Friday, January 28, 2011

Saving Money Series: The Couponing Blog

Whew, where to begin?  First of all, when I started couponing I was doubly overwhelmed.  I was trying to stack coupons with sales, I hadn't been at it long, and I was finding that I was purchasing items that were not necessarily things in our house that we ate much of, and that it wasn't really getting me anywhere.  (That's why I posted yesterday's blog first!   Those tips revolutionized my couponing!)

As time progressed I became better at stacking sales and coupons (use coupons for the items that are in the sale bill for ultimate savings.  For those of you around here, Kroger Mega-Events are great for that!)  I was even able to make meals out of the things I was purchasing (for very very little out of pocket) and it was encouraging me to find and try new recipes as well.  (That I looked up before I purchased an item, so it didn't just sit in my freezer or pantry forever and get tossed after the expiration date.)

So, the best way I can think to even tackle this blog is by answering questions that I've been asked frequently, but before I do that I want to mention this.  I got really caught up in the beginning of my couponing on 'percentages saved'.  Kroger makes it really easy because you can look at the bottom of your receipt and see the actual percentage that you saved on your shopping trip.  Please don't misunderstand me, it's an awesome feeling to see anything 75% or higher  on that percentage line, and it's not necessarily bad either!  For me though, that meant I would buy very little, if anything, that wasn't on sale and I didn't have a coupon for.  (Right now you're saying, this is a coupon blog, isn't that what you are supposed to do?)  Well, kind of.  By purchasing only things that were on sale that I had a coupon for, I was missing out on key staple foods like fresh fruits, veggies, and meats.  (Things that Bryton loves.)  When I did start finally purchasing these foods, I did them at a different time of the week so that the $3.00 I'd spent on grapes didn't effect my bottom line.  Pathetic, I know.  The extra trips to the grocery store are of course detrimental... so I started limiting myself (on most weeks) to once a week, and doing all of my shopping during one trip that week.  Afterall, my goal is to see my family fed and fed well for $100 every two weeks, not to see that I've saved 95% on a grocery transaction.  (Which I do still pull off occasionally, on the smaller trips. :)  I thrive for 60% savings or higher on each grocery trip, allowing myself $10 a week on fresh fruit alone.  50% is fairly easy now, and sometimes I do better.  Hope that helps. 
So - that being said... don't fall into the trap of purchasing things you won't use or need.  If I 'purchase' things I don't need (for donation etc.) I make sure I'm spending pennies out of pocket or getting the item free.  Okay, now to questions :)

1.)  Where do you get your coupons?
       Everywhere.  :)  I get coupons online ( is my favorite, but I also get coupons a lot of times from a brands website.)  I get coupons from the Sunday newspaper.  (You can even check online to see what will be in the paper before it even comes out!)  I get coupons from magazines.  (I'm an All You subscriber specifically for the coupons that comes in it.  The coupon savings total is always over $70 per issue.  A subscription may run you about $20 for the year.)  Shopping at Kroger I get tons of Kroger coupons in the mail... and they are usually pretty high value.  Also, another coupon, called catalinas, are the coupons your register spits out at you when you check out!  Keep those!  You never know when they may come in handy!  And a favorite, add them to your shopper card either by visiting Kroger's website, visiting Cellfire and Shortcuts.  Electronic coupons added to your shopper card can be stacked with manufacturer coupons when checking out!  Double savings!  (Speaking of manufacturer coupons, they are also stackable with store coupons.  This comes in very handy at Walgreens and Target.  What does that mean?  It means you can use a Walgreens coupon and a manufacturer coupon for the same product!  Very handy information!)

2.)  How do you store your coupons?
     This is another personal preference.  When I started couponing I used a small coupon organizer.  About two months in I was so overwhelmed with the number of coupons I had and the fact that I couldn't see all of them when I was in the store (for those unadvertised deals), that I knew I had to figure out something else.  So, now if you see me in the store, you'll probably see me with a binder.  Yep, a 3 ring binder that I've put baseball card sleeves in, so I can turn the page and see the face of every coupon I have possession of.  It helps me keep the old cleaned out, the about ready to expire in mind, and since I order things in the binder in order of the way I walk through the store, it's easy for me to find that 'certain coupon' when I see something is on clearance unannounced, etc.  Some people may think it's cheesy, but it works for me :)  Remember, you have to do what works for you!

3.)  Why when people coupon do they end up with so many of the same item in a shopping trip?
      I wondered the same thing when I was starting off.  The answer is really pretty easy.  If you are going for maximum savings you are stacking sales with coupons you have on hand.  (And some people have a lot of coupons on hand.)  So, when you go to the store and Rotel Tomatoes are on sale for .50 each and you have several $1 off 3 coupons, you can really get each can of Rotel for around .17 a piece.  I'd call that a stock up price.  If you have say 4 of those coupons, then it makes sense for you to stockpile (because they last so long) and buy 12 cans of Rotel.  In essence, those 12 cans of Rotel are really only costing you about $2.  When you do this with a lot of different sale items, you find that your shopping cart looks like you really like Texas Toast, Rotel and cereal :)  But this is how you stock up for later.

4.)  Explain stacking, and how can I do that more easily?
      I use the word stacking interchangeably for two things.  One is stacking a manufacturer and a store or electronic coupon which is what I mentioned earlier.  The other is stacking sales (that you found in your local sale ad) with coupons you already have on hand.  When I was first starting out, I let someone else do all of the work for me. :) You can visit her here:  Southern Savers.  She is a master-mind and is super organized.  If you click on her Kroger tab it will bring up a list of blogs she's written about Kroger.  Find the blog with the most recent date in the title, click on it, and the sale ad is dissected there in such a way that you can see what the sale item is, the price, and what coupons you may already have or that you can print to get the best bang for your buck!  Makes starting off really, really easy! 

5.)  Tips?
     Know your stores coupon policy.  For example, Kroger doubles coupons .50 and less, as long as the coupon does not state otherwise.  (Many of your printable coupons will say 'do not double or triple' on them.)  If you coupon at Walgreens, you'll need to know about Register Rewards, that can also make many items free + overage (you make money on the item).  The catch?  Register Rewards expire in about 10 days - 2 weeks.  Make sure you're going to be around Walgreens again in a period of time that you can actually take advantage of them!
     Also, get to know the cashiers in your local grocery store.  I always look at who is working when I walk in.  Some are extremely coupon friendly, others are not, and though they may not be able to 'do anything' about your couponing, they can make your checking out experience uncomfortable and unpleasant.  (Luckily, there is only one woman at our Kroger that I dread checking me out... I'll wait in a line 3 times as long to not have to deal with her.)  I've also found Wal-Mart not to be super coupon friendly in the last year, although they are apparently making a shift to a friendlier direction, even adverstising in their sale ads that they will now accept competitor coupons (think Target coupons at Wal-Mart) and will willingly accept internet coupons (which is where I had most of my hangups at Wal-Mart last year.)  We'll see how that plays out this year.
     Be polite and prepared at checkout.  I never want people to see my stack of coupons and not want to get in line behind me.  I also never want to be rude to the person who is checking my items, as that really isn't going to get me anywhere.  If there's a conflict about a coupon, (which happens rarely, but does happen), ask for an explanation and if you still think you're right, ask to talk to a manager.  Kindness goes a long way.  So does knowing what you are talking about!
     Lastly - have some coupon courtesy.  You'll find really quickly after beginning to coupon, that you will often times show up and the shelves be empty of the sale item.  Shows you that you aren't the only one couponing out there!  I'm all about stocking up on those 12 cans of Rotel if there are still several on the shelf, but watching people pile their carts with 25-30 boxes of 2 different cereals, leaving the shelves empty (which I've seen happen before in our very on Kroger) seems to me a little disrespectful to those people trying to get in on the same deal and stretch their budgets as well.  Be courteous and think of others.  If there's ever a time I've had to go back to a store in the same week, it's because there was a deal that we really needed to hit (because of the rotation of sales) and all of the items were gone when I got to them.

Phew.  Now you know why I didn't combine this with the non couponing grocery saving blog!
I'd be happy to take any questions left unanswered!  Leave in the comments below!


1 comment:

  1. my question is: how long does it take you to prepare for a weekly shopping trip? i feel like i could totally do this during summer vacation, but doing it after work seems a bit overwhelming. can you spread the preparation out through the week as long as the sales are still going on?