Monday, August 8, 2011

The Answer to the Question, "How did you do that?"

Lately, I've been clipping A LOT of coupons and using A LOT of coupons and saving A LOT of money.  This is not a coupon blog . . . but I've had A LOT of people ask me about coupons lately so I thought it would make sense to kind of put a little tutorial here so I can explain what I do.

3 things to remember before I start:

1) This takes time.  It isn't something that you will understand soon as you start.  You also need to build up a pretty good coupon "base" before you can start doing this.  You have to have the coupons to use them.  It takes about 3 weeks or so of saving and clipping before you have most of the coupons you need . . . even then, you won't have all of them.

2) This is NOT the only way to do this.  There are a ton of different ways and you really just have to find the one that works for you.  I have a lot of friends that coupon that do it very differently to how I do it.  I even have a friend who doesn't make a list!!!  (Which makes me cringe when I think about it!!!) That works for her but would never work for me.  My friend, Christine, over at What Little Girls Are Made Of, has agreed to put together a little guest post soon to explain how she does it - which is TOTALLY different from the way I do it, too!

3)  It does work but you have to put the time in it to learn about it and to do it right and find something that works for you!  I think all of the other times I tried couponing I wanted to do it the easiest way possible - but that way didn't work for me.  I finally found a way that works and it's a lot more effort than I thought it would be . . . but, it's also REALLY worth it and it makes sense to me.

I think a lot of people think that it is just about clipping the coupons and buying the things you have a coupon for but it's not!  You will spend more money that way because you will buy things you wouldn't normally buy at prices that aren't better than the store brand prices.  If something is on sale but the store brand still beats it after you take off the coupon then DON'T buy the brand name BUY the store brand!!!  9 times out of 10 you can't tell the difference when it is out of the package.  (I love that Giant Eagle will actually show you the price per ounce on the price tag on the shelf...PAY ATTENTION to that!!  It really will surprise you to find that the biggest bottle is sometimes way more expensive than buying 2 smaller bottles when you break it down by ounce!)

In June, I started keeping track of how much I was spending and saving because Jerry needed to be convinced that it was worth the effort.  Here's how the last 2 months broke down:

June:

  • Shelf Price - $1,038.63 (That's way over my grocery budget!!!)
  • Spent - $561.99 (MUCH better!!!)
  • Total Savings - $475.64

July:

  • Shelf Price - $1,100.00 (YIKES!)
  • Spent - $619.50 (WHEW!)
  • Total Savings - $484.46
Now . . . here's how I did it.

First of all, you have to get coupons.  We get the Red Plum insert in the mail (which makes it harder to get more of them - I usually ask my family and neighbors for theirs).  Some places actually have the Red Plum in the Sunday paper.  The P&G (Procter and Gamble) also comes in the mail for us on the first week of the month.  Again, some lucky people can get this one the first Sunday of the month in their Sunday paper.

  The Smart Source is the only insert that comes in our Sunday paper.  I always go to Giant Eagle and get this:

 
You pay $1.01 for 2 papers!  They come packaged in plastic bags and I buy 2 bags (which gives me 4 papers and 4 coupon inserts).

When I get home, I pull out all of my inserts:




 Then I stack all the like pages on top of each other - the "double" pages rip apart REALLY easily . . . just make sure you won't be ripping a coupon that you want.  I've noticed they are starting to put some in the fold of the page.



After I have them all stacked I make one big pile to clip.  I grab my scissors (these are not the scissors I use. . . I can't find my "good" scissors) and my box of assorted colored paper clips and get to work.


I just grab the like pages and cut them all together.  I only have 4 (at the most 6) and coupon paper is REALLY thin so it is pretty easy to cut.  That being said, make sure that you line up the pages and don't let them slip or you may cut through one of the bottom coupons.





Then I paper clip the 4 (or however many I have that week) together and lay them on the table in ABC order to go into my binder.


This is my least favorite "step".  I need to figure out a better way to put them in order before they go in the binder.
Then, I grab my binder:


My binder is divided alphabetically by tabs:


Each tab has trading card holders in it where I slide the coupons - I usually put non food stuff first and then food stuff...it just helps me find things a little bit faster. 


So all I do is take the 4 coupons that I paper clipped together and slide them into the empty slots:


It takes work.  I would say that it probably takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to clip coupons each week.  I don't keep them all.  The ones I don't keep I usually pass on to my friends or put in our coupon train.

Confused yet?  I hope not because the next step is a bit tougher to follow.  Here is how I make my VERY detailed list.

I start by going to the sites I know do coupon match-ups for Giant Eagle.  I only shop at Giant Eagle because I really don't have the time right now to go to a lot of other stores.  I know if I did that I would probably save a lot more money but it isn't worth it for me at this stage in the game.

I usually end up going to thecouponhigh.net for my match-ups.  I also will check coupondivas.com sometimes as well.  The match-ups will tell me what the sale price is as well as what coupons I have in my binder for those items.  Yes . . . they keep track of the coupons and tell me which ones to use!  The Coupon High also has links to internet coupons right there so that I can print them out for extra savings.  :)

I will also head over to the site couponmom.com if I have time because it will actually tell you what the percentage of savings is from the original price.  So, if I'm saving 50% or more, I know it is a good deal!  A lot of the time, though, I don't have the time to do this.

Okay, on to the list.  I head on over to The Coupon High and I copy and paste the whole list onto a word document.  Then, I go through the document and cut all of the things I won't buy. . . like dog food and Tide because we don't have a dog and Danika is allergic to Tide.  Then I print out the list.  (This actually took a lot longer to explain than it does to do).

After I print out the list, I go through the things I want to buy and see how many coupons I have for each product.  I will then write the number of coupons I have to buy the items at the price listed on the match-up...that doesn't mean I WILL buy that many but I know how many I can buy.

Then, I turn it into a table.  Yes . . . I use word and make a table to go grocery shopping.

I make it 5 columns across and usually 30 rows down.  Along the top I use the headers:


  1. Product
  2. Sale Price
  3. Coupon Value
  4. Quantity
  5. Final Price
Then, I plug things in from my list onto the chart.  I organize the chart like I was walking through the store.  I also start putting the coupons in order with the list.  Here's what the list and the grocery "chart" look like.  I cross off the items on the list as I add them to my chart:




 After I do all of that, I have a guess on how much my shopping trip is going to cost...this trip was a BIG one and I "guesstimated" it would cost about $198.64

I grab my binder and my coupons and my "chart" and head to the store (yes, I take my binder grocery shopping):



The grocery shopping trip usually goes pretty smoothly...but every once in a while I will run into something that I need a rain check for or something that doesn't match-up with what I have on my chart.  I try not to sweat it too much.  The hardest part for me is separating the coupons I use with the ones I still have to use without dropping or missing any.  I always have a pen with me and I check off my list as I go.  I also keep my eye open for things that are a good deal or things that I need that I have a coupon for in my binder.  

Today, I had coupons for the Sweet and Salty Chex Mix.  The deal was a pretty good one because I also had $2.00 off 4 General Mills Salty Snacks in an eoffer (something you will want to check out if you shop at Giant Eagle!).  They were out of the Sweet and Salty Mix.  I remembered that I had just cut out other Chex Mix coupons the day before so I went to the binder and pulled them out.  The deal wasn't as good . . . but I still got the $2.00 off with the eoffer and only bought 2 because was able to combine it with some Bugles - the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bugles are delicious!!!! I would have probably passed the whole thing up if I didn't have my binder with me.

After shopping today, this is what my cart looked like:



I really should have had 2 carts . . . but there is only one of me so I squeezed it!  Thank goodness I ran into a friend and her son to help me push it all back to the car - I did have it in 2 carts then!

Here's how I made out.  



118 items
Spent - $187.42
Saved - $143. 09

Remember, I guessed that it would be around $198 . . . so I was THRILLED when I came under!  I even got everything on the list with no rain checks needed!!!

I also earned $.50 off my next tank of gas AND got $9.00 worth of OYNO catalinas (which are coupons you can use On Your Next Order that print out at the register...You don't have to buy anything specific.  For example, I went to Giant Eagle on Sunday and bought 2 "bags" of papers and a baby shower card.  It came to $4.98 and I had a $5.00 OYNO catalina . . . I actually MADE 2 cents!  They wanted me to take a slip to the service desk to get it because I used the self check out but I said I really didn't care about the 2 cents.  :)

There you have it.  That's how I did it.  I would say that I probably spent 2 and 1/2 hours between clipping, sorting, planning meals and making my list.  So - if you figure I saved $143 doing that I made about $57 an hour.  Not too shabby, eh?

I know what some of you are thinking . . . but I don't use the stuff that there are coupons for and they never have coupons for the stuff I need.

Wanna know what I bought today?

  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Red Onions
  • Yellow Onions 
  • Garlic
  • Pringles
  • Keebler Cookies
  • Chex Mix
  • Bugles
  • Tostidos
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Nutella
  • Pam
  • Nesquick
  • Hellmann's
  • Wish Bone Dressing
  • Knorr Sides
  • Gatorade
  • Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Chicken Legs
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Burgers
  • Frozen Pie Shells
  • Aunt Jemima Pancakes
  • Hungry Man Dinners
  • Minute Maid Juice Bars
  • Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs
  • Sour Cream
  • Crescent Rolls
  • Cinnamon Buns
  • Yogurt
  • Bacon
  • Coffee Creamer
  • Purex
  • Soft Scrub 
  • Dial Soap
All stuff I will use!  Granted, the Hamburger Helper will need a lot of doctoring for us to eat and will probably be served as sides and not a meal...there are 6 of us after all!  :)

I hope that wasn't too confusing and if you are still reading let me know you actually read the whole thing . . . this was a LONG one!