Thursday, April 14, 2011

About Couponing...

I was interested to see the new show, Extreme Couponing, which premiered last night on TLC.  It was exactly what I thought it would be:  mostly about obsession with a few good tips thrown in.  Yes, of course, the amount of money saved by these women is amazing, but it's all about how much can I save? , never mind whether you normally eat the item you are buying but are only getting it for the sake of the deal.  One woman looked at the Finish on the  shelf and turned to ask who she was with, "I have coupons for these, but do you think that the 40 boxes I've got at home is enough?"  I do!  These women , in many cases, have also gone to storing extra items in their kids' rooms under their beds or in their own bedrooms on shelve in plain sight...sticking their loot everywhere and anywhere they can find room. I don't have room to buy in bulk that much! All for the sake of saving the money. Now, I am all for saving money, but to hear these women talk and to  watch these women with their hearts racing as their bills go up, and racing still as their coupons are entered and their bills go down, you realise their obsessiveness over couponing. They can't wait to see how low their final bill will be. Being fair, a few good tips were given such as requesting rain checks on items that are on sale, but which the store is out of, using the Internet to get coupons, and using the in store rewards cards (all of which I do).  To me, it seemed like I was watching that show about the hoarders.  I did not care for it.

This show reminds me a lot about my beginning with the coupon world.  When we moved to Arizona, I was trying to make new friends, so when the gal across the street invited me over to show me her coupon system, I went. I thought I might make a friend and learn something along the way.  She used the Couponsense program and touted how her grocery bill for her family of four was never over $50.00 a month.  I was amazed until I saw her pantry.  It included things like 30 boxes of Hamburger helper, 15 pouches of pasta mixes, and more cereal than I could count. Never mind that they were sugar-filled or the kinds her family doesn't usually eat. The only thing that mattered is that she got them each for like 50 cents a box...score!  The thing that jumped out at me immediately is that I'm not buying or eating Hamburger Helper just because I have a coupon for it and can get it for 25 cents a box. Even before my family was choosing a  healthier eating as a lifestyle, we didn't normally eat a lot of  boxed, prepared foods like that. About the only boxed food we  currently have like that is Kraft Mac n Cheese, which I use in a time pinch for the kiddos.  In my neighbor's grocery shopping and the shopping of the women on Extreme Couponing, what I noticed missing the most was fresh fruits and vegetables. Neither woman on the first episode seemed to have any in her cart, and that bothered me.

Now when I first started using coupons as a young mother, I tried to make a price book which lots of money saving websites recommended.  I lost interest quickly and as I shopped more, I simply became aware by eyeball comparisons when I shopped in different stores whether what I was paying was a good deal or not.  I also tried to go to 4-5 stores (gas was cheaper then) to shop and save money that way. What I learned was it was too time consuming for me and just not worth it (especially when gas prices would go up).  Now I shop at mainly 2 stores on a weekly basis: Trader Joe's and Fry's (Krogers for my friend back home). However, I usually make it a couple of times a month to Whole Paycheck (our affectionate term for Whole Foods) and Target. There are items I buy at each store because they either have specialized item I want or because they are cheaper than the regular grocery store, but I usually stop by them when I'm there anyway or nearby. I usually don't make a special trip. 

I do clip coupons, but what I mostly find is that the coupons available from on-line sites or in newspaper circulars, are not usually coupons I would use.  The coupons I tend to clip from these sources usually are for things like soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, detergents, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and paper towels.  I also use the in store digital coupons offered online at my grocery store. I check the coupons I wish to use, and then upon buying the items and checking out, the coupons are applied clipping at all. I like that, but you just have to look at your bill as the cashier checks you out to make sure your digital savings are applied. I have never had an issue. I also use the coupons sent directly to me from the grocery store. Those are helpful because they tend to be based on items I normally buy.  My favorite way to save by couponing is to take advantage of my store's "We  accept all competitor coupons" offer whenever it is available. This saves me because I can used any other grocery store's coupons at my store..very helpful. Another helpful tidbit is to go directly to the website of your favorite product(s), sign up for the site, and request or simply print coupons for those items you use most. I do this all the time and it does work.

I am always adjusting and revamping my couponing skills and I always look for new ideas and ways to save. The important thing is to find something that works for you and your family. Not everything will work for everybody, so it's important to keep searching and learning...Please share any ideas and helpful hints you have, because I'd love to hear them!

Happy shopping!


Uncle B said...

Do you have a fresh farmers' market? You should buy all produce there; you save a bundle compared to stores and you can make relationships with the vendors and bargain (AKA here's your coupon). I have several successful tactics; not sure if they'd work in the U.S. but you could try. And, freeze what you can so it doesn't go bad when you maybe buy something 'in bulk' for savings, or because it's on promotion.
My two cents...

Shannon said...

our "farmers markets" are just gearing to reopen for spring/summer...they can be found but are not so popular or least not in my area. I love them though because you know exactly where they came frome..TJ's has USA grown stuff, but not enough. I agree that home grown is the best when you can get them.