21 Day Fix

Friday, August 19, 2011

Coupons – You don’t need to be “extreme” to Save BIG

About a year and a half ago I was on facebook and a friend posted about some huge savings she had experienced shopping with coupons. I was floored by the amounts when she told me what she was regularly saving on her family expenses. I asked her to be my guru and teach me the ways of couponing. Since then I’ve been saving money and passing the wisdom along to others as well.

As this was before the “Extreme” TV show and the recent attention, both good and bad, that couponing has received, I think my expectations for savings were more realistic than those of the folks who see the show and believe that they can regularly get $300 worth of groceries for $20 or conversely those who believe that all couponers are hoarders.

Like most people I want to save money when I can and I would get the coupons from the paper and the mailbox and I would clip the ones that I thought I was going to use and file them away for a future shopping trip. Then when I was getting ready to go I’d scan my coupons and see if I had ones (that weren’t expired) for things that I wanted to buy. It worked pretty well and I saved some money and therefore I was pretty happy with the results.

Then New Years Resolution 2010 – I wanted to save money and I even started my first blog to chronicle the savings at http://elinorsadventures.blogspot.com/ - I haven’t been updating that blog as well as I should but when I started out I spent a lot of time sharing what I learned along the way – all of the information is still out there on the blog and you are welcome to go check out the journey to savings - but I’m going to share some of the highlights I learned here.

I quickly learned that the internet is the key tool in being able to quickly and effectively maximize my savings each and every week. I also learned to not clip my coupons until I was ready to shop. I save every insert (and make sure I have multiples by buying additional papers and we have a PO Box as well as a home address leading to additional inserts) and I just scan through them and then date them on the front and put them in my rather large file of “active” inserts. When I get ready to shop I use match-ups of what is on sale at the store and put that together with my insert coupons, eCoupons, bonus savings, ExtraBucks, etc. and then sit down to clip and get ready to save. I’ve also learned that like so many things in life, the actual process is very simple, but making it work takes time and effort.

The reason the internet is the key is because there are a number of people already doing the couponing work for you. There are multiple sites in just about every town out there doing “coupon match-ups” for your supermarket, department, grocery and drug stores. Heck some of them do all of the above. All you have to do it go to those websites and get the information and then put it to good use.

Finding a site that will tell you what is on sale, what coupon is available for the sale and where to find it and the amount you are going to save is key.

My regular go-to site is couponmom.com and one of the main reasons I like her site is that she is kind of a “one stop” option for shopping prep. She has listings of store advertisements for over 40 stores and while she may not have smaller local grocery ads she does have the big grocery stores and retailers like Target, Wal*Mart, Walgreen’s, CVS etc. She also does not charge a membership fee. And while there are a lot of hit and miss match up web sites out there her site is always updated without fail. She also figures in the doubling of coupons that is available at stores with that policy so you can really see the savings even before your leave the house. Another great thing about her site is that she includes a coupon database that you can search for coupons. If you are sitting there with a local stores sale listings or items on your list that are not on sale but you don’t know if you have a coupon, you can just type the item into the database and it will let you know if you have a coupon, the amount, which circular to clip it from and when it expires.

So how does it work? Like I said, you target your shopping, buy items on sale and with a coupon as much as possible. You make your list based on what is on sale that week, consult the match up site and clip your coupons check your online printable coupons and then head to the store.

Getting ready to shop, need paper towels, Viva on sale, coupon in the July 17th Smart Source insert from the Sunday paper has a coupon for $ 0.60 off on big roll 1 or more packs – better hurry the coupon expires on August 28th. That could be a really good savings especially if your store doubles coupons.

Its all out there, its just a matter of doing it.

So how long does it take? I’m asked that a lot and initially I’d spend well over an hour getting ready to go shopping, which seems like a long time until you realize how valuable that hour is. My time is definitely worth the $80.00 an hour, and that is what just last week at Giant Eagle. Other weeks its worth over $100.00 for that hour of prep time – my time is worth the money I’m saving. I don’t know what you make “per hour” if you break it down but if found a job paying what I SAVE in that hour – I’d be bragging about my the great pay from my new job.

There are other ways to save as well, signing up for rewards cards, signing up for e-mail coupons and snail mail promotional coupons. Liking a brands FB site can earn you coupons. They key is to not let any opportunity for savings go. Not using those coupons is similar to throwing away money – they’re worth money so use them like money.

Here’s the basics again:
1. Get your coupons - Smart Source, General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, store ads etc. in the Sunday paper. Red Plum, store ads, misc. others in the mailbox during the week. Download coupons on line and print at home, “Like” brands and stores on Facebook for more coupons, get electronic coupon codes sent to your phone via text. Download eCoupons to your store rewards card.
2. Find your coupon match ups online for stores in your area. Use established sites like couponmom.com or search your local store name with the words “coupon match up” in the search bar.
3. Make your list based on your needs and what is on sale
4. Clip your coupons
5. Shop

While there are other important things that come into the experience including Extra Bucks, Catalina register coupons, double coupons, BOGOs and more if you start with the basics you will pick up everything else as you go on the shopping and saving journey.

I like to see how much I can save when all is done. I’m not out there to get the “best deal” all the time or have a closet full of cereal and toothpaste. I buy what my family likes and needs and I try to make it fun and save money.

Give it a try and I’d love your feedback on how it works for you.

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