So many people find my couponing amazing. I just find it fun. Many people have asked me to write down my secrets. I don’t think of them as secrets, but I am happy to share my methods.
First of all, I collect coupons. I have friends and family save coupon packs. The woman whose home that I clean saves the coupons for me. I also dumpster dive for coupons. I always take four to six coupons from the red catalina (blinkys) from the grocery stores. I always check packages before I throw them out–sometimes there are coupons printed inside. Also, I have been known to buy coupons on eBay, but that is rare! I also trade coupons on www.mycoupons.com and trade on the coupon swap forum. I trade dog food coupons for cat food and stuff like that. Also, at the library and at the store itself, people leave coupons. If you see coupons attached to the products, you can take some and not use them that shopping trip. I also have been known to do a few coupon trains.
Second, I have a three-ring binder, and inside it has plastic pocket sheets. I categorize my coupons in that. I always have that with me in case of a good deal. The binder has my name and phone number, just in case I lose it (God forbid!).
Third, when I do find something with a coupon and a matching store sale, I buy as many as I can if the price is a great deal. I don’t just use a coupon because I have it. Coupons can be worthless if you don’t get the best deal possible. This week, for example, Walgreen had deodorant for 99 cents. My husband prefers the gels and they were what was on sale. Also, there is a 75-cent coupon in the paper. So I bought 10 deodorants this week for 25 cents each! I spend one to two hours, depending, on Sundays going over the sales ads, circling anything we may need in our household and then going to my binder and finding the coupons. Since I go shopping once a month, I look over the paper and whatever week has the best sales, that is the week I go shopping. I rarely buy anything that is not on sale ad and has a no coupon.
I stockpile, so I am not buying the same things every month. This last month, I bought nine jars of peanut butter. Two jars went go to the local food shelter and the other seven to my food stockpile. Peanut butter can stay in my stockpile for up to six months. The brand was JIF and they were less than 40 cents each! I always match sales ads.
I cut coupons in piles, cutting all the same coupons at the same time, then taking the pile and filing it in the binder. I go through the binder once a month to pull expired coupons.
TO maximize my savings, I go to Aldi’s (or Save-A-Lot or other bargain-basement grocery stores) and buy the basics. Whatever is cheapest. If the item is on sale at another store, I don’t buy it.
When I go shopping in my area, I have a plan based on how the stores are laid out: I go to Kwik Trip first (gas station). They have bagged milk cheap and it freezes well. Also, they sell bananas for 29 cents a pound all the time. So that is also a source for fresh fruit for me. Then I stop at Aldi’s to grab the basics and the cheap cat litter. Then I stop at Lolgi’s and get all the coupon/sale items. Then I stop at Walgreen and buy whatever I have coupons/sales for. Then I stop at Menards and do their rebates. Then I stop at Fleet and Farm and get all pet food and supplies (cheapest in my area and I can buy in bulk there). I have to drive to the next town to do this and it’s a perfect loop for me from one store to another, so you may have to adjust this to fit your area. But if you can hit all the stores in one area, it saves time, gas, and you can do this once a month.
I don’t shop again for the month. I don’t keep a price book, but I know costs, so you may want to keep a price book until you know if something is a good deal. Price books can be wonderful for learning prices and who has the best deals. Also, I keep a list of the things we need, so I only make a trip “in to town” once.
Right now, my kitchen is stocked. I have had some great shopping trips. My menus are planned based on what is on sale. We are only brand specific for two things: My husband has to have Mentadent toothpaste due to the taste of other toothpastes and I have to have Diet Coke. Other than that, we aren’t brand specific. We use a lot of generic.
Here was my last shopping trip in to town:
Kwik Trip–$8 milk and bananas. Used my frequent-buyer card–I get a stamp for every bag of milk; after 20 stamps, I get $1 off the next purchase.
Aldi’s–$70 for the basics, frozen food, and cat litter.
Walgreen’s–$25, but getting $15 in rebates.
Logli’s–$167 before coupons, $53 after coupons.
Menards–I didn’t spend anything because I had rebate cards from last month and I am getting $18 back in rebates again.
I didn’t have to stop at Farm and Fleet because I got 100 pounds of cat food from Freecycle.
Rebates yet to get–$33
I feed the family and animals and get all cleaning products, health and beauty products, and all paper products using this method. I spend about four to eight hours a month doing this, but if you take the money I save just at Logli’s ($114 and divide that by 8 hours), it’s $14.25 an hour. I don’t make that kind of money at my job, but I make our income stretch, so to me it’s worth it. That also doesn’t include what I saved at the other stores.
Oh, one more thing: I have a store in town that doubles coupons on Wednesdays, so I will go over there in a pinch or if they have some really good deals. I also will go to Wal-Mart where I can get pasta noodles for 50 cents a box. Unless Walgreens has there 33 cents sales, that is the cheapest I have found. I stock up to the limit on the 33 cents sales. We eat a lot of pasta with veggies. Cheap, quick, easy meals.
I hope this helps and gives you some ideas! I treat couponing as a hobby and a money saver. I know some people who say it’s not worth it, but I can feed and take care of a family of four, plus the pets, for less than $250 a month, so for us, it’s more than worth it!
Angela Hoag is a member of the frugal-families.com forums and writes her blog, Frugalmommie Blogspot.