I am getting taunted almost daily by my BFF who is sending me text messages with photos of her grocery haul, the register receipts and all caps TOTAL OF HOW MUCH SHE SPENT. Meaning of course, how much she didn’t spend, nanny nanny boo boo.
She could text me all she wanted, it wasn’t going to motivate me to cull through the pile of coupon inserts that I have been saving week after week, intending one day to pick out ones that we would use.
It’s hard to use coupons when you’re at the grocery store with a 3 y.o. and inevitably about 15 minutes into my lug-fest of the gigantuon “race car” (ironic, just sayin’) shopping cart which takes my entire body weight to stop short of plowing into any other unsuspecting shopper — let’s not discuss the clearance you need to make a tight turn down some of the canned goods aisles – after 15 minutes she wants out of the supersized buggy. Which means not only is she now “helping”… it means the countdown has started to:
“Mommy, I went poopy.”
Every. Stinkin. Time. Have I mentioned to you that I hate potty training? It was just as bad when she was in diapers. We would either have to hold our nose and hope that no one was downwind, then rush to the car to change it while she announced her accomplishment to everyone as we brisked by as if they couldn’t smell the aroma – or brave the wretched public bathroom of your local supermarket. At risk of my leather seats, I usually chose the former.
Alright already. The BFF continues to harass me and after 2 weeks of it, I DVR’d TLC’s Extreme Couponing show.
These veracious women have dedicated every second of their free time to saving money at the grocery store. Not just saving, nearly robbing the store of all their goods for mere pennies. I have only seen one man to date in this cost-cutting brouhaha and thank God his higher calling was to donate as much as possible to the local charity.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out where the sanity of it all ends and the hording begins. I wish they featured more people who didn’t have a 3 year arsenal of toilet gel fit for an army but actually kept only what her family could consume and donated the rest to the homeless shelters. That really bothers me.
Regardless, I am intrigued. As is the hubs as he’s peered on with curiosity.
I announced Saturday night that I would be getting up early on Sunday to get a supreme deal on hotdogs at Walgreens. I told him that I thought I could get it for free (rookie error, it wasn’t free but I figured that out shortly before I left) to which he responded,
“If you do, you’re going to be addicted. AND THAT’S OKAY.”
I called the BFF for reassurance, “I’m going in.”
“Yea! Good luck!” She’s such the enabler. In fact, she’s making new coupon buddy friends in Wal-Mart on Saturday night because all the “Couponers” (I’ve learned they call themselves) are strategizing their shopping binders in the aisles to get items for free. And now she’s starting a Coupon Club. A club. Seriously.
So here’s how I fared on Day One –
Walgreens: Three boxes of General Mills cereal and 4 packages of hot dogs (that was the limit). Retail value before tax: $26.93. My savings was $13.98. I think it worked out to be a 54% savings. (If my math is off a little, it’s because I bought a paper too and I backed that out of the total.)
Target: My receipt didn’t print the before sale prices so I’m guessing a little here, but retail value: $25.94. My cost, $19.35. Savings of about 25% on things I would have bought anyway.
Here’s my first day assessment:
1) Crap, I am hooked. I even bought extra newspapers. (Golden Rule of couponing, get lots of papers)
2) I screwed up. I purchased one cereal that was mismarked on sale on the shelf and paid full price for it. My total should have been even lower. And I didn’t even have Princess with me to distract me! This is rodeo is harder than you think. You really have to pay attention to everything and quick with math or else this could take an eternity.
3) In order to do this, it required purchasing cereal that was normally $4.99 for the skimpy little box. I NEVER spend that kind of money at the grocery store. I do get what’s on sale or the bag cereal in an attempt to be frugal. Regardless, I spent less per box than I normally would. But it does distort one’s perception of how much they’ve “saved.”
4) There’s a fine line between getting what you need and just getting what you can get because you have a coupon. I understand that some things actually PAY you when you buy them if you have cracked the code on the right magical combination. But the danger is to not be swept up by the opportunity and buy things only because you can SAVE. Hot dogs happen to be a highly consumed food item in our home so this was a good deal for me. And they freeze well. In fact, I’m going to another Walgreen’s today to see if I can get more since I have one more coupon.
5) You cannot maintain much in the way of brand loyalty. I will be sacrificing preference in the name of my little experiment. I prefer chocolate Cheerios, but they didn’t have those on sale at Walgreens. It was regular or honey nut or none. For some things, I’m okay with that.
I’m hopping on the bandwagon for a month to see how it goes.
Here are my personal golden rules:
1) Buy no more than 3 papers.
2) Buy only what you need or can share with a widowed neighbor who is on a tight budget
3) Don’t buy excessive amounts of processed food because it’s a good deal. Healthy is the ultimate good deal. If it’s something we’ve already succumbed to and purchase with some regularity, okay. But I’m not going to load up on crap and chemicals for the sake of saving $.50.
4) Don’t waste time going from store to store. No more than 3 retailers per week and they must be on my way to or from somewhere.
I have the coupons from 4 papers (one donated, three I purchased – one was even on sale!) and my goal is to reduce our monthly grocery bill by 30%. That may be a lofty goal given my parameters of moderation. I am also using an email dedicated to couponing so that I do have to endure all the extra spam that is a product of downloading manufacturers coupons online, which is also a key component to the coupon wizardry.
If you should decide to join me on this month-long quest, let me share the three essential tricks to the trade that I have learned thus far:
1 – Get organized. This would be a disaster if you don’t know your way around a binder and sheet protectors. I had plenty of both on hand so there was no additional expense for me there. For now, I am not cutting out all the coupons, only the ones that I’ll use. And I’m not hauling the binder around. Yet.
2. PAY ATTENTION when you check out. I did go to my regular Walgreens this evening armed with two coupons. My mission was to buy the same deal on hot dogs (buy one, get one free – priced $2.99 and I had $1.00 coupon) and pantiliners (on sale for $.99 and I had $1.00 coupon). When I checked out, she charged me $2.52. I had the Princess with me and was in a hurry so we left but it was nagging at me that I was that bad at math. I thought it should be about $2 and change. I took my receipt which was clearly wrong, back in and asked the cashier. Turns out she didn’t know how to do the $1 off of a $.99 cent item, so she rang it at a $.50 coupon. It only took another 15 minutes to get THAT straightened out. Still clutching my 50-odd cent refund, I was stopped by a woman in need in the parking lot and handed over my winnings. I guess I was meant to go back inside with that little error. It seemed selfish not to help after I had just scored such a discount.
3. You CANNOT do this alone, nor should you want to. Follow the trail blazed by the professionals. Get plugged into the coupon websites to help you navigate the waters.
- My friend LeAnn has a great website, Mommy’s Wish List that can help you out
- I have also found the Krazy Coupon Lady is a tremendous resource. I think she’s making all the talk show circuit so I’m confident you’ve heard of her.
- The BFF also recommends Common Sense with Money.
- I have another friend who’s just started blogging her coupon advice and she’s got great practical tips for the beginner here.
I’d bet my stack of coupons that there are a thousand other great sites out there and I’d love to hear your favorites. Leave me a comment below and tell me your coupon story.