Hi, I’m Vicki, and I’m a…

couponer.

I spent around $35 at Harris Teeter today and got a boatload of stuff. My receipt said my coupon savings were around $80. I almost choked when I read that. Not sure if that’s totally right, I haven’t personally done the math but still, $35 for all this:

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At Walgreens the other day I spent $25 and saved $55.

I recently started “couponing”, if that’s even how you spell it. My pastor’s wife, and friend, in Montgomery held a seminar one night to tell us how she consistently saves as much as she spends at Publix and how her year-to-date savings at CVS was closing in on $1000. This was early April. You all know how cheap frugal I am. If there’s a way for me to stock my pantry and save even more for our travel budget then I’m all over it. This is what I’ve learned. Please know, none of this is original with me. I am no where near as good as some ladies who can manage 90% savings at Publix all the time.

Couponing can be as easy and laid back or as detailed and plotted out as you want. For me, right now, it’s kind of a game or a challenge. Nurturing my anal tendencies and my innate desire to play with things and organize them (I must be a tactile learner…), clipping and organizing coupons is a somewhat fun task. It can take a while, but anyway. Here is what I do.

I bought a binder, I think it’s 1″, it may be 1.5″ and baseball card holders.

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I’ve categorized the coupons into a ton of different categories (once again, not my idea). They are: breads, canned/boxed goods, cereals, cleaning products, condiments/seasoning, cooking helpers, desserts/baking, drinks, drugs, frozen foods, meat, other food, other household, paper goods, pets, refrigerated, restaurants, snacks, store specific (coupons that are only good at a certain store), and toiletries. AND I’ve broken down toiletries into oral care, feminine products, shaving, deodorant, tools/accessories, eye care, nails, fragrance, body, makeup, face care (like eye creams, etc), hair care. I should do the same for cleaning products. Most coupons seem to be for either HBA or cleaning products.

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I subscribe to the Sunday paper and clip every coupon. I read somewhere, and she ended up showing an example, that sometimes you need to buy one thing in order to get another thing free. Well you might not want or need thing 1, but to get thing 2 you’ve got to buy it. It’d be nice to get thing 1 for cheap or free (and then donate it or sell it like she does on Craigslist) in order to get what you really want, thing 2. Lisa, my pastor’s wife, even goes into CVS sometimes on Sunday night and asks if she can have a couple of extra inserts from the leftover papers. It costs the store nothing to give the inserts to you. I have not tried that. Yet.

So, I clip every coupon and put them into piles as I clip. Once all the clipping is done I then put the coupons into the binder. WHILE I’m doing this I am also checking the expiration dates of the coupons already in there. If my shopping day is on a Monday then I’ll pull all the coupons that will expire up to the Sunday before that. I put the coupons that are near expiration into a clear zip-locky pencil case type thing.

IMG_2279that’s it, the orange thing

After all the coupons are inserted into their proper categories I then start to peruse the blogs and ads. Here is where the money saving happens. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs out there that will help you out. I’ll list the ones I follow below. The goal is to combine what is on sale at the store with coupons you have. Most ladies try to create a stockpile of necessities of the house: meat, ketchup, tomato sauce, pasta, toilet paper, etc. If a price is insanely cheap, on meat for instance, try to stock up so you don’t have to pay for that meat when it’s at it’s regular, high price. If something is on sale and you have a coupon for it think about getting it for that week. It may be a yogurt that you don’t normally buy, or chips that you’ve never tried.

Blogs: There are awesome women out there who will list everything that is in the sales papers and the coupons that go with them. YES!! You don’t even have to do that much work! This is especially helpful when you’re just starting out (like me). They will tell you the item on sale and then all of the coupons (known to them) that are active right now for that product. The best thing about this is that they are really telling you what the best deals are. Right now I mostly only stick to the items that are mentioned in those blog posts. It’s just easier. I’m slowly starting to branch out and do the ad scanning myself. To do the ad scanning you need to know what is the going rate for products when not on sale. That way you’ll know if it’s a good deal. THEN you search your coupons (which should be neatly organized in those categories) to make the deals even better.

Something else everyone will tell you is that you cannot be brand specific if you’re seriously couponing. If your favorite brand of ketchup never goes on sale then how are you going to save money? However, I am also finding that to seriously coupon it’s very hard to pay attention to the health content of the sales items. There are women out there who eat organic and still coupon (and there are organic coupons to be found). Obviously their savings isn’t going to be as great. You’ve got to decide for your family what is the most important and what your budgetary and health goals actually are.

Whew, still with me? There are several stores that will automatically double coupons everyday. These blogs usually tell you which ones double and up to how much and how many coupons you can use in a transaction and what the rules are for BOGO. Keep this in mind when doing your mental math to see if the deals are really good (or read the blogs, they usually do the math for you as well telling you how much the final price will be after sale and coupons). I just shopped at Harris Teeter today where they normally double coupons up to and including .99. This week, however, they are doubling up to and including $1.98. That means if you have a coupon that gives you $1.50 off, this week it will give you $3.00 off. See how the savings can add up?! SIDE NOTE: check your coupons to make sure they don’t say something mean like “do not double”. These coupons will not double when the cashier rings them up. I had that horror of horrors happen to me my first time trying t do doubles at Harris Teeter. Lesson learned.

So, after I’ve read the blogs and looked through the sale papers I’ve pulled all the coupons I want to use this week. I have also been putting them into store envelopes and writing separate store grocery lists. I have an envelope for each store and in it go the list and coupons for that week. SIDE NOTE: on the shopping list I will put an asterisk if I have a coupon to use for that item. (See picture above and you can see my envelopes)

Did you know, that if you have a store specific coupon you can still use a manufacturer’s coupon as well? That’s called stacking. If Safeway put a coupon in their ad for Lays chips and you also happen to have a coupon that you clipped from one of the coupon books (or pulled it off the shelf in the store, etc) you can use both of them on the same bag of chips. Normally only one store coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon can be used per item. As far as I know.

There are various other tidbits about which coupons to hand over first, etc. That will come as you read the blogs smarter than me on this subject. Now, from personal experience, I can tell you that it will be intimidating at first. I feel weird handing over twenty coupons to the cashier, like today (but it apparently saved me $80. I think I’ll get over it). I also feel very weird making multiple purchases at CVS or Walgreens because I want to use the Extra Care Bucks from one purchase on the very next purchase. Ladies, if you haven’t tried this though you must. If you buy something for $3 and they give you $3 in ECBs back, they are in essence giving you $3 to use on your next purchase. So!…you go and buy some things that add up to $3 and get them for free! And if they have ECBs tied to them then you get more money back from that purchase. It can go on and on. Once you learn how to roll the ECBs from purchase to purchase making multiple transactions at one time doesn’t become so sweat inducing. I’m still in the sweat inducing phase though, especially since it never fails that a long line forms behind me as soon as I say, “I’m going to make multiple purchases if that’s ok.” If the line gets too long then stop your purchases and go get in the back of the line.

Oh, I almost forgot. Today is the first day that I actually took my coupon binder into the store with me. That was awkward as well, although I read about ladies who do this all the time, and you really can find great deals that weren’t published in the sales papers. As you’re walking down the aisles you’ll start to recognize items that you have coupons for. If you can quickly access your coupons and see if matching them up would be a great deal then you just saved some money!

Ok, I think I’ve muddied the waters enough. Here are the blogs that I follow to get great coupon information and great steals all around. These are in no particular order (actually I just realized Google Reader put them in alphabetical order for me)

OH, and do all this with two kids.

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they’re freezing cold in this picture

I would LOVE to be able to shop without them, and actually I recommend it because then you can truly pay attention to what’s a good deal, etc. But, you do whatcha gotta do. Let me know if you have any questions. Could you even make sense of all this?

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8 thoughts on “Hi, I’m Vicki, and I’m a…

  1. Du says:

    Great how-to but, you would “LOVE” to shop without them? Look at those adorable faces 🙂

    I’m proud of your couponing efforts. That’s more money for family activities and Starbucks outings 🙂 Love you.

  2. You know… I saw a lady at the grocery store last weekend with a binder in her cart. I was wondering what that was about and now I know! I’m gonna have to work on getting all of my stuff organized. And then figure out how to do all this with my little monster… oh, I mean little man who is the sweetest thing ever… in tow. 🙂

  3. Nathan says:

    Vicki

    Your extra efforts have inspired me. I have been helping my family coupon since before I can remember. Kate and I have done it casually for about a year and save between 40 and 50% on a regular basis.
    Thanks to the blogs you show I was able to up that savings to over 60% on my last grocery visit and I will be upping that total on my trip to Target today.
    You may also want to add that many of these bloggers purchase multiple papers every Sunday (such as one for each member of the family) and that many of them also use many printable coupons available online (although these are the ones that often say “Do not double”)
    Anyway, great blog post and congrats on all the savings.

  4. dandelionmom says:

    whoa! but does it cut into your sewing time? My coupon organizer is more of a coupon graveyard. BTW—if I saw you and your book in line at the store I would SOOOO be looking for a differnt line-maybe even take the one with the old lady who scans at horse and buggy speed. 😛

  5. Great job – it’s addicting! I’ve really been doing it for 2 years now and has saved us soo much money.

    What I do with the great deals that are not so healthy – donate them to local food pantry.

    We drink organic milk and use alot of organic produce and foods too – the big thing is we have cut our toiletry and household goods budget to practically nothing by couponing, then we have the extra money to spend on organic food.

    Keep up the great work!

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