Reader Q&A: What’s a “Money Maker”?

Reader Q&AToday’s reader question comes from LW. She’s wondering how “money-maker” deals really work.

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

You mention money maker deals.  Like that great Zyrtec one you mentioned last week.  What does that actually mean?  I’m assuming the cashier doesn’t actually hand you the overage?  Can you explain this to me so I don’t feel so clueless when I go check out with one of these deals?

This is a great question, LW. I know that money-makers can seem totally mystifying, especially to new couponers.

There are a few different types of money maker deals. The most basic of these is a straight-up overage scenario.

Overage is what happens when the value of the coupon is greater than the cost of the item.

Let’s say you have a coupon for $1 off a tube of Crest toothpaste and that toothpaste is on sale for $.75. You can earn $.25 of overage by buying that toothpaste with your coupon.

So does that mean you walk out of the store with a shiny new quarter in your pocket? Unfortunately, no.

Instead, that $.25 is applied to the total value of your order. So if the rest of your order totaled up t o $3.50, you’d only pay $3.25.

Make sense?

Keep in mind that not all stores will give you overage. As far as the national stores that I blog about go, Walmart definitely does. Whole Foods does (sometimes). CVS and Walgreens do (though your mileage may vary). Target does not.

If the store does not allow overage, they will adjust the value of the coupon down to match the value of the product. In the toothpaste example above, they will make the value of the coupon $.75. Your toothpaste will be free, but you won’t “earn” $.25.

The next type of money-maker scenario is a bit more complicated. Let’s call it the “Spend Now, Save More Later” scenario.

You are most likely to run into this scenario at a store that offers incentives like CVS’ Extra Care Bucks deals or Target’s $5 gift card deals. If your local grocery store has catalina deals, you may also get this type of money-maker.

With the Spend Now, Save More Later scenario, you use a combination of sales, coupons and other store incentives to spend less than the total value of the item, including incentives.

Confusing, I know.

Let’s take that Zyrtec example from last week at CVS. Zyrtec was on sale for $5.99. And it was producing an ECB worth $5.99. In our little world of couponing, we call that Zyrtec FREE.

Yes, you will pay $5.99 out of pocket, but you will also earn $5.99 in ECBs. Which you can turn around and use to pay for anything else you need at CVS.

But even better, there was a $5 off printable coupon for Zyrtec. If you had the coupon, the Zyrtec went from being FREE after ECBs to being a $5 money maker.

You would have paid $.99 out of pocket ($5.99 sale price – $5 coupon = $.99), but you would earned $5.99 in ECBs. That $5 difference in what you paid vs what you earned for later is the money maker.

The same type of scenario can be played out anytime you earn store rewards (catalinas, gift cards, Register Rewards at Walgreens, ECBs at CVS, etc. etc.) in excess of the amount you pay out of pocket.

Hopefully that clears up what money-makers are and how they work in the real world, but please chime in if you have any other questions about all this!


  1. Michelle says

    I used that Zyrtec coupon and ECB to get the zyrtec, two boxes of cereal (which I didn’t have coupons for – we’re moving next week and couponing is pretty much on hold for the moment b/c my life is crazy) and a package of cheese sandwich crackers for $1.83 OOP!

  2. I shop at cvs all the time….i never get the overage applied to another item….should I ask?

  3. Thank You for sharing and being up for questions. I don’t get why some experienced couponers are so damn snobby and uppity when you ask them a “stupid” question. I mean for goodness sakes its just couponing people. I don’t see where they really believe they have a right to be so proud in something that is so small . If they are tired of answering the same questions over and over Just don’t answer. Their comments insult people and are unnecessary. Anyway thank you for being so helpful And not being a snob. ?

  4. ^ prideful*

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