Recently I was inspired by a friend to start using coupons. Up until now I had thought it too time consuming and a little annoying to coupon. I had watched the Extreme Coupon shows and researched it a little (very little) and came to the conclusion that coupons just wouldn’t work for my family’s needs. I didn’t have the use or space for 50 jars of mustard or whatever condiment the women on the show were buying out. I’ve always thought it a fine line between the Extreme Couponing show and the Hoarding show. It was definitely not a line I wanted to dance around.
However, my friend was doing it and saving a lot of money. She was buying real items and real food that she was actually using and in all the times I’ve been to her house, I’ve never seen a cupboard stacked with jars upon jars of mustard. The real inspiration came from the fact that I knew she prepares healthy meals for her family. I realized that if she could do it without compromising, so could I.
The first week I tried it, I saved 40% on our groceries and with the gas rewards program that the grocery store has, I also saved us $1.20/gallon in gas. With an Expedition, that’s a good chunk of money! I knew right away that I was addicted, and I threw myself into my new found hobby. When I got home I analyzed my grocery bill and realized I had made some mistakes that had cost me. Yes, I’m a total geek that way.
The first thing I needed to do was get organized. Between all the coupons I had, the screaming baby, the annoyed little kids and a husband who was happy we were saving money but wasn’t enjoying the process…I was getting more confused than anything. There was too much stress and the shopping trip took way to long. Now I have my coupons organized in groups and I keep them in a binder. Before I even leave for the store I create a spread sheet that shows what I’m buying, the amount, the cost, the savings from the coupon and the total number coupons I have per item. It makes things easier and now I have our shopping trips down to a science. We are in, we get what we need and we are out. We’re a well oiled machine.
The second thing I realized is I had to change the way I shopped. Instead of buying what we need, I now buy what is on sale. I still only buy things I know I will use, even if it’s way down the line, but now I’m not just shopping for the week. When diced tomatoes are on sale, I buy a lot. I also clip ALL the coupons I come across for items I know I will use, even if I don’t plan on using them now. I do not clip coupons for items I would never use, because it’s not worth my time. Money is money, even if it’s only cents. I refuse to waste any money on things I won’t use.
Lastly, I only use coupons when I can combine them with a sale. For example, this week I bought Bailey’s Irish Creme coffee creamers. Not something I would normally buy but I thought they’d be nice for guests at Christmas. Thinking ahead. They are regularly $2.59 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off which is not a bad deal, but this week they were on sale for 2 for $3.00 which meant I bought them for .50 cents each – a much better savings. So, if I don’t need something right away I just hold on to a good coupon and wait. I’ve noticed that the items that have coupons to begin with usually come on sale eventually. Also, I always check a sale product’s website to see if they have coupons there. A lot of them do.
Once I figured out a lot of the “rules” for coupons, I found I could save even more. This week I saved 57% on my groceries. I don’t foresee any Extreme couponing in my future but I do see some Darn Good couponing going on.
Thanks to my new way of shopping I am fully loaded with pantry items. Today I decided to cook a turkey I had bought for very cheap so we could make sandwiches, or add it to salads during the week. As it was cooking it smelled so good, like thanksgiving, so instead I quickly threw together a full turkey meal. There was homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, mashed potatoes and biscuits. We called up Nana J and invited her to our small feast. I even made a pumpkin pie. This was something I would never have been able to do before without planning and at least one trip to the grocery store. What made it even better was I did it all for $18.57.