Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Squeezing a dime into a dollar...

aka: how to save money when shopping.

Coupons. Yup...I know, you don't like to clip ' feel like you're buying stuff you don't need, etc, etc.

Well...unless you're brand loyal, you can buy a lot of stuff with coupons and save a lot of money, too. It takes a bit of planning, but in the end, the savings are well worth it.

First off, I clip EVERY coupon from the paper. If I'm not going to use it (such as for pet food), I will either find someone who might, offer the coupons up on freecycle, or just lay them on the products in the stores, for someone else to take advantage of. I also take full advantage of any online coupon printing I can. Most places allow you to print twice, so you can take even more advantage of savings. I've noticed a trend on Facebook as well...manufacturers are setting up fan pages for certain products...and when you become a fan, you can get extra coupon savings. Recently, I acquired b1g1 (buy 1, get 1 free) coupons for Skittles and Starburst...two favorites in our households! I was able to print 2 of each coupon, so that will give me 4 packages of each! (now to hope they come on sale for even more savings!)

I sort my coupons out alphabetically by name brand. If a coupon is for multiple products, I put it in by mfg. name, or which ever product I'm most likely to buy (like General Mills, for instance...if the coupon is specifically for Cheerios, I will file under C, but if it is for General Mills cereals, I will file under G). I also sort each by date, so the ones about to expire are to the front.

I keep all these coupons in a 3 ring binder. I use regular page protectors, which I sewed down the middle and across to make 4 pockets. I cut a small "scoop" across the top of each pocket to make the coupons more accessible. I have a pocket for each letter, of course, but I also made additional pockets for store-only coupons...I have Target, CVS, Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Publix. I put any store-generated coupons here, as well as coupons I get from being on their mailing lists. I have one large page protector that I put in "other" coupons - these are generally restaurant (Olive Garden, Pizza Hut, etc) or big box stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond is one I have a LOT of...they take expired coupons, and they take more than one coupon per if you have multiple 20% off coupons, they will honor all of them at once!)

While this seems daunting, and "a lot of work for a little savings", it adds up.

Today's take is a prime example of being prepared.

I went to CVS today. I had checked out the flyer to see if they had anything I wanted. I checked to see if I had matching coupons as well. I made a list of items, the prices, the EB (extra bucks offered), and coupons I had. I put all of this in my "current shopping" envelope. (I have an additional envelope labeled Expiring - I place coupons expiring within a week that I REALLY want to buy, so that I can remember to check for the items!)

So, what did I get? Well, I made 2 trips...I went to 2 different CVS stores (they're fairly close by to me, so I can go to either/or...but one generally has a better stock of soda and food goods, the other has a better stock of shampoos, etc).

On my first trip, I purchased the following: 2 bottles of Pantene shampoo, 3 bottles of Excedrin (2 were Migraine, one was Extra Strength. Side note: These are EXACTLY the same item - check the ingredients...but the Excedrin Migraine costs $1.00+ more per bottle! Yes, I knew this...I'll get into why I bought the EM in a minute), 1 tube of Neosporin, 1 box of Bandaids, 1 bottle of Head & Shoulders, 1 box of Wheat Thins. The total bill was $23.33. Here's the breakdown:

Pantene was on sale 2/$6.97. There was a 2EB on 2...and I had a $3 coupon off two. This means that I paid $1.97 for 2 bottles of shampoo that are regularly $4.99 EACH. For a savings of $8.01!

The Head & Shoulders was $4.99 and I had a coupon of $1.00. This also had a 2EB. The original price was $5.99, I saved $3. The Neosporin and Bandaids were both on sale ($4.99 for the Neo, $2.99 for the Bandaids) and I had a coupon for $3 off if you bought the grand total was $5 for this. Could have been better, but we actually NEEDED both of these items NOW.

The Wheat Thins were on sale 2/$5...I had a $1 off 1 box, and only bought one box, so I paid $1.50.

On to the Excedrin...I had a coupon for one free bottle (Under $5)...that was the Excedrin Extra Strength ($4.79). The Excedrin Migraine had a tag of 2/$5 for the 24 count. When they rang up at $5.49 each, I mentioned this, so she went back to check. Apparently it was for a previous sale, but since the tag was still up, they had to honor the price. I also had a $.75 off coupon on top of that. The total for the 3 Excedrin bottles would have been $15.77, but I paid $4.25...or $1.42 a bottle.

I went to my 2nd CVS to get some other stuff: 4 12-packs of diet Mountain Dew, 3 Oral-B toothbrushes, and 2 bottles of Cascade liquid dish soap.

The breakdown: The Dew was 4/$12, with a 3EB, making it 4/$9.

The Oral-B toothbrushes were $4, with a 4EB - limit of 2 EB's on this one. I had a coupon for b1g1 free, and another for $.75 off. So, I got 3 toothbrushes for $3.25...the original price for all three was $ I saved $14.22.

The Cascade was 2/$5.97, with 1EB, and I had a $.25 coupon. This means I spent $4.72 for 2 bottles, or $2.36 each. Original cost for each bottle was $4.69, I got each at half price.

Today's total take? $95.43 worth of stuff for $33.56. I saved $61.87.

Did I buy anything I normally wouldn't? NO. I use shampoo, I use headache products, I use toothbrushes, I use dishwasher soap, I use bandaids and antibiotics...and believe me, I drink that soda. The difference here is that, NO, I wouldn't normally buy Pantene or Head & Shoulders (because it's too pricey!)...but if I'm not being brand loyal, I'm saving money. I didn't go out and buy makeup or vitamins that I won't take. I didn't buy food I won't eat. Sure, I'll clip all the coupons, and if the deal is worth it, I'll buy it and use it.

Here's a thought, though...if you have a great deal on toothpaste and brushes, or shampoo and deodorant, and you think you don't NEED it, buy it anyway...and donate it to a local shelter. Womens' shelters are always in need of personal hygiene items. If you're only spending a few bucks, why not share your savings with someone who might need it?


Berry Patch said...

I've just gotten started with this a few months ago. This past week I went to Shaw's & bought a 25 pound bag of Iams dog food (normally $21.99), a large bottle of Mr. Clean & Febreeze Air Effects spray. Total out of pocket was $9.16 PLUS it generated a $10 coupon which I turned around to use on the veggies in my next order. Eight bags of "pick 4" veggies for a whopping $5.98. I LOVE the savings!!!

Gwen said...

I need to follow in your footsteps more. I can't where we currently are, though I could more than I do! I just don't take the time and not taking the time costs me.

Great job on your savings! Thanks for breaking it down for us in your post!

Kim said...

Thanks again, Linda for the information! I am going shopping TODAY!
I have been so behind in my blogging. I love your Simple Woman's Day posts. I may steal the idea. :)

These Nine Acres said...

Hi Linda! What I think is, WOW! I used to be that diligent about coupons and then we moved to a VERY rural area and I have a choice of 2 shopping places. And we don't get the newspaper any more.

Thanks for stopping in to Nine Acres Designs. I am not sure why you couldn't see the image...the words were linked to my Flickr account and it seemed to work fine. Thanks for letting me know and I will try to check out what is going on ;0)

rennratt said...

I am just getting back into using coupons, mostly for HBA items. We generally shop at ALDI for food, and most coupons don't match up to the savings.

However, Harris Teeter has triple doubles, doubles up to 1.49, and has Super Triples (or something like that) pretty often. I try to stock up on dog food, HBA items and even coffee on those days. I have gone in and purchased $90 worth of HBA products for less than $30. That makes me VERY happy!

I love the idea of sharing items with local shelters, too!

rennratt said...

Update: I went to HT the other night, coupons in hand. Thanks to freebies, double coupons and in store coupons, I saved almost $75! I spent $81. :)

Jen said...

Hey... thanks for the comment. We have the ressurection eggs too and my kids have loved playing with them this Easter too.

As for couponing...I'm a major couponer. I did the binder thing but just recently moved to filing in a coupon box-according to my store and it's so much easier for me. I generally save at least 50% off my grocery bill/drugstore purchases. love it! :)