket.co.uk, which compares the cost at different supermarkets, including Aldi.
That way I can see which products are cheaper where, and shop accordingly. Mysupermarket.co.uk has the handy function of highlighting where you might be able to swap and save, so you can look at the substitute and decide if you want it or not.
Sometimes I’ll just check a fewer higher cost items- like dishwasher tablets, washing liquid and, just as an example, gin – to see if anyone is doing a particular offer.
10. Shop entirely online
If the voucher can be used for online shopping, it’s a great way to save time and money, allowing you to keep an eye on the total in the comfort of your own home.
It’s easy to put things in and out of your basket, without having to trek between aisles or get embarassed at the check out.
I’ve run the whole gamut of online shopping, from Ocado, to Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Nowadays, I resent paying delivery charges when I can nip into the Co-op or Morrisons. Maybe it would be different if Morrisons actually delivered in my area. (Hello Morrisons, how about delivering in East Anglia, eh?)
For now, I reckon I save money by going to the store because I can check the reduced sections for short-dated, yellow-stickered food, and can adjust my shopping on the spot if things are out of stock.
In the end, I used one of my no-strings-attached Co-op dividend vouchers when I nipped out for milk, bread and the missing ingredient for a meal.
The dividend vouchers are brilliant because I don’t have to spend a minimum amount or buy particular products, and the deadline stretches out to the end of the year. I was able to use a £4 voucher when spending just £5.12 on the few things we really needed.
Now I have to plan whether it makes sense to use one of the bigger Sainsbury’s or Morrisons vouchers later this month. Fingers crossed I get round to it before they expire!
Running total for the October Savings Challenge – Day 3
Save more: £10.15 from balance tidying in my savings account. No £2 coins yet, because I haven’t spent any cash to get any change.
Spend less: £4 voucher used against my Co-op shopping
Earn more: £0
Over to you
What’s your favourite way to use supermarket vouchers? Or do you think they’re all a big con, and you’d rather go to Aldi? I’d love to hear!