Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My old favorite sport madeover

Who loves to shop? I mean really shop; the smell of the mall, the competition of a good sale, the thrill of the hunt... that feeling you get when you're done? It truly is a high. My favorite event of the year (minus birthdays and holidays) is the super bowl of all shopping days- Black Friday :-) We have maps, plans, coupons, ads, lists, face paint..... Ahhhhh I LOVE IT!!! I recently had a cementing experience that wasn't too unlike a training event for the biggest shopping day of the year.
I live on a meager budget and I have thought of couponning in the past and even tried it once and did very well but I simply didn't have the resources to start up and I had no clue where to start. It was an overwhelming thought altogether. I have since heard a lot of people express the same feelings toward coupons. How? When? what? SO many questions!!! I have been there.
I guess the first thing I should clear up is expectations and quantity. You will have as much as you want or can invest. I do not currently and do not plan to have a giant stockpile that contains 200 tubes of toothpaste and other similar stereo types. Some people have that but I'm not one of them so if you want to become a hoarder  of toiletries then I may not be a good resource because I have no grasp on the magnitude of of an endeavor like that. BUT if you want to learn about realistic ways to start saving money on things you already use then perhaps you could benefit from what I have learned so far.
Someone gave me a hand. I wouldn't have gotten such a good start if I didn't have some help. I actually won a shopping trip with a professional couponner. She's a sweet gal named Becky and she writes for the coupon website . She took me shopping one night as a subject for her own blog which you can read... HERE. I got to pick her brain and lean how to make connections like using rite rewards points at Rite Aid in multiple transactions. We went Easter basket shopping and I did get a little side tracked in the cleaning isle but I found some greats deals! to learn more about the multiple transactions please read Becky's blog. I haven't attempted it on my own and I can't speak reliably about it.
My second independent shopping experience was the following Tuesday in the middle of the night. I had quite a few doublers from Albertson's and they expire on Tuesdays. I went to Walmart with a mission and I found black Friday training and 60% savings. The line was crazy but it was an awesome opportunity to talk to other gals who were all there for the same reason. It gave me a chance to learn about binder organization. Becky was a huge help and the gals in line really helped me to fill in the blanks and see a variety of styles and preferences.

So where do you start?

  1. Get multiple newspaper subscriptions- you won't use them all but you will be thankful when you find a good deal.
  2. figure out a system - I'm going to help you
I found a deal with the Idaho Statesman where I get 1 paper everyday and an additional 4 papers on Sundays. This is actually cheaper than just buying 5 Sunday paper subscriptions. I paid $58 for this service and I have already paid for it in savings from coupons. 

About your binder.... There are so many ways to do this!!! I took the best of what I saw from about 20 samples and I made something that fits my own needs. You should do the same.
I started with a little filing notebook thing that I put my inserts in and a pair of scissors. After my first shopping trip it looked like this
I needed a better system. I had it all organised but when I had to resort to plan B, C, and D it all went out the window. 
FIRST- I found an old school binder- I will get a fancy tricked out one when the back to school sales start-
I got some page protectors from Ebay (Thanks Becky) and some dividers.
 I started with the dividers. I did one for store specific coupons and loose coupons (like you clip off the box). one for printables, and the rest organised by date (oldest first). 
I printed lists off of fabulously frugal which gives me the name, value, and expiration of the coupons from each insert. 

I decided to cut out at least 1 of each coupon because I'm not opposed to trying new things and if I find a great deal then I will be prepared. The only exception I found was cat food and menopause products. I just will not be needing those. After some trial and error I found it easiest just to lay them out in order of the list before I cut out the others from the same inserts. That way I can see which ones I want multiples of. 

Then after I was sure I had all I wanted from that batch of inserts I filed that mess and recycled the rest

My goal is to be able to look at ads and pull the coupons I want quickly and if I run into plan B, C, D, E, and F then it will be a clean process and a lot easier to find. less hassle in the store for me to cut them ahead of time. If you don't want to do the prep work then you could simply put the inserts into a sheet protector and file the list ahead of it so you know what is in each insert. I filed 3 weeks worth of inserts at 5 newspapers a week. I estimate that in the future this will probably take me an hour or less per week. 

My finished binder looks like this: 

Much better!!!

When you shop, take a list of the deals you found. You can copy and paste off of a site like Fabulously Frugal or you could write it yourself, also keep in mind things you use a lot (like dish soap). You will find yourself noticing the prices around you and remembering your coupons. This is good! set a "most price" for yourself. for example I HATE to pay more than $0.50 for deodorant and $2 for body wash. If somethings you see matches your price or less then you've scored. 
On my midnight shopping run I scored $65 worth of stuff for $22! I got 10 pack of gum for free and if I'd been anywhere besides Walmart it would have been a 4 cent money maker. Those Hot-wheels cars were 50 cents a piece. The dish soap was 97 cents. Not bad huh?

I'm still learning so much and I'm definitely not an expert but this is what I know so far. Hope it helps!