Sunday, December 14, 2008

Am-A-zing!

Thanks to Molly, I have a new hobby. A hobby that ordinarily would make me a freak, but since Molly was doing it I figured it couldn't be too bad. While I reside very close to the line of freakish and weird, Molly does not. I reason that if she can do it, it must mean that it can be done and one can still remain normal. That hobby is couponing. It is the first hobby I have had that actually saves us money instead of drains it. I never 'wasted' time couponing in the past because I thought it was just that- a waste of time. I figured that coupons were always for things I wouldn't normally buy anyway, so I would spend more money purchasing something I otherwise would have avoided just to save 25 cents. Factor in all the time spent clipping coupons, time spent visiting various stores, money spent on Sunday papers, and it all seemed like quite a waste. Turns out, I just didn't understand the process.
The key points of couponing are these: you combine coupons with things that are already on sale to maximize savings. Shop at stores that offer double coupons, and you save even more. Most grocery stores in my area always double coupons up to 99 cents, and offer special promotions to triple coupons. When you combine your doubled coupons with good sales, you can get some unbelievable deals. Even if it's something that you wouldn't otherwise buy, if it's practically free, it's still worth it. For instance: If my grocery store has a deal for Buy 1 Get 1 free cereal, I can also use 2 coupons. Even though I am receiving one item free, I can still use a coupon for it. (You can always use 1 coupon per item, unless it specifies otherwise.) So- if Rice Krispies are usually 4 dollars each, but they are B1G1, it is a total of 4 dollars for both boxes. If I have 2 manufacturer coupons for $1 off each box, I use 2 coupons, and reduce the price to $2 total. That takes me from $4 a box to $1 a box. This is a deal I just did. Except I rounded up to make the example easier. I actually paid 87 cents per box. Sweet.
Always double your coupons! Most stores that double will double up to 99 cents per coupon. That means that anything over 99 cents it taken at face value and not doubled. ( So a .75 coupon would double to $1.50, whereas a $1 coupon is just $1.)
You also change your perspective on shopping. You stockpile items you regularly use at the best price you will find. You might not need it now, but you will need it eventually, and you probably won't find it any cheaper than these rock-bottom prices. Erase your previous notions of whether you 'need it', just because you are not currently out. This will save you money in the long run.
For best results, buy or subscribe to 2 Sunday papers. It is totally worth the money you will spend at $1.50 per paper. When there is a particularly good deal, you will wish you had as many coupons as you can acquire. (For instance, a couple weeks ago I was able to buy Del Monte canned vegetables for only 9 cents a can! However, since I was still very new to couponing, I only had one coupon and thus, could only buy one can at 9 cents. Too bad. They regularly sell at $1.19.) There are also a plethora of internet coupons available, and most stores honor them.
Don't buy it unless it is on sale and/or you have a coupon for it. Preferably both. At first this might be difficult because you will want and need things that do not fit this criteria, but if you keep at it for long enough, you will be able to acquire it, and at a much better price, possibly free. That's right- FREE! Because you will stockpile those coveted items, you should have a good supply to last you until the next good sale. For instance, this week I accumulated 14 boxes of cereal in my pantry because I bought them all between .87 and $1.15 a box. (Half of them were Smart Start which are usually more than $4 a box.)
You can even get things for FREE! These are the best deals you will get! Some things I have recently gotten for free include Daisy sour cream, Maybelline lipstick and lipgloss, Knorr rice and pasta sides. Completely free, I didn't pay a cent. Well, sales tax for some of them.
Usually when you are trying to save money, you purchase the largest size available because your cost per until will be less. The opposite is true of couponing. If you have a coupon for .75 off of any size of Daisy sour cream, that doubles to $1.50. If you purchase the smallest size, you get it for completely free. If you purchase the largest size, you might get less than half off. Purchase the smallest amount necessary per coupon, for the best price.
Even if you wouldn't usually buy it, sometimes it's still worth it. For instance, I recently bought several Knorr side dishes that I have never even looked at. I got them for only the price of the sales tax, so it is worth it to me to have this shelf-stable item, even if it is only for food storage purposes. I got some Green Giant frozen vegetables that usually retail at $2 or more per box, but at .25 a box, it was worth it for me to buy several. Timm loves it because this has allowed him to enjoy several things I wouldn't otherwise have bought, like sausage or frozen pizza.
Shop at as many stores as you need to. I had to come to terms with this, but it is necessary to really save money as sales and prices vary widely from week to week and store to store.
Is it worth it?
Here is my proof:

This is only my latest trip, and by no means my most profitable. All of this cost me about $62, and I saved $74. Last week I spent a total of $85 and saved $115. In other words, I purchased $200 worth of groceries for only $85.
This lipstick and lipgloss were totally free. CVS had a sale for B1G1, and I had (2) $4 coupons from last Sunday's papers. Even though 1 item was technically free, I could still apply a coupon to it. My total at the register came out to -.84, so I bought a candy bar to bring my balance to a positive of 26 cents. Hello?!
So here is my process, keeping in mind that I have only been doing this for a couple of weeks. On Sundays I get 2 papers from the coin-operated machines. Obviously you can also buy them at the store, or subscribe. Don't wait until Monday to purchase them, or you may have a very hard time finding them in stock. On Mondays I clip the coupons, and organize them in a binder filled with plastic sheets used to organized baseball cards. (search for 'Coupon Binder' on YouTube for video instructions-) Wednesdays the new grocery ads come out, so I look up my stores online and search their ads. (I shop at Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Bloom, Bi-Lo, Lowes, CVS, and Walgreen's. Not all of them all the time, however.) I look for the best sales, and compare them to things I also have coupons for. Once you start collecting and organizing coupons you will start to have a general idea for what you have. I write down what is on sale, what my coupon is for, and what my final cost will be. When I make out my lists, I also include the amount of items I will purchase. Once I have made my lists, I move the necessary coupons over to a small, purse-size coupon organizer that I have divided into all of my separate stores.
Of course this does take some time, but I view it as my part-time job, as my way of helping our family. The shopping part can be difficult with 2 small children, but otherwise I think it's kind of fun! It's like a scavenger hunt, looking for specific items, making sure I have the correct thing and correct coupon, waiting to see the register tape and how much I spent versus how much I saved. It's exciting and it satisfies a shopping urge I cannot otherwise indulge. It would be much easier for those without small children because you could complete the shopping much faster without carting small children in and out of stores.
I never thought I could save this much money with coupons, or that I would enjoy it like I do. I like the thrill of getting amazing deals, filling our pantry with food and also stockpiling food storage. Right now I am spending approximatetly the same amount that I normally would on groceries, but acquiring at least twice the amount of food, stockpiling and building my pantry. You could easily cut your food budget in half if you approached it as just a week-to-week purchasing of only what you need at the time.
The biggest adjustment for me will be to make recipes and meal plans based on what I buy on sale, and try to maintain healthy choices that I can 'point-out' and not merely eat conveneince foods that are often found at good deals. ( However, I do use these items occasionally, and they are still great for food storage.)
So that's my summary of couponing, and I owe it all to Miss Molly.
On my sidebar I have added a running total of my grocery totals and savings, as well as several sites that will help you navigate the couponing world. Many of these sites offer lists of stores and their sales and coupons available, essentially doing the homework for you. If you live in Utah, the Penny Pinching site is an invaluable resource. Luckies!
If anyone else is a more seasoned couponer than I, please offer any advice, tips, and suggestions! Questions welcome as well. Anyone who doesn't coupon, but still receives coupons is more than welcome to send them to me!
Hannah, Diana, Rachelle-you other young mothers would be great at this!

8 comments:

michelle said...

Well, who knew?

I do get a little thrill out of seeing how much I saved at the bottom of my receipt. Imagine how thrilling to have saved $115!

Jill said...

Apparently I need take on this part-time job, especially since I can shop without two small children distracting me.

Hannah said...

This so takes me back- I did this a little when we had Mya and with the websites now, I bet it is even easier. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I am excited that you are doing this and helping out with the family budget! There is such satisfaction to feeling like you 'contribute'!

Molly Krauss Smith said...

Glad we can navigate the couponing world together! Now we just need to make our shopping trips coincide, so I'm not the only dork in the store with a three inch binder....

Amy E said...

Check out couponmom.com also! Great job! I want to get into this more too. I love how you called it a "part-time job."

Rin said...

To fully grasp this, I should come out there and watch you coupon...you'll have to teach me. This is absolutely craziness. REally, who knew? Especially growing up the way we did.

rmt said...

Good for you! I have heard of this, but I just can't picture myself doing it. I am very impressed.

kim said...

Thanks for posting this. Jared and I were behind a guy in line who bought four overflowing carts of groceries (lots of cake mixes, lightbulbs and other random things) We were shocked when they rang his total and he paid less than five bucks for all of it. Amazing.

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