Friday, April 30, 2010

Money Saving Madness

Welcome, friends, from Kelly's Korner!

Being a stay-at-home-wife, I feel that it's part of my job to save our family money. We have been abundantly blessed, but by no means feel like we're rolling in the dough! The primary task I use for saving us money is Couponing. This term means different things to different people. For me, it simply means using coupons (of many varieties) combined with sales prices to achieve the cheapest possible cost for a given item. I had used coupons since we got married and, sure, I saved some money here and there. It wasn't until I started Couponing in the fall of 2008 that I really began to see a difference in how much money we were spending and saving on groceries and common household items.

I know that this concept isn't for everyone. So rather than try to pressure you into believing that Couponing is the only way, I'll simply tell you what I do and what works for me.

A common misconception about using coupons is that it takes too much time. Recently, I figured out that the total time I spend each week on clipping and sorting coupons/meal planning is around 60-75 minutes. The bulk of that time is spent clipping and sorting, but is usually accomplished while watching tv. I'm able to catch up on a favorite show and mark a big task off my weekly to-do list.

Last year alone, we saved nearly $2,000 on groceries and household items. Yes, nearly TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!! If I consider that total with the amount of time I spend each week on this task, I'm "earning" about $35 an hour for my time. As a stay at home wife, I believe this is the least I can do to contribute to our monthly budget!

Here's my step-by-step plan.

First, I collect my coupons. My coupons come from the Sunday paper, friends and family and online sources such as I also subscribe to several bargain blogs where I find shopping lists for the stores I shop in, extra coupons and even online deals (you can find these blogs on the right side of the page under "links").

After that, I cut my coupons. I ONLY CUT COUPONS FOR THINGS I KNOW WE WILL BUY. I found that cutting out every single coupon takes a lot of extra time. Throwing away a big stack of unused coupons at the end of the month is very frustrating. As I cut the coupons, I separate them into "Food" and "Non-Food" stacks.

Next, comes the sorting. I have found that an initial sort like this saves TONS of time when I am looking for a certain coupon. I have 2 coupon for food items and another for non-food items. Each folder has several files. In each tab, there are envelopes to break down the sorting even more. For example, (below) the laundry tab contains envelopes for detergent, stain treater and fabric softener. This method allows me to search through a few coupons for detergent rather than rifle through a whole stack of coupons that may or may not be for detergent. My tabs and envelopes are based on things that we use and buy. Yours may or may not look like this.
I have a basket that looks like the one below to house all my couponing supplies. In the basket, I keep scissors, a Sharpie, a note pad, both coupon files, sales flyers to take note of and coupons that need to be cut/sorted/filed.
Now, it's time to make my shopping lists. I have a Grocery List template on my computer that I print once a week. This allows me to make my shopping list based on certain departments and aisles in the store. Under each department/aisle, I also have a column for coupons. This allows me to make note of the coupon(s) I have for the item listed. Then, when I'm shopping I know exactly how much my coupon is for and can compare costs without having to dig through my coupon folder for every single item.
The note pad I keep in my Coupon basket allows me to make smaller lists for other stores (like Target, Wal-Mart or CVS).

Once I've created a menu for the week (using as many food items as I can from the pantry, fridge and freezer), I peruse the sales flyers. I look for items that are on sale and that I know I have coupons for. I circle all the things I might be interested in buying with my Sharpie. Then, I match up coupons with sales items to see if the final price of that item is reasonable (once you've done this for a while, you'll start to see patterns in prices and know when something is really on sale). I add those items to my list and I'm off to the store!

Here are some things to remember when adapting a Couponing method:

*Get over brand preferences.
The key is to buy what you can get at a super cheap price, rather than to buy items that you might normally buy. I'm not gonna lie, I love Angel Soft toilet paper. But, if I can get a pack of Cottonnelle for 5o cents, you better believe I'm gonna go for it! I've found that, the majority of the time, I end up liking a new brand better than my old stand by brands.

*Buy items based on price, not necessity.
Obviously, things come up and last minute trips to the store are a must. The object, though, is to plan ahead as much as you can to save the most money possible. I've begun planning a week and a half in advance, and that seems to work pretty well.

*Save your coupons & watch for sales.
These two kinda go hand in hand. Some sites suggest that you do a month's worth of research on your most purchased products to figure out the lowest sale price for those items, and then only purchasing them at that lowest sale price. While that totally works, I've adapted my own little system. Instead of doing all the research, I simply wait for the sales ads, check out the items that are on sale and match them up with my coupons. The majority of the time, the items that are in the sales ads are near their lowest price.

*Stock up.
If an item is on sale and you have 4 coupons, use them and stock up!! It's better to keep 3 extra bags of frozen vegetables on hand and get them for 50 cents a piece than it is to only buy 1 bag at 50 cents and then have to pay full price for the other 3 bags later. This goes for items that you might not have coupons for, too, like meat. If a meat item is on sale, we buy enough to make 4 or 5 dishes.

I know all this looks intimidating. I can tell you that it WILL take some time to adapt to your liking, but by taking it a step at a time, it's a lot easier than you might initially think. Just remember that your pantry/fridge/freezer WILL be stocked and you WILL save money!

If you have questions about the process I use or would like for me to e-mail you with the Grocery List template I use, contact us at .

Happy Saving!

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