Monday, June 20, 2011

Extreme Couponing. Or Not.

Let’s talk about coupons and saving money. I have watched the latest craze on television about Extreme Couponing and I have seen the various sites out there that offer tips and tricks and attempt to teach us all how to save HUNDREDS with COUPONS! Yay! Except that the average Jane (or Joe) really just wants to save some money on their weekly grocery bill in these hard economic times. That is how I began really couponing in earnest. The economy went south, as did my husband’s job. I found myself in a position of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I did not like it one little bit.

So I did what any crafty wife/mother/woman (or husband/father/man) would do. I took a long, hard look at our budget and figured out where I could cut this or shave from that so I could pay our monthly bills while still feeding the family (and dogs) and even saving a few bucks for a monthly movie night.

First I cut back in areas that I always knew were frivolous and even, dare I admit it, excessive. I started with me. I stopped getting my nails done (as often). It is important when making budgetary cuts that one remembers they still deserve nice things (or to look pretty). I went from going every two weeks to stretching out my appointment to every four weeks. Then I stopped our movie subscription that we were not using. It was ridiculous to spend nearly twenty dollars a month when we would get movies that sat on the DVD player for two or three weeks before we watched it. We stopped getting the car washed and started using plain old elbow grease in the driveway. That saved nearly $50 a month (even though my husband was not very happy about it). We stopped the weekend coffee during grocery shopping (saving nearly $14 a week) and then we made the big cuts. I stopped buying certain snacks and soda. By cutting back to one bag of chips a week and buying store brand soda in 2 liter bottles, I shaved nearly $45 per week off my grocery bill.

Keep in mind I haven’t even started using coupons yet. Altogether, I was able to save nearly $100 per month just by cutting back.

Next I tackled the grocery issue. I started cutting coupons. I used a couple different sites to print coupons off the internet. I stopped buying cereal, yogurt and snacks like chips or popcorn unless we had a coupon for it. Using coupons and the local grocery store membership savings, I now save between $50 and $100 per week on my grocery bill. I can feed my family of four for less than $150 per week (including dog food).

That may seem like a lot of money but I will tell you what I buy weekly (and sadly, 25% of my weekly budget is allocated to dog food [I have four dogs]:
20 lbs dog food
6 cans wet dog food (because they’re spoiled)
Milk (2 gallons)
1 each Sour Cream/cottage cheese/brick cheese
1 dozen eggs
6 Yogurt
Fresh vegetables and fruit (potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, apples, grapes, bananas)
5 Frozen dinners (for the husband’s lunches)
Peanut Butter
1 Rice a Roni
2 cans sliced new potatoes
2 cans corn
2 cans green beans
1 or 2 boxes of cereal
Lunch snacks (like Gushers/Fruit roll ups/granola bars, etc)
3 lbs of meat (chicken, pork, beef)
1 lb bacon
1 lb sausage links
Toilet paper
1 loaf bread (hamburger or hotdog buns depending on weekly menu)

Speaking of the weekly menu, I make one every week. I buy the groceries that I need for my menu. That sounds boring, and sometimes we have “free for all night” when I don’t cook anything and we can eat whatever we want too. Clearly this won’t work for small children, but mine are 11 and 14 so it works for us.

Occasionally I will buy large packs of paper towels, toilet paper, soap/shampoo and cleaning products but I buy those with coupons and when they’re on a really good sale.  I probably spend less than $10 per month on cleaning items (averaged throughout the year).

I don’t get the Sunday paper. I cannot justify the cost just to receive the weekly coupons. My neighbors and in-laws give me their coupons and I continue to print them off the internet. I plan for those purchases so I can get the best price. I do the same with meat when it is on sale, especially buy one get one free sales.

Finally, for me at least, I only buy what my family needs and will eat within the next month. I don’t have a lot of storage room and living in the scorching desert, a/k/a Phoenix, Arizona, I cannot store my food in the garage or attic. Plus, in my humble opinion, people who have 3,565,913 rolls of toilet paper or enough deodorant to last the average human being 137 years, are borderline OCD and yes, I am qualified to say that. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good deal, but I also firmly believe in buying what we will use and donating what we won’t.

As for printing coupons online, here are a few helpful links. Feel free to click the tab above titled “Printable Coupons” and print coupons weekly.  Also, there is a site called Cellfire (see tab above) where you can download coupons directly to your store savers card. 

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!

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