Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Coupon Experiment - The First Month

As I stated in this post, I have started a coupon experiment.  I know there are some of you out there that want to know how this whole coupon experiment is going. So, I thought I would share some lessons I have learned and some of the savings I have tracked.

So, How Much Have I Saved?
I am about two months into this learning process. I have not tracked the sale prices of everything I have purchased. I wanted to start by tracking how much the coupons themselves were actually saving me. So, the amounts I have tracked are JUST the COUPONS, not counting how much I have saved in sales I never would have known about or taken advantage of. Also, I am not counting coupons until I actually use them. Just because I earned a $3 coupon on my next order does not mean I have actually saved that; I have to use it first. So, with that in mind, what I have actually saved so far:

The first month = $228
The second month = $148

I saved more the first month because I bought coupons on ebay to get good deals. After reading this article, I am not sure of how ethical it is to use ebay for this purpose. So, I will not be doing that again. My savings will probably be slower, but I think I will still be able to do "extreme couponing done right" - slow and steady, a little at a time.

Lessons Learned?
Savings Percentage -
When you go to, you can look to see what deals there are in your area and they are listed by percentage saved. However, a higher percentage saved does not mean you are really saving the most money. You really have to look at the prices and know how much you are spending per item.  For instance, there were wipes on sale this week - one for 41% off, the other for 39% off.  However, if you calculated the price per wipe, the 39% off one was a lower price per wipe.  This brings me to...

Sale Price? -
You need to know your prices. A "sale price" is only a deal if it really saves me money. For instance, one store had Nabisco crackers on sale this week 2/$5 or $2.50 each; but WalMart has that as the normal price for the same crackers. I have started keeping a list of what my real base price is. Orange Juice is cheapest at Wal-Mart, Milk is cheapest at the warehouse store, Spices are cheapest at one of the regular grocery stores I shop at.  To start, just track the prices of the top ten things you buy (what is always on your shopping list?)  Then, see what the best prices are over a 6-8 week period.

Drugstores Can Be Your Best Friend -
Drugstores have "reward" programs.  Extra Care Bucks (ECB) at CVS, Register Rewards (RR) at Walgreens, +UPs at Rite Aid - these can all save you money.  Each one works slightly differently.  If you click on any of those store names above, it will take you to an overview of how that store works on the website, if you want to learn more.
"Extreme Couponing" on TLC -
Wow!  This show is not reality.  Yes, there are people that shop like that, but there are reasons it does not work like that in real life.
  • Some of the practices used by some of the couponers on the show are fraudulent.
  • They show the savings based on retail prices, not sale prices.  Do you ever scan your customer card at the end of a transaction?  Of course it is going to look like they saved a load of money if the total is before sale prices!
  • Some of the stores overlooked their normal policies to make it look better for TV.
This doesn't mean you can't save money.  Here are some of my favorite deals from this week:

Kikkoman Marinade $0.39 each, Chapstick $0.50 each
(Note:  I do not track my savings until I actually use the coupon, so I do not track my savings by listing the prices the way I am about to. But it does illustrate how the coupons that print at the end of a purchase can make a difference.  Below is how they would list this deal on the coupon sites I have been following.)

Buy 2 Kikkoman Marinades - $2.09 each
Buy 2 Chapstick - $1.00 each
Use 2 $1 Kikkoman marinade coupons
Use 2 $0.25 Chapstick coupons (will be doubled)
Pay: $3.18 OOP (Out of Pocket expense)
Get: $1.50 Catalina coupon for next order
Final Price - Chapstick $0.50 each
Kikkoman $0.39 each

The reason I liked the deal above was that it was the first time I knew about a "Catalina" (a coupon that is offered when you buy specific products) before I went to the store.  I wanted to test if I would get the $1.50 coupon when I bought 2 Kikkoman products.  I was going to buy them anyway, as they were on sale and I had a coupon.  Finding that the Catalina worked was just icing on the cake.

Total cost $6.02
This example shows more how I have been tracking my savings.  I earned a $10 +UP last week at Rite Aid and used it on this transaction.  Here is what I did:

Transaction 1
Buy Schick Quattro Razor $8.99
Buy Schick Intuition Razor $8.99
Use $2 coupon for Schick Quattro Razor (1/15/2012 SS)
Use $2 coupon for Schick Intuition Razor (1/15/2012 SS)
Use $10 coupon earned last week
Pay: $4.23 OOP
Receive 2 $3 +UPs from purchase of Razors
Final Price:  About  $2.12 each

Transaction 2
Buy Edge Shave Gel $2.50
Buy Skintimate Shave Gel $2.50
Use $1 coupon on Edge Gel (1/15/2012 SS)
Use $1 coupon on Skintimate Gel (1/15/2012 SS)
Use $3 +UP from Transaction 1
Pay: $0
Receive $1 +UP from purchase of Shave Gels
Final Price:  FREE

Transaction 3
Buy Nivea Shave Gel $3.69
Buy Nivea Shave Gel $3.99
Use $2/2 Coupon (Online, but may no longer be available, as I couldn't find it.)
Use $3 +UP from transaction 1
Use $1 +UP from Transaction 2
Pay: $1.79 OOP
Final Price:  About $0.90 each.
Next time, I will talk a little more about how that "stocking up" mentality is affecting our budget and our pantry.  In the meantime, I hope you will check out some of these really great resources:

Jill Cataldo - Super Couponing

Become FabuLESSly Frugal and learn how to coupon!Living Rich With Coupons

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