Have you heard the song "This is the Stuff" by Francesca Battistelli? I think she wrote it just for me! I'm sure she didn't, but it so characterizes everyday life around here... "I lost my keys in the great unknown. And call me please 'Cuz I can't find my phone"... Oh it just makes me smile and laugh everytime I hear her song! So a while back when I had first thought of trying to clip coupons to save money (we're talking about a year ago), I just laughed at the idea... as if I had time for that! But we were commited to try to lower our cost of living so I went at it how I think most American who give it a shot do. I would get the circulars (Red Plum, Smart Source, etc.), cut out the coupons I thought I might use, toss them in a pile, and often forget about them until one day when I'd be picking up only to find them again and realize they expired! I was wasting a lot of time and saving hardly anything! I've learned some over the past year, but I learned A LOT this past weekend at a couponing workshop.
Biggest tips I've learned (and want to share with you!):
1. DO NOT CLIP COUPONS! Get yourself a binder and some of those plastic page protectors. Then get the Sunday paper EVERY week, take the coupon inserts, put them directly into the plastic page protectors, and mark them with the Sunday you received them (for instance 2/13/2011).
2. Take advantage of online websites that do all the work for you - huge timesaver!!! I personally love http://www.southernsavers.com/, but also check out http://www.couponmom.com/ and http://www.moneysavingmom.com/. Such websites tell you what is on sale that week and where to find the coupons (online or which insert to look in). They also have coupon databases where you can type in the item you need to buy and it will tell you where you can print or clip the coupons. It may take some extra time at first trying to figure out the websites, but they can be VERY helpful and eventually will drastically reduce your prep time.
3. Make a shopping list based on the SALE ITEMS! Try not to buy something unless it is on sale. This can be hard at first, but eventually you will get enough of a stock that you will need to do very little impulse buying. You will rarely find coupons for produce or meats, but you can still stock up on these when they are on sale and freeze/dehydrate/etc.
4. Stack your coupons as often as possible. At most stores you can use (1) manufacturer's coupon, (1) store coupon, and (1) e-coupon (coupons that you load onto your card - like a Kroger Plus Card). You can find e-coupons at http://www.kroger.com/, http://www.pgesaver.com/, http://www.cellfire.com/, and http://www.shortcuts.com/. Keep in mind that some stores double coupons (for instance, Kroger will double any coupon up to $.55 or $.60 depending on the store). You can also stack up on offers, for instance buying two cans of soup and using a "Buy 1 Get 1 Free" (B1G1) coupon on the one and a $.50 manufactor's coupon (which would be $1 off if it doubles) on the other. Even better would be to use a printable manufactor's coupon for $.50 off and an e-coupon for $.50. This is how you can potentially make money (yes, I said make money!) buying items with coupons.
Some rules: 1. You can only use one printable manufacturer's coupon per item (could not use the B1G1 and two $.50 manufactor coupons when only buying two items). 2. You cannot have more coupons than you have items! If you run into this problem, buy a "filler item" something that only costs a few cents (like a laffy taffy) so you can allow for all of your coupons to be used.
5. Time to shop! Put all of the coupons in an envelope (that you clipped/printed according to your shopping list). Place a paper clip on the envelope. As you pick up the items, move the coupons from inside the envelope to under the paper-clip so you are not fumbling when you get up to the register.
How much time does it take? It took me 45 minutes this week to make my list, print/clip/and load the coupons, and get ready to shop. And I actually spent LESS time in the store thanks to my list and the envelope/paper clip method.
How much money did I save this week? $52.92 (43% of my bill) and that was with buying ORGANIC produce and meats! The key is that I got a lot of items for FREE and even got PAID to buy a few items (like toothpaste - which I did not really need right at the moment, but if you're getting PAID to buy it I figure I can give it away if we don't use it). In fact, I bought Organic Odwalla Bars, which we had never tried before but they were 100% free with coupons, and my daughter ended up LOVING them! (To read about how God has multiplied this savings and blessed our lives read yesterday's post.)
If you'd be interested in attending a coupon workshop, let me know. I'd also be happy to try to answer any questions you have.
Please check out http://www.ourgiftsfromgod-jenny.blogspot.com/ - she puts on couponing workshops to raise money for their adoption... if you find what I've learned useful would you consider making a donation to her please.