Friday, June 11, 2010

Couponing 101

So I recently took up a new hobby. One that focuses my OCD and Type A tendencies on something productive while also allowing me to shop several times a week. Granted, they're not large or expensive trips but, hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right?

Anyway, due to great interest I've received from Facebook, Twitter and Real Life Friends, I decided to compile all of the links to coupon sites and coupon/sale matching blogs in a post so all can enjoy some savings.

When I first decided to get on the coupon train, it was actually sort of by accident. My man and I were in the middle of trying to decide where to go for summer vacation and he saw a segment on Good Morning America about a couple of moms who were giving travel tips but who had originally had their claim to fame on the show when they cut their grocery budgets in half.

In half, y'all.

Half is a lot for our family. We eat at home most of the time and generally only eat out 1-2 times per week but I have a husband who likes to grill things like pork chops, steaks, ribs and brisket so our grocery budget can get out of control in the summer. We like to eat and we like to eat good food. :-)

Because daycare doubles in the summer (from after school care to full day camp) and we wanted to take two smaller trips this year (one to San Antonio and another to some beach somewhere), it seemed like the perfect time to jump in with both feet.

The first website I checked out was Be Centsable and there I found a step-by-step tutorial about how to really maximize your coupons. Mainly, you want to clip all of them - yes ALL - unless it's a product you know your family will never buy. Then you want to save them until your area stores have a sale to increase your savings.

One thing I learned at this site is that Wal-Mart has their own magazine, All You. It costs around $3 and contains around $100 in coupons each month. Totally pays for itself and it's now on my to buy list every month.

When reading this magazine for the first time, I found a couple of sites that are now daily reading because they match up the current sales for Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens with coupons (both clipped and printables). They are Passion for Savings , Common Sense With Money and Stretching a Buck .

There are also coupon websites where you can get a number of coupons each month. At each one you can generally print each twice so if it's an item you use a lot, go ahead and print it out more than once. These coupons reset each month and new ones are added each week. I haven't found any store that doesn't accept printable coupons but they must be in color as black and white could indicate to the store clerk that the coupon was photocopied.

The coupon sites I use are:

There are many more but these are the three I visit often because they seem to have the best coupons and, honestly, I just don't have time to visit more...

So what kind of success have we experienced?

Well, let's just say my man has never loved me more. :-)

It took me about a month to really get the hang of matching and maximizing the savings. We go to the grocery store every two weeks for a large purchase (I plan out two weeks worth of meals before we even head that way so we have a game plan) and the last time we had a week of big purchases, I saved $150.  Not all at one store, mind you, as I visited Walgreens, CVS (you must get an Extra Care Card and check out the ECB deals each week) and Wal-Mart. 

Note: You may notice HEB is not included and I know that is a favorite for many Texas families. The deal with HEB is that we do take advantage of their sales but when they have in-store coupons, you can't use a manufacturer's coupon on top of it (you can at Walgreens and CVS) so it's not quite as advantageous. They do have great sales, though, so we check them each week and pick up a few things here and there...

We were very well stocked on food, have sunscreen for the entire summer (great buy one, get one sale) and have dish soap, body wash, tissue, etc. in the cupboard that will last for probably two months. Needless to say, I was thrilled! After the savings, I actually spent the same amount I normally do but had enough food for 3.5 weeks of meals instead of 2.

Anyway, please know that I am by no means an expert and you can find the ins and outs of shopping at each store in great detail on the blogs I linked to so I would encourage you to read those if you're interested. I just wanted to share this with those of you who, like me, may be very interested in ways to stretch your budget so you can spend more money on having fun with your family and less on actually feeding them. :-)

I have some other tips on buying kids clothes as well (we saved $80 on Tay's camp clothes last week) but will save that for another time because this is really long. :-)


Natalie said...

Can you please continue to detail your couponing? :) With a husband going to law school in the fall, I'm anxious to learn more about saving money, but I feel like I've just now (at the ripe age of 26) gotten down the regular grocery shopping thing! Teach me your ways! :)