Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting Paid to Shop is Awesome!

Being the last weekend of the month, I went through my coupons to check for awesome ones that were about to expire.  I found a great deal that allowed me to not only get $50 of stuff but actually leave the store with more money than I came with.

Here's the scoop:
  1. I had 3 expiring coupons for $8 off 2 Covergirl products.  (Lesson #1: Print/Collect ALL high value coupons). 
  2. CVS was having a "Buy 1 Get 1 50% off" sale on Covergirl products.   These products are also part of the "Buy $30 worth, get a $10 gift card" promotion.  (Lesson #2: Check your favorite coupon deal site and/or circulars carefully - these products were not pictured, just written at the bottom of the page). 
  3. A few days ago I got a $5 off $30 coupon for CVS that I knew could be used in conjunction with manufacturer coupons.  (see Lesson #1 above).
So I got 6 Covergirl foundation products, and with sales and coupons my total was reduced to $9.  My pre-coupon total made me eligible for the $10 gift card so my net gain was $1 - a 102% savings!  I also had $5 of CVS ExtraCare Bucks which reduced my out-of-pocket about to only $4.  Couponing rocks!

For the record, the couponing sites were listing this deal as buying 8 of the Covergirl blushes, and getting everything for free plus making $10.  The deal didn't catch my eye at first because I don't wear blush.  Once I started calculating I figured out products that I actually use and how I could make that work.  Just because you see a deal on a site doesn't mean you cannot customize it to fit products you use.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Lesson Learned

When I started couponing I made some mistakes.  I bought several tubes of toothpaste that I got for only 75 cents each before I found out that toothpaste is one of those items you can always get for free.  Since then I've been a bit more wise, until just recently.  I started stocking up for Halloween candy about a month ago when I found I could get bags of Hersheys and Mars candy for only $1.  Well the coupons and deals are just pouring in right now and I got the same bags today for only 25 cents.  Oh well, live and learn!  Next time I'll know to wait to buy my candy, even though it might kill me!

For the record, if you still need to buy candy, there is a great $1.50 off 1 coupon on coupons.com and a $1 off 2 coupon at Target.com.  These are in addition to all the coupons that came out last Sunday.  If you cannot find a magic deal at any one store, grab your ads from the other stores and head over to Walmart where they'll price match or accept competitor's coupons, in addition to the manufacturer ones.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Startling Revelation in the Shower...

OK, it's not as weird as it sounds, but I did have a startling revelation in the shower this morning.  I was truly shocked when I realized that EVERY product being used in the shower was completely free, or I made money by purchasing it.  Shampoo ($4.99, free at CVS), conditioner ($3.79, money maker at CVS), body wash for men ($4.99, free at Target), body wash for women ($3.99, free at Target), and razor ($8.79, free at Target).  All for free!  Plus, I have between 4-8 more of each of them in the stockpile.

This caused me to start looking around the bathroom.  The toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hand lotion, shaving cream, razor blades, and deodorant were all free, too.

I was suddenly very proud of my couponing efforts!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Confession...

Previously I'm mentioned in this blog that I am a bit embarrassed by my coupon binder.  Shocking, I know.  I'm sure many couponers carry their binders proudly, but not me. 

Don't get me wrong - I love my coupon binder for sure - but just the act of carrying it from my car into the store remains a stressful activity for me.  Once in the store I feel it could almost pass off as a purchase siting in my cart, but when carrying it into the store, it's pretty noticeable (and has been noticed).

To take it once step further, when I'm in the store I generally keep my binder closed.  Of course I need to open it to check for coupons, etc., and I understand that people see me doing this.  I guess I'm OK with that.  It's really carrying it in from the car I guess.  LOL

Also, I won't bring my binder with me into the smaller drug stores.  I just bring the stack of coupons I intend to use.  Yes, occasionally this results in me having to leave and go back out to my car to get coupons that I had not planned to use, but usually my drug store lists are pretty tight.

Today at the grocery store I ran into a friend I haven't seen in many months.  I had my binder in the car, with my list on top of it.  I found myself hoping she wouldn't notice it.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  I haven't figured out this quirk yet.

Ironically I recently got a coupon-related personalized license plate.  I get a lot of attention from that.  I'm embarrassed by my coupon binder yet advertise that I'm a couponer on my license plate?  Go figure...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Success!!!

This weekend I heard from two friends about couponing. 

One visited recently and took an interest in my stockpile.  He started collecting coupons the weekend he was out here, and has continued for the last few weeks.  I'm excited because he "gets" the concepts of needing multiple coupons and needing many weeks of coupons to get off and running.  YAY!  He also contacted me about doing a coupon exchange.  He is definitely on his way to success.

The other friend, who has couponed for a while, recently saw my coupon binder and was hooked!  She has spent the last few weeks making her own and just let me know that she saved $58 at the grocery store.  She credits her success to the easy access to the coupons in her binder.  Another success!

You can do it, too!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Krazy Coupon Lady

My favorite coupon deal site, The Krazy Coupon Lady, tracks coupon/sales matchups for several of the major national chains - Target, KMart, and Walmart, as well as some other large chains - CVS, Walgreens, and RiteAid.  It also covers some small grocery stores that may or not may be local to your area.

One of my local grocery stores is included, and one is not.  I have recommended this site to several friends in the northeast, and none of the local stores there are included either.  Even if your local stores are not included, this site is still worth it for the national chains - and frankly those stores are where I do the bulk of my couponing.  But what about your local stores?  You'll need to start doing some research to find some good sites.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Favorite Site For Coupon Deals

Hands down, my favorite coupon site is The Krazy Coupon Lady.  That site is the reason that I will never attempt to do a coupon/sales matchup site myself.  I could never do it as thoroughly and update it on a constant basis as they do.

There are countless numbers of coupon/sales matchup sites out there.  Honestly, many of them are lame and not even worth checking out.  What are the characteristics of a truly awesome site for coupon deals?
  • Deals updated regularly - at least once a day, but usually continuously every day
  • Includes many stores - including super stores, grocery stores, drug stores, etc.
  • Is accurate - the deals are calculated correctly and are valid
  • Has visitor input - comments from other couponers offer valuable information
If you haven't done so already, check out The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding the Great Coupon Deals

So you've got all the coupons.  Now how do you find the great deals? 

Back in the day (circa 1998), I had to pour through all the circulars  to find all my deals.  Those were also the days when stores TRIPLED coupons up to and including $1, so that made finding deals a lot easier.  Imagine getting up to $3 off with just a manufacturer's coupon!!!!  It was awesome!!!!!  I digress...

These days I still look through the circulars, but I find the majority of the coupon deals online.  There are countless websites out there where hardworking couponers have spent hours and hours tracking down the best deals.  I am forever indebted to these couponers and would be up the proverbial creek without their efforts.

Next we'll cover some great sites, and how to find more of them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

OK, That's Quite Misleading

Last night the family and I were watching the latest Extreme Couponing.  As much as I love the show, I do get frustrated with it (sometimes I yell) and this one was no exception. 

Here's the scenario: the gal was shopping at Kroger, which is a store that I often shop at as well so I know their coupon policy.  As she was going through the aisles she was saying how this item was going to be only 50 cents, that item would be only $2, etc.  She then ended up getting her groceries down to just a few dollars.  Now, I happen to know that Kroger does NOT allow for overage, so how'd she do it? 

Well, a freeze-frame of her checkout screen (YAY Tivo) revealed a $150 discount for transferring prescriptions.  That means she transferred 6 prescriptions over.  Now, I don't begrudge her using that discount.  It's a great way to get your bill down, but it's not something you can keep getting and using indefinitely. 

Regardless, I feel this is misleading and gives the wrong impression to viewers that all their savings are due to coupons alone.  Extreme Couponing should have pointed out this idea for additional savings so everyone could benefit from it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So Why Are Coupon Policies Changing?

A lot of people are blaming Extreme Couponing and the onslaught of couponing that is happening as a result of it for why coupon policies are changing. Who knows if that is the reason, but even if it is, what does it matter? The show is here and more and more people are couponing.  It doesn't help to sit around and complain. Figure out the best way you can work within the new coupon policies and keep on couponing!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Are Multiple Transactions the Answer?

Despite new, more limited coupon policies, most stores will allow you to do multiple transactions. This basically means you check out with some of your items and pay.  Then you do the same with the rest.  If I find a really great deal, I have been known to do a 2nd transaction on some occasions - usually only if the deal or my coupons are about to expire. I still usually bring my husband with me for the 2 transaction trips. Not because I need to, but because it just makes me feel justified about it since technically one transaction is mine and one is his.   Honestly I'm still somewhat embarrassed by doing multiple transactions.

That being said, doing two transactions results in using double the amount of allowed coupons, just split over 2 transactions. Like I said, some stores allow it. Some don't. I was watching Extreme Couponing the other day and the woman did 42 separate transactions. Good grief! The question is, if the store limits coupons per transaction, why do they then allow multiple transactions? Maybe that will be the next restriction.

So why are coupon policies changing?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Changing Coupon Policies

Today I learned that one of my grocery stores changed their coupon policy. They are limiting the number of like coupons, as well as the amount of printable internet coupons you can use per transaction. Guess what I didn't do? I didn't panic. Sure, the people who like to buy 500 of something will freak out at this news, but we standard couponers can roll with this just fine.

Remember I buy 4 newspapers so I rarely buy more than 4 at a time anyway. So I went in today and bought 4 boxes of Brillo and the new policy wasn't an issue. I would have liked to have used more than 2 of my printable Skittles coupons, but I ended up getting just the two bags. No big deal.

Is mutliple transactions the answer?  Let's cover that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Organizing Within My Stockpile

Organization is crucial with regard to all aspects of couponing, including organizing your stockpile.  Not only do I have different stockpiles for different purposes, I also have discrete areas within my main stockpile.  For example, I have one section for all the food products, another section for all hair care products, one for soaps and body washes, etc. 

One thing I'm not picky about is soap and body wash.  I find they all get dirt off of your body.  So I have MANY different kinds in my stockpile.  However, I group them all together so I have a true picture of what I have in terms of body wash.  It would make no sense for them to be spread out in different areas.  My stockpile is organized by category.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Do I Keep Track of Items in My Stockpile?

Being a computer geek, most people assume I have my entire stockpile entered into a spreadsheet.  Well, I don't.  While I could start one, I'm not sure how I'd manage updating it and keeping the products and quanities accurate.  My husband has suggested I need an iPad that I could use for that purpose, and also take couponing with me.  But somehow I think he might have ulterior motives for wanting one....

Right now my stockpile is still fairly manageable by looking it over periodically.  Realistically I may have to rethink my system as my stockpile continues to grow, but for now it's working.  Sure, occasionally I still run out of something - but it's usually because I am looking for a great deal, not because I didn't realize we ran out.  The hubby, kids and I are pretty good about identifying when we've gotten down to only 1 left of something in the stockpile and putting it on the shopping list.  The goal is to NEVER get down to only 1 left.  We're getting there!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Another Reason I Love My Stockpile

This weekend we have a great friend visiting from out of town.  Most of what I needed for the visit was just waiting down in my stockpile. 

This is one of the things I love most about my stockpile.  Most of the time when I need something I can just walk downstairs (or better yet, send a kid) to get what I need.  Talk about never running out of stuff - it's awesome to always have extra on hand!

Friday, October 7, 2011

No Coupons?

A lot of the extreme couponers say they won't buy anything that doesn't have a coupon.  Well, that's not my policy.  I think that's unrealistic.  Tonight I went to the grocery store and bought several things without coupons - fresh produce, steak and fresh bread from the bakery.  While I've seen coupons for these things, they are few and far between, and I happen to have none of them now.

One reason I coupon on so many items is so that I am able to splurge on the non-coupon items that my family loves. 

Of course there are some items that I do not ever anticipate buying again without a coupon, including most personal care products, and thanks to my stockpile I shouldn't have to!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Stockpile Management Plan

Several months ago there were some great deals on those little Post-It Signature Flags.  I bought a few for work, but then started to imagine they could help me manage my stockpile.  The kids spent a whole day checking expiration dates and flagging each perishable item in the stockpile.


If you click on the picture to see a larger version, you'll see that the flags have the expiration month written on them.  The color indicates the year.  Yes, I know what you are thinking.  I am insane.  And that's OK.  This method works for me. 


At a glance I can see when each item is expiring.  This is especially helpful for my just-turned-40 eyes that are having a tough time seeing small print like expiration dates.  (Hence me having the KIDS do this job!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Potential Pitfalls of Stockpiling

Stockpiling is awesome!  But there are some potential problems with it.  One big problem is having items in your stockpile expire before you get a chance to use them.  Tragic for sure!

How can you avoid this?  First of all you need to become intimately familiar with your stockpile.  Know its contents inside and out.  Check it regularly.  Love it.  Treat it better than you treat your children.

Second, don't buy more than you can use before the items will expire.  But if they are free and you cannot resist, then donate them.

Third, check expiration dates when you buy things.  You'd be surprised how a little digging near the back of the shelf at the grocery store can often yield items with much longer expiration dates than the ones in the front.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Do You HAVE to Stockpile?

I had a conversation this weekend with a good friend who decided he wanted to try couponing. However, he does not plan to stockpile anything. He plans to just buy what he needs, for free, at the time he needs it.

Now it’s pretty rude to laugh right in your friend’s face, so I didn’t, but I wished him good luck.  He’ll need it, for sure.

I’ve said many times in this blog that having multiple copies of coupons is key to succeeding.  The concept of stockpiling goes hand in hand with that.  When you have multiple copies of coupons and a great sale happens, you stock up!  Why?  Because if you only buy one, it is doubtful that a great sale/coupon matchup will be available exactly at the next time you need to buy the product again.  You’ll end up paying too much, or, heaven forbid, full price. 

Please stockpile!  When I find a good price, I buy at least 4 of each item my family uses regularly, which gives me enough leeway to be able to wait to buy it again until the next great deal.  I have passed up items that I could get for 75% off because I know I have enough to hold me until I find them free again.

Similarly to friends who insist on couponing with only one set of coupons per week, refusing to stockpile items is a recipe for couponing disaster.  It’s these people who inevitably declare in frustration that couponing just doesn’t work.  It does work if you following the basic principles.  It won’t work if you don’t.  Period.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It Was A Coupon-Tastic Sunday!

WOW!  There were five different coupon inserts in the paper yesterday.  FIVE!  That is unheard of!  I ended up buying a few extra newspapers, and then got some extras from other sources so right now I am over-run with coupons.  This is one of those rare times when I did not get all my new coupons clipped on the Sunday they arrived.  I barely had enough time to collate them all.  Hopefully I can clip them tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

3 to 6 Months Worth

The general suggestion for how much to keep in your stockpile is to have enough of each item to last your family between 3 and 6 months.  This is because sales and coupons are cyclical.  You don't need to buy 300 containers of mustard because within 3 months or less it will be on sale and have a coupon again.

Obviously what my family uses and what your family uses will be different in terms of products and quantity, so you have to figure this part our for yourself.   For me, this translates to a quantity of between 4 - 8 of most of the items in my stockpile.

The time to break this rule is on items that have a long shelf-life, when there is a really great price or the item is free.  At that point you can stock up between 6-12 months worth.  For example, I have a year's worth of items such as hair dye, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, razor blades, and laundry detergent.  Most were free - how could I resist?  These items will not last indefinitely so I didn't purchase more than we'd use in one year.

There are other items that will last a long, long time, so I will buy as many of those items as I can if they are cheap or free: tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, q-tips, ziploc bags, and printer paper.