Los Angeles Times
SANTA CLARITA, CA-OCTOBER 27, 2008: Teri Gault, 48, CEO and founder of The Grocery Game.com, a website that publishes grocery lists for local supermarkets with advertised and un-advertised sales matches with coupons, and where to find them, is photographed inside her office at her home in Santa Clarita where she runs the business, on October 27, 2008. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
I've been reading through the comments you guys have been leaving lately & I realized it is time for an intro for you guys who are new to all this!. You can check out a post called "Couponing for Dummies" at the top of my Penny Pinching blog page (no - I am not implying you are a dummy!). Here's a short "How To" for everyone who would love to take advantage of the savings you keep hearing about!
1. Don't buy things you don't need or want simply because you have a coupon or you're getting a great deal on an item. If you can't use it or give it to someone who will - you are missing the point of S-A-V-I-N-G money! This is a newbie mistake. We all do it. You will look back 3 months from now & laugh at what you bought in your first few weeks of couponing. I do! I remember buying a $1.99 lip gloss from Walgreens because there was a $1.99 mail-in-rebate. I would never do that now. Yes, in the end it was free. But I had to put in $1.99 that was pointless. I didn't need that lipgloss (nor did I even like it after I tried it). But I felt a need to buy it. I never do that now. I also remembering going to Tom Thumb & buying 7 Airwick fragrance dispensers for my home. It cost something like $20 and my savings was like 90%. I was so excited. I look back now & think "How wasteful & how dumb!" I didn't need them, nor did I even want them. I just wanted to experience 90% savings. Never again! (By the way - I never spend a penny for home fragrance stuff - you can always get it free!)
2. Create a weekly budget. Look back at your last 6 months of spending. Half it. That's what you should be spending in the next 6-8 weeks. Then half it again. This is your goal! Don't expect to reach it in the next several weeks. Give yourself a few months to build your stockpile before you expect to see a 75% savings. Your budget needs to be reasonable. Mine is $40 week, but it wasn't always that low. You must ensure you are spending less money...it is too easy to try to grab every single deal out there - whether you need it or not. Implementing a budget will curb those behaviors and will ensure you're spending less out of pocket now than what you were before.
3. Buy only at ROCK BOTTOM prices. This is a little tricky since you will only know the "rock bottom" price after several months of experience. From my experience you should never pay for things like toothpaste, deoderant, home fragrances, make-up, lotion, dog treats, frozen vegetables, razors, soap, shampoo, or candy. These are all things that can easily be free after combining a coupon with a sale price. However, its taken some time for me to find that I don't need to spend more than $1 on a 12-pack of Coke or more than $1.80 for a pound of chicken. Once I find a super low price, I stock up & don't pay more than that amount again. Since I have a stockpile - I don't have to. I can use my stockpile until the sale comes around again. And it will come around again.
4. Stockpile your goods. If you know you go through 2 boxes of cereal a month...then you need to be buying 12-24 boxes when it hits a rock bottom price. Cereal has a very long shelf life & there is no reason for you to buy 2 boxes only to find that a month later, you need to buy some more. The problem? Your coupon is expired and that great sale is no longer around. My husband loves Honey Nut Cheerios...and he goes through at least 1 box per month. When it hits 50¢ - $1.00 per box..I stock up like crazy. I never have to worry about running out & having to pay full price. I shop at home - from my stockpile. Note: In order to truly stockpile...you have to have more than 1 coupon. You can only use 1 coupon per item, so 1 coupon will get you only 1 item. Stockpiling requires more than 1 coupon...which is why I always get 10 newspapers per week. I get mine for free from family, friends, and neighbors. I encourage you to do the same.
I realize stockpiling can't be done with perishables. No point in buying 12 gallons of milk. BUT most of your items likely have a longer shelf life. Use common sense, but also keep in mind that without a stockpile, you will regularly be buying for your daily/weekly needs...and your savings will NOT be 75%. The way that you get to the 75% savings is to buy at ONLY the rock bottom price. If you have to run out to buy a quick box of cereal, chances are you will be paying $3-$4. No! No!
5. Give it some time. Couponing is simple, it isn't rocket science or I wouldn't be doing it. I like to think I'm an intelligent individual, but the truth is, I'm pretty average. I don't have super duper math skills and my analytical skills aren't something to write home about. I only got to the expert level of couponing by working at it & that involved some hit & miss. And I'm still learning. I regularly save 75% when I shop. As a matter of fact, I get disappointed with anything lower than 75%. My stockpile is plentiful & I rarely (if ever) go out to buy anything because we have run out. I've got that taken care of. We don't waste & we don't throw things away. I'm able to be more generous now that I have a surplus at my fingertips & I have learned that I love to share with others. It's a wonderful feeling to know that I can help my family with their needs - and not sacrifice my financial goals in the process. I have a closet full of diapers, wipes, and bottles for my niece-on-the-way. I will be able to help my sister with her needs & I've had almost 9 months to work on the "baby stockpile". Every diaper, every wipe, every bottle, and every bath item has been for FREE or NEAR FREE (less than $1). Sometimes, I have paid for it with overage from other savings, most has been from CVS with my Extra Care Bucks (to be discussed later), and then again some has been the regular sale price combined with a coupon. I did pay about 40¢ for a container of 64 Huggies wipes recently and I debated that one. I usually get wipes for free. I splurged. The point is this - you can save enormous amount of money by using coupons the right way. I realize it sounds unbelievable...I thought so too. Hey! You don't have to try....keep paying full price. That's less competition for me!
Where To Find Your Coupons
You must collect coupons from your weekly Sunday paper. This is a MUST! Maybe you buy the paper yourself or you have friend/neighbors give you their unused coupons. Whichever way you chose to do it, make sure you get at least 2 Sunday papers with coupon inserts. I typically get at least 5-10, but you can determine if that’s necessary as you get more experience under your belt. Ask neighbors for their coupons if you know they already subscribe. Most people don't use them, so they may be happy to donate them to you!
Sunday coupons aren’t it…there are a large number of Internet Printable (IP) coupons available! Check out my blog to get up-to-date Internet Printable Coupons (IP's) and more! You can also check out a number of other blogs that will aid you in locating just the right coupon & sale in your area. Typically a Printable Internet Coupon will have a hyperlink attached to it, so that you can click on the coupon and immediately be re-directed to the site where you can print it. It's very easy - do not be discouraged! You do, on occasion, have to fill out some information to print out the coupon. Use a separate email account for this - you don't want the spam that can come with registrations!
Locating The Best Deals
Here’s what you really wanted to know…how to find these amazing deals. The truth is, there are many places to locate your super saving deals and 90% of these places are online. I prefer to check online blogs…they have updated sales information, the latest & greatest Internet Printable (IP) coupons and tons of links to free samples, free items, and ideas on how to save even more money.
Some of my favorites include:
Bookmark these sites, you will want to check them out regularly (at least twice a week) to stay current on the deals in your area. While the sale may start on Sunday, there may be deals found on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday that interest you. Check these sites often. I usually check them once a day!
De-Coding Coupon Terminology & Acronyms
Don’t freak out when you can’t understand their couponing lingo. It’s simple & within a few weeks, you’ll have it down!
Here’s a list of common acronyms used in online blogs:
$/x: The dollar amount off a certain quantity of items. For example, $1/1 is one dollar off one item and $1/2 is one dollar off two items.
x/$: The number of items you receive for a specific dollar amount. For example, 3/$1 means you get 3 items for $1.
SS: Smart Source coupon insert from your Sunday paper (Did you know they even had names?)
RP: Red Plum coupon insert from your Sunday paper.
GM: General Mills coupon insert from your Sunday paper (usually comes once every couple of months ,if that)
P&G: Proctor & Gamble coupon insert in the Sunday paper (usually comes once a month - first Sunday of the month)
IP: Internet Printable Coupon
Maybelline lipstick/$4.99 = Code for: Original Price is $4.99 for Maybelline lipstick
$2/1 (1/8 SS) = Code for: Use the $2 off 1 coupon from the January 8th Smart Source coupon insert found in your Sunday paper
Final Price: $2.99 = This is your final price once you combine the sales price of $2.99 and your coupon for $2 off 1.
Keep At It
Give couponing 6 weeks. If you’re not addicted, call me. You missed something.
Of course, I’m only kidding about the calling me part. Not about the addiction part. It’s a blast to save a significant amount of money every month & at the same time, know you are buying your must-have’s at the absolute bottom price possible. Find a friend to partner with you – I have found that having a best friend as a coupon buddy is incredible. She finds deals I missed & reminds me while I’m at the store about things I completely forgot. We share coupons and experiences…and we make saving money as fun as it is gratifying.
Hope you're enjoying Penny Pinching! If you're not already tuning in, check me out on Thursdays @ 4P on Channel 5 (NBC) for a weekly highlight on the best deals in Dallas/Fort Worth! I love hearing from you, so please send a note or comment any time.