Thursday, September 09, 2010

Couponing!

Couponing -- it's the popular topic these days, especially among "mommy-bloggers."  Everyone wants to know how to feed their family for less and many people have amazing systems that help them find the cheapest deals and the best coupons.  The coupon queens are astonishing.  They have their favorite sites like www.moneysavingmom.com and they triumphantly match up coupons and deals and end up with the grocery stores/drugstores almost paying them to leave the store with bags full of groceries and toilet paper.  My college friend Gretchen is one prime example.  She posted on facebook last week about the haul of cereal, apple juice, olives, and more that she brought home from CVS for a mere $0.58!  After rebates come back, she will have made $13.08 on the shopping trip!

How do they do it!?!  I may clip coupons sometime, but I flunk at finding the sale, remembering the coupon, and using it before expiration.  You see, I have these ideals that someday I too will be able to be that smart and that brilliant and that together.  But then I have experiences like last Tuesday and I despair of ever being a good coupon shopper and I wonder how anyone else does it!

Here's the actual story.  My current town has two grocery stores: Larry's and Gene's.  Last week, I saw that the Larry's sale ad had Life cereal for 2/$4.  AND they had a coupon in the ad for $3 off if you bought 5 boxes.  AND I just happened to remember that I had an extra coupon for $1 off 2 boxes of Life.  I calculated.... 5 boxes of Life for $6?  I like that!  It's a long way from being paid to shop, but it at least brings the cereal within my budget.  And it was simple.

So Tuesday, I went to Larry's.  I picked up all my other groceries and headed to the cereal aisle--only to find out they didn't stock the 15oz boxes of Life!  They had Oatmeal Squares on the same sale, but my extra coupon said specifically "Life."

Bummer.  So I purchased my groceries (sans cereal) and headed to Gene's for the same sale.  At Gene's, I found the cereal I wanted - 2 15oz boxes of Life, 2 16oz boxes of Oatmeal Squares, and 1 box of instant oatmeal packets (handy for backpacking trips AND I had a coupon for .75 off!).  I double-checked ounces and coupons and ads to make sure everything matched and off to the register - so proud of myself! Until they rang up the cereal.  The Life rang up at 3.99/box instead of $2/box.  What?  The checker looked and decided that the ad only had Cinnamon Life pictured, not regular Life.  But they don't stock the Cinnamon Life.  Another checker went back to double check.  Meanwhile, I'm in the only open checkout line and 4-5 people were lined up behind me. (In Anthony, that's a traffic jam.)

The checker returned, "Never mind, the regular Life is on sale."  So they cleared the two boxes and rang them in manually at the sale price.  Then I gave them my coupons.  The first one rang up okay.  The second one didn't.  Nor did the third one.  The computer didn't think I had the matching items purchased.  By this time the checker was frustrated.  Skipping the barcode, she manually added coupon amounts and hurriedly gave me the total. I paid and left.

Yes, I got my cereal at a good price, but the hassle? I mean, it wasn't supposed to be this hard!  You have three coupons and five boxes of cereal.  It's simple.  What could go wrong?  Why should it take half an hour?

/me sighs.  I think being a coupon queen is just beyond me.

7 comments:

Jennifer said...

Couponing definitely takes a lot of time and figuring and you have to be willing to "stand up" sometimes when the cashiers don't cooperate (that's usually in big stores, not in the hometown stores!). I still don't know how money saving mom feeds her family for $40/week, but she's def. helped our family save money--even if we aren't even CLOSE to that for a budget! I tell myself I feed the same amount of people she does plus a bunch of college kids once a week!! :)

Megan Fletcher said...

I haven't blogged about my couponing yet. I'm still figuring it all out. I mess up as often as I have a victory. Like Jennifer said, it takes time to get a system. Right now my system is to use my 3-ring binder with baseball card holders (plastic that's divided into 9 sections; available at Target and other stores). I found really cheap dividers in back to school stuff at Target and I have about 15-20 sections (frozen, canned goods, baking, breakfast, snacks/chips, yogurt (has it's own section b/c I get lots of great coupons for it), toiletries, household goods, etc).

I clip the coupons I think I'm likely to use. Starting about a month ago I started saving and filing the rest of the coupon insert (from the weekly paper). I also started doing CVS couponing about a month ago. I always take my binder shopping with me and I try to check e-coupons and the store coupons before I go. If there's a really good deal mentioned online, I go into my filed inserts and find the coupon.

I have a pouch at the front of my binder where I stick coupons I'm redeeming (as I select the item, I pull the coupon).

The couponing class I went to taught me a lot. For example, just b/c a coupon prints at Kroger and says "redeem at Kroger" on it, if it says "Manufacturer coupon" at the top, you can use it ANYWHERE man. q's are accepted. That was helpful! You can also "stack" a store's q with a manufacturer's q. Never knew that!

I'm not into the "stockpiling" thing. At this point I don't have to and I don't feel it's a good use of my time to make it work right now. I'm committed to other things and sometimes the time is more valuable than the money (I'm sure you've heard that! It's so true). But, I'm definitely glad I have started with CVS deals. Thus far (through CVS as well as grocery stores and Walgreens), I have a little stockpile started of razors, dental floss, toothpaste, toilet paper, deoderant, toothbrushes, and body washes. Most things I paid next to nothing to get or a few times definitely less than half of what I usually pay.

Whew. Sorry that was long!

Gretchen said...

WOW! I'm proud of you stepping out and trying the couponing thing! I do have to agree with Jennifer - you have to be able to stand up to the crazy cashiers that think you are ripping off the company. Because of this, I try to always carry the store's coupon policy with me. It saves everyone a lot of headache when I can calmly and matter of factly point out their own rules. In fact, when I was buying the stuff at CVS that I mentioned on facebook, the cashier looked at me and said, "You can't do this, your going to end up not paying for this item". I looked at her and said, "Actually, I'll end up not paying for ANY of it." :) I have PLENTY of these stories!

I started very slowly. CVS was my first store. Once I got that one down, I started to go to Target too. Now, I've added trying to hit a couple of grocery stores in KC once a week, depending on how great the sale is. I've found that my Walgreens isnt very coupon friendly, so I usually skip that one unless we really need the item or it makes us money.

Keep trying - it's worth it! Good to hear from you friend!!

Dorinda said...

@Jennifer - yes, feeding college kids regularly definitely bumps the budget up. :) And I think couponing in a small town situation is much different (harder) than Dallas where I had four different grocery stores within a 10 minute drive.

@Megan - you're right on the "time vs. money" thing. That's why I never did much with coupons during my time at GFA - too little time! But thanks for sharing your method and what you're learning. It's good to hear what works for others!

@Gretchen - It's good to be in touch with you too. :) And thanks for the FB post which made me "want to go do it." I'm sure you have a whole ton of stories that would be a blast to hear if we were ever in the same area!

Jaime said...

I'm with you Dorinda. I have tried couponing a few times but I guess I need to stick with it longer. My main hold-up is that I can't bring myself to feed my kids boxed foods. I usually cook everything from scratch (which is cheaper too). Maybe I'll get it figured out eventually!

Jennifer said...

@Jaime, that's my biggest complaint with all the great Dillons deals--it's all for the boxed, processed stuff. But Money Saving Mom does all the home-made cooking so she's a pretty good one to follow closely. She does the once a month cooking and stockpiling.

Gretchen said...

I ran into that too - so I've just focused on the healthy food deals, paper goods, toiletries (including diapers!!) and cleaning supplies. This week, I got all natural peanut butter for less than $1 each and Barilla whole wheat pasta for $.60ea!! Also at Target this week they have a coupon for $1 off fresh produce, meaning tons of good deals - avacados for free, apples only $.30 a pound, etc. We buy only organic milk and I often get that deeply discounted. If the unhealthy stuff is free or makes money, I usually buy it and donate it to our church's food pantry. I like this post from money saving mom - http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/04/why-you-should-use-coupons.html.