I typically have a set amount that I intend to spend in a certain store after analyzing the sales, using coupons, and earning store coupons or rewards. This keeps me in touch with my budget and also limits the items I end up returning. If my balance is too high for my budget, I can’t keep all of the items I purchase. Like after a particularly challenging shopping experience at Rite Aid where my final transaction amount was $36.39 instead of the $9.00 I had planned to pay! After this gigantic mistake I began using this fool-proof, six-point couponing checklist.

1. Make sure the cashier has scanned your rewards card

This question should be the first one you ask when questioning the final tally for a receipt balance. If you’re like me, I have about 10 rewards cards from various pet stores, department stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. Sometimes, I just forget to offer the card or I’m scrambling to find it!

2. Present rain checks at the beginning of the transaction

Many rain checks have to be keyed in manually since there’s not a bar code to scan. Present these at the beginning of your transaction so you can make sure that the rain check is used appropriately and that you’ve obtained the correct item to match the rain check. It’s also best to save your rain checks (based on the expiration date) until you can stack it with a coupon, which will increase your out-of-pocket savings.

3. Check to see if clearance prices rang up correctly

I purchased three bottles of Sally Hansen nail hardener which were 75% off. The bottles rang up as regular price adding 75% to my bottom line. The cashier had to call the manager to come look at my issue, and thankfully she verified that the nail polish was on clearance and proceeded to correct the transaction. When the balance will still not at the $9.00 I had budgeted, I asked her to run another printout so I could look at the individual prices.  I found one item she missed doing a correction, so she had to do it all over again. Checking and double checking the price of your clearance items is well worth the wait!

 4. Verify all of your coupons were deducted

My surprising $36.39 total at Rite Aid the other day was even after using three $5 +Up rewards that I had been saving.  I couldn’t even begin to understand what went wrong! Plus—my cashier didn’t seem particularly interested in trying to figure it out. I typically do small transactions and have my coupon placed with the item. If a box of hair color is on clearance for $2.07 and I have a $2 coupon, my balance is $0.07. Don’t hesitate to ask the cashier if the coupon scanned correctly or if it was applied. Rite Aid and a lot of other stores can print off a receipt showing all transactions prior to the final tally.

5. Make sure your purchases are for the specific ones on sale

As a newbie, I’ve made my share of mistakes! Picking up the wrong item happens more often than I care to admit. I have two ways of dealing with this: I either scan the item myself at the scanner in Target (or at other stores that provide these), or I ask the cashier to scan the item for a price check. I was recently in CVS and found a package of Oral B electric toothbrush heads for half price–$15.38. I checked the shelf tag, and the information was correct. Many deals have specific descriptions and may vary by just one tiny detail (like with size). When your balance is higher than you’ve planned, following up on actual items purchased can account for the change in balance.

6. Verify if the receipt balance is dependent on a specific sales transaction

If you have a coupon for $10 off of $50, make sure your total is $50 prior to using any coupons, if that’s what your store policy states. CVS store policy states the total has to be within 98% of the requested amount to get their rewards. Rite Aid, however, doesn’t have a rule like this—it just has to be the specific amount. Before I make a transaction like this, I always inform the cashier that I’m trying to achieve a certain transaction amount to be able to use the $10 off $50 coupon—this helps them as much as it helps me!

6 Tips to Ensure You're Getting All of Your Deals at the Register