Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coupon Bandwagon

I don't want to bore you all with reports of my wonderfully thrifty shopping excursions, but they are just so fun that I have to share. Yesterday, I went to Target, spent ~$18 out of pocket, and will get $7 back in a rebate, so it's like I really spent~$11, all for ~$40 of stuff. Today, I went to Albertsons, spent ~$25 out of pocket on ~$80 worth of food and I have a Catalina for 2 free movie tickets! Is that not awesome or what!

Most of the money spent in these shopping trips was on snack food. Now, I really don't like snack food, well, actually, I pretty much hate it. But, Fred is a snacker. And he works in construction right now, so he needs a near constant supply of food to keep his energy up. I hate snack food because it always seems to lead to less food being consumed during well balanced, healthy meals. I work hard to prepare our family's meals and I hate when people aren't hungry because they've been chowing down on granola bars all afternoon. But, this is tangential, so I'll get back to the point of this post.

The only reason that we are able to afford to get all of this junk that I loathe is that we've started couponing, big time. As you've probably noticed from my blog, I really enjoy this new thrifty hobby of mine. And I want to encourage you to get on the coupon bandwagon.

It all started for us a couple months ago. We were having Sunday dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Kaysville. They never use their coupon inserts and so I asked if I could have them. Every time we're at their house (once a month) I gather all their coupon inserts and take them home with me. So, we don't even pay to get the Sunday paper. I just patiently wait for our next dinner, and collect the coupons then. Yes, I do miss out on some great deals this way - I have wished that I could get the coupons right away. But, it's saving us money to just get them from my Aunt and Uncle so I deal with it (the whole point of using coupons is to save money anyways, right). I you live in Utah and want to get a great deal on newspapers, check out Utah Deal Diva. I save every coupon, even if I don't think I'll use it. You'd be amazed at all the stuff you can get for free, and I hate to miss an opportunity at free things (if I don't need the item I donate it)

I also follow a whole bunch of blogs. They post when there's great internet coupons available, deal scenarios to make the most out of your coupons, freebies, sales, and a whole lot more. These blogs make coupon shopping a lot easier - I pretty much copy what others do. I have discovered a few deals on my own, but a lot of what I buy, I've seen others do it first.

After I had a stash of coupons, we began using them slowly. First, we used coupons for items that we were already buying. Doing this, lowered our weekly grocery bill and allowed us to start using coupons to get other things that we wouldn't normally buy. When there's a great sale on something we stock up. That way, I won't ever have to pay full price for that item - I buy enough to last until it's on sale again (usually 3 months at the longest). Essentially each week we focus on stockpiling whatever is on sale, and then the next week we move onto the new sales items. After doing this for a little while you have a huge supply built up of items that you paid very little for.

After I got the hang of using coupons at grocery stores, I branched out to Walgreens, Rite Aid and Target. The key is to start slowly, get comfortable and when feel ready, start shopping at other stores. There are great deals out there and you should snatch as many as you can. And by "can" I mean as many as you have time and energy for. There are so many sales and great deals going on all the time, there is no way that you can take advantage of them all. Just prioritize and realize that even if you don't get to a certain store for a certain sale one week, it is likely that they sale will come up again at another store. There are always more sales.

I try to wait to use coupons in combination with a sale- that way I'm getting an amazing deal. There are some coupons that I know that I want to use, and if a sale hasn't come and the coupon is about to expire, then I go ahead and purchase the item. There is a post here on the Southern Savers blog that has a price guide so that you know when you're getting a good deal and should stock up. Pinching your Pennies also has one here.

One thing that I've found that helps me get great deals is abandoning brand loyalty. I used to have my favorite cleaning supplies, moisturizers, shampoos etc. But, I've learned to stock up on whatever is on sale, and I've been happy with all the new products that I'm using.

Also, buying store brands isn't always the best thing to do. Usually name brands that are on sale, combined with coupons are way cheaper than store brands. The only time I buy store brands now is when I need something right away and can't wait for a great sale. And when I do this, I only buy what I need at the moment. When a sale / coupon combo finally comes around, I stock up.

I always have a plan when I go shopping. This is especially important when going to Walgreens - their sales are tricky and you need to know what you're doing.

All of this does take time. I spend a few hours a week, browsing blogs, planning shopping trips and clipping coupons. But, since I am a SAHM, this is kind of like my job. Every time I use a coupon, it is literally like putting that money in my pocket. We haven't really gotten to the point where we're saving money yet - we're buying too much junk food in my opinion :o) Right now, for us, coupons really are just a way of getting more for our money and not necessarily saving money. But, eventually, hopefully, we'll get to the point where we are spending less each week on groceries.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you get started couponing. Pinching Your Pennies is a great site and has a beginner's tutorial here. Southern Savers also has a good one here.

If you haven't guessed it yet, I'm trying to persuade you to jump on the coupon bandwagon with me. It's a fun ride! If you have any questions, let me know. I'm just a beginner, but I have learned a lot from all of the thrifty women out there.

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