Monday, July 27, 2009

Couponing 101 {need help} and other current thoughts...

So, I am following the trend. Aside from "couponing" being the "it" thing to do in our evolving struggling-economy culture, I want to "get good" at this phenomenon to help our family save some money and help Patrick and me reach some of our financial goals.

But, right now, I STINK at it...

Sure, I always use my Ann Taylor Loft coupons, take advantage of the Bed Bath & Beyond coupons for housewares and wedding gifts, hit the big sales, etc... because it is in my blood to cringe at the idea of paying full-price for anything. I clip the restaurant coupons from our local "Clipper" magazine, and we plan our date nights and eating out adventures accordingly.

However, when it comes to grocery shopping, I am a fish out of water--or a fish that is drowning {Can fish even drown?}--because I get overwhelmed. Aside from the penny item at Publix and the occasional formula/diaper coupon, I wander the aisles wondering what I am supposed to be looking for.

I have rotten summer cold right now, so I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon clipping coupons from the Sunday newspaper, skimming over some of the couponing sites I have listed on my Daily Perusal's sidebar, but I quickly got lost in the maze... At one point I had 8 windows open on my computer, and I had no idea how I had gotten to the page I was currently one. Two bottomless pit hours were spent, and a total of 6 coupons were printed... HELP!

Then, I went to Super Target to get some grocery items for the week, and I think that my coupons that I used resulted in me spending even MORE money--I think... The items that I had coupons for were already on sale, and when I presented the coupon, the register discounted the item from its original price... Can that even happen?

I hoped to come home feeling satisfied--proudly projecting to Patrick how much I had saved, but instead I felt defeated. HELP!

So, these are my questions... Where do you start? What are the best resources out there? How do you decide which to clip and which to pitch? Do you do comparative/price match shopping? Do you plan your menus/grocery lists based on your coupons? How much time do you spend weekly?

Hey, and if you are like me, a beginning/aspiring couponer, feel free to share your struggles and frustrations as well, so I don't feel like the lone ranger!

In other news, I read this article this weekend that I want to recommend from my parenting magazine about the 6 friends that every mom needs to keep her well-rounded, and it made me so thankful for my friends. It also made me want to BE a better friend.

I have received several kind emails regarding my "Memory Lane" post which I have really appreciated. I really loved going through all of that stuff and remembering more what my life was like as a child. It also got me wondering what all of my childhood friends are up to now... and then I realized that my elementary school contacts were a demographic that I had not tapped into on the trusty Facebook. What was I thinking? Ha! I have enjoyed making contact with so many of them this weekend, and I think it would be so much fun to reunite and see what our adult lives are like.

I was refreshed to see, in the snapshot of their lives that is ascertainable on Facebook, that we would likely still be friends...


Dana said...

Hey girl,

I am actually in the process of working on a beginning couponing post similar to the one I did about CVS. But, until I get that all hammered out (which has to be before I get my girls back on Thursday or I won't have time), There is a great resource here And to answer you question about how much time I spend.. Believe it or not, I have narrowed it down to an hour or two a week. It has taken me a year of figuring things out and trying different methods and I wouldn't call myself an extreme couponer. I have friends that make me look like a coupon sissy. But, with having little ones at home, I just don't have the time to do anymore than what I'm doing right now.


Holly said...

Check out grocerycartchallenge(dot)blogspot (dot) com. She's a Mom who is feeding a family of six on $60 a WEEK!!! Cannot imagine. But, she actually lists recipes, her list, and how she saves money. I wish I was that thrifty and could do some of it. She does have some ideas that I wouldn't do no matter how poor we became, but overall she's got some great ideas. Unfortunately, I'm in survival mode most of the time and just try to RUN out of the store before one of my four have a complete meltdown. But, I will be interested to see what others have to say too. And to check out Dana's site above. Good luck!

We are BLESSED. said...

The couponing thing definitely takes time and getting used to... it took me 3-4 months to actually have the coupons stocked up to save enough to make me feel like it was actually WORTH all the clipping.
I have a binder that I use, with baseball card holders (clear sheets you can get at Target in the boys' toy section for $10 for about 200 sheets!) I buy 4 Sunday papers at the dollar store every Sunday and cut out EVERYTHING from the Proctor & Gamble, RedPlum, and SmartSaver ads. Their coupons usually do not expire for 2 months so it gives you time to store them until you actually NEED the item. I organize my binder with regular binder dividers into sections.
I am in Florence right now or I could tell you my categories (I may do a blog post on this later.) I basically have categories such as Breads/Cereals, Breakfast Items, Boxed/Canned Items, Chad's Toiletries, Haley's Toiletries, Sweets, Beverages, Baby Items, etc etc. Then when I know I need a certain item I just flip to that page in the binder and search for the coupon I need.

I have a ton of stuff I could tell you... but to avoid taking up space (and sounding like an IKE, haha), everything I learned, I learned from websites like the ones listed on my blog page. When I first started, I just browsed a TON of these sites and just picked the strategies I liked from each of them and tried to work them into my life.

The basic strategy is this:
1. Clip coupons.
2. Organize them in whatever way works best for YOU.
3. Each week, look at the weekly fliers from wherever you shop (WalMart, Publix, Target). Find items that are ALREADY on sale, or Buy One, Get One, and use your COUPONS to buy THOSE items. That is where you start saving money - when you use the coupons on items that are already on sale!

*Some of those websites on my blog go to the trouble of listing the sale items FOR you, so that you don't have to go through all the individual fliers. Saves a TON of time. I would also recommend learning the CVS Extra Bucks System because it REALLY saves you some cash.

*Oh, and Publix will take ANY coupon (at least MY Publix will.) Even coupons with other store names. They'll do anything to keep you shopping there.

I make my grocery list depending on what I want for supper/lunch and then pick my coupons based on what I want; I don't base my grocery list on the coupons I have. I think that's what ends up making you spend more. I don't know.

SORRY this was SO LONG. You will do great, because you are so organized anyway. Don't show me your binder/organizing system because I will undoubtedly be jealous. :)

We are BLESSED. said...

Oh, and I'd march right back up to whatever store you were at earlier that marked your items down from their original price instead of the sale price - that's the WHOLE point of couponing! That is WRONG.

Tiffany Norris said...

There are a lot of super-couponers around here, but I'm not quite so hardcore. I think it's made the process a little easier to stick with (for me anyway). I could probably end up saving more by upgrading to super status, but that would complicate life too much for me. :)
OK, here are my three tips:
-I limit where I get my coupons to what I use normally--magazines, Sunday paper and Clipper/mailers, etc. I don't even mess with the Internet ones.
-I only clip coupons for what we buy normally and for what we've been wanting to try but haven't for whatever reason.
-I keep them in chronological order in a folder that I pull out when I do my weekly grocery shopping. I pull the ones that I have for items that I need to buy that week, and I pull those that will expire within the next week that I still want to try.
I usually end up saving around $10 or so, which isn't a ton but is still helpful. Oh, I'm also a one-store shopper, which makes things a little easier, too.
Good luck!

Kelley Brown said...

I have been struggling with getting our grocery bill down too. When I shopped Publix's buy one get one free, I somehow ended up spending more money those months, even with using coupons. Someone recommended, (I think that's it), so I am checking it out this week!

April Jane said...

hi! i saw someone mentioned and i love that site! another good one is ... i would recommend reading these blogs and then seeing what works best for you. i clip most coupons (except the ones where i wouldn't want the item even if it were FREE) and then file them in a little coupon filer labeled according to item type (i.e. frozen; cereal; dairy; etc.) i take all of them with me to the store because inevitably i will need a coupon that i didn't intend to bring. the best places to shop around here seem to be publix and kroger.. and sometimes harris teeter in brentwood if they are doubling or tripling coupons. it takes a lot of work, but is WELL worth it once you get the hang of it!!

Lori said...

wow. thanks for blogging about this kristy...i've toyed with couponing over the past few months...but it's nice to learn some new tricks. no harm in learning now, especially if it'll benefit me down the road. :) these comments are so helpful too. hooray!

Dana said...

Hey Kristy,
I finally posted my coupon post. I also went through and did some deal and coupoon matchups. Let me know the stores you frequent and I'll add them to my list. Today would be a great day to get on CVS's deals. There are a ton of free items!