Mar 30, 2010

Cautiously Couponing (Janssen)

"Clipping coupons" is pretty much synonymous with living frugally, and yet I have resisted coupons for years. I had this sense that coupons were really only for mega-processed food or expensive brand-name products. I assumed that by buying the store brands or only baseline ingredients, I could save the same amount of money. My grocery budget is pretty bare-bones to begin with, so I figured coupon clipping was just a waste of my time and effort.

I'm pretty convinced, now, that I was wrong. This past month, I've started making cautious steps into the world of couponing and I'm beginning to see that I can save myself a fair amount of money.

When I started looking into it, I was determined that I would not
  • Take the newspaper (I hate the smell and the feel of newspaper, not to mention paying for it to pile up in my house)
  • Buy things I wouldn't have bought otherwise
  • Spend a lot of time on it
Here's what I realized:

First, I can get enough coupons online. I like coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com. I would also use the mystical power of Google to find coupons for specific items. We use soy milk instead of regular milk because we can't get through regular milk before it goes bad - half a second of Googling gave me a coupon for 75 cents off any Silk soy milk product. Ta-da! (I also use the backside of paper we get in the mail or from work and school so I don't have to use up my precious good paper and I set my printer to fast-draft so it uses very little ink).

Second, figure out what your store's policy on doubling coupons is. It was one of the FAQs on my grocery store's website, so it took me approximately ten seconds to find out that they will double any coupon that is 99 cents or less. So, if you have a 75 cent coupon, you'll really get $1.50 off. I discovered that they double ALL the coupons under 99 cents, even the ones that say "Do Not Double."

Third, you need to time your coupons to go along with sales. For instance, we go through a humiliating amount of sour cream because, well, I love sour cream; I firmly subscribe to my mom's cooking rule "if it tastes bad, add sour cream." But I don't even wait for it to taste bad. This week, when my grocery store's circular came around, I noticed that Hood sour cream was on sale for 99 cents a container, which was a good deal to begin with. Then, thanks to RedPlum, I got a 50 cents off coupon, which doubled, meant my sour cream was free. No way was the store brand cheaper than FREE! Same thing with the yogurt - it was on sale for $2 (for a pack of four), and I had a $1 off coupon. And if you bought a certain amount, you got a $10 off coupon for your next shopping trip, which took it down to about 12 cents a cup. Much cheaper than the store brand at 50 cents a cup.

Fourth, take advantage of your store's weekly deals and specials. For the last four or five months, I've bought the off-off-brand of Cheerios because they were only a dollar for an eight ounce box (which is about 2/3rds the size of your average box of cereal). This week, if you bought four boxes of General Mills cereal, you got four dollars off, plus 10 cents off every gallon of gas. Combined with my four cereal coupons that I'd printed off (one for each box) and were then doubled, I got my cereal for 89 cents a box. Bigger boxes, less money spent. Plus cheaper gas.

I saved $18 last week with my coupons, bringing my total grocery bill to only $28 for the week. My poor husband heard about it all afternoon.

I'd say it's about thirty minutes of work a week, once you figure out what sites you like and get the hang of reading your store flier. Definitely worth my time.

Anyone else have tips for making coupons work without it being a huge production?

12 comments:

Chelsea said...

Make sure and check your grocery store's policy on internet coupons. Just recently ours (which does have double coupon days that I've done for 3 years now and loved) made a policy decision that they no longer accept internet coupons. So, make sure yours does before you get into printing a bunch off.

Coupon Code said...

Chelsea its such a shame that stores don't except internet coupons. Its really the wave of the future. I can't wait until we can load all our coupons on our 'smart phones' and don't have to worry about printing and remembering coupons anymore! But with fraud going on, stores need to do whatever they can to make money.

Mary said...

Oh my goodness, don't even get me started on couponing! I spend about 20 minutes each week planning out my list and cutting/printing the coupons I need. Definitely worth that 20 minutes when, like last week, I went to the store and spent $30 and saved $120! I love Pinching your Pennies, Grocerysmarts.com, and theobssessiveshopper.net I also used to say I would never get the newspaper, but it's totally worth it when you have a large family. If something happens to be free with a coupon in the paper that week I can get four of them (I get four papers) and build my food storage. Ah, I love couponing! And coupons are not just for food either. We got boxes of tide last year for $1.50 a pop, and just the other day I got the new Princess and the Frog movie combining a Disney internet coupon and a band-aid rebate and got it for $6.99. Can't beat that for a brand new movie!

Lisa said...

I was with you all the way til the generic Cheerios. Cheerios are one of the few things that I think the store brand is inferior on. (wow, bad grammar, but you know what I mean.) Also, Goldfish crackers- those stupid whales are nearly as yummy.

Hizzeather said...

I'm a Krazy Coupon Lady - krazycouponlady.com They have saved me soooo much money! It has helped me stock-pile so that we have a 3 month supply! I have a year's worth of toiletries too!

ps...love your blog! It helps me A LOT!

The Liddells said...

Because I pretty much only shop at HEB, I like to use www.couponmom.com because you can look up all the deals for HEB for that week. You can search by state for the store you want and it will show you the deals plus how much % you're saving. I wish I did it more, though, because I know I could still be saving a lot more.

The Liddells said...

By the way, depending on where you shop, some grocery stores allow you to save your coupons onto your savings/rewards card and then you swipe it to redeem. Unfortunately HEB isn't one of them.

Carly Jane said...

So disappointing. I really really (REALLY) don't want to coupon. Do I have to? Is it really the only (or the best) way to save money at the grocery store? I guess I just have to figure out if all that saved money is worth it to me. Sigh.

Here are my problems, however:
1. I don't want/won't get the newspaper.
2. My printer doesn't work (I knwo, I know, we should just get ink, but SUU gives each student 200 free pages of printing each semester... so we don't really need it)
3. I hate (HATE) the idea of having to pull out all my coupons at the grocery store. Ugh.
4. Menu planning already takes me way too long (sometimes too long to admit, I know it's pathetic) that I can't imagine spending more time online looking for coupons.

Sigh. I know you don't have any answers for me. I just need to either suck it up and do it or be fine with shopping the sales and paying full price.

Rachel said...

I am with Carley. Couponing is hard for me! I generally do not find the things I want/need when i search coupons (I have tried w/newspapers etc). I am pretty specific about what I like and want to buy. Am I doing it wrong? Perhaps you could provide a day in the life-step by step couponing post?

Kimberly F. said...

That's interesting. When I worked for HEB we did not accept printed coupons.

chelon:) said...

i cannot tell you how much i have saved from couponing for the last 6 weeks. my grocery bill before was well over $1000/month (i have five growing kids) in six weeks i have only spent $700 (i know that sounds like a lot, but i am in the stockpiling phase) and it felt so good! every good deal i would come home and share with my husband. he came with me once and was so impressed as he watched the cash register go down...down...down. it is so thrilling! and kind of addicting :P

Hizzeather said...

Carly Jane, you have to work to earn your money, or in this case, to keep your money. Couponing takes some effort, but once you get used to it, it's a breeze. Do you hate pulling out money at the store? Because coupons are like money! I love them!!! :)

Ask a friend (or two) who gets the Sunday paper if they will save the coupons for you. I would recommend getting ink...some of the best coupons are printable, and you can print two per computer. Get a little coupon organizer at the dollar store for your purse.

If none of this interests you, then couponing is NOT for you. For some people their time is more valuable then their money. For me right now (being unemployed) money is of more worth than my time. :)