Like gazillions of people in this “new economy” (whatever that means), we are re-educating ourselves on how to pinch a penny here and scrape a penny, or more like 500 pennies, there. We have made some conscious decisions about not cutting in some areas where we could–satellite television, dance lessons, etc. If you’re not having fun at least some of the time, then what’s the point?
When we looked at our budget, the easiest area to attack strategically with some hope of success was the grocery bill. Over 21 years of marriage, we have had fits and starts with coupons; at this point, I often forget them when I grocery shop, or don’t slow down to pay close attention to the coupons, and no attention to the weekly sale flyers from the grocery store. But after watching a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing” on TLC, I was re-energized.
I haven’t watched too many episodes of this show, but I couldn’t help but wonder–would this work for our family? In looking as closely as I could to the details of the show–at least to whatever areas the television allows you insight–I had some immediate reservations:
1) our family eats very healthy foods that I rarely see coupons for–produce, white meats (if any), almond milk, etc. All I saw in the tv show baskets were items like hot dogs, chips, sodas, etc.
2) Not one store in our area doubles the value of a coupon.
3) I do not want to create a separate room for a storehouse of items.
4) I have no interest in buying 15-20 bars of soap when I’ve not bought something to eat.
Besides, we have already made so many changes to our eating habits in order to both see long, healthy life and to have a dime in our pockets while enjoying the ride, so what else is there?
Finally, there is a nagging feel about extreme couponing that I could not have articulated any better than in this article regarding the long-term effects of extreme couponing, and how the people who are getting hundreds of groceries it can potentially all of us.
Having said all of that, I began to look about the internet. Maybe there is something we could do.
One of the first links I stumbled upon was a blog of Single Mom on a Budget (the same blog from which I linked the article listed above). Her content was simplistic, and she compiled easy links to a 5-part series on couponing. I like this kind of research.
My first learning was that I need to think differently about coupons. Coupons are just one means of several to save money on groceries, so before I got too far down the path of subscribing to every single coupon outfit that exists (and there are many), I should first consider the following:
- any time my gas is discounted after I spend money buying groceries, that is the equivalent of a coupon.
- any time I get a discount on an oil change after tearing off the right deal on the back of my grocery store receipt, that is the equivalent of a coupon.
- any time my grocery store “membership card” (for lack of a better word) allows me a bargain on a grocery store item I am receiving the equivalent of a coupon.
- any time I get an e-mail (often junked or manually deleted) offering a sale, I have the potential to receive the equivalent of a coupon.
So, my focus should be on savings, regardless of the wrapping. That was a gem for this novice in my attempt to be more strategic about my shopping habits. Here, however, was the thought that revolutionized my next trip, taken from that same blog:
‘If you make a grocery list and then pull out coupons for a few of the items that you have on your list you’re missing out!…So here’s the deal, to get the most out of using coupons you should use a coupon when an item is on sale.’
I feel almost silly listing that as revelatory after seeing it now in more than one place, but I would bet that those words might help someone else like me, who thought no further about coupons than to write out a list and then attach my coupons. I look like a coach with an old school playbook walking into the market. Where have I been? So this week, I changed some things.
- First, I actually took time to save that weekly newsletter and peruse through it carefully. I used that to determine some portion of my menus and, consequently, my shopping list. That took less than 30 mins. (plus another <30 mins. to review it once again before I left the following Sunday, just in case I missed something).
- I went to the home page of every brand name product that I buy (a few sites, since I buy grocery store brands as much as possible). I “liked” all their Facebook pages, and I printed all the available coupons on their sites. I hadn’t gotten around to writing them as the blog site suggests, but maybe…
- I went to a couple of coupon sites and printed coupons from there.When I used the scanner at the grocery store on smaller trips to the market, I made sure to grab those coupons that print as you are paying for your groceries.
These latter two activities took me a couple of hours, but of course, one of them (the FB “likes”) was a one-time effort.
With all of that done, I was ready to go. I didn’t buy another newspaper after the last small sink of funds that left me disappointed. How’d I come out? To make a long story short, you won’t have to worry about paying more at the store because of my over-indulgences. However, I did save $50 (yay!!!) and some change between my member card, coupons loaded to it, store and manufacturer’s coupons, not to mention my gasoline discount to come. I got a couple of items at next to nothing! This was significant. Sad to say, but I never paid close attention to how much I saved before; I have seen numbers, but I was convinced that this was a spiel from the top down to keep you using your card. This much I do know: I’ve never saved $50 and had a bill that was under $200. I was even able to spend a few dollars toward our blessing bags!
So for ~2 hours of work per week, plus an investment of $2.50 on the paper, I have the potential to save $50 or more, plus get 10-30 cents/ gallon off my gas bill. This is definitely worth further investigation for me. As I said, an $8 grocery bill is not in the near future, unless I buy $8 in groceries (smile). Also, couponmom.com claims that 80% of the grocer’s coupons come from the paper (so what am I printing online?), so I might try to again invest in a Sunday paper, especially now that I have my own personal clipping assistant.
I’m curious: was I the last person to get in on this?