Today is the last day to enter my giveaway!!!
I figure since some of my bloggy friends have been asking about how I've been saving, I'd write a post about my couponing. I am HARDLY an expert at couponing and have only been clipping coupons since the middle of October. But in that time, I have effectively cut our grocery shopping budget (food, toiletries and cleaning supplies) in half.
I had heard for many years of the people who could shop at stores and save hundreds of dollars. I never really knew how they did it. Then one day I stumbled upon this blog. She talked about how she saved more then she spent at the grocery store. I couldn't believe it! I tried to understand what she did, but...I'll be honest, I didn't understand. I started clipping coupons and figured that would equal MEGA-savings. Uh, I was wrong. I got frustrated that I couldn't save a lot of money. How on earth did she do it? I read back over her posts and was still a bit confused. I eventually stumbled across Stretching A Buck. She outlined how to match up sales and coupons, and actually showed what coupons matched up with what sales. And finally, I understood. (I strongly suggest finding a site that does this for you...there are many that will actually go through the circular and do the coupon matchups for pretty much any store.) Clip coupons, match those with weekly deals, use coupons loaded on to your shopping card (from places like cellfire.com or shortcuts.com) and make a list. It truly works.
Clipping coupons alone will NOT save you tons of money. They definitely help. And I think any amount of money saved is good. BUT, the most important thing to do is look through your circular for the week. What stuff is on sale? What coupons do I have that match those things that are on sale? Can I get some of those items for free after coupon? (Most likely YES!) It is those items that should be added to your shopping list. Most people will actually do menu-planning for the week based around what they can buy at the store. That way, they only have to buy those things. They can go in with a list and stick to it.
I think the menu-planning around the sales is actually the hardest thing. B and I have always liked certain foods/brands. I felt it was worth it to give some of these up (or at least not buy them until they were on sale and I had coupons), he did not see it that way at first (of course, now he sees we are saving...so he has a bit of a different opinion...). I can be honest and say that I still don't menu plan. But, I know what I have in my freezer (I buy bulk, it is much cheaper) and what I can use to make meals. And I also just come up with things based upon what I buy. (Although I do still buy some things that we just can't seem to pass up that aren't on sale...). Also, there are some things I would LIKE to have around, but don't NEED to have around. I put them on my list, and if there is room on my budget, I might get them since I won't be over budget (although I still have a problem buying them if they aren't on sale...so I just keep adding them to my list until they are on sale :)
I have also begun stockpiling. When things are on sale, I try and buy enough to get us to the next time they will be on sale. For example, I spent a month stockpiling on meat. I haven't had to buy any meat for the month. So instead, I've been buying other things we need. Cereal, waters, etc. That way they won't be a part of my budget when I have to buy meat again (which is always a higher priced item, even when on sale, so the less I have to buy when I have to buy meat, the better). Also, look for meat that is on managers special. If you are going to freeze it, it doesn't matter that it is on special. Take advantage of the markdowns! Also, don't feel that you HAVE to buy something just because it is on sale. Deals and sales aren't one time things, and eventually the deal will run again.
Taking advantage of drug store reward programs has also been a HUGE moneysaver for me. I shop at CVS and do their Extra Care Bucks program. I believe Walgreens has Rapid Rewards, and that Rite Aid may also have a program. These programs can be extremely confusing. But again, there are many sites that will help you. Taking advantage of the rewards programs (which effectively give you FREE money) will help you stock pile on shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. All items that typically put a big hole in your budget if bought at regular price. I am no pro at these reward programs...some people do several transactions at once...I don't try all that. But, what I have found is that I can save $70 while spending $2 or less. I STRONGLY recommend looking in to these deals (and if you want help, ask, and I will point you in the right direction!).
There are many mail in rebate offers, and lots of coupons to be found on the web. In addition, buying two newspapers or more, is a good idea. Having two of the same coupon helps you take advantage of Buy One Get One deals...where you can use two coupons...both of which technically apply to the one that you are purchasing full price...and significantly lower that price. For example, Dawn dish soap was BOGO at CVS the other week. Buy one at $1.49 get one free. I had two coupons, both for $.50 off. I used them both, and ended up getting both dish soaps for $.49 cents. Not bad!
While couponing and paying attention to deals is a huge help, the thing that has helped me the most is having a list and especially taking a calculator with me. The calculator keeps me on track. I know exactly where I am at. And since I have been taking it with me, I haven't gone over budget once.
So, that is couponing in a nutshell. At least how I have been saving. I hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to ask! Take a look at the blogs I have on the left...they are where I go to find all the deals, items that will be free after coupons at different stores, and free samples!