(Janica is a guest blogger from Utah Deal Diva.)
Seven years ago, our first son was born. We were ready to take on the new challenge of being parents (kind of), but we weren’t ready for the expenses of a baby. Both my husband and I were in college and money was very tight. I had seen other moms using coupons and raving about it, but I simply didn’t get it. How could I possibly save any money by just clipping a measly $0.50 coupon ($1.00 or $2.00 if I’m lucky) once in a while? I gave up on saving money at the grocery store. It seemed too time consuming, frustrating, and pointless. I literally felt like I had been robbed every time I left the checkout.
A couple years later, we moved to a remote, tiny town. There wasn’t much to do for a young mom and baby, so I watched a lot of TV. I stumbled upon “Extreme Couponing” where women were getting hoards of things, and getting paid to shop. I just couldn’t believe people could save that much at the store! It sparked my interest in couponing once again, and I started doing some research. It changed my grocery shopping life!
Today, I can’t imagine shopping like I used to. There are coupons for things you buy, you just have to know where to look, and you have to know when and how to use coupons. These are the most important things I have learned about coupons:
1. There are STORE and MANUFACTURER coupons. They can be stacked. As in, used together on the same item. Manufacturer coupons are the coupons you find in the Sunday newspaper or online. You cannot use two manufacturer coupons on the same item. For example: You have a Target coupon for $1.00 of Cheerios and a Manufacturer Coupon (MQ) for $1.00 of Cheerios. Buy 1 box of Cheerios, and use both coupons to get $2.00 off ($1.00 store coupon + $1.00 MQ) that box of Cheerios. Store coupons can be found in weekly circular ads, newspapers, and online. In fact, Target has a whole database of mostly Target store coupons. It’s awesome.
2. Get one Sunday newspaper per member of your household. Find a deal in the Sunday newspaper and get it for the coupons. Get one paper per family member so you can start building a stockpile. If you happen to be in Utah, get my awesome deal here. SS stands for SmartSource, RP stands for RedPlum, and P&G stands for Proctor and Gamble. These are the inserts that come in the Sunday paper, and they are referenced on any coupon website with those abbreviations. File your coupon inserts in a file box. Put each week of inserts all together in one manila folder and label it with the date it came out. For convenience, put the manila folders in hanging file folders. The date is on the tiny spine of the coupon inserts. Here is an example of how a coupon website will reference a deal with a Sunday coupon insert:
Cheerios, $2.00. Use $1.00/1 any box Cheerios from SS 5/12/15 (exp. 6/30/15) Final Price: $1.00 each
This means the coupon will have come out on May 12, 2015, and it was in the SmartSource insert. You’ll have the coupons right at your fingertips!
3. Don’t just clip a coupon in hopes that you will find a good deal when you go shopping. I’m talking about when you see a coupon and think, “That seems like a pretty good saving. I’m going to take it to the store and buy the item no matter the price, and use my coupon so I can feel good that I saved some money.” You DON’T save money with coupons that way. Timing is KEY. Wait until a product is at its rock bottom price, and then use your coupon to get it for 80% off or sometimes FREE. Yes, free is a reality and I get things for free almost every week. Then stock up on that item. I don’t hoard; I just have what is sufficient for my family, which brings me to my next point.
4. Stock up on items you are getting super cheap or free. Buy what your family will use for 12-16 weeks. Notice I didn’t say buy 500 toothbrushes. If you’re getting free toothbrushes, which happens often, buy whatever number will be good to have in storage for your family. You’re starting a stockpile, or storage, as I like to call it. Sales at stores cycle every 12-16 weeks, so the item that is on sale today, will be on sale again. Don’t go overboard even though it’s tempting when you are getting things free.
5. Shop at more expensive priced stores that run awesome sales. My favorite stores at which to use coupons are Kroger-affiliated stores, Target, and drugstores. Their everyday prices are higher, but they run awesome store promotions, sales, and gift card offers. For example, I have a coupon for $2.50 off Finish Powerball Tabs. If I used that at Walmart, I’d pay around $1.50 for a small box of 32 ct. tabs after my coupon. Kroger puts those same Finish Powerball Tabs on sale for $2.59. I am going to pay a whopping $0.09 for that box after my coupon. I get four Sunday newspapers, so I would be able to get 4 boxes for $0.09 each ($0.36 for four boxes)! By the time I need to buy them again, I will have seen another great sale and replenished my stockpile. Something important to note is that a lot of people think they are going to spend a lot of money to build a stockpile, but that is not the case. If you’re spending $0.36 on four boxes of dish tabs, then you’re not out any more than you would be. In fact, I now spend way less than I used to on groceries and add and replenish my stockpile about every week.
6. It will take about three months to build your stockpile and see the savings from coupons. You are not going to have a stockpile overnight, so you may not see the savings overnight. The savings from coupons come when you have a stockpile and you’re not running to the store to buy toothpaste, laundry soap, cereal, etc.! Your shopping may start to look different, in that you are buying multiples of stock-up items along with your regular grocery shopping. Make a list of things you want to have in your storage (see below), and then look for stock-up prices on 2-3 different products each week. One week you may be stocking up on pasta and hair gel, and another week you will be stocking up on deodorant and rice. If you can find more than 2-3 deals, stock up on them too. In three months, your stockpile will start to be a good size, and you’ll find you’re just buying fresh foods like milk, meat, and produce when you go grocery shopping, along with a few stockpile items.
7. Patience. Have patience and know that you are not going to be a wonder couponer overnight. It takes a little getting used to, but if I can do it, you can too! Make sure to find a couponing website that you love and follow the deals they post. This will be your best friend in trying to build a stockpile. I suggest following a national coupon blog and a local coupon blog, so you can get both sets of deals to choose from. If you are from Utah, you can check out my blog at UtahDealDiva.com. The most important key in saving with coupons is having and maintaining a stockpile. We spend $250 a month to feed our family of 5 (yep, I have three kids!), and that includes what we spend on diapers, household items, personal care items, and fresh foods. You can do this!
Here is a list of things that I have in my stockpile and things you may want to stock up on too:Household
by Janica Ellsworth