April 3, 2013

on adventures in couponing...

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So, I have a confession. I want to be a couponer. I am fairly sure nothing I ever do will be defined as "extreme"—so, I'm thinking that "moderate couponer" may be more up my alley. 

I can't get enough of Extreme Couponing (which just had a second season added to Netflix, thank you very much), and halfway through one specific episode, it really had me thinking. The episode featured a woman whose family eats exclusively vegan—not typical of the people they usually feature on that show. I had started thinking that couponers were up to their elbows in soda, cookies and Tic Tacs, but I realized that there are so many other things that are out there to get for incredibly cheap. Now, Jay and I are nowhere near vegan (cheese is my favorite), but seeing that different view of couponing made me eager to see where I could go with it myself.

And thus began the madness. Or goodness, depending on who you ask.

I've always been someone who buys things on sale as much as possible, but up until the past couple years we never used any coupons. We finally started getting the Sunday paper, which meant I typically dove in looking specifically for the Target ad and Michaels coupons, bypassing everything else. (Hey, a girl has her priorities.) I'd use a coupon here or there, but nothing that really made even getting the coupon inserts worth while. In the past couple weeks, I decided to actually start paying attention and coming up with some sort of game plan for coupons. Once I started actually paying attention, here are a few things I discovered:
  • You shouldn't use a coupon to save money on the regular retail price of an item. Wait until it is on sale (or magically on clearance) and then use the high-value coupons you have floating around in your purse (or pretty coupon folder). I recently found several items marked down to clearance prices, which meant I scored some juice that is normally $4 for only .50, and a box of tampons (sorry, gentlemen) for .37 after using the $1-off coupons I had. Maybe this rule is common-sense for some, but for me it never clicked until now.
  • Buy certain things in advance of when you need them—such as shampoo (or dry shampoo, if you're an addict like me), face wash, body wash, deodorant, and so on and so forth. I used to always put those things off until the last minute and would over-spend. Now, I refuse to pay more than $1.50 for shampoo! It's possible, people.
  • There are many couponing blogs that I would have previously viewed as crazypants, but now I've stopped being judgy. They're a good place to go when I don't have time to sift through the ads and coupons myself (which is, let's be honest, ALWAYS). They break down the deals by store for each week, so, where is my excuse now? Here is the one I use most.
  • Always bring your coupons with you. I used to just bring a handful of coupons that I knew I wanted to use during a specific shopping trip, leaving the others at home. But I've found that there are so many unadvertised deals in most stores (clearance items and such), and it's maddening when you see something you need that you forgot the coupon for.
  • Vons (or Safeway, depending on where you live!) is my friend. I've started actively using their website to find deals, which offers e-coupons, exclusive deals for me based on things I buy (called "just for U"), and sometimes free items. There are items I've bought that come to such a low price because I'm able to use the club discount, an e-coupon, and an additional discount I found in the "just for U" section.

In an effort to become a bit more organized (yes, organization makes me swoon), I purchased this accordion envelope from Target for just $1 last week. It's bigger than typical coupon envelopes, so it has rooms for my receipts and extra shopping lists in the back. (I wish I could remember where I found the template for my shopping list—but if you Google it, there are many free printable lists, some of which are customizable!)

coupon folder
I have a feeling Jay is going to get very tired of my running commentary on anything he finds in the fridge, freezer or cabinets. 

"See those popsicles? Extreme couponed."
"Hey, see this shampoo I bought you that would have been $8? Free. BOOM."
"I'll have you know those chips you're eating only cost me .80."

We don't spend a crazy amount on food, but we've been looking at cutting back on certain things to make room for others. If I'm able to consistently cut back our weekly grocery bill, then at least that's something. It's also crazy addictive to see the savings add up; I'm not going to lie. Yesterday's receipt made me want to bust out a happy dance at the register:

BOOM.
I wanted to high-five the cashier when he told me my total savings for my shopping trip was $56.55. But I decided to let him be, because he didn't seem nearly as enthusiastic as I was. But next time, dear Jonathan, you'd better be ready for some serious fist-bump action from this crazy couponer. It will happen.

23 comments :

  1. Lol instead of couponing myself, can I just hire you to do my shopping for me? ;P

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    1. Hahaha…it could be arranged. :)

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  2. i want to coupon, i've just never been committed enough to it! i always put the extreme couponers in the crazy soda + cookies category too. you're motivating me to give it a try!

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  3. I loved this post. Your commentary is HILAR and I will totally internet high-five you over that crazypants savings! You've inspired me to look at something other than the Target and Micheal's ad each Sunday :)

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  4. I hardly buy any disposable stuff and try not to buy much packaged food...so I've never really found couponing valuable for us. Sadly, because I think it'd be fun to be all, "What! Saved so much!"

    I just watched Extreme Couponing for the first time, though. WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?! How can they store so much stuff in their houses without going crazy? Ha. And all that time with the binders and lists and...oh my. That was pretty crazy, man.

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    1. The show is insane, right? I'm like, "Who has a closet full of soda? I mean, COME ON." I saw one where the woman admitted she would first run to save her stockpile if there was a fire in her house. Priorities much? (Ah, well, this is the stuff of great reality TV…don't even get me started on Toddlers and Tiaras...)

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  5. I genuinely wish I had the motivation to do this!!!! seriously.

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  6. So awesome! I try here and there and then peter out. I need to stick with it!

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  7. I love the Just For U app, it is seriously a money saver with Vons!

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    1. Amen, sister! :) I love that they offer coupons and discounts on fruits and veggies, too, because we won't be finding coupons for those in the paper anytime soon.

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  8. I feel like coupling is different in Canada...or maybe I just need to do my homework better. I never find or see coupons for groceries that are useful to me. Save $1.00 on laundry detergent or .50 on granola bars here or there, but nothing that would ever add up to half my grocery bill.

    But if there were a reality show about using email notifications for clothing sales? That would be my time to shine. If it's not 40% off or more it is ROBBERY!

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    1. *COUPONING not coupling! AUTOCORRECT gahh!

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    2. I'm sure that I won't have many trips where I'm saving that much off my total—this trip was one where I stocked up on a bit of beauty items, which tend to be pricier than the food we get. I ended up getting a great deal on a bunch of conditioner (only paid $1.50/each when they are normally $4) and got free shampoo (found an e-coupon to buy one deodorant, get any shampoo free up to $6.99, and the deodorant was on sale, too). There were also some grocery deals that were out of the ordinary because they were clearance items and I also had coupons. You just never know! I never thought I'd use coupons this much, either, but I've ended up getting things we rarely purchased before but will definitely eat (like frozen veggies galore).

      And amen on the clothing sales. Clearance racks speak my love language. ;)

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  9. Won't you be my neighbor? And we can grocery shop together? OKay, cool.

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  10. I have the couponing bug because my mother is an expert. Of course, it's the punchline of our pantry: "why did we buy THIS?" "It was probably on sale/mom had a coupon."

    I've recently been checking out Target coupons because you can double-stack those with regular coupons. It's a fun challenge to find things on sale that you can combine with coupons.

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    1. I just heard this about Target, and now I'm totally going to try to do some grocery shopping there, too! I love it. I know using coupons definitely feels like a scavenger hunt at times, but when you find the perfect deal it's like EUREKA! ;)

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  11. i just wish they had coupons for fruits and veggies too... :( we do use coupons for other stuff, but we spend a lot on the fruit/veggie things. And organic/dairy free/gluten free/soy stuff is expensive :(

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    1. That's why I shop mostly at Vons! They always have deals on fruits/veggies when I visit the "just for U" section of their website. That way I can add even more of a discount on top of the regular store discounts. (For instance, even when bananas have a special club price, they will offer me an even lower price because I buy them so often.) Sometimes they'll do things like "save $3 when you buy $10 in produce", and those things definitely add up!

      I know what you mean about organic/gluten free and such, though. :( I have seen specials pop up for certain items on some couponing blogs, though, so it may be worth it to take a peek!

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    2. PS: Just came across this blog and thought I'd pass it along to you: http://www.glutenfreelyfrugal.com/. :) Hope it helps!

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  12. We can watch the show here in the Netherlands too, but unfortunately, couponing here works very differently. You can only get discounts in percentages, so you'll get coupons for 20% off on an item. And often it excludes items already on sale. It means you can't save as much money, which is a shame!

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  13. My husband has been gently nudging me for weeks to start trying my hand at couponing. I'm home on maternity leave with my second son and all of the sudden, no matter how carefully we meal plan, our grocery bill has really exploded. Also, quick runs to Target "for diapers and shampoo" are $50 dollar trips, minimum. Confessions aside, this inspired me!

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  14. Whenever I watch those coupon shows, I always wonder where they GET the coupons!! But I always love to save money whenever I can, although I have yet to use a coupon. The trick to coupons is, it saves you money, but only for the things ON the coupon. So I want to get a specific thing, and there's not a coupon for it, I'm not going to get money off. But I guess you win some, you lose some.

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