Archive | Budget Living

Budget Living: Couponing

Prior to having kids, I was not very budget conscientious.
I paid full price for things, I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it, and I never clipped coupons.
But now that we are a family of five, living on one income, 
we’ve really had to rethink how we spend our money.
I had no idea how expensive kids can be, especially when you have three at the same time!
We go through diapers galore and we have to buy 3 of everything…
 carseats, beds, bikes, shoes, coats, etc. 
It really adds up!
So anyways, to help cut our grocery costs, I started couponing about 4 months ago.
I was skeptical at first. 
It seemed like you could almost always buy the generic brand of stuff for cheaper than the brand-name items, even with coupons. 
I was also under the impression that most of the coupons were for items that we would never use, so why bother clipping them?
Isn’t it just cheaper to shop at Costco anyways?
But I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Before I started couponing, I shopped at the same grocery store once a week.
My typical grocery bill was between $120-$150 each week.
We would also do a Costco run about once a month and drop about $200.
By no means am I an extreme couponer or even an expert for that matter, 
but I have learned a lot and gotten some great deals.
Now I am proud to say that I spend about $75 a week and we have only been going to Costco once every 2 months and spending about $150.
So that means I’ve cut our grocery bill by about half!!!
How, you ask??
I started by following some couponing blogs that are specific to my area {Pacific Northwest}.
I would suggest doing a Google search for coupon blogs in your area.
My favorites are Coupon Connections NW, Fabulessly Frugal, Frugal Living NW, and The Krazy Coupon Lady {even though she’s not local, she’s just awesome!}
These amazing ladies share great tips for beginning couponers and are awesome at telling you when and where to score great deals and what specific coupons to use.
Secondly, I subscribed to our local Sunday paper {The Everett Herald}. 
This is where the majority of my coupons come from.
Most expert couponers say that you should subscribe to multiple copies of your Sunday paper so that you get multiple copies of the coupons. 
I’ve heard that the amount of papers that you subscribe to should correlate to the number of people in your household {for me that would mean 5 Sunday papers}. 
But I haven’t gotten that crazy yet.
If there’s a great coupon and I want multiple copies of it, I usually just beg my friends and family to give me theirs :)
At first I was really picky about what coupons I would cut out.  
I wanted to stick to the same brands we were used to using and I would only clip out coupons for things that I bought on a regular basis.
I noticed some savings, but nothing dramatic.
Then I got some good advice from Amber from Coupons Connections NW.
If it is a coupon for a product that your family would use if it was FREE
then cut it out and save it.
So now I cut out almost every coupon I see and I’m no longer picky about brands.
Notice I said to “save it“?
The big idea is to hoard save your coupons until a product goes on sale/clearance and then use your coupon to get the product dirt cheap or even free.
So each week when the grocery store circulars come out, 
you match up your coupons to the sale items.
Yes, it takes a lot of planning and organizing each week, but I think it’s totally worth it :)
So where do you keep all of these coupons!?
When you cut out this many coupons, it’s hard to keep them organized so that you can find them easily when you need them.
Since I am a newbie and don’t have a ton of coupons stock piled, I have been using a small coupon organizer {from Target} that fits in my purse.
My coupons are sorted alphabetically by manufacturer so that I can find them easily.

However, I am quickly outgrowing my cute little organizer.
It has gotten so full that it can no longer snap shut and it’s starting to rip.
So pretty soon, I think I am going to upgrade to this method…

You can read more about it HERE.

I also have clear plastic zippered pouches labeled with store names to keep all of my store-specific coupons in.

When I have all of my coupons organized and matched up to the weekly sales, I stuff them in these pouches with my list and head to the store!

I’ve also seen people use binders with baseball card holder pages to organize coupons,
but those plastic pages are too expensive for my taste!

To keep clutter off of my kitchen counters, I bought this {at Staples}…

and stuck it to the side of my fridge to house all of the weekly store circulars and
other random coupon related things.

Most experienced couponers will tell you that they go to multiple stores each week to score the best deals.
With three toddlers in the midst of their terrible twos, I just don’t have the time {or patience} to do that.
So I scour the weekly circulars to figure out which grocery store is having the best deals on the things we need and I shop at that ONE store for the week.
Typically I plan our menu for the coming week based on the sales or what we have on hand at home and then I do all of my grocery shopping on Sunday night after the kids go to bed.

When you find a killer deal on a product, it’s best to stock up
{which is why you want multiple copies of your coupons!}.
This is how you save money in the long run.
The theory is that if you stock up at rock bottom prices, then you won’t have to buy items at full price when you run out.

For example, with coupons and the weekly sale, I bought EIGHT kids toothbrushes at Safeway this week and only paid $0.12 TOTAL.
Now I have enough toothbrushes for the kids to last until another great deal comes along!!

So I’m working on building up our stockpile and someday I hope it will look like this…

{Source: Couponing 101}
Here’s a great post on building up a stockpile.
So is couponing worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
It’s given me a little extra money to buy the things that we just didn’t have room in the budget for…
like home decor stuff :)

But it does take time and effort and there is a learning curve.
Believe me, I’ve definitely made a lot of mistakes, but I guess that’s how you learn!

Do you coupon?

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