I'm one month into couponing. I have clipped and collected coupons the following Sundays: 8/7, 8/14, 8/21, 8/28, and 9/11. This is what I have learned.
- Couponing = lots of organization and planning.
- Spreadsheets and shopping lists are a must.
- Shop off your list - ONLY!
- Collect/buy more than 1 coupon insert.
- Save all coupons - you never know when something will pretty much be free...and who doesn't want free stuff?
- To maximize your savings, you MUST plan your meals and shopping lists based on what is on SALE, not on what you want to eat.
- Carry the coupon policies for each store with you.
- Cashiers (and other customers) like it when you organize your items on the register conveyor belt ahead of time.
- Get to know your "favorite" cashiers.
- A LOT of people coupon. And, typically when there is a REALLY good sale, it can be hard to find those items in stock. You might have to make several trips...or get rain checks.
- When there is a Buy 10, Save 5...or something like that - it often MUST be in groups of 10.
- It's okay to do separate orders...but, please see #8, have the items organized at the register.
- Check your receipts for errors. I have found 3 errors since I began and each time very easily got my money back by talking with Customer Service at the store.
- You will often find yourself buying 6+ of one item. So, yes...I'm pretty much becoming an organized hoarder.
This is my typical couponing process as a very new couponer.
- Sunday - get 3 Sunday papers from the Dollar Tree within .5 miles of my house. Then, Bryan gets 3 newspapers. (there is a maximum limit of 3 - and yes, they're $1.00)
- Sunday - Saturday: I am constantly monitoring my favorite coupon site for news, printable coupons, weekly grocery store ads and deals, and scenario examples.
- Sunday - Wednesday: Any free time I get I clip and organize my coupons from the previous Sunday.
- Wednesday - Friday: During free time on these days, I will make a list of what I am getting at each store. I use my favorite site as a reference to help me plan my list using the best deals and coupons.
- Friday - Monday: I estimate I shop about 3 hours per week total for all stores. Yes, I shop at multiple stores. But, hey - I don't live in the boonies. I have 2 Fry's within 1.2 miles. I have a Safeway .3 miles away. The Bashas' is 2.5 miles and the Albertson's is 3 miles away. And Walmart...it's about 2 miles.
So far - I can say I've saved A LOOOOOT of money. But...I've also spent A LOOOOOT of money. I'm slowly building a pretty good stock of food. My pantry has filled up. My two freezers and fridge are stocked and our mini fridge is full of drinks. Our linen closet is beginning to bust at the seams with toothpaste and toilet paper and deodorant. I'm hoping that by the end of September, my "food storage" will be complete and I can begin just buying the necessary items, along with the really good, almost free items. This is when I anticipate my monthly food bill going down to about $200.
So how much have I saved? Well...let's see....
For the month of August I bought $909.99 worth of food and spent just below $400. It's hard to say how much I normally spend (because I never really kept track before) but, if I go back to my July bank statement and add up all my random grocery debits - I spent $351.42 in groceries. This does NOT include any of our restaurant meals, which I'm embarrassed to say in July was a lot. AND - before, I shopped just to get us through the week. There was no food storage. I had NO extra deodorants or toilet paper. And now...sheesh - I'm probably good for about 6 months, at least.
One thing I've found - is that it is hard NOT to buy 6 (or how ever many coupons you have) items even if you don't NEED 6. For example - I bought the hottie 6 body washes. They are normally $4.99. They were at Fry's for $1.99. I had a coupon for $.50 off of 2. Fry's will increase the coupon to $1. So - $1 off of 2. With the coupons, I paid $1.49 each ($8.94 total) and got 3 deodorants for FREE. The deodorants themselves (Old Spice) are $5.99 each normally....so that alone is a savings of $38.97. Holy cow! Did we need 6 body washes and 3 free deodorants? No. But, will we use them? YES.
This last month, I've stocked us up for awhile on soaps, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, toilet paper, deodorant, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, chicken nuggets, cereal, grilled chicken, boneless/skinless chicken, and lean ground beef. I estimate I've probably bought enough of that stuff to last for months. And - all pretty much for one "normal" month of grocery bills. So far this couponing is panning out very well for us. Let's hope I can start just "replenishing" vs. stocking and my grocery bill will go down even more!
p.s. - for August - I saved the most at Safeway (70.95%).