Monday, February 15, 2010

Couponing #1

This is the first of five (or six or seven or....) posts about couponing.

General Couponing Information

I love to coupon. I started couponing when we lived in Idaho and I could attend a group in the next town over. The group leaders would go through the grocery ads and tell us what the best deals were, where to find coupons, etc. It was definitely my style... no-brainer couponing! When we moved to Kansas this past May I couldn't find a couponing group like the one I'd left in Idaho. Then I attended a Church event that was attended by women from surrounding towns. During the course of a conversation I had with a lady I discovered that she was a supreme couponer. We exchanged emails and I've since learned how to coupon here in Kansas. The leaders of our Church strongly discourage debt. Since we move a lot we have a hard time getting rid of the debt we incur every time we move. For the past couple of months I've felt like getting rid of our debt needs to be a main focus for us. I looked into going back to teaching (first as a sub and then applying for jobs for next year) but since I'm four months pregnant and have a three year old that didn't seem like a viable option right now. I decided that if I could save enough using coupons then I wouldn't have to go to work. That's when I started actively couponing again. (Sometimes I use my "extra" food budget money to help amass a year supply of food - another suggestion from our Church leaders.)

I've come to the belief that it is possible to coupon (and save major money) anywhere you live. I've done a little research using the areas of the country where I have lived or have siblings living and have found websites that offer the same help as my couponing group in Idaho. Over the next week or so I'm hoping to be able to detail the things I've learned here because there are some who stop me in the grocery store (after they've watched me save 50% or more) and ask how I do it. I'd like to be able to refer them to this blog as an easy "how-to".

Before you get started, there are a couple of things to know...

1) It will take about three months before you really see results. The first month you'll be excited that you have a year's supply of cake mixes and salt. The second month you'll feel unbalanced and be frustrated that you only have a year supply of cake mixes, salt and cold cereal. The third month things will start to even out and you'll notice a difference. (For example, my normal food budget is $200 every two weeks. This week I was able to only spend $80 on groceries for the next two weeks. This is because I have a stockpile of staples like cream soup, pasta, spaghetti sauce and vegetables that I have purchased in bulk over the past few months.)

2) I was told to use half of my monthly out-to-eat budget to start couponing with (to use on the great sale/coupon deals). I don't have an out-to-eat budget. We live in a small town that doesn't have a lot of restaurants. Also, IF we go out to eat it's a drive-thru experience on our way to another town to do shopping or something. I decided that I could spare $30 a month (or sometimes a pay period) to use on the smoking deals.

3) Know that about once every quarter (3 months) every item in the grocery store will be at it's highest price and at it's lowest. If you know (about) what the "usual" price is then you can be aware when the prices hit bottom. The key to getting the biggest bang for your buck (or the most stuff for your buck) is to use the coupons when the items are on sale.

4) There are many websites out there that give tips and tricks to super-size your couponing. The two I like the best are It's Hip 2 Save and Pinching Your Pennies. Both sites list lots of offers and great deals. If you subscribe they will send you emails every evening telling you of the deals they found that day. Also, on Hip 2 Save she has a lot of great how-to videos (look on the right sidebar of her blog). I highly - HIGHLY - recommend watching those videos. They are about 10 minutes each.

5) Use your coupons on sale items to get the biggest bang for your buck. Stores will allow you to use a manufacturer’s coupon AND a store coupon on the same item. That is called stacking. For example.... Say I am going to buy a box of Cheerios that usually costs $4 but is on sale for $2. I have a $1 manufacturer’s coupon that I got out of the newspaper insert (or printed online). I also have a 50 cent coupon that I cut out of the grocery store ad (store coupon). I get the $4 box of Cheerios for only 50 cents!!! That’s a savings of 75%.

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