If you know me, you know I love coupons and finding good deals. It all started a few years back when a friend of mine invited me to a class about couponing. From there I was hooked. In the beginning, I was coupon obsessed. I printed coupons, I ordered coupons, I got the newspaper for the coupons, and I even asked my neighbors for their coupons. I would spend hours and hours cutting coupons and organizing them into my giant coupon binder.
Finding and clipping coupons pretty much became a part time job. My efforts paid off most of the time, with my biggest shopping trip being $300 and I paid $80 (a $220 savings). Most of the time my shopping trips would look like this:
At Wal-Mart, this would usually cost about $50 (Yes, formula is expensive!)
With coupons, I got all of this for $51 ($120 without coupons)
At Smiths, this would usually cost about $20
With coupons, I got all of this for $21 ($54 without coupons)
Extreme couponing became very time consuming, and I started to become obsessed. A few times I would even go to Wal-Mart at 11pm on a Monday, so I could be the first to get my coupon items and checkout at 12am sharp on Tuesday. I started to stop buying things I usually bought, because I didn't have a coupon for them. I got a coupon high when I left the store, and all I wanted to do was go home and look for more coupons for the next shopping trip. Getting things totally free gave me such a rush. There should be a 12 step program for coupon addiction. It started getting really bad, and couponing began taking over my life and my house. There were coupons on the floor, on the couch, on my dresser, in my car, and always on the kitchen table.
After about a year of being the crazy coupon lady, I decided I wanted to scale back a bit. I needed to scale back a bit. My 18-month old knew the word "coupon" before the word "car", and he would pull coupons out of the paper when it came on Sundays. That's not normal. I wanted to spend more time with my family and less time obsessing over missing a good deal. I had a very good stockpile built for my family, so I decided to maintain it instead of build it more. Instead of getting 5 copies of the Sunday newspaper, I decided to get 1. Instead of spending 3-5 hours a week clipping and organizing every single coupon, I decided to spend about an hour a week cutting only the coupons I knew I would use. This system has been very good and extremely effective. I spend less time at the grocery store, and I am still saving anywhere from $15-$50 every shopping trip.
If you have ever tried to get into couponing, then you know it can be a little overwhelming at times. Take it from me, and keep it simple. It's easy to save money without making couponing a part time job. If you have wanted to get into couponing but don't know where to start, it's simple. Here are 5 main things I use to keep couponing simple and still save money for my family.
Call your local newspaper, and order a subscription for the Sunday paper. If you are building a stockpile and want to go hard core, order one paper for every member of your house. If you want to ease into it, keep it simple and order one copy. Either way, the money you save clipping and using coupons from the paper will pay for your subscription fee plus more.
2. Online Coupons
If you don't want to pay for the newspaper but still want coupons, you can go online to coupon clipping sites and print them for free. Online coupon sites may not have as good of a selection as the newspaper, but they still have really good coupons. My favorite sites are Coupons.com (If you live in Utah or Idaho, Coupons.com always has coupons for milk and cheese.), SmartSource.com, and RedPlum.com.
3. Deal Websites
There are a lot of websites and blogs dedicated to coupons and good deals. My favorites are TheKrazycouponLady.com, Freebies2Deals.com, and SavvyShopperDeals.com. I like to look through these sites before going to the grocery store, because I usually find a few deals listed that I would not have known about if I didn't check beforehand.
4. Stay Organized
If you cut all your coupons out, shove them into a zip-lock bag, and head to the grocery store expecting to have an easy shopping experience, then you are coo coo for cocoa puffs. A large part of stress free couponing is staying organized. Freebies2Deals has a lot of awesome video tutorials HERE on how to make and organize a coupon binder or accordion folder. There are also some printouts there you can download free if you have a binder already and would like some cute header pages. I use a binder system for my bigger shopping trips, and I have a small accordion folder that fits in my purse for smaller trips.
5. Don't Stress
Learning everything there is to know about couponing can be really stressful. It took me about a year to feel comfortable using coupons, and I am still learning. It's easy to get discouraged when you are overwhelmed, so keep it simple and don't be hard on yourself when things don't go like you planned. Try and make it fun. Go as a family and compete to see who can save more with coupons. If you go to the store every other week and only save $2 using coupons each time, that will save you about $50 in a year. That might not seem like a lot, but I can think of some really cute shoes I could buy with $50 right now. Just remember everyone who is good at something had to start somewhere.
What are your favorite coupon or deal websites?