Stepping into COUPON WORLD

Last time, I somehow managed to turn a discussion of my 3-year-old’s hair into a gut-spilling free therapy session.  I pinky-promise, I’m really am departing from the ordinary, and ONLY talking about coupons today!  If you aren’t into this kind of stuff, you can skip this post, and don’t worry. I’ll be back with more of my typical photos and drama next time.
When my now was a baby, my coupon divider fell out of my purse, into a storm drain
…and that was the end of that.
For years I just wasn’t sure we could handle ANY extra.  To me, couponing looked like a LOT of extra – extra running around, extra time, extra energy, and extra things we don’t normally eat.  In short, it looked like it could evolve into another full time job, and that was the last thing I needed!!
And I was wrong…and I had to dive in to find that out for myself.
And yes, some friends think I’m crazy to even try to wrestle with couponing given my tendency to overdo things, and the “special” in our lives.  But none-the-less, I made it back.  It only took me 7 years!
Now our neighborhood grocery store offers online ordering* with curbside pickup  (more on that at the end). This has enabled me to shop sales and search around for coupons ON MY OWN TIME without leaving the house!  
I had a hard time finding a guide that met my specific needs, so I’ve decided to share what I’ve been learning.  I’m no pro, but I am properly motivated.  We have fam of 5.  Hubbs is looking at going back to school.  You know…
If any of my awesome readers have tips…BRING EM!  The more the merrier!
I mostly shop the outer loop of the grocery store, but I do buy some gluten free items and snacks for the kids lunches, and I’ve been saving an extra 30% at the grocery and an extra 10+% at the commissary…which means turning an $800 a month grocery budget into a $560 one!
Want in?  Here you go!

First off, it was with a sense of wonder that I learned:

  • YOU CAN COMBINE STORE COUPONS WITH MANUFACTURER COUPONS!!

  • Certain websites do the math for you. (Couponmom.com is the site I’ve used.)

My Couponing Basics

To me, saving in the store is all about lining up some or all of the following things:

  1. The Bottom Line

  2. + Sales

  3. + Manufacturer coupons

  4. + Store coupons

  5. + ibotta offers

(The more of these variables you can line up the more giddy it will make you!)

1. BOTTOM LINE and Grace

  • Needs. Make sure you are buying items because you need/want them, don’t just buy something b/c you have a coupon
  • Look at the whole picture.Cramming you house full of discounted or free stuff won’t add to your life…speaking to self here too…I always need this reminder.
    • Don’t assume coupons always make the best deals
    • glance at the competing brands, and if they are a better value or you really don’t need the thing…don’t buy it.
    • getting %50 off something that was prices %60 too high is not going to help you much
  • Stress counts.  Don’t forget that stress takes a toll and costs money too (in related health problems, the need for time off etc),
  • Find BALANCE in this whole thing.
  • Fuel and Time. Each trip costs in fuel and your time, so plan your trips wisely.  If you make multiple trips, you may save more in one aspect while you rack up other costs that aren’t as easily calculated.
  • Mistakes.  And of course, you will need to give yourself time and allow yourself mistakesGrace – I’m having to give myself some grace to learn,IMG_2315 and figure out how not to run myself ragged.  
    • I did feel like I was going to DIE the first time (umm and second time)I took my kids couponing at Target!!  
    • Since then, I’ve learned how to better prepare and set more reasonable goals.  …or at least I say that. I was the one playing what I like to call “shopping cart Jenga” for 3 hours with 2 rambunctious and needy kids in the commissary this morning!
    • Whether it sounds silly to you or not, I do pray before and after I shop.  I strive to remember to pray for:
      • gratitude for the funds we’ve been given and the ability to buy food for my family
      • sanity, if the kiddos are with me
      • that I would only buy what I need
      • for wisdom and balance
      • that I would remember all of the things I need to buy (I make a list, but usually don’t look at it while I’m in the store. 🙂
    • There are times that I get home and realize I forgot to throw a good coupon in the pile, or that I didn’t get the best deal, and it BURNS something deep inside of me…driving me nuts.  Sometimes I head back to the store and other times I pray and let it go.
      • I’ve figured out the finer details of store policies, in my mistakes, and by mistakes I mean spending more than I thought I would.
      • i.e. realizing that double coupons up to $.99 means that they ONLY double coupons valued at .99 or less, so:
        • a $1    coupon = $1       discount (not 1.99, because the value exceeds .99)
        • a $.75 coupon = $1.50 discount
      • You won’t know every store policy off the bat, nor will you remember every one of your coupons, but look at your progress more than your mistakes.

     

2. SALES

Match Sales with coupon deals by building your shopping list at CouponMom.com.  This is a site that can really do this work for you for most stores.

3. MANUFACTURER COUPONS

OLD SCHOOL

It’s still worthwhile, especially as, printing options does use up printer ink (which isn’t cheap).

    • Keep your coupons from the sunday paper and write the date on them.
    • You don’t need to clip them right away.  You can file them.
    • Check couponmom.com before you go to the store.  couponmom.com can save you a good amount of time in coupon clipping, as it will tell you which dates and inserts you’ll need to pull the coupons you want.

ONLINE COUPONS

4.  STORE COUPONS

Get printable or online coupons. (At Target you can also use mobile coupons on your phone and cartwheel – but beware that it all can overwhelm and you don’t have to save the most money in the store your first time out.  Start simple, and build on that.)

Look up your favorite stores and see what they have online.  For my shopping, I use a few of these:

logowalgreen_logo

120803_dvm_coupon  rewardscard-web

*Commissary Rewards coupons are not able to be coupled with printed coupons (of at least the cashier at my commissary would not allow it).  If you have both on one item, you have to choose which is best.


5.  ibotta.

header_logo

 

Take a picture of a receipt

scan items with your phone

collect money (via paypal)

I’ve made over $40 through ibotta in my first couple weeks

…that’s on top of coupon savings!

It’s a fast growing app (#16 in all of iTunes) with more stores and companies signing on every day.  It’s very intuitive and also allows you to earn extra $’s for sharing it with friends.

This is a nifty little app that you can use to save even beyond coupons.  Basically they give you money (via paypal) for buying the products that they have offers on, as well as nifty bonuses the more you use them.  The first week I earned $18.  You get a $10 bonus just for giving it a try (buying 4 of the items offered).  The items I bought (some of which were free with coupons) included:

    • organic carrots
    • Laura’s beef
    • Driscoll’s rasberries
    • zico coconut water
    • silk coconut milk
    • plum organics
    • kid’s clif bars
    • meyer hand soap (organic)
    • toilet paper
    • eggs, etc.
    • …and some junk food

w_hero_phones-7aea2e7ec8b756c586252162ea894337-1The  ibotta process relies upon your smart phone and involves a few steps that take very little time when you get used to it.

    • earn the offer by participating (i.e. – liking things on facebook, saying how often you buy something, playing a video about a product for 17ish seconds, etc)
    • use the app to take a picture of your receipt
    • scan the barcodes on the items to confirm purchase
    • watch the money come in

ibotta may not be for everyone, but if you do okay taking a picture on your phone or getting around apps (like tapping “redeem” when you want to get credit for a purchase) then you’ll probably be fine. If you are willing to put a few seconds toward saving some money, it’s really a phenomenal app and you can also email yourself or print the items your looking for before you go to the store, (to avoid needing to fumble with your phone in the store.)

It took something like 5-10 minutes to earn my first $18 with the app, as you get a $10 bonus just for using it to redeem 3 offers.  They also have store-specific offers for Target, Sam’s club, Walmart and Whole Foods (at this time) and the majority of their offers can be used at just about any store including the commissary…and it can be used in conjunction with store sales, manufacturer coupons, and store coupons.

Another nice thing about ibotta is that you earn when your friends start to use via your referral too….so it’s got a slight MLM twist, which I actually like, because I’d rather learn about things from people who use a product first hand. You can check it out here:

So, at this point, this is about all I’ve learned on the coupon-ing world.  If you are looking to step up your game, couponmom.com is a GREAT place to learn.  Nothing fancy but lots of good info and short quick videos telling you how to use their databases etc., and ibotta is another easy spot to save/make some extra $’s.

*ORDERING GROCERIES ONLINE WITH COUPONS.

bt_homeshopping_x

My favorite (and sometimes ONLY) way to coupon is with online grocery shopping.  At Harris Teeter it’s called “express lane.”  When the kids are asleep, I shop the sale’s flyer, clicking on items that I want to add them to my cart, and I combine those with coupons.  I later pick up the items at the store (they bring them out to your car).  I know this isn’t offered everywhere, but if it’s in your area, I suggest you get on their mailing list so that you can be notified when the online shopping is free.)

  • If you have little ones, I highly recommend this mode of saving or shopping when you can have someone else watch your kids!
  • Our Harris Teeter often has promotions where the online express lane shopping is free.
  • Policies will vary by store/chain, but essentially, I shop the sale, plan my menu around it, AND I use the online coupons that can be added to my store card (VIC / aka e-VIC coupons or VZR’s).
  • MAKE SURE YOUR COUPONS ARE DEDUCTED. When I place the order, I also list out the # of store coupons I’m using and the dollar value (because only 1 time out of 4 have they rung up at all on my online orders).  The staff makes sure that the coupons get added this way. I bring manufacturer coupons also, and note the value and which ones can double (Harris Teeter has doubling under .99 cents.)  The coupons will be used on my next order, and the coupons that I presented on my previous order are subtracted from the one I’m picking up now.  (It’s an odd system, but because they scan and bag all of your items before you arrive, your receipt is already generated and they can’t take out the coupons on the spot.

As a side-note, I just got a much needed break and discovered that:

Couponing pays on your Birthday! – (when you sign up to get rewards from your favorite stores)!

Hubbs gave me I night out, I got to hop around and cash in on some free yummy and fun stuff courtesy of Moe’s, Sephora, Starbucks, and JCpennys!!!  It was some much needed and very awesome RESPITE!  Time to be alone and enjoy some free treats, can you say: “Treat yo’ self!!!???”

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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