Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Coupon Strategy and Being Frugal - Phase 3

I stepped into the store and glanced around. It looked like it would be a good day. As I reached into my purse, I found the envelope I was looking for. I carefully opened the flap and extracted the tri-fold sheet of paper. Here were my instructions. Could I follow them through? Could I achieve maximum savings? Yes. I had done my homework. Our weekly grocery bill was about to be slashed!



Okay...that might have been over the top. But if couponing is going to be your game, then why not approach it as a challenge. After all, how would you like to save $340 on grocery and household items? How about $380 the following month? And the results aren't even in yet for May.

On to the coupon strategy that I'm currently following. I haven't been at this for all that long and am confident that with a little planning anyone else can do this too.

When you get your Sunday newspaper, pull out the sales flyers put out by your major box stores and pharmacy stores as well as any grocery ads. In my town that would be KMart, Target, Walgreens, Albertsons and Fred Meyers. At the same time, pull out the Red Plum, Proctor and Gamble, and Smart Source coupon inserts as well. You can link here to my previous posts on where to locate coupons online as well.

Using one sheet of paper for each major store as well as a business envelope with the store's name labeled on the front, go through the store circular and list any items that you come across that are on sale and would be items that you would normally purchase. If the store has printed coupons, clip and file those as well. If you're lucky enough to live in a region where your stores offer double coupons, then you can really score. I'm not familiar with how that process works specifically as it is not available in our area. Now if you're like me, I'm not necessarily brand loyal. I buy generic whenever the unit pricing is less. That in part keeps my grocery costs down to begin with. With that said, I love to try new brands when I've got the ability to stack a manufacturer coupon with a local store sale. Remember the key here is that you may not be out of that item yet, but if it's on sale now and there is a matching coupon to boot, it's time to stock up. You can shop from your own closet later and not have to pay the full price when you do run out. If there are coupons in the store's ad, cut them out and slip them into the envelope for that store.

Once you have been through the sales flyers, I then take my lists to the computer. I log in to either CouponTom.com or AFullCup.com and enter the brand name of the items on sale to see if there is a coupon listed for that item. If there is, I make note of where I can go to find the coupon in the weekly coupon inserts, or if it is online, I print it off. Those coupons are collected and put into the envelope for that store so that they will be readily available once I go to that store. There are a few great blog sites out there where the sales flyers have already been matched up with the coupons by bloggers who are experts in this field. HipToSave.com is a great resource for Walgreens. MoneySavingMom.com also has some great insider tips at shopping Walgreens. If you take a look at the site, you will see how easy it is to maximize your savings by purchasing an item on sale, adding a coupon from a weekly insert, and then perhaps receiving a rebate back. Quite often your items will cost less than half of the face value or come out free. That's how you slash your grocery costs. But remember, you have to buy when the item is on sale not when you need it.

As a quick side note, you should mark the newspaper coupon inserts with the date of the paper they were in and keep them in a folder as you will be referring back to them every week to clip more coupons as those items appear on sale at the various stores. I will admit though, that I deviate from most couponers in that if there is a coupon for an item that I absolutely know we purchase all the time, I will go ahead and clip it in advance. I want to be sure I use it up before it expires. These are the coupons that I file by category in my envelope coupon organizer. I just keep these items in mind and know where to locate them if I see that they are on special that week. As I go through the different categories of coupons in my envelope organizer every week, I make note of any that are about to expire and choose whether to redeem them or not on a product that is still full-priced at the store.

And that's just about it. I combine my errands into town with my coupon shopping to save time and gas money. But does all this effort really save money? Well, if you're anything like me you'd be skeptical and want to see the facts. To be honest, those numbers I posted above don't mean much. They simply reflect how much our family of six has saved monthly on grocery and pharmacy costs since I've started using my newspaper insert coupons as well as on-line coupons in a manner that maximizes their potential. The figures look great but should really be expressed as a percent of the total amount we spent...it would be a more effective means. Perhaps starting in June I'll keep a tally of the total spent as well. It certainly will be interesting to compare to regardless.

I hope this information will spark your desire to get out there and start clipping. Utilizing those coupons with your grocery store weekly specials and buying when the cost is right will save you in the end. I certainly don't think I've "arrived" at maximum savings yet either. I'd like to put together a list tracking the lowest prices available on frequently purchased items so I'll know when a good deal really is a steal. Anyone else like to share their couponing experiences? I'd like to hear.

Related posts:

My Coupon Strategy and Being Frugal - Part 1

My Coupon Strategy and Being Frugal - Part 2

2 comments - click here to leave your comments:

Organizing Mommy said...

I met a lady like you in the grocery store. It was fascinating watch her get out her coupons and do her thing at the checkout. She told me that it takes about 3-5 hours of prep work to do a shopping trip between all of the cutting/ planning etc. She says she treats it like a separate job. Fascinating.

SixInThe
Northwest
said...

Yes, I guess you could say it is a little like a job as the savings by using coupons pays well. I don't spend quite that much time each week, but it does take planning and some prep work before you head out the door. I approach the matter with the thought that my coupon savings are my contribution towards our household budget.

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