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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Latest Addiction

I’ve heard a statement several times in the last few months, and I’ve decided that it really is true…shopping with coupons is ADDICTIVE! And I’m the newest Coupon Clippers Anonymous member…if there was such a group!

Is anyone else here addicted to looking for coupons and using them? I get SO excited at a store when I save a good chunk of money…it’s not really natural, I’m thinking. And Brent makes fun of me all the time – he tells me that I now have a coupon for EVERYTHING! But it’s true! And just because he was making fun of me, I started keeping track of what I was saving on a weekly basis - mainly so I could throw it in his face and tell him to be quiet, but what I found out astounded me. You know those $.50 coupons don’t seem like much by themselves, but over the course of a few months I’ve been amazed that I can save a LOT of money on things that I would normally purchase anyway. And it takes less than an hour each week for me to save that money.

I know what you really want to know…you want numbers. You want the facts. You want to know exactly how much I’ve saved, huh? OK, twist my arm – I’ll share it with you! (You can’t tell that I’m proud about this or anything, can you?) Since August of this year, I’ve personally saved…

$489.48!!!

Can you BELIEVE that?!?! I couldn’t. And that’s just in the last two months…and only what I remembered to save the receipt on and/or record in my notes. I mean, $4-5 each time I go to Target or HEB just doesn’t seem like all that much…but Wow! Even I’m amazed. And since I’m so amazed, I thought that I should share with you what it is that I’ve done to get these savings, just in case you’d like to do the same…I mean, I know that economic times might be better for some people now than they were a few months ago, but who wouldn’t want to save almost $500 in less than two months? No one that I know!

The Sunday paper – I subscribed to the Austin paper while on maternity leave for the SOLE PURPOSE of getting the coupons. Yep, it’s true, I’ll admit it. I’ll also admit that I got a deal on the delivery and only paid $20 to get the paper delivered to my house every day of the week for 6 weeks…and that my current subscription has run out but for some reason I’m still getting it. I don’t know why that is…I don’t plan on renewing the subscription, but you can bet that I’ll still go to the store and pick up the Sunday paper each week!

Anyway, the Sunday paper has a whole section dedicated to coupons and coupon booklets of manufacturer’s coupons. I look through the circulars at stores where we shop first, noting items that we might buy. Typically I don’t spend too long doing this, as these items are only on sale for that ONE WEEK and we might not need the item yet. Please hear me on this one point: I’m not about spending money on things just because they’re on sale for a good price. I only buy things that we actually use. And I only buy items that we will definitely use/consume in the future (like toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) when we don’t need them yet. I also won’t keep more than two extras of anything anywhere…mainly due to lack of space in our house, but that’s another issue all together.

That’s hoenstly the hardest lesson to learn about clipping coupons. Just because it’s on sale does NOT mean that you need to buy it. If you do, then you’re spending more money than you would have unnecessarily, which is just silly.

After glancing through the circulars for retail stores (keeping an eye out for odd things that I know we might not normally buy but currently need – i.e. Jenna needs new tennis shoes and all kid’s athletic shoes are on sale this week at Academy, for example.), I move on to the Coupon books. Typically they are from Red Plum, SmartSource and then possibly a booklet from someone like P&G. They’re not all three always in each week’s paper, but sometimes they are. I take these and go through them page by page. I tear out the whole page of the items that we would normally purchase (or would like to try, if it’s a new product being offered with a discount) and set them aside in a pile. I don’t keep the whole booklet, whereas some people prefer to keep them. I can look through them and know what we’ll use and what we won’t so that I don’t have to keep up with it all.

Once I’m done with all of the books, then I go back with my scissors and trim out the coupons that I wanted to keep. Some are on both sides of the page that I tore out; others are just on one side. I set them aside to store later.

Coupons.com is my favorite online coupon resource for coupons. Once a week (usually on Sundays/Mondays) I go online to coupons.com and “clip” the coupons that I’m interested in. I then send the “clippings” to my printer and print them out. After cutting them down to size, I add these to my pile of clipped coupons from the Sunday paper (if they’re still out). These are mostly grocery coupons…just FYI. There’s another source - MommySavesBig - that has store coupons for places like Kohl’s, Old Navy, JC Penney, etc. that I also like when I’m looking to shop somewhere specific for something specific.

Stay organized – use whatever works for you, but if you’re going to clip coupons, you’ll need something to store them in. And it needs to be something that you always have with you, since you never know when you’re going to “run in” somewhere and need your coupons. I use an accordion file that is small and fits into my purse…other people use binders…it’s really up to you and what works for you.

Once I have all the coupons out of the paper (and from coupons.com) and they’re all nice and trimmed, I put them into my organizer by categories that I created. I use pretty broad/general categories right now because that’s what works for me…you might want to narrow yours down a bit. I use these: Health, Beauty, Services, Diapers, Formula, Misc. Baby, Home Goods, Restaurants, Cereals, Grocery. I actually have space in my filer for more Grocery categories, but I haven’t gotten around to separating them out into smaller subcategories.

After I’ve put all the new coupons into their spots, I usually take a few minutes and go through all the coupons in each section. I take the time to pull out any that have already expired and throw them away. I also remove the ones that are expiring within the next few days (up to a week) to see if I want/need to use them.

Once again, unless it’s a non-perishable item that I KNOW we will consume/use, I do NOT use the coupons if we don’t need the items.

Don’t feel bad about the expired or about-to-expire coupons…another one will show up within a few weeks, if you don’t already have another one in your filer that has a later expiration date on it. I promise you won’t miss out, this I have noticed in the past two months.

Ebates.com - This last one is something that is sort of new to me, and I’m still figuring it all out. I’m hesitant to share too soon, but I’m excited about it, so here goes…I signed up for ebates.com. Another blogger was writing about her experience with it, and I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try it. But in less than a week, I’ve already earned/saved $11. I know, it’s not much, but let me explain how it works and why I think that I’ll really enjoy using this in the future.

Basically, you sign up and create an account (and receive $5 just for joining) and then you start shopping. When you find an online retailer with something that you’d like to buy, you simply check through the ebates site before you buy it to see if they honor ebates. If they do, then you can earn anywhere from 1-5% cash back on your purchase simply by logging in and going through ebates to make your purchase. Then once a quarter, they’ll mail your rebate check to you. Free money!

For instance, we did not receive a high chair for Jax at either of our showers. I found the high chair that I want at Target but I haven’t purchased it as we don’t need it yet. We’re getting closer to that time though, and before buying it I checked with ebates.com, and Target honors ebates. So instead of going to target.com (or to my local Target store) to make the purchase, I logged into ebates and did a quick search for the high chair. I found that not only did Target carry it, but another ebates retailer carries it and offers more % cash back on their purchases than Target does. The second site actually offers the same high chair at a lower price, with free shipping and no tax. On top of those savings (which I would totally count in my savings chart!), if I go through the ebates site and click back to the retailer’s website, I earn an additional 5% in ebates on my purchase. So not only did I save sales tax and shipping charges, but I will also get 5% cash back on my purchase. Sweet! I like this!

And it really does work. You remember last week (or the week before) when I was trying to order my birth announcements? Well, Shutterfly honors ebates…so you know what I did, right? I went through the ebates website first and THEN clicked in to the Shutterfly site, placed my order just like normal and three days later, my 8% ebates earnings showed up in my account! I saved $5.72 and I only had to make one extra click to get it…I’m HOOKED!

If this is something that you’re interested in doing too, here’s a link that you can use to sign up with them! I love it…and can see ordering more things online in the future just to get this extra savings.

Sign me up to start earning cash back!

The only drawback that I can see is that the savings isn’t instant, like it is with coupons. The ebates are only mailed out once a quarter, so you have to pay full price, knowing that your savings is coming later. But I think that getting a “bonus” check in the mail as a surprise is also pretty nifty!

So…those are the things that I’m doing. And like I said before, it’s really adding up. $500 over the course of two months is nothing to scoff at, at least not in our house. Granted, some of that savings was earned on clothes coupons and they add up faster than grocery coupons do…but even without the clothes shopping, it was almost $200 in savings on groceries and baby stuff. Still pretty cool, if you ask me.

When it all boils down to it, if you’re not shopping with coupons or using sites like ebates.com (there are others like it out there, just search for them) to save money, all you’re doing is leaving money on the table. Money that you could have saved and put back in your pocket or toward a vacation or a new pair of shoes! And I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t enjoy a vacation! Especially one that was paid for you instead of you paying for it!

And don’t sweat it if your hubby wants to make fun of you for clipping coupons. Or for stopping him from leaving for the store just so you can give him some coupons for the items that you are sending him to the store to pick up. He won’t be laughing when you tally up your results after a few months…Mine isn’t!!

Do you clip coupons and track your progress? Do you use a site like ebates.com? What do you do with the money that you’ve saved? I’d love to hear from some fellow coupon cutters!

4 comments:

Nikkolish said...

Holy cow! I'm always saying I'm a bargain shopper, but you are way better at this than me!

I'm not huge on clipping coupons for groceries and if I do, I almost always forget them at home. My main savings come from clothes shopping. I'll admit I do a fair amount of clothes shopping for myself and my daughter, but I rarely pay full price for anything. I sign up everywhere we shop for emails about sales and coupons. An extra 15-20% off makes me happy!

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of buying something just because I have a coupon. I'm really trying hard not to do that. I'm gonna have to check out ebates and maybe even get an accordion file for my coupons! You have inspired me!

B @ Our Journey said...

I've tried the clipping coupons so many times but just get lazy but I do have an ebates account and LOVE it. I agree in that it feels like free money when you get that check in the mail.

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grownupforeal said...

I'm trying so terribly hard to get started with coupons. I know the value, it's just a matter of getting over the WORK. I'm already 4 paces behind when I get up in the morning so this seems hard! At this very moment, I have 4 weeks worth of coupons from my Sunday paper on my counter...but have I clipped, nope. You're giving me encouragement. I think I can. I think I can, LOL.