I've used coupons for as long as I can remember. I always had one of those wallet-sized coupon organizers in my car or my bag. It was nice saving 50 cents here or a dollar or two there, but when I decided I wanted to quit my job to stay home full-time with my baby, I realized that I had to find a way to save more if we were going to be making less.
I used to watch the news every morning as I would get ready, and they had a segment each week in which a "coupon guru" would highlight the best deals of the week. I had seen the Smiths and Albertsons ads had "Buy 10, Save $5" promotions, but I figured they were a gimmick and would force you to spend more. But the coupon guru showed how combining coupons with sales and promotions could save you 50 - 70% off your bill.
It sounded like a great way to save money, so I started printing online coupons and scouring the ads... putting about an hour a day into clipping coupons and planning my shopping trips. (Fortunately, I had a baby who slept a lot, so I had a lot of extra time.) I was saving a lot, but I was also spending most of my free time clipping coupons and shopping!
As my little one got a little older, she started to grab at my coupons when we were out shopping and would fuss if we were out too long. Suddenly, spending all day trying to get the best deals wasn’t working, and I started to get frustrated and discouraged. That's when a friend of mine told me about Money Saving Mom. Right away I loved this blog! Not only did this mom sing praises of the book Miserly Moms (the book that convinced me it was possible to lose half our income and still survive), but she provided detailed information about how to get the best deals at Target, Walgreens, and Kroger stores. Thru her blog, I also found the local Utah blogs, Utah Deal Diva and Pinching Your Pennies. (For my out of state friends, Pinching Your Pennies also provides detailed information about the best deals at grocery stores in Idaho, Nevada, California, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, and Wyoming.)
Nowadays, I spend an hour a week clipping and organizing coupons and about an hour planning my shopping trips. (Planning what you are going to buy before you set foot in the grocery store will save you TONS of time and money!) I usually go shopping Sunday and Wednesday mornings and try not to go to more than two stores each day (still working on this one... sometimes the temptation to get amazing deals at more than two stores is just too great!)
Today I went to Smiths and Rite-Aid. Here's a picture of what I bought at Smith’s:
Smith’s was running a special coupon promotion where they rounded all coupons up to $1. I tried to take a picture of the receipt, but obviously it didn't work. My total before coupons was $24.01, but I only paid $3.77! That represents 84% savings!! So how did I do it? Here's a breakdown:
- Safeguard hand soap: $1, used a $.50 coupon (rounded to $1) plus used a $.50 P&G e-coupon I loaded on to my Fresh Values card - FREE plus 50 cents overage!!
- Crest Toothpaste: $1, used a $.75 coupon (rounded to $1) - FREE!
- Old Spice body wash: $2.99, part of a Proctor and Gamble promotion that gave you $1 off per item if you bought 4 items, also had a buy-one-get-one free coupon and a $1 off 2 coupon - both FREE!
- Gillette body wash: $2.99, also part of the P&G promotion that gave $1 off each item, plus used a $2 coupon - FREE!
- Lady Speed Stick: $.88, used a $.50 coupon (rounded to $.88) - FREE!
- Bounty Basic Paper Towel: $1.09, used a $.25 coupon, which was rounded up to $1 - paid .09 each
- 2 dozen large eggs: $1.19, on sale for $.79 each
- Smiths cottage bread: $1.50 (the only item not on sale or eligible for coupon savings, but a great deal anyway!)
Now, lest you think I save 84% every time I shop, let's take a look at a more typical shopping trip... today's trip to Rite Aid.
I would have liked to have gone to Rite Aid on Sunday morning (that’s when their new ad starts), but the closest Rite Aid is about 10 miles from my house, and unless I'm going to MAKE at least $5 from shopping there, I'm not willing to go out of my way. (As a side note, I was able to make $11 last month from one shopping trip to Rite Aid! :-) I knew I had to go downtown today, and the downtown Rite Aid doesn't have as many coupon shoppers anyway, so I wasn't worried about them being sold out of everything by this morning. Luckily, the only deal I wasn't able to take advantage of was the Nivea Body Wash, which would have been free plus $1 overage. But I'm not sweatin' it, because (as you can see from the picture above) I'm well stocked on body wash!
So here's what I got:
I had to do 2 separate transactions, in order to maximize my coupons, but business was slow and the sweet cashier was more than happy to do so. The total for my first transaction came to $26.61, and after coupons and UP Rewards (a Rite Aid coupon printed at the bottom of the receipt, and good towards your next shopping trip), the total was $10.21 (62% savings). Here's the breakdown:
- Luvs diapers: $16.99, used a $2.50 coupon and received a $2 UP Reward - final price: $12.49**
- Raisen Bran: 2 for $4, used a $1 coupon and received a $1 UP Reward - final price: $2 for both**
- Soft Soap hand soap: $1, used a $.50 coupon - final price: $.50**
- Colgate toothpaste: $3, used a $1 coupon and received $3 UP Rewards - final price: FREE plus $1 overage!
The total for my second transaction came to $26.35, and after coupons, UP Rewards, and a rebate the total came to $7.35 (72% savings). The only thing different in this transaction than the last was that instead of buying the Raisen Bran, I bought a Reach toothbrush. It was on sale for $3.99 and Rite Aid was offering a $3 rebate and a $1 UP Reward. This made it free, but I also had a coupon for $1 off, so I ended up making money from buying the toothbrush! My hubby and I actually prefer using spin brushes, but homeless shelters are always in need of toothbrushes so I will gladly donate the toothbrush I made $1 off of. :-)
Well, hopefully that gives you all a better understanding of why I love coupons so much! Despite what you may have heard, you can actually save TONS of money with coupons and coupons are NOT just for processed junk foods!
Speaking of food, you may be wondering what we're eating this week, since the only thing edible in the pictures above are the eggs and bread. My neighbors have amazing gardens and have been keeping my crisper full of veggies. I stocked up on meat and fruits at Sunflower Farmers Market last week, and I bought milk, yogurt, cheese, and granola bars on my Sunday shopping trip (saved 76% on that trip!) I'll try and highlight one of my food shopping trips next week, but until then... go clip some coupons!