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Tribute to a Coupon Queen

couponsSeveral weeks ago my wife, Joel, took note of some Facebook pages that focused on coupons and savings. She ended up visiting their websites and studying up on the “Art of Coupons”. She was definitely intrigued with the entire concept of saving money on our groceries. It wasn’t too long before we went to the local Wal-Mart for some sundries (It seems we make far too many weekly trips to the local WM, but that’s a topic for another post). While there, I followed her around and watched as she picked up a binder, pocket dividers and a few other items she needed for her new project.

Curiosity eventually got the best of me,”Whatcha doing?” I asked. “We’re going to save some money with coupons” was her response. And so, a Coupon Queen was born. It didn’t take us long to re-arrange our groceries budget. I would continue to buy some grocery items and she would take on the brunt of the groceries. I would shift some of my budget dollars to the grocery budget that she was managing.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. One concern I had was the potential wholesale takeover of my tool space to make room for 60 cases of toilet paper (I’ve seen the extreme couponing shows and quite frankly, it scares me). Another fear I had was the potential to save money by purchasing items that you ordinarily would never buy. Both of these fears turned out to be groundless. My wife is probably one of the most disciplined shoppers I’ve ever known. She’s done amazingly well in her effort to use coupons (plus a few other money saving tricks).

Looking at her results over the last few weeks I have to say that I’m impressed. Actually I’m amazed. She has consistently been able to bring home groceries at an average of 50% of their regular purchase price. She’s kept all of her purchases to things that we need or use. There haven’t been any new “on sale” items that wither away on a shelf gathering dust. Here’s a quick snapshot a few of her shopping trip over the last two weeks

Food Lion (Side Note – Food Lion Receipts are almost undecipherable)
Total value of items at the register before discounts and coupons     $116
Total cost at the register after discounts and coupons                      $  51
56% Savings

 Kroger
Total value of items at the register before discounts and coupons     $107
Total cost at the register after discounts and coupons                      $ 52
51% Savings

Pretty amazing isn’t it? And I’m not picking the cream of the crop. Basically all of her purchases over the last three weeks have been similar to these. Some have had a little more savings, some a little less but overall she’s hitting about a 50% savings over retail. So how was she able to this so quickly? Here are a few tips on how she’s been able to do this.

 Get with the Program

One of the first things she learned was that you have to sign up for stores loyalty programs. We’ve had a few here and there over the years but if you want to really save, you have to hit all of the stores when they run sales on certain items. Belonging to the loyalty program will in some cases also open up the door to coupon doubling as well as “member only” specials. Some chains will also give you some pretty good discounts on gas, we get a constant 3 cent a gallon discount with Kroger and periodic 10 cent a gallon discount once there’s enough points.

 Subscribe to online printable coupons

Many of the large manufacturers will let you sign up on line for a subscription to discounts and coupons. International Delight, who make my wife’s favorite creamer, has a program like this. We’re both signed up to it and we get printable coupons by mail on a regular basis. General Mills, maker of a number of brands offers subscriptions to coupons for many of their brands. Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Cheerios are all General Mill brands that have programs where you can sign up for coupons. With many manufacturers you don’t even have to sign up, you can go to their website and instantly print coupons.

 Visit  Blogs and Websites Dedicated to Coupon savings

Joel visits a number of sites that have tips on sales and coupons.  http://www.southernsavers.com/ is one of the sites she visits frequently. It’s set up in a blog format with frequent posts that alert followers on sales and other activities related to saving on your shopping. Southern Savers is regional though, so if you don’t live in the Southeastern U.S. it may not be of much help you.

Another site she visits is http://athriftymom.com/ another blog with frequent posts on savings with links to coupons and other savings deals. This is actually the website for the Facebook page that got her started on the coupon project.

Get Organized

I won’t pretend to be an expert on how to organize yourself if you’re going to start a coupon project of your own. A good binder with a decent set of pocket dividers seems to be a good way to start. She originally wanted to use baseball card organizers but we couldn’t find them anywhere so ended up going with the pocket dividers. They seem to be working pretty well for her so far. Her organizer also has a built in calculator, which I imagine can be pretty useful in any savings endeavor.

There is one interesting side story to this. interesting side story to this. Our kids, who are in their late teens, started poking fun of her coupon activity. My standard response to them has been, “you won’t be laughing when she buys $600 worth of groceries and gets $400 in change”. That usually led to a moment of silence and the inevitable follow up question, “How can I do that?”.

I’d be interested in hearing on your experience with coupon and saving on your purchases. Any tips or advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

One last aside, For anyone interested, I’m putting this post just before heading down Interstate 95 towards Florida .We’ll be spending a few days there working on finalizing my parent’s estate planning. So if my posts, comments and other activity seem erratic, I’ll apologize ahead of time. You’ll definitely see a post on Estate Planning sometime soon after I get back. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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John Schmoll is a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. He's passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can live lives free from the shackles of debt and empowered to make their money work for them. You can check out his other sites: Frugal Rules, for ways to improve your financial literacy; and Sprout Wealth for tips on different ways to make more money. John has been featured on Forbes, Lifehacker, Yahoo Finance and US News & World Report and more. If you're wanting to grow your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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7 comments

  1. While I certainly err on the side of “spend time making more money rather than clipping 30 cent coupons”, if it’s not taking a ton of time to save that much money go for it. I must admit I’m a bit jealous — Canada’s coupon situation is pathetic compared to the US.

  2. We’re big couponers. We did the coupon binder thing, man it’s expensive to get one going. However, now we use manilla folders and sort the coupons by type and date. We also put the EXP date on the folder so we know when to purge. It’s the perfect system for use because it takes less time.
    The one downside is that you can’t bring it with you when you shop. So you have to have a list. If you find a stellar clearance deal or something that isn’t listed it’s hard to pass it up, so sometimes we need to go back with a coupon in hand.

  3. She hasn’t graduated to using manila folders yet. She likes to bring the binder with her when she shops. Purging is still an issue though and we need to come up with a system to date them so she can get rid of them when they expire. One step at a time!

  4. Like others have said, Canada doesn’t have quite the same coupon environment. Occasionally, I’ll notice a coupon that’ll get me a free lip balm or something, but usually, it’s not worth it for me to spend time searching for coupons.
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    • Are there laws and restrictions in Canada that make coupons so scarce? I myself am not big on coupons, but I’ll take advantage on any that come my way. I’m glad my wife is doing it though. She’s really saving us a ton of money.

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