Monday, July 29, 2013

Couponing, Tatted Mom Style

There seems to be an endless cycle repeating itself in my life every few months for the last year or so:
  • Finances are great, so I relax on the couponing.
  • Something pops up (whether it's an unexpected bill, Hubby's comic book ebay habit, or an event like vacation or back-to-school) to where I need to extreme coupon to have what we need
  • I get addicted to getting things for free or nearly free until the next payday
  • The next payday comes, money evens out, extreme couponing relaxes
  • Wash, rinse, repeat cycle
The thing is, I have no idea why I stop couponing when money is fine in our house, because when I do the couponing thing, I even shock myself sometimes. 
$5.27 total for everything you see here

Take this recent trip for example. I had pieced together a deal on the pizza and ice cream that should have come out to $6 for those 4 items. I had free coupons for the yogurt, spinach and handsoap, but when you add on the milk, eggs and soda, my total should have been right around $11, with tax included. When the cashier announced my total of $5.27, I was shocked. As I stood there confused and handed the cashier exactly $5.27, she sensed my hesitation and began looking over the receipt herself, to see if there was an error somewhere. She accepted the money, handed me my receipt, and I told the kids to haul ass out of the store before they realized I had just (excuse the term, but it's what I use to describe my style of couponing) coupon raped them. Come to find out, I had a coupon on my grocery store card for $5 off of a $20 purchase that they accepted, taking my $11 estimate down to $5 and some change. 

You would think, with savings like that, and the rush you get walking out of a store having paid next to nothing for groceries, that I would do this all of the time. What if I told you that wasn't even the best deal I got last week?
  • A loaf of bread, 4 pack of yogurt, large container of liquid coffee creamer, toothpaste and a bottle of shampoo (the $5 stuff) for $3.72 total.
  • The kids and I took a trip to Target at 8:30 at night for 2 bottles of men's body wash, 2 women's razors, a pack of pens, a pack of mechanical pencils, and 2 packs of candy for the kids, for $8.12 total. I got the razors, normally priced at $9.49 each, for $0.94 each.
  • The kids and I went to Fry's (Kroger, for you east coasters) and spent $12.17 total on 2 Febreeze cans of air freshener, 2 Febreeze candles, 2 packs of gummy bears, 2 packs of highlighters for school, 3 things of eyeshadow and 5 spiral notebooks for school.
  • I walked out of Target with a pack of printer paper (400 sheets) and 8 folders for the kids' school, for $0.10 total. I paid the cashier with a freaking dime.
So, the math nerd in me just added that all up- 51 items total (including frozen pizzas, ice cream, eggs, milk, bread, makeup, razors and school supplies) for a total of $29.38. That's $0.58 an item. Good grief, I'm a couponing goddess.

After my pretty impressive trips, I'll usually post pictures on my instagram or on Inklings' facebook page, and I always get 2 questions:
  1. How do I do it?
  2. How much time do I spend on couponing each week?
If you are new to couponing, I definitely recommend The Krazy Coupon Lady and Hip2Save. Those are national sites, so they'll cover the mainstream stores. (To get the most from Target, my favorite store, use Totally Target.) Try googling 'coupon matchups' and your nearest city for local couponing deals. For the southwest, I use Bargain Believer. All of these ladies tell you how a deal will go down at a store, where to get the coupons, and exactly how much you'll pay in the end. It's easy. Super easy. Like a broke prostitute kind of super easy.
This week's stack of Sunday paper coupons.

As far as time spent couponing, each day I check the sites and print out whatever online coupons there are, taking maybe 15 minutes a day. Before a shopping trip, I'll prepare for about an hour, making my list and gathering appropriate coupons. Then, once a week I have to deal with the Sunday paper coupons. Considering I get multiple papers, clipping and organizing can take anywhere from 30 minutes (if there's one coupon insert) to 2-3 hours. This week I have my work cut out for me. There were 5 coupon inserts, and I got 3 papers. You do the math. But, when you see the savings I achieved, it's totally worth it. I know a local lady that does this everyday and walks away with hundreds of dollars of stuff for pennies on the dollar. If you are saving 70-95% on your groceries, it's worth a few hours a week.

I do have some tips that I've found to be quite helpful. 
  • Buy multiple papers. Most manufacturer's coupons state that no more than 4 of one type can be used in the same transaction (thanks to the TV show and people getting 152 bottles of free BBQ sauce). If you buy 4 papers, and something goes on sale that you can coupon down to get it for free, you'll be getting 4 free items instead of 1. That's how you start, and grow, your stockpile. The reason I only had 3 bottles of Ivory handsoap in that first picture above is because that particular grocery store only takes 3 coupons of the same type- not 4. So, I generally buy 3 papers instead of 4, just so I'm not left with that last coupon to piss me off. 
  • Know the store's coupon policy front and back. Most cashiers won't know the store's coupon policy, so you need to know it. Keep a print out with you, if need be. Target cashiers are famous for arguing with you, because at Target, you can use a manufacturer's coupon, a Target coupon, and now a Target Cartwheel coupon on 1 single item. So, when you plop 2 razors onto the checkout belt and have 6 coupons, they raise an eyebrow. And please don't abuse it. If you know a coupon won't work, don't push it. What ends up happening is the company revamps their coupon policies, ruining it for all of us. Try and shop at places that either doubles your coupons, or values coupons at $1. That's where the savings are.
  • Make a list, and stick to it. I have a huge coupon binder. I use the huge coupon binder minimally now. When I make a shopping list, I take out the coupons I will use from the big coupon binder, paper clip multiples together, and put them all into an envelope. Just than envelope will accompany me on my trip. That way, I stick to my list, which has been made to save the maximum amount during my trip. When I take the huge binder with me, I tend to spend more money, because I start using coupons for things that I normally wouldn't spend the money on. Now, this technique does have a major flaw- when you see an amazing deal that the websites didn't tell you about, you don't have those coupons with you. That sucks, majorly. So, if you can bring all of your coupons with you and practice self-restraint when it comes to some of the not-so-amazing deals, then by all means, do it. But if you can't, then leave the binder at home, and make mental notes for your next shopping trip. 
  • Make sure you are getting the right newspaper. Every week I would read on Bargain Believer's site that the Sunday paper would have x-number of coupon inserts in it. My paper would arrive, and I'd be short at least 1 coupon insert. Come to find out, I was getting the wrong paper. Here in Arizona, the state paper sucks on coupon inserts. You have to get the Phoenix paper to get the most out of your couponing. So, I bought 3 Phoenix papers this weekend, and 1 state paper just to see the difference. State paper: 1 major coupon insert and 2 other 1/2 coupon inserts. Phoenix paper: 5 full coupon inserts. If I had been doing this correctly all along, those 2 bottles of men's body wash (from my Target shopping trip above) would have been free instead of $1.49 each. Figures.
This week, the kids start back to school, and money is tight for us, with all of the school supplies and clothes shopping. We actually won't even be going shopping until Wednesday, which gives me 2 days to go through these coupons, check sales flyers and compile my list of deals for the week. I actually enjoy this stuff, though, as weird as that may sound. I love flipping through the inserts and seeing coupons I can stack at Target, or spotting a deal in a sales flyer that matches coupons I have. And walking out of a store with savings of 70% and 80% written on the bottom of your receipt is definitely a high. 

I will say, though, that one of the best feelings in the world is knowing that you helped provide for your kids when your family needed it. Yes, Hubby makes the money, but it's my job to make sure that money goes where it needs to. When money is really tight, and the pantry is getting more and more sparse, it's an amazing feeling to take a $20 bill into the grocery store and walk out with 4 bags full of groceries and $15 still in your pocket. Even better than that is the feeling you get when your kids yell down from the bathroom, "Mom, we're out of shampoo" and you head into your secret stash, grabbing 3 different bottles of shampoo, march them upstairs and say, "Did you want the Extra Body, strawberry scented or ocean rain scented shampoo?" instead of having to make do until your next shopping trip. 

Couponing is just one more way I stay one step ahead of my family, and for me, that's definitely worth the time and energy.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm so jealous! :) I wish I could figure out the whole coupon thing. I get so confused between which stores have the better deals, if I should use products that I haven't used before and other retarded things. Maybe I'll give it another shoot. It sounds like a good way to pack a few dollars away for clothing shopping.