Number three on my list of ways that I save money is by using coupons. As I mentioned before, I was not always frugal and didn't use coupons until about 4 years ago. So, around 4 years ago, I first purchased the following books.
Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving
Frugal Families: Making the Most of Your Hard-Earned Money
Cheap Talk with the Frugal Friends: Over 600 Tips, Tricks, and Creative Ideas for Saving Money
Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom
For those of you new to the frugal bandwagon, these books are a plethora of information! I read them cover to cover and just tried to soak it all in. Coupons seemed to be one thing that I could easily try. So I gave it a shot.
I have tried many things over the years, from cutting out every coupon and having a huge plastic container to hold my coupons, to having a small organizer in my purse, to what I have now, a nice cloth envelope type organizer with slots for my coupons. I bought it at Meijer.
Most people organize their coupons by type: baby, frozen, baking, meat, cereal, etc. I tried it that way, but I had so many that I ended up having envelopes in each slot to help me seperate them and make it easier for me to locate. After a while I realized that didn't work.
Then I read this book Shop, Save, Share. In her book, she talks about organizing her coupons in alphabetical order. So I tried that and it totally works for me! It is much easier to find Pampers diapers in the "P" section rather than the "baby" section. Kellog cereal would be in the
"K" section, not the "cereal" section. You get the picture.
Now, here is a secret, I do not pay for coupons. I used to have the Sunday paper delivered to our house. But some weeks we would not get our paper and we would have to go out to buy them anyway. Not to mention our subscription kept slowly going up. So we cancelled it and if I know there are going to be alot of coupons that I will want, we will go buy a paper, but that rarely happens. I get my coupons from my mom. She only cuts out a few coupons and usually for things that I don't buy anyway. I will print coupons from Coupons.com (which is on my sidebar) and from anywhere else that I find them. MoneySavingMom.com will always list the latest online coupons, I check her site multiple times a day.
So, I cut out any high value coupons and anything else that we will use. Even if it is something we can't use, with the high value coupons, if I am able to get it free, or for pennies, I will buy it and then donate it or give it to family and friends who can use it.
Once I cut them out, I then organize them in my coupon organizer.
When I get the sale ads delivered, at our house, that is Saturday morning, I will sit down and go through the ads and circle anything that might seem like a good deal. At this point I am not matching up to the coupons yet. Once I am done going through my ads, I will then go back to the ads, armed with my coupon book and see if I have coupons for anything that I circled. If I do, I will pull it out and start making a pile.
I do this for each sale ad. I will also check out MoneySavingMom.com, as she will list the links that will list deals at the stores that I shop.
After I make this pile, I will then write a list of everything I want to buy at the store. How much it costs, how much my coupon is for and what the final cost will be after sale and coupons (sometimes doubled). I do this for every item I have a coupon for. In addition to that, I will add items that I need to the list, also checking to see if I have a coupon for it. This comes from my running list on the fridge. When I run out of something or am getting low, I add it to my grocery list on the fridge.
So, armed with my grocery list, I head to the store. I also take my coupon organizer with me, incase they have an unadvertiesd sale.
But I don't just buy something because I have a coupon: No matter how good a deal it is, if you still have to pay something out of pocket and will not use it or can't donate it, then it isn't a good deal.
Since I don't buy alot of processed foods or cleaners, I mainly use coupons on toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste, personal items, etc.
As for toiletries, usually CVS will run items that are Free after Extra Care Bucks. I always buy those and when paired with a coupon, they turn into a money maker. I then roll those Extra Care bucks into another deal, or buy formula with them.
Using coupons is a great way to save money, I have been able to stock up on lots of things. For instance, I probably have enough disposable razors to last myself and all three of my daughters until they are grown and on their own. I still have about 20 bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I got for free or pennies. Not to mention the 20 or so bottles of lotion, also free. Same for panty liners, I am set for years with my free Kotex! I just ran out of toothbrushes, I haven't had to pay for any for about 4 years!
I used to keep a price book, but have gotten to where I just know in my head if it is a good price or not. Plus, Aldi's has the lowest price in town on staples. If something is more expensvie than Aldi, even with a coupon, I will not buy it.
There are however many things that I cannot buy with a coupon simply because I cannot find them. I have to have them anway, due to my daughters food allergies. So using coupons to save on one thing, allows me to spend the extra on the others.
Currently we are buying diapers and formula, so I am not sure what our grocery costs are right now, as we spend about $100 a week on formula alone. However, before the formula and diapers, we were spending $150 for 2 weeks, I would go to the store every two weeks. Not bad for a then family of five, including one with special dietary needs.
I am hoping that once we are done with formula that I can get back to the $150 for two weeks grocery bill. We'll see how it goes.
How do you organize your coupons?
This post links to Frugal Friday and Works for me Wedesdays.