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If you read my writing in French Property News, some of you will already know a little about “offer optimisation” from my December 2020 column – a practice made famous by the US show “Extreme Couponing” – and how I and many French residents use a number of helpful tools and websites to make the most of the deals available. Mostly this is on food and household necessities, and our efforts allow us all to stretch our income a little further.
I think it’s fair to say that food costs more in France than in the UK. I can’t speak for other countries as these are the only two places in which I have been a long term resident, however, I have heard anecdotally from my Instagram and Facebook communities that things here are not considered cheap by comparison. I would caveat that observation, however, with my opinion that the quality of food here in France is great. Even the basics range of items in shops are decent, for example, “Eco+” in e L’eclerc, “Prix malin” in Grand Frais. I’m yet to come across an item which I didn’t think was great value or delicious, whereas I could not necessarily say that of the equivalent UK ranges in Asda or Tesco.
So in this house, we are appreciative of the food which we buy even if it comes at a higher price. But, being who I am and my inherent avoidance of spending money where I needn’t, I have put my much improved French to the test by taking up the challenge of optimising whatever offers there are to be had.
Using voucher and offer-optimisation, the six items in the picture above cost me the grand total of 4,77€ instead of 15,82€. Want to know how I do it? Read on…
The Shopping List
Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€
Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€
Domestos gel = 2,24€
Domestos gel = 2,24€
Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€
Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€
This selection should have totalled 15,82€ however with a little research I have been able to stack offers as follows:
Liebig velouté 5 legumes -68% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -1,95€ then Shopmium 100% reimbursement of 1 product -2,87€ (check out my tips at the bottom of the page for 3€ free when you sign up using my code)
So total for 2 Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€ + 2,87€ – (2,87€ x 0.68) – 2,87€ = 0,92 -> 0,46€ each
Domestos gel -80% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -1,79€, then voucher on purchase of 2 products from Ma Vie en Couleurs -> -1,20€
So total for 2 Domestos gel = 2,24€ + 2,24€ – (2,24€ x 0.80) – 1,20€ = 1,49€ -> 0,75€ each
Cif spray 5 en 1 -80% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -2,24€, then voucher on purchase of 2 products from Ma Vie en Couleurs -> -1,00€ So total for 2 Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€ + 2,80€ – (2,80 x 0.80) – 1,00€ = 2,36€ -> 1,18€ each
I realise these calculations look pretty daunting – so I’ll go through a how-to guide for one of these items from start to finish:
Step One – Do your research
It is possible to find your own offers and work out possible reductions for yourself… or you can do what I do, and allow the website Anti-crise to do the hard work for you. On Anti-crise all of the latest “pub” are collated for you to browse – which is useful in enough itself. However the next level of help available here is how they calculate optimised versions of the various in-store offers – stacking vouchers where possible.
I should warn you, there are lots of products on offer, and it might be tempting to try to optimise it all from the start – I would encourage you not to do this, but to instead choose to optimise just a few things which you need so as to avoid unnecessary spending and get used to the process.
It’s easy to get carried away when things are as cheap as they sometimes work out here (in fact, sometimes the shop pays you to take the item – a so-called “bénéfice”), but if we don’t need something then it’s not really a bargain. The process can also be quite involved and complicated, so to start with, less is more. Now, back to our offer in question…
How to optimise using vouchers in France
Click on Catalogues -> Catalogues Optimisés and choose the shop which you are interested in visiting. Here I choose Casino.
Here, I’m looking for the offer on Domestos gel – I can see it in the list and expand the section to allow me to click the first link which will navigate to the relevant page in the offer leaflet in question.
I highly recommend doing this, as sometimes an offer will be flavour or type-specific, and it’s imperative to select the correct item.
Here I note on a post-it, the in-store offer, the number of items needed and whether the item is of a special type. This one is “100% puissant”. I also note here, that the advertised price is slightly different from the one in my local store. I’m rural and this store is expensive for us, so it’s a little bit higher – but the offer still stands. At this point, if I go into my store and buy 2 of these products, I’ll get the in-store offer of 80% off the second purchase.
Now we know what the in-store offer is, we need to know what the stacked optimisation is that we are carrying out. Going back to the item info (above) in the optimisation list, we can see that we need to click on the voucher website Ma Vie en Couleurs for our optimisation. You can sign up for free using my code D21022 or clicking this link and you will be given the chance to win one of a hundred activities centred in nature, sport, culture, outings and well-being ideas.
Success is all in the preparation
Clicking on the link in Anticrise will bring up an instruction page, as below:
This page tells us that we need to print the voucher, the date it’s valid until and how many products the voucher works on. If you don’t have an account with Ma Vie en Couleurs you can create one freely and easily using my link. Once you’re logged in, navigate through the available vouchers until you find the relevant Domestos offer.
Printing your vouchers
Now, print your voucher. I recommend printing to a pdf and saving this on your desktop for later physical printing. This is because each voucher can only be printed once, so if there’s a problem with your printer, you run out of ink or paper etc, then that’s you’re one chance gone. For safety, print to PDF and print on paper later.
Now the fun part, shopping!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organised before heading out – having your printed, prepared voucher, followed by whatever information you might need to ensure you get the right product is imperative.
One of the ways I keep organised with my various vouchers and receipts is to use a pocket folder below. I take it with me to the shop and it contains all the information I need for successful optimisation. It’s also a great place to store receipts for later when I need to upload them to an app or site for reimbursement, and I can keep any vouchers which I pick up along the way (or are sent to me) for later use.
I find that taking a post-it with information on the product I’m expecting to find attached to the voucher in question helps me to be accurate, and I can also challenge any errors at the till if something goes awry.
Paying for your items
When paying for my items I tend to choose to do a limited number of optimisations at a time.
I do this because it is more likely that that cashier will be able to work through them without finding the process offputting, that it is less hassle for both of us, and that if I don’t push my luck, the cashier may be less likely to question the almost universal rule of not allowing customers to stack optimisations (it is usual that shops do not permit the use of vouchers when an item is on special offer).
So, I go into the process with good humour, and if the item isn’t available at the optimised price then I can decide to take it or leave it. Please don’t allow yourself to become frustrated with the cashier if they refuse your voucher – they are only doing their job.
I will generally group my items together at the till, and lay the relevant voucher on top of the item so that the cashier doesn’t miss it, but can quickly confirm that I have bought the corresponding product. This tends to make the process easier for everyone, and I would avoid just handing a bunch of printed vouchers to the cashier with your payment, they need to know that you have picked up the right item so as to process it. Also, it’s sensible to have an idea of what the total should be in your head so that you can query your shopping bill if needs be, and if anything goes wrong do go to customer services to resolve it.
My essentials for success
- Don’t forget to choose the correct catalogue for the date of your visit, offers change frequently
- Remember – shops are not obligated to honour the voucher if there is another offer in place – many shops have a policy that a voucher cannot be accumulated with an item that is also part of an in-store promotion – if the cashier refuses then they are just doing their job. You can choose to buy it at the original price, or leave the item there and then.
- Make sure you select the correct flavour/scent/version.
- Voucher optimisation generally only works in-store. Drive and online shopping rarely accept vouchers, however, you can use sites like Shopmium and Coupon Network to claim cashback on your purchases (as I did on the Liebig soups in my first picture). I’ll be creating a new blog about this process soon. In the meantime, you can use my referral links to get started with your account on both of these apps:
- For Coupon Network get 1€ free when you create an account using my code MX1VKW or clicking here to download the app for free: https://referral.couponnetwork.fr/MX1VKW
- For Shopmium get 3€ free when you create an account using my code W4C5KU or clicking here to download the app for free: https://www.shopmium.com/fr/referral/w4c5ku
- Print sparingly (only the vouchers that you plan to use) to save on ink costs.
- Have fun and save money!