This blog was started in 2008 when we did IVF for the first time to build our family after 5 1/2 years of infertility. We now have 8 and 2 year old boys (thanks to modern medicine) and we are enjoying our blessed life as parents ♥ In the summer of 2016 we took another huge step and moved across the country from Oklahoma to New York! This blog is about life and everything in between

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Frugal Living: Couponing

Couponing has become more popular the last few years. I believe it was also big a couple of decades ago and I remember my mom doing it for awhile when I was growing up. It faded out and has slowly been coming back with the poor economy and eternal search to save a few dollars. I will share my experiences with it today!

I am by NO means an "extreme" couponer. I do not have closets full of toiletry items, and my garage is not fully stocked to survive the zombie apocalypse. I do however have a full pantry of namebrand items, a freezer full of veggies and quick dinners, and bathrooms full of shower items.

For me it all started 4 years ago when I attended a free coupon class by the lady who runs this local coupon site. It opened my eyes on the right way to coupon, and how to realistically build up your stock over time. Within 6 months I had cut my grocery bill in half while at the same time switching to mostly name brands! I touched on some of this information in this post here, but I will go more into the actual couponing now.

Couponing has helped me:
  • STOP shopping at Walmart for everything
  • keep from running to the store when I use the last of toothpaste/soap/razor etc.
  • use brands I would never buy before because of higher cost
  • try new products I would have never looked twice at before
  • have more ingredients available in my pantry for days I don't know what to cook
  • be more picky in what I choose, instead of always having to choose based on price
  • plan meals based on what I have, instead of having to shop for each meal's ingredients
  • have more money available for things I want/need that I used to spend on food/toiletries
The gist of couponing is this--you match your coupons with items that are on sale. When I look thru the coupon inserts, I ask myself "If the price was low enough, would I buy this?" If the answer is yes, then I clip it and file it! I may never use the coupon, or I may use it that same day on a sale. I don't go buy that item just because I have a coupon for it. You will see certain coupons more at seasonal times, i.e. baking good during the winter holidays, razors/shaving cream during the summer, vitamins/protein bars during January.... Most coupons are good for at least a month so that is 4 weeks of different sales that you can possibly find a match. The store you should focus on shopping at is the one that will DOUBLE your coupon! Most stores that double coupons will do so for the value $1 or less. My local store I shop at is Homeland. CVS and Walgreens are also good for the occasional toiletry, but I only use CVS just to keep it simple (plus it is the closest to my house). Now, what are we couponing for?
  1.  Food--This is the main thing I coupon for. The majority of coupons you see will be for food items--junk food, snacks, some fresh foods, frozen foods, quick dinners, canned/box food, and pantry staples. Sometimes there are coupons for drinks/juice/pop, and once in awhile you'll see some for meat. When I was just starting, not everything I got was healthy. As my stock built up I was able to be more picky and pass on the higher calorie options. I get all of my fresh food/dairy at Aldi because most of the time their regular prices are cheaper than I could get a name brand with a coupon. My pantry is full of cereal, rice, pasta, canned veggies, canned chili, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, PB, jelly, sugar, flour, cake mixes, and other staples. Couponing for food alone will eventually cut your grocery bill at least in half! Approximate monthly food budget = down from $400/month to $200/month.
  2. Disposable kitchen goods--Here I am talking about sandwich bags, aluminum foil, cling wrap, dish soap, cleaning spray....all things that the kitchen must have! I used to buy generic everything, but now I have Hefty, Glad, Lysol, Dawn, and Finish (dishwasher soap) stocked up. I got them all CHEAPER than I used to pay for generic. I also have several of each so I don't have to worry when I use the last of one. Approximate savings = less than half of cost of generic items.
  3. Toiletries--This includes bath soap, razors, shaving cream, lotions, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, chapstick, mouthwash, sunscreen.....It's the little things you need but you don't really think about. I used to buy mostly Suave brand or store brand of all these items. $4 for a bottle of Herbal Essence or Pantene? I don't think so! After several months of couponing you will slowly build up your stock of these things and notice that you have much nicer brands than you did before! I have even gifted bottles of Dove body wash to women I know would enjoy it, just because I had so many in stock! I used to never buy mouthwash because I thought it was unnecessary, but when I can get a huge liter bottle of Colgate brand mouthwash for 25 cents....yes please! I can even be picky and buy Gillette razors with 5 or 6 blades instead of Bic razors with only 3 blades. I probably have over a year supply of Pantene, Herbal Essence, and Garnier Fructis shampoos/conditioners. I haven't had to buy deodorant in months for me or my husband because I already have so many. Approximate monthly savings = down from $50/month to $10/month or less.
  4. Restaurants--I try to keep a little pile of restaurant deals ready for that night when we don't want to cook and can't decide where to eat. The usual places I see are Olive Garden, Arbys, Long John Silver, McD, BK, Ihop, Longhorn Steakhouse, and Zios. I may never use it because we only eat out maybe once a week, and we rarely have fast food. But if I need it, it's there! When your bill comes to $30+ dollars, it helps to get $5 or $10 off with a coupon. 2 meals for the price of one is also nice too, or a free appetizer! Approximate restaurant savings = 10-30% off regular bill.
If you are wanting to try out couponing, my biggest advice is to stick with it! It can be overwhelming, and it may take several months to see the fruits of your labor. 6 months in you will notice more name brand items in your house, and that you have a couple extra things in stock of common items. 1 year in and you will be looking for way to organize your inventory and planning meals around your fully loaded pantry! It will become like a game--to see how much you can save in a coupon shopping trip. You will be bragging to your friends how you got something for free, or paid a quarter when the regular price was $5. Trust me! It's addictive. I have been doing it 4 years now and it has become part of my lifestyle. Just a few minutes out of the week to clip coupons and plan a trip, and 30 minutes in the store and you are done.

One of my biggest questions when I was starting out was "What should I consider a GOOD price on certain items?" Here is a list of common items and how much I don't pay more than:

Cereal--$1.50 or less
Salad dressing--$1 or less
Frozen pizza--$2 or less
Body wash--$1.25 or less
Deodorant--50 cents or less
Shampoo/conditioner--$1.50 or less
Toothpaste/toothbrush--50 cents or less
Cake mix--$1 or less

I hope this post has inspired and helped you a little bit! If you haven't already, feel free to read my other Frugal Living posts!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! Couponing does seem daunting in the beginning. I have been wanting to start, but didn't know where, or how to get the best deals with the coupons.


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