Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Coupon Experiment

I have started a six month coupon experiment. I don't know how I stumbled on the couponing website I started reading a few weeks ago, but it changed my attitude about couponing quickly. Some friends asked me where I was learning about coupons, so I wrote an email to compile the information I was using to help them explore the world of couponing. I thought I would put that information on my blog, too, in case anyone else might like to check it out.

Here is the Fabulessly Frugal website I have been checking out. It is a little crazy right now, because they are posting a whole lot of deals for Christmas presents and sales that only happen at this time of the year. So, there are more entries per day than normal. Here are some of the articles that got me thinking:

Getting Started -
If you want to understand the acronyms, you need to read this -
FAQ’s -
Stock up Prices -
Sample Store Match-Up -
Example of Multiple-Transaction Shopping Trip -

There are a few other sites that made me want to try this out. Check out the videos on this page:
Extreme couponing TV show vs. Reality -

Both Fabulessly Frugal and Jill Cataldo have DVD "classes" that teach couponing.   I bought the Fabulessly Frugal one, and I felt it was good for getting started with organization.  I think, just based on the videos above, that the Jill Cataldo one might be more in depth on the couponing transactions themselves. They also both have information on saving money in other areas.  So, if you decide not to coupon, you can still see great deals on everything from jeans to camera lenses to household appliances.

So, here is what I have been doing the last two weeks.

1 – Organize my Coupons - I use the organization system described here, with one difference. The coupon lists they put out on their site are not always directly related to the coupons in our paper. We will have the same companies, but the amounts or conditions are different. So, I have tried writing in the corrections, typing up my own list, and next I am going to try downloading their spreadsheet and making changes to that.
2 – Visit Fabulessly Frugal and check out the “Stores” section – This section has the sales at Rite Aid (sign up for the wellness+ card online), Walgreens, Target and WalMart. They also have a “More Stores” section that includes CVS (get the Extra Care Card) and Giant (Same as Stop & Shop). Each page will have the top sales and coupon match ups for that week. These first few weeks, I have not had all the coupons for the deals as they were in the paper before I started saving coupons. I still look at them, though, because it is helping me to get an idea of what prices people are paying for different items. I think this is good because I don’t have pressure to do all the deals. I just do the few I can and see how it goes.
3 – Check out for other match-ups. – You have to create a login to look at the matchups, but it is free. I like this site because I can see the sales for the local stores more easily. So, even if it doesn’t end up on the “Pink Star” stock up price list for the Fabulessly Frugal website, I know how the sales in the area compare to each other for the things I need. I noticed something new when I signed in now, as opposed to a year ago when I signed up – they have a “Deals over 50% off” link for both national drugstores and national grocery chains so you can see the best deals across stores more easily. They also have a spot to choose your state and see the match ups locally.
4 – Make my Master Shopping List – This is the part I am still working on. I built a database a while back that makes my shopping list for me, but you could make the list on paper. I have a list for each store with the prices advertised and what coupons I will be using and can expect back on my receipt. This helps me to know where I am going while I am out and which things I am getting from each store.
5 – Get my List & Coupons together – I paper clip together the coupons for each store so that I can just grab the pile I need when I go in. I think I am going to bring my coupon binder in the stores with me in the future, though. I missed out on some sales last week because they were unadvertised and I didn’t have my binder with me.

I also just tried some things this week that you may have never done, either. I just did my first “Multiple Transaction” trip to CVS this last week and I was really nervous that the cashier would hate me! However, she was very sweet and seemed to be used to people using the coupons that printed on the first transaction receipt toward their next transaction. In all, I did three transactions and it went fine. Hopefully, it will always go that smoothly! I also just purchased my first coupons on ebay this week, so I will let you know how that goes. (After reading this article tonight, I may not do it again. I will have to look into it more.)

This is still a learning process for me, but last week I saved $50 in coupons alone - not counting that I grouped them together with good sales.  I will be keeping track to see how worthwhile it is to spend the time doing this.  Right now, I feel like I spend a LOT of time because I am on a learning curve.  I will have to update to let you all know how it goes over time.  I think it will take much less time as I get used to it.  Hopefully, I will be able to say that I saved a ton of money by the end of this six months!