“Sunday Coupons” by TeamJTX on Flickr
Yesterday, while my kids were at my parents’ house enjoying the pool, I took advantage and went to the grocery store. Of course, I took coupons.
I know coupons and those who use them are pretty trendy these days. And there’s a whole television show mostly dedicated to those who abuse these little papers in ways most of us just can’t understand (75 deodorants and you already have 125 at home?).
But I have to tell you, I love my coupons. And I’ve loved them a very long time. After a trip like yesterday, I really can’t understand why using coupons isn’t a universal practice. Coupons are money.
I think I use my coupons in a pretty normal way and yesterday’s trip is my type of awesome shopping trip– the variety is wide and the savings substantial. I bought:
10 Lunchables, 1 Bag of Celery, 2 Ben & Jerry Ice Creams, 1 Can of Baking Powder, 2.5 pounds of Grapes, 2 bags of New England Coffee, 1 Bunch of Organic Rosemary, 1 Pint of Grape Tomatoes, 1 Onion, 1 Bag of Red Potatoes, 1 Pack of Bacon, 2.25 Pounds of Bananas, 2 Cans of Tomato Sauce, 2 Boxes of Baking Soda, 1.35 Pounds of Plums, 3 Lemons, 2 Bottles of Ocean Spray Juice Blends, 1 Box of Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 Box of Lucky Charms, 1 Box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, 2 Boxes of Fiber One Chewy Bars, 2 Sure Deodorants, 1 Degree Deodorant (for Friend), 1 Dozen Organic Eggs, 2 4-packs of Mandarin Orange fruit cups packed in water, 2 Packs of Yoplait Granola Parfaits, 2 Almond Breeze Milks, 2 Packs of Yoplait Fiber One Yogurts, 1 Bottle of Fabuloso cleaner, and 2 Bottles of Palmolive.
I spent $88.27. I saved $77.13 or 47%. What you need to know is $27.50 of my savings were in clipped coupons. I don’t know about you, but $27.50 towards feeding my family and keeping my home clean(ish) is a good deal. None of the items I bought were things I bought solely because I had coupons. I needed and/or wanted everything here.
I know a bunch of you are probably cringing at some of the food I have listed here but you should know this isn’t because I coupon, it’s just the way I shop. I am not a health nut. I also absolutely hate being in the kitchen which reflects in my tendencies to shop for convenience foods. I hate shopping the perimeter of the supermarket. I do what I can where I can and don’t beat myself up for the rest.
The Lunchables, for instance, are the perfect example of this. I had no coupons for those. But my kids like them, the Deli had a huge line, and the ham they eat wasn’t on sale this week. I would’ve easily spent $10 on one pound of the ham alone. So, I said “Screw it” and bought the ten Lunchables at $1 each.
As for time and effort, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t count the amount of time I’m actually in the grocery store because I’m spending that time there whether I have coupons or not. I don’t always have the time to go to the grocery store once a week or more, although I wish I did because I’d save more money. I definitely don’t have the time to go to more than one supermarket a week. I also tend to be faster in a store when I coupon because I have an awesome list and ONLY stick to the list.
It’s hard for me to gauge the amount of time I actually spend a week clipping coupons because right now I’m in the process of transitioning into a binder. This is taking me forever because I have almost a year’s worth of coupon inserts saved and many are doubled thanks to my awesome Mom. In the past week or so, I’ve easily clipped over 400 coupons and I have more to go. I’ll probably time myself when I do yesterday’s bountiful bunch but I have a hunch it’s about one hour and I do it when it’s nice and quiet and the children are sleeping. That much time is for one of those weeks that has a ton of inserts like yesterday’s paper did. Not all weeks have so many coupons.
If you’d like to maybe try using coupons effectively, here are my suggestions.
- Before you subscribe to a newspaper or go buy them, ask your neighbors/friends/co-workers/family you’re comfortable with and see often (once a week) if they get the Sunday paper and if they do, if they use the coupons. If they don’t, ask if they wouldn’t mind giving them to you. Free coupons are the best coupons. If no one convenient has them, buy the paper or subscribe.
- OK, save yourself the trouble and get a binder (they’re on sale right now with back to school clearances and stuff) and get some trading card holders. I didn’t use this system but now that I do I feel like a moron for not using it before. Don’t risk feeling like a moron. To give you a perspective on how many trading card holders you’ll need, I’m currently using about 45 pages one-sided. But, again, I’m using several months’ worth of inserts. You can probably do perfectly well with 10 to 20 pages. Sharon just set hers up and it took her only 45 minutes from start to finish (including clipping the actual coupons).
- Every time you get a bunch of coupon inserts, take the time to go through them and clip the coupons for things you use regularly or would like to try. If you really don’t care about the brand, then make sure you clip all of the different coupons for the same type of thing so you have more opportunities to match coupons to a sale. If you’re brand loyal, the amount of time spent clipping will be cut but so will the amount of savings. It’s still worth doing! Clip them, sort them, and put them in their handy organizers.
- Every time you have to go shopping, make a list of everything you need. Then, check the insert to see what, if any of it, is on sale, And finally, check your coupon binder to see what you have coupons for. You can do a happy dance if you have coupons for items that are also on sale because that’s where the magic happens.
- When I head into the store, I have a very nice list organized by section and I have all of my coupons pulled and ready in a little coupon carrier I have. I actually only use two pockets in it– the one in front is for the coupons I’m turning over at the cashier and the other one is for the coupons I ended up not using for one reason or another. I have not yet taken my binder with me because I feel this would lead me to spend more time in the store and possibly to impulse buys.
- At the register, I put all of the items that don’t have a coupon at the front, and the ones that do at the back. When it’s my turn, I explain to the cashier “All items behind such and such have coupons. Should I give them to you all at the end or would you like me to pair them up with the items?” Nine times out of ten their eyes light up with my suggestion and ask if I could please match them that would be awesome. So, I go and start matching. Now do you see why I put all of the non-coupon items up front? Buys me some time!
If you really want to get into the groove of coupons, you can use a website like SouthernSavers. It tracks all of the sales and matches coupons for you. It also highlights which items are REALLY cheap and so you might want to try and stock up on those a bit more than usual if it happens to be something you use often.
The reason you stock up when it’s on sale really low is because you don’t want to pay full-price for the item when you run out. Yes, you’ll be paying full-price for some items when you start using coupons but eventually, the number of items you pay full price for get smaller and smaller. On my list, only five items were full-price items. Everything else was either on sale, had at least one coupon, or was on sale and had at least one coupon.
I believe using coupons is like anything else. If you go into it with a bad attitude, you’re not going to get much out of it. But, if you’re willing to learn something and take the time to keep at it, I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.
Recently, GRS did an Ask the Readers post with the question: How much do you spend on food? The couple asking was spending $750 a month– for just two adults. JD’s answer wasn’t far off either. I was shocked.
On average, I spend $615 a month on food– and that includes dining out and other convenience eating I do. My average bill at a grocery store is only $255 a month and that includes all the cleaning products and things like that. Did I mention I have three kids?
So there you go; yesterday it was a savings of $27.50 but over a year, it’s much more. And it’s just too much for me to simply dismiss it as not for me without giving it a real solid try. If you’re pressed for money, I suggest you do too. It’s essentially extra income that’s not taxable!