Extreme Couponing: How Do You Get Started?
The best thing about this Extreme Couponing experiment is the people I've met. Check out the comments on my post and on the forum post where I asked couponers questions about how to clip/manage coupons. Everyone has been incredibly helpful, supportive and positive. Because of their willingness to talk about how they manage their coupons, I've finally stopped clipping every coupon I see. Instead, I'm hanging onto the inserts and only clipping what we need, when we need it. RJ (she's 15) really likes clipping coupons, so when I explained the new process, she was a little let-down but quickly grasped the brilliance of the new method. While she likes to clip the coupons, it isn't the actual CUTTING of them that she likes.
Besides talking to couponers in forums and on blogs, and asking my SIL a zillion questions, I reserved several books on couponing and frugal living from my library. They were all interesting, for a lot of different reasons. Here's a look at the books I read last week:
Supershop Like the Coupon Queen by Susan Samtur, the original coupon queen. I remember when Samtur made the rounds of daytime TV way back in the 70's and 80's. I was fascinated but skeptical and I was freaked out by the fact that she saves all of the packaging on her products in order to take advantage of potential mail-in-rebate opportunities.
Samtur has a couponing site called Select Coupon Program - her forums are very quiet and I just can't wrap my head around the "never buy store brands" idea. And rebating? Oy. I can barely entertain the idea of stockpiling and she wants me to save my trash? This might work for some people, but I don't think it's going to work for me. I think TW would kill me if I tried this, but I am going to keep an open mind and dig into the refund world next week.
If you're a hardcore rebater, I'd love to hear about your experience. If you know of a great rebating website, forum or blog - please share the link so I can learn more.
Next, I read Shop Right, Save More by Teri Gault. She spends a lot of time calling herself the coupon queen, which didn't set well with me because I remember when Susan Samtur WAS the coupon queen. Couldn't she be the coupon goddess or something? Her program, The Grocery Game is not really similar to Samtur's, there's room for both!
If you've never heard of Samtur, you might have heard of Gault, she has also made the rounds of daytime talk shows with the idea that sales are cyclical and you should only buy what's on sale. Nothing else (unless you really, really must have it.) Of course when you first start the program, you have to keep buying the everyday foods, but as you move through the program, following her "what to buy" advice, you should create a stockpile of goods (all purchased at the LOWEST possible prices) and not be forced into the stores to buy a product that is not on sale for the lowest price possible.
It's an interesting program and her shopping list tool is nicely designed with a lot of sort options, (I'm a sorter by nature). The links to print the coupons from the shopping list are pretty handy and could make this an easy to use program for some people. I have seen several blog posts and comments that indicate her listed prices are rarely the same as the actual prices in the store and, I've found it frustrating to not be able to clear the shopping list selections and start over. I'm not giving up though, I'm still playing with it.
If you have tried The Grocery Game, love it or hate it, I'd like to hear about your experience. The more information we have on each of these programs - the better for everyone.
Last, but not least, a book that isn't really about couponing so much as it is about frugal living: Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half with America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides.
America's Cheapest Family is one heck of a frugal family who just happen to use coupons - when they remember to take them to the store. Their book talks a lot about ways to save money - in general - and about using Wal-mart's price-matching program as well as coupons.
(Are any of you hardcore Wal-mart price matchers? This is another concept I'm fascinated by but will probably never try because I hate the Wal-mart closest to my house. If I still lived in Gainesville, I'd be trying this.)
They also offer interesting tips about storing stockpiled food and buying close to code meat (meat that's going to "expire" soon so is marked down at the grocery store for quick sale.)
An interesting book overall, a wee bit too much patriarchal language for me to ever buy this book. I prefer OwlHaven, Mary Ostyn's books, for good frugal family living tips and recipes. I'm still reading CouponMom, Stephanie Nielsen's book and will let you know what I think, once I've finished it.)
What are your favorite couponing and frugal living books?
Now let me tell you more about some of the coupon blogs I'm loving right now:
Jenny at SouthernSavers is awesome. Hers was the first blog I found when I went looking for couponing information and it is the one most often recommended to me when I talk to couponers. It doesn't even matter that she lives in the south and shops at different grocery stores than I do. She's just awesome, and so are the people in her forums.
Of course I've visited CouponMom and the most interesting thing for me is the ability to see a nice printable shopping list that shows what's on sale at your local grocery store. I know other sites have shopping lists but for some reason, hers seems more user friendly to me than some of the others. I've gone so far as to put five of them up side by side and I keep going back to hers. There's something about it... I just don't know what that something is!
Jill Cataldo lives in Chicagoland, for those of you looking for deals in my neck of the woods, so that makes her a must-read for me.
Sarah is one of those nice couponers I mentioned before, she left some really helpful comments on my post about coupong clipping. She has a couponing blog called Sarah's Deals and her post about Menard's was a good reminder to think outside the grocery store/drug store box. There are deals to be had everywhere.
Do you shop at Publix? My SIL, the super couponer, recommends I Heart Publix and I can see why. This makes me miss living in Florida all over again.
I'm still learning all I can and I'm making my way slowly through the weekly ads. Which drugstore deals am I going for this week? None, I think. There's nothing I really need, no buy that's too good to pass up. Though I may change my mind, I'm still thinking about it. I might be able to stack some coupons at Jewel-Osco or Dominick's for a good deal on a few items -- and I think both have deals on gift card purchases, so I'm considering those as well.
The big buzz in my corner of the coupon world is the ConAgra sale at Jewel-Osco. (Those of you who shop at other Super-Valu stores may also have an opportunity to save some money on ConAgra products.)
We don't normally buy a lot of ConAgra products, but I just might be able to swing a $25 purchase in order to take advantage of this deal. I'm on the hunt for coupons for Pam, Wesson Oil, Snapple and Hunts tomatoes.
I spent a little more time last week on couponing - I'm estimating about 4 hours, (I forgot to turn on my timer on Friday night.) Much of this was spent exploring sites like The Grocery Game and learning more about the ConAgra deal coming up.
The biggest lesson I learned last week was that making a grocery list that doesn't take every single item on the week's meal plan into consideration is a bad idea. TW didn't make a full meal plan. All I knew was "Super Bowl snacks" and then she mentioned a few other main dishes for the rest of the week.
I made a list but we didn't stick to the list, in part because I didn't ask enough questions about what - exactly - was going to be necessary to celebrate the Super Bowl properly. So we could have done better, I need TW's meal plan before the weekly shopping trip. Or maybe she should go back to doing two weeks of menus?
All things considered, we did pretty well. Our total cost was $152.94 -> we used 25 coupons to reduce the OOP cost to $129.46, which was an 18% savings. Besides the half dozen items that weren't on my list, (which I may have been able to find coupons for - or find cheaper at another store), we bought a Whole Chicken for .98 a lb and a London Broil Roast for $2.25 a lb.
Here's a photo of our best deals of the week:
- 2 - 16oz carton of sour cream. .26 each after coupons.
- 1 bologna, 1 hot dog. .04 each after coupons. (Elly LOVES bologna and we never buy it. This is probably a once a year treat for her.)
- 2 jars Ragu. .45 each after coupons.
- 4 boxes of pasta. .45 each after coupons.
- Beef jerky. .99 after coupon.
- 2 pack of Fruit a Day juice. .49 after coupon.
- 2 packages of a rice side dish. .10 each after coupon.
I'm really enjoying this coupon thing, even if some people have started calling me crazy coupon lady (which I'm not, because there is already a Krazy Coupon Lady.) What I really like are the nice people who are willing to help, the people who've whispered to me that they are couponers too, and the people who've told me that they clipped some coupons after reading my post.
If you're a couponer, leave a photo to something you saved money on last week. If you're not a couponer but want to be, leave a comment and ask questions. If I can do this, you can too!
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