Back in the (Couponing) Saddle ~ Chapter 6, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

I fell off the wagon and got a little behind, but I have a good excuse this time.  :)  My mission now is to catch up!

I gave up couponing months ago, letting my file folder wither as we prioritized time management and whole foods eating.  I knew there were coupons out there that I could use, and let’s face it… our on-the-go, ballgaming lifestyle isn’t conducive to all whole foods eating, so yes, I was definitely missing out on some bargains.  It just didn’t seem worth it to spend the time hunting down, clipping, and redeeming the right coupons at the right time.

This month, less than 2 weeks after having our 5th baby, I got back at it.  Yes, my timing is impeccable.  What was I thinking?!  Well, I figured if I was going to jump back in, I may as well do it while there was a good sale going on and great deals to be had.  Nothing like FREE for motivation!

This particular week my Dillons (Kroger affiliate) was having a Mega Sale.  I took it easy on myself and followed Frugal Fritzie’s plan of action (I highly recommend finding a deal blogger for your particular store and letting them to all the “heavy lifting”).  I didn’t have access to any coupon inserts, but printed what I could and had great success with those.

One of the key strategies to saving the most money with coupons is to only use them for sale items.  I agree wholeheartedly, and that’s what I did.  I missed couponing!  And… it was fun to snag some deals, both on “fun foods” for ballgames and free stuff we’d use down the road.  Here’s my stash.

  • 2 boxes cereal ~ $1.49 each
  • 4 boxes dishwasher tabs ~ $1.79 each
  • 2 bags Goldfish crackers ~ 49¢ each
  • 2 bags Chex Mix ~ 49¢ each
  • 1 bag Huggies wipes ~ $1.00
  • 4 boxes Hefty zip bags ~ FREE

All that stuff for about $14?  Worth it!  My favorite purchases were the zip bags and the dishwasher soap.  Those are items that I have bought full price many a time because we flat out needed them.  To be able to stock up at a bargain?  That was great incentive to get back on the coupon bandwagon!

Yes, I saved a significant amount on this trip.  I’m still not confident, though, in Crystal’s assertion in Chapter 5 of  The Money Saving Mom’s Budget that “If you use coupons correctly, you’ll save $25 to $50 per hour.”  Maybe I’m just slow (and easily distracted!), but between looking up the deals, printing and clipping coupons, and doing the shopping, that’s a stretch.  However, I’m limited by location and coupon availability right now, and I’m sure that makes a huge difference! (It’s not the $25 to $50 I’m questioning, it’s the time factor.  What does your experience say?)

Chapter 6:  Advanced Couponing Techniques

Shop at more than one store. 

WalMart, Dillons, and Dollar General are my options in the town where I do most of my shopping.  Honestly?  I prefer Dillons 80% of the time, especially if I have coupons in hand.  Their sales are better, they double coupons, and their produce is superior to WalMart.  If my list consists of groceries that are mostly on sale (which is how it should be if my objective is to save!) I stick to Dillons and just take a hit on the few items I need that aren’t on sale.  That beats another stop at another store in the time and hassle department.

Play the Drugstore Game.

Oh, how I envy those of you who can take advantage of this saving technique!  Our nearest drugstore is an hour away.  Not a viable option for me, so I’ve never played the game.  Feel free to make me jealous and share your successes!

Is it a Good Deal?

This is important!  I’ve noticed the “clearance” signs in WalMart:  Clearance Price ~ $1.95, Regular Price ~ $1.98.  Ummm, notadeal!  Don’t let the bright lights and red ink trick you into buying something just because it’s “on sale.”  I like Crystal’s suggestion of keeping a price book on the things we buy most.  It’s a quick reference to a good price when the numbers start to spin.

Also good to remember, regardless of the price:  It’s not a good deal if you can’t afford it.  If you can’t pay cash and stay within your budget, walk away.

Stack Coupons and Use Overage.

I’ve been using coupons for years, but just learned to be on the lookout for catalinas a few years ago.  These little printouts act like cash and can be used for anything.  What a great way to get a “deal” on items (produce, milk, etc.) that we rarely see coupons for.

Use Great Deals to Feed Your Family.

This may be the most important section in Chapter 6.  Stocking your pantry with cheap and free food doesn’t do your family any good if you don’t know how to use those items to prepare meals.  Meal planning and preparing easy, economical meals for the family could really be a chapter (or book!) of its own, and is truly a skill even more important than couponing.  If you can use bargains to plan your meals, that’s even better, but learning to eat well at home will save your family time and money (not to mention the health benefits!) exponentially more than any amount of coupons.

Crystal offers a few pages of basic menu planning tips and strategies, which are helpful reminders, but if you’re a “newbie” I would strongly recommend digging around the internet for a more thorough series to help you get in the kitchen.

How do you make couponing worth it?

What strategies work best in your situation?  If you’ve never clipped a coupon, what would make it worth trying?

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Comments

  1. With the deals that Dillons has had lately I have saved a TON of $$…My coupon clipping (when I remember to get inserts from my Father in law) and what I print off has saved me over $20 (more when you thrown in the store deals) this month…BUT it takes a lot of time, and lets face it time=$$ for me at least it does….

    I also have a web site that I follow for deals, but I am adding ur source too!!! It makes it so much easier!!!

  2. To be honest–

    I rarely use coupons. i mostly just shop sales and buy in bulk.

    I do the drugstore game once a year around black friday. That’s when I stock up on toothpaste and other personal care items. I buy lotion via vitacost and i will wait for a sale and stock up. With food i just try to buy in season and store what I can. i save 40% or more on most of my shopping just by waiting for sales and buying in bulk.

  3. yes, we use coupons, during the seasons when there is time to devote to the clipping/filing and planning. thankfully my 3 youngest daughters jumped in to help me this weekend, and we took advantage of the kroger mega sales too!

    • “during the seasons when there is time to devote to the clipping/filing and planning” Yes. No need to make it more stressful than necessary in the other seasons.

  4. I am slowing tapering off of coupons. I have found over the years, that it is getting harder and harder to get the same deals you used to. Oten times you now have to buy two or three items instead of one. What used to be a 50 cent coupon is now 25 cent. I have also found that a lot of the coupons and great deals are for food items that I am slowly getting rid of as well because of the nutritional value. I am not finding that the time spent searching, cutting, filing, and discarding old is worth the amount of time when I am working and shuffling kids around every where. With that being said, I still take my neighbor’s coupons when she gives them to me; I just don’t cut out as many. I just try to stick to what is on sale when planning my lists picking up a few extras of the great sale items to store to use in the future. I did stock up on some simple grab and go items from Kroger this week too as school is getting ready to start (and lucky for me, I had some coupons to help).

    • I hear ya. The deals don’t seem as good as they used to, but when I can snag free freezer bags, I’m gonna do it. :) I think for me it will just have to be a simpler strategy. Instead of spending hours clipping coupons that I end up never using, I’ll only clip the ones I WILL use when I see a good sale that week. Bummer to find something extra in the store and not have the coupon, but that’s a small price to pay for my time and sanity. ;)

  5. With a newborn its hard to shop at multiple stores so lately I’m sticking to one store and using the store coupon insert that we get every week. I see what’s on sale and if it’s something we need, I find a coupon to match the sale which reduces the cost even more! I’ve never gotten into the drugstore game but someday I want to try!

  6. “I stick to Dillons and just take a hit on the few items I need that aren’t on sale. That beats another stop at another store in the time and hassle department.” YES! I shop at two stores here in Oregon: Fred Meyer (Kroger) and WINCO. Some of the deals that Fred Meyer runs during the week are so good that it’s worth it to pay full price for some of the other items. Plus, I’ve been really impressed by their store brand (few ingredients, often no preservatives or strange ingredients, no-sugar added options, etc) and that alone is worth a few extra pennies.

    I occasionally do the drugstore game but we don’t have room to store a large stockpile of toiletry items so I only pick up one or two things a few times a year. But there are changes being made to some of the rewards programs so the time I would have to spend going to the store on multiple days (with a 2-year old and newborn in tow) just to utilize the rewards dollars won’t be worth it.

  7. I love your blog, and find it very encouraging. Thanks for all you share with us. Your family is beautiful!

    I was just curious if you always print your coupons with colored ink? (Assuming the picture above was of your coupons.) When I switched my printer settings to “fast draft” and I stopped buying colored ink, it saved me a lot of money. :P

    Thanks again for opening up your lives to us…it’s so nice to be encouraged even spiritually on your blog as we share the same faith.

    • My Dillons won’t accept black and white, so yes… I use color. I do put it on “fast draft” but I have a new printer, so those particular coupons looked pretty nice. ;)

      • Oh, I’ve never heard of that. I live in NH and our stores won’t accept ANY printable coupons anymore. They used to accept printable coupons ONLY if they had a barcode…only problem is that you can’t tell before printing coupons if there will be a barcode or not. Like in your picture above–our stores would not accept your chex mix coupons because even though there are black lines and numbers, there is not an actual bar code. So anyway, I basically have stopped using coupons unless a friend gives me stacks of paper inserts, which she does once in awhile. I do miss it, though.

  8. I would like to use more coupons but I don’t really know where to get them. I only use coupons.com, and then our Safeway’s Just for U program. We don’t get a newspaper and we live in the middle of nowhere. Any suggestions?

    • You might check Money Saving Mom’s Store Deals page. Maybe there’s a blogger covering your particular store? I feel ya on the “middle of nowhere” problem!

  9. I love couponing and get lots of stuff for my family. I haven’t put the clock to my coupon preparation time but I know that I save about $700-$800 per month. I have been able to limit my budget to $160 per month and now I am a stay at home mom!! There is nothing better than free plastic bags and cheap trash bags… since you end up throwing them out anyway. Save the money for the good stuff while saving on the other stuff you need :) Congrats on the great trip and what a time to get back to couponing… when my little one was that age, I was just trying to sleep in my own bed for a few hours!!

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