When I have an awesome shopping trip and post about the savings on Facebook, the comment I most often get from my friends is, “Teach me!” Followed by, “How do you have the time to do it?”
First off, I’m not an extreme couponer like you see on TV. I work full-time and have a son who is involved in sports and scouts (which I’m involved in, too), and I manage to drag my rear to the gym or to the bike path twice a week. My ex husband works nights, so I’m pretty much with my son all the time, except on his dad’s weekends. The good part is that my son gets very excited when we have a big shopping trip with a lot of savings! He now now knows the $94 saved at Albertson’s is half of the registration fee for him to play baseball in the spring.
Most weeks, I spend about 45-60 minutes on Tuesday night (which is when the grocery ads arrive in the mail) and 30-45 minutes on Sundays clipping, organizing and making lists. Sometimes I do this after he goes to bed, sometimes I do it with him if he’s interested in helping. I’ve made it a priority because saving money is a priority.
Throughout the week, when I see coupons online, I print them up. Truth be told … they just sit on the printer until Sunday or Tuesday rolls around.
Some weeks my list includes stops at 5-6 stores. This week there are only three. Last week was none. There was nothing I needed (other than milk and fresh fruit) and the deals weren’t that impressive.
Here are the five tips I give to my friends:
• Never pay full price. There are exceptions to this, milk being the biggest. But when you have to pay full-price for something, really question your motives. Do you really need the item? Is it an impulse purchase, or could you wait and stock up when it goes on sale? Everything goes on sale in cycles — every 3-4 months. I just hit the second cycle on Secret deodorant sales and am good to go for a while!
• Costco is NOT the cheapest. Guess what? Milk is the exception here, too! I buy gas, dog food, dog treats, and milk at Costco. Keep in mind I have ONE kid. Toilet paper, paper plates, laundry detergent … I’ve bought it for WAY less at other stores when I’ve used coupons for sale items. I have 4-5 packages of toilet paper (all different brands) in my hall closet. Oddly, I think all were bought during different sales at Walgreen’s. Pay no more than $.25 per roll. On the occasion you have to pay full-price for something, WinCo is often the cheapest.
• Re-think your brand loyalty. Currently at my house I have Tide and Gain laundry detergent. As long as it does the job, the brand doesn’t matter to me. However, I only buy Crest toothpaste. I have Uncle Ben’s, Mahatma, and Minute Rice in my cabinet, but I will only buy Heinz ketchup. Therefore, I put more effort into stocking up on Crest and Heinz when I have coupons and they are on sale. Everyone has to decide on their own preferences. Decide which is most important to you and your family. When it comes right down to it, is paying 2-3x more worth it?
• Don’t be embarrassed. Two things here: Don’t be embarrassed about the 12 boxes of cereal in your cabinet, or 10 cans of shave gel in your bathroom. Yes, I have 10 cans of Skintimate shave gel in my bathroom that I paid $.70 each for (Green Tag sale at Foods Co. plus coupons). AND … Don’t be embarrassed to use your coupons. When I have a big stack, I do let the person know in line behind me, just to be courteous. It can take a while to scan them all in. Even if people shoot you looks, or roll their eyes, just look at the savings on your receipt and revel in the fact that you will never have to pay $3.50 for a can of shave gel.
• Learn prices one at a time. This has been the hardest part for me because I’m not very good at remembering numbers. I started focusing on the non-perishable things that I buy almost every week: Dry cereal, toilet paper, and pasta were on my short list. I know that I should never pay more than $1.49 for any box of cereal. I stock up on our favorites — Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch — and never pay more than that. A “stock-up” price to me is at least 60 percent off. I don’t pay more than $.25 per roll for TP, and no more than $.40 per package of spaghetti/linguine. As you get more into this, you’ll start to be able to spot the good deals. Money Saving Mom is one of the blogs I follow. Here is her list of price guidelines.
When I started, I went to SaveAtHomeMommy.com. Aimee is here in Bakersfield, so you get a lot of local info. I did buy a binder, too. You can organize however you like, but the binder is helpful to me. I wasn’t able to make it to one of the seminars, but I wish I had. I think I would have caught on a lot faster.
(Here’s the contest!)
Aimee is hosting a seminar here in Bakersfield on Dec. 10. and is giving away a FREE registration! Click here to get the details.
Do you have any money-saving tips to share? Comment below!
**See our other money-saving posts in our couponing section.