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Mis-adventures in Couponing

Ever since I set my beady little eyes on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, I have been itching to save some dinero.  Mr. Beez is very good at math, being organized, and not wanting to spend money.  I tried desperately to convince him that he really really wanted to coupon, but I finally came to terms that my months of begging had fallen on deaf ears.  If I wanted to coupon, I’d have to do it myself.

I genuinely thought that couponing was going to be more time-intensive than it was worth.  I couponed in college, but I also worked in the university’s computer labs, and I would use my time during the night shift when there was nothing else going on to clip and sort.  I had all the time in the world then, but no money, coupons were clearly the answer.  Now my time is tight, but money still doesn’t grow on trees.  Through my cookbook club, I met a woman who is a lawyer and who is an extreme couponer, for reals.  She told me that it only takes her 2 hours per week to do all of her clipping, sorting, and planning! I’m sold!

The key to couponing, she told me, is to let the internet do the work for you.  If you clip the coupons, there are bloggers who match the in-store sales and deals with the coupons for you! In addition to newspaper coupons, there are plenty of coupons available online, and Giant Eagle offers eOffers that are coupons you load directly onto your Giant Eagle card.

The two blogs I like the best about couponing are the Krazy Coupon Lady and Stretching a Buck.  Krazy Coupon Lady has very helpful step-by-step instructions for getting started–how to set up a coupon binder, organizational strategies, etc.  I feel like Krazy Coupon Lady’s resources for beginners are better, but I think Stretching a Buck does a better job of matching up deals for stores in my area (that blog is based in Colombus, OH but we have a lot of the same stores).

A few weeks ago I set up my big bad couponing bider!

I got the D-ring binder and baseball card sleeves at Amazon.com.  I think in total it ran around $15.  The binder clip is holding the weekly circulars in the front pocket. 

Here are my coupons sorted into their sleeves!

Over the last 2 weeks there weren’t any Sunday newspaper coupons.  I was so anxious and ready to go, but had no coupons! So I printed and sorted every online printable coupon i could find.

So this week was the first week of “real” couponing.  I needed to figure out (1) How long this task would take me, and (2) How much money would I save?  If it takes too much time, or I don’t save enough money, it’s not going to be worth it to me.

This week’s newspaper was coupon heavy.  I clipped, sorted, went through the weekly blog entries on Target, Giant Eagle, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, and made my shopping lists.  I realized that it’s a waste of time for me to separately collect and clip e-coupons.   The blog entries will tell me when I need them, so I’m better off only printing them once the deal comes up and I have the item on my list. I only clipped coupons for products we definitely use. I’m not wasting time on things I think we “might” use.

Sunday afternoon, I hit up CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid.  Most of the items I wanted this week were from Walgreens, but CVS and Rite Aid each had a couple of good deals as well.  It’s inefficient to go from store to store, but going to all the different stores helps you get the best deals.  I think that one way I’ll try to save time on this is by shopping downtown.  CVS and Rite Aid each have multiple downtown stores, so I can stop by them during the work week when I’m out and walking about, instead of driving all over creation.

This was my total haul from the drugstores:  Glide dental floss, 2 bottles Pantene conditioner, 2 bottles Head & Shoulders Shampoo, Colgate toothpaste, Dawn dish soap, All detergent, 2 frozen DiGiorno pepperoni pizzas, Aussie hair gel, 2 boxes Skinny Cow chocolates. I spent a total of $34.84.

If all of the items I purchased at the drugstores were at full price, I would have spent a total of $69.02.  Of my savings, $17.49 was attributable to coupons, the remaining $51.53 was attributable to the weekly sales that the stores were running.  I’m focused more on the coupon savings amount to gauge whether this is a worthwhile endeavor.  Even though I didn’t really pay attention to the circulars in the past, whenever I shop I use my savings card for whatever store I’m at, anyway, so in theory I’d already be getting those savings.

On Monday, I did the “big” shopping at Target and Giant Eagle.  My shopping at these stores at full price would have come out to about $125.  I spent a total of $78.82 at Target, and $19.45 at Giant Eagle (total of $98.27).  Target’s receipt isn’t set up to easily show savings (which is why I don’t know exactly what the total “full price” amount was), but I think that my savings due to sales were in the neighborhood of $20, and I saved around $12 from coupons.  At Giant Eagle, I saved $11.42 due to sales, and $2.50 due to coupons. I’m just impressed that I managed to leave Target with less than $100 in damage.

So between all these stores, I spent a total of $133.11.   This sounds like an awful lot for weekend shopping, but this will last us well more than a week.  Without paying attention to sales (although I would have saved some money due to sales based on coincidence), and without coupons, my grand total would have been closer to $194.02, so if my math is right (which it very well might not be…feel free to correct me) that’s a savings of about 32%, not bad but not mindblowing. I also got a total of $11.50 in store “bucks,” which are certificates I can use dollar for dollar during my next trip. I don’t consider those savings until I actually use them.

Clipping and sorting coupons, and writing my lists took about 90 minutes.  This included browsing through and clipping online coupons, which I plan to do only on an as-needed basis going forward.  If I can get this process down to 60 minutes or less, I’m sold! I recognize there’s a risk of not getting the absolute best deals if I’m rushing through it, but time is precious, and saving some money is better than saving no money. The shopping was not terribly time intensive either.  I got through all the shopping at the 3 drugstores in a total of about an hour.  I’m pretty efficient at shopping because I’m focused on my list, and like to get what I need and get out of there.  The Target and Giant Eagle outings couldn’t have taken more than an hour or so total, either.

This week’s savings convinced me to keep it up with the coupons, at least for now.  I have no aspirations of stockpiling 56 years worth of deodorant, or pushing a cart of groceries through only to shell out a couple bucks.  I just want to cut back on my grocery bill.  Work has been less crazy right now, which has allowed me the time to get into this in the first place.  There’s a distinct possibility that as things get more hectic at work, I won’t have the 90 minutes on a Sunday morning for couponing.  When things are hectic at work, work wins.  For now, though, it looks like I can fit couponing into my schedule, so I’ll save the money while I can.

What are your thoughts on couponing?

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