Friday, March 18, 2011

HEY YOU!!!! (Yes, you)

LOL. I think I could put up a picture and that would probably be enough, but I have to share some of the deals I got. I have to admit this has taken me about the better part of a day, when you totaled all my time up together...but I had weeks worth of coupons to clip and organize, I spent about 1-2 hours checking ads and searching online and such and then about 3 hours shopping because I kept having to stop and feed the baby, rock him, or change him, etc throughout the day....

Even though that sounds like a lot of work, I will tell you that I spent a little less than $350, saved well over $600 (after that I lost track) and bought enough groceries to feed my family well for the next month and then some. Some things I got a year or more supply of-don't worry, they don't expire till summer of 2012! :D Keep in mind that before I started couponing I was spending 500-600 a month and eating only generic stuff and hardly any fresh fruits and veggies. This amount today included over $100 in meat and about $50 in fruits and veggies. I also got other staples, such as rice, cereal, whole grain and vegetable pasta, tea, and even some organic items. I bought "expensive" heart healthy whole grain bread and buns. I say this because all I was buying before was the cheapo .75 cent plain white bread. I also bought condiments, organic baby food, diapers and baby wash/lotion, bottled water, snacks and treats for the kids, and cokes (yes, I know, but diet cokes are a weakness of mine.) :D Most of these items are things I would not have been able to purchase regularly before I used coupons. It is worth it to me, to spend the whole 6 or 8 hours doing this, getting ready to shop a big trip like this. That's because I won't shop again for a whole month except to pick up maybe a couple gallons of milk in 2 weeks, and make weekly rounds to get any freebies I want from the drugstores.

I say all this to encourage you. There is a way to benefit from couponing on every level. If you are on a fixed income and/or are unable to work, this doesn't really take much strenuous energy to clip coupons and surf the internet for sales. I usually spend about 2 hours a week (over the course of the whole week off and on) reading other coupon blogs and hunting down bargains. This is what helps me score a lot of items for super cheap and free. All you need is the internet and a printer. :D

If you are like me, and you are busy but you stay at home with kids, this is a great way to "earn income." I look at like like my 2nd job. My first is of course being a homeschooling mama and taking care the 3 kids and the house. As you can imagine, I'm pretty busy, but I find 20 minutes here and there to do what I need to do. Sometimes it may take a while to get a "huge" (meaning 3-4 hours in one week) amount of clipping and bargain hunting done, but only when I am shopping for the whole month or more. Time is money and my time is worth a lot! But I do a little here and there, and it saves me hundreds every month. The more time you put into it the more you can save.

It is also a great way to save money if you are on government food assistance. I have personally been on food stamps before, so I know how hard it is to make that money stretch. My husband and I were just starting out and it was hard. After a while he got a better job and we were able to be independent of the assistance and to be honest, it was such a relief. One thing you can do to stretch your money while on assistance is to use coupons. You do (in some if not all states) have to pay sales tax on the coupon amount. But that is the same as anyone else who buys with coupons and does not pay with food stamps. I am not sure why you have to pay tax on these items since you would not otherwise, but it is totally worth it. Besides the sales tax, you can get several items for free or very cheap, meaning that is less money spent on your EBT card.
There are many Americans who are just above that line also. Just above that income amount to get the money and have a hard time buying the food and items they need on their own. These are who coupons can be life changing for. I have always been a sale shopper, especially with meat. I would see what types of meat were on sale, and I would buy several of them. Then the next week, I'd buy different items depending on the sale. But coupons help even more. Coupons can help you afford to buy items you could not normally afford, and often they are cheaper than generic store brand when you match the coupon with a sale. You could make it on your own, buying the store brand, cheapest quality meats and eating most canned veggies and fruits if any. But if you watch the sales, and know how to maximize your money, you can do two things that will change your life:

*You can stock up on those items, meaning you don't have to buy it again for an extended period of time (meaning that money can be spent on other bills and needs. I say life changing because when you are saving $300 a month or more, that frees up the money that you might need to keep that car running or buy the kids new clothes or whatever that need was that might been put on the back burner so you could eat.)
*You can afford to eat healthier, buying better leaner meats and more fresh produce and heart healthy foods, as well as treats, snacks, and quick/easy foods. I will come back to this point later...

What about the busy working mom? I have several friends that want to save money like I do, but they are hesitant-I don't have time do clip all these coupons and spend that much time doing this. I will offer some tips to saving time for you in a bit, but I want you to know you can do this too!!! You can benefit from coupons as little or as much as you put into it. If I saved over $600 from 8 hours worth the effort, that means I basically made over $75 an hour. Do you make that much? Now, I'm not telling you to quit your job and coupon 40 hours a week, lol. But say you have 1-2 hours spread out over the course of the week to devote to couponing. Over the course of the month you can still save $600. (Keep in mind that I said I only shop like that once a month, so it averages out. I will do small trips to the store for freebies and spend maybe an hour a week including driving time. But I won't be doing a big trip to shop like that again for a while.) If you only have maybe an hour to spend a week, there are things you can do to save your valuable time.
Practice the stockup method. When something that you use goes on sale for free or cheap, stock up. Buy as much as you will can use before it expires that you have a place to store (or until it will go on sale for free again), and you won't have to buy it again for a while. Once you get a stock of certain items not only will you not have to pay full price on them again, but you will cut out those last minute trips to the store because you didn't realize you were out of toilet paper.

1)If you are like me and have to clip all the coupons, get all the inserts together that match, line them up and staple them. Then, using scissors or a paper cutter, cut them all at once and immediately put them in the spot they go. This is what I have started doing and it helps SO much! It's great because i may only have 10 or 20 minutes here and there. So I will lay them all out at once, and staple them lined up at the right spot. Then if I have to stop to feed the baby or make a phone call, i can fold them up and come back to them more big coupon messes all over the floor!!!
2)If you aren't so ocd organized about it, try filing them in a different way. Just about every coupon website (except my blog, sorry) lists the coupons by the insert and date they were sent out. So if it is found in the SS 1/14 insert, then it will almost always list that after the coupon on the list. You can just file the whole insert together (or the stapled matching insert pages if you have several of the same) in a file folder with the date. Then when you see the coupon you need, you can flip right to the ad and clip it. This saves you the time of clipping coupons you don't use.
3)A third option is to use a clipping service. If you just really don't have the time, you can use a coupon clipping service. You will pay a small amount per coupon (usually just a couple pennies, depending on the value). You are paying for the time it takes to clip the coupons, and their reimbursement of the cost of the papers in the first place. This requires a little bit of discipline because you have to do all your bargain hunting on the very first day (or the day before) of the sale. You may have to do it yourself and then get online and see if there are coupons to order that match what you want to buy. It will save you time clipping because they come to you already neat and clipped. No wasted piles of papers and no time spent cutting. But it take time to get them to you, and sometimes it may be on the last day of the sale. I have done this before (see the previous post in January where I used a clipping service for more info.) when I bought 30+ lean cuisines and green giant steamer veggies for 1/3 the normal price. I spent just a couple dollars and save ALOT. So that may be an option for you too.

So, hopefully all this will give you something to think about. As always, if you have any questions or input, leave me comments below!!!

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