This is my third "Thrifty Thursday" post. I want to stay motivated as I work on our family budget--part of that motivation is sharing what I am doing. It can be discouraging to read frugal blogs and see how people feed their families on so little money--I feel like I am trying hard and yet I don't see those results. I am sensitive to the fact that many people are frugal out of necessity and don't have the option to "not succeed" in their attempts. The last thing I want to be is patronizing. Nonetheless, I feel like we are bleeding money around here and there are some expensive things we need to save for. I know there are people who want to reduce their spending but do not know where to start..so I am writing these posts for them and myself :) I hope you are inspired and if you can add any ideas of your own I hope you will comment below :)
Like me, you have probably heard of people saving hundreds of dollars by extreme couponing, although I've never watched the show by that same name. I know a lady who was actually paid for some things (I mean, she got the product for free plus she was paid a few cents! When I get a chance I'm going to get her to explain that one to me!)
Unfortunately, my own attempts at using coupons have been haphazard and usually leave me frustrated (forget to use them) or annoyed (clutter of newspapers/recycling/only coupons for things I don't need etc). But I have also been getting more serious about stockpiling certain items (a post related to that is coming soon) and so it makes sense to watch for coupons for the things that I don't need immediately but want to acquire in quantities.
I saw something on Pinterest that helped explain a few basics of couponing. If you are interested you can read more here. For the time being I want to use coupons to help me 1) reduce our current grocery spending and 2) help build a stockpile of certain household items (which should in turn also help us reduce spending). I am only willing to commit a bit of time to this per week, however, so I have a few guidelines for myself and I'll see how it goes.
1. Pick up the Sunday and Wednesday papers regularly (we now have a worm composting bin in which I use a lot of shredded newspaper, so the mess is less of a concern these days. I also use newspaper to start the wood stove, and we recycle)
2. Check online for manufacturer's coupons the night before I shop. Print and clip. (This will usually be Monday nights as I prefer to shop early Tuesday mornings)
3. Menu plan according to what's fresh in the garden, what needs used up in the fridge/freezer, and what is on special at the grocer.
4. If and when there are enough deals at a store that is not my regular grocery stop, I will go with a list and do a partial shop there. This might include ten-for-ten dollars days at the Co-op (usually get ten canned items for ten dollars, etc) or their meat sale. It does not help me to go to the extremely busy Co-op on 10% off Tuesdays, though, as it is more expensive than Superstore to start with. With two small helpers along on my once-a-week trip to town, multiple stops are near impossible. By the time we do all our errands we are exhausted and starved, so one-stop shopping was mandatory. when they were smaller. This fall, however, my big boy is starting kindergarten and will go on the bus to school every second day for the whole day. So there will be times that I have only one helper which will make it easier and will mean more room in the car.
5. By checking out the flyers before shopping, I will not need to circle the whole grocery store looking for deals (and therefore will succumb less to impulse buying!). I always write my list out in order of where things are, so I can continue to do that and will not, for example, go down the baking aisle if I know that flour is not on special that week etc. This should help curb the non-essential spending.
6. Once I get a feel for how often things go on special I will be more systematic about stockpiling. I read that sales happen on weekly cycles. Once I have those figured out I will report back and it will be easier for me to predict what I'll be buying.
7. I will continue to check the coupon wall as I enter Superstore (my main shopping choice). Twice recently the "coupon wall" has burned me with expired coupons, so I must remember to read the fine print before I use them! I use my points card and I pick up the weekly coupon for the free item if I spend the required amount. My goal is to not spend the required amount but, experience tells me, there is usually one week a month where I get a bigger amount of groceries. Why not time this with a decent free item (or bonus points for free groceries) especially if the money is spent when the groceries are already on special? This is how I hope that stockpiling will help save us money in the long run.
Some of the free items I have received over the years include: Rubbermaid food storage containers (twice), coffee travel mugs, battery pack and flashlight combo (gave away as a Christmas present), men's shaving kit (gave away as Christmas gift), various shower packs for women (I usually donate these unopened to the women's shelter at Christmas time), toothbrush and toothpaste combo worth $30 (it was whitening toothpaste which hurts our teeth, so I donated it to the food bank), free light bulbs, free cleaning product combos, you name it.
One other thing I should add is that I try to pick two on-special items every week that my kids deposit in the food bank bin on our way out of the store. I want them to be aware of our abundance and take their responsibility to help others seriously. If they don't understand that other families don't have enough, of course they won't grow up concerned about it. While I do think food banks and shelters are only band-aid solutions for deeper social issues, they do what they can to help and we must try to help too. I also engage the kids in conversations about homelessness, job loss, the working poor, etc, to try to help them understand where that donation is going. If I can be watching flyers for good deals and coupons this will also mean more donations to the food bank.
How I Did This Week:
Last week's shopping turned into a frugal failure. This week I went through the weekly flyer (discovered that laundry soap regular $18.98 was on for $10.98-so I got two). It is interesting to note that the Sunlight detergent in the flyer was an $8 savings each, while I had clipped a manufacturer's coupon that would save $2 if I bought 2 Tide products. I saved $16 by cross-referencing with the weekly flyer :)
We loooove Frank's RedHot Bollywood and I had a coupon to save 50 cents so I purchased one bottle. In comparing my grocery receipts I saw that last month the in-store special on the same sauce was over a dollar cheaper--SIGH--a person could really go in circles doing this! What I learned from that is to save my manufacturer's coupons to combine with the lower in-store price. That means checking the weekly flyer before I shop. If I had used the coupon the previous month I would have had the sauce for half price, so I am going to try to be much more aware of prices and, if I can get a decent stockpile, never pay full price for my groceries again :)