Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Adventure in "Extreme" Couponing for beginners

I consider myself pretty thrifty.

I always buy things on sale, we don’t eat out very often, I am willing to buy larger things used, and I try hard stay within my grocery budget of around $400/month (including diapers and dog food, which it seems like we are forever out of).  I don’t do too bad, but there is always room for improvement.

I got to thinking that it would be so nice to still spend the $200/every two weeks, but to get MORE.  I had been watching that show on TLC (I am sure you have seen it) called Extreme Couponing, where people go to the store and get $7,000 worth of crap for like $.12 or something like that.  Admittedly, I find the show to be fake and ridiculous, and often teetering on the edge of coupon fraud – not to mention the fact that who needs (or wants?!) ten thousand bottles of mustard under their bed?  Not me.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued.  I clip a coupon here and there, but it never really adds up to much at all (a couple of bucks maybe) but I decided that this time, I was going to put in an honest effort to make my money work for me.  Or at least see if it could be done on a smaller degree without the TV crew and the mustard.

I started by doing some homework – you gotta learn the ropes before you can begin anything, right?  I found to be very helpful, especially if you click on the “Beginners” tab up at the top, and also if you read about individual store you have in your area to use. 

I began by collecting coupons for things I might like to buy, via the internet and newspapers, and I put together a binder to organize them.   I had found in the past that wrangling my cart, my list, calculator, usually my kid,  and a handful off disorganized coupons was totally annoying, so I printed out The Krazy Coupon Lady’s binder fixings (available for download on "Day 5" of the above mentioned Beginners tab) and spent an afternoon nap time putting it together. 

Then I ventured off to the store.

Well, STORES.  After reviewing my coupons and the weekly shopping ads, it was decided that we could get more bang for our buck if I went to Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart.  So when Garrett got home from work at around 6pm, I left him and Hoot Owl to fend for themselves and headed out into the world. 

I imagine I was getting some looks as I toted my huge pink binder into the store, consulted my detailed lists, and shuffled through my coupons and weekly ads.  I didn’t really care.  I just told myself that I was saving money, and these people were paying full price for everything in their cart so they could look all they wanted.

Three stores and three hours later, this is how I fared:

Total: $25.05
Paid: $12.65
SAVINGS: $12.40

Total: $36.15
Paid: $17.39
SAVINGS: $18.91

Total: $201.77
Paid: $175.64
SAVINGS: $26.13

Total: $262.98
Paid: $205.62
SAVINGS: $57.44

Okay, so I was $5 over my $200 goal, but still not too bad for a trial run – the savings are pretty good….  And this included that double cheese burger from Sonic in between CVS and Wal-Mart, too – I forgot to add that in there.  LOL  If you have seen the show, you will know that as they ring up their orders, the people actually break out in a sweat, waiting with breathless anticipation to see if they came in under budget or if they are an embarrassment to mustard hoarders everywhere….  I admit that I felt a bit of this at check-out time, wondering if my coupons were actually enough and if my math was correct – and that I was totally “that person” holding  up the growing line of shoppers behind me.  I just held my head high, smiled and forked over my inch and a half think stack of coupons. 

So I guess it’s not that “extreme” in the couponing  world – after all, the store did not give me any money back, my out-of-pocket- bill was still more than I saved, and I didn’t buy a single bottle of mustard – but I saved almost $60 and I got a truck ton of groceries we actually need and will use.  And factor in that I am EXTREMELY pregnant, it took EXTREMELY long (though not any longer than my usual shopping trip), my hips and belly were EXTREMELY sore, and I am EXTREMELY proud of myself and  it must count for something.  J

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