Call me one of those "crazy coupon ladies" but I don't care because I know that saving money is awesome!
I have had some requests from local friends that I share my "couponing strategies" and ways to save money. The past couple of years have been full of discussion about the recession and weak economy..... caused by Americans having lived in ways that are above our means. As newlyweds (well, maybe not-so-newlyweds since Saturday will make 2 years since the big day), we have been very cautious of our family finances in many ways (yes we've made mistakes along the way, but the point is that we've learned from them!). We took that to another level (or ten levels....it was that good!) of being in charge of our finances when we completed Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University over the Summer. I am not even close to knowing it all (about this or any other topic for that matter), but I am pleased that we have cared enough to get ourselves together now so that we can control our financial situation instead of it controlling us. Such a broad topic......but one of the most simple ways to begin gaining (or maintaining) control of your personal family finances is to control your spending! That's where couponing (and sales) can make a big difference!
I wanted to give you the list of a few coupon sites I use. There's no right or wrong way about it and these are just a small fraction of all that is out there. I encourage you to look at these and click around....by doing so you will discover many others that people have put together. That is the way that I discovered them.....just playing around! Many will share the same things and then you can be surprised by finding something cool and different on another one. It's up and down.....at first I was spending tons of time on it but then I decided I didn't want to be hard-core. But if you give it some attention each week, then you will see the savings and other promotional deals, etc.
Remember that some stores do coupon stacking.....Target & Walgreens to name a couple. That means you can use one manufacturers coupon and one store coupon (for that particular store) on the same item to maximize savings! Different stores have different policies.....you can find the links within some of the coupon sites to learn more....I don't really spend much time on that. I just use common sense when making purchases. I could do much better if I researched it more, but I don't want it to become something that takes up too much time. You can put as much or as little into it as you want. There are some ideas for organizing that you can find. You might also develop your own "system" that works with you -- you will learn that best over time!
I wanted to tell you as encouragement that last night I was running some errands and between Kroger, Target & Walgreens I saved a little over $40 using coupons (lots of manufacturer coupons and I did some stacking with store coupons). My total out-of-pocket for all of the places I spent just a little over $50 after the coupon savings were applied....that's almost half!!! For example, I did score 3 boxes of cereal totally free (2 Kashi & 1 Special K), 4 rolls of dental floss free, 3 packages of household cleaning gloves free, and some other good deals too....that's just what I can recall from memory.
Now just remember not to become a "hoarder".....there is a difference between stock-piling your cabinets to use and over-buying things. I pay attention to shelf life so that items are not wasted. I put spare items in a hall closet and I will get them out as needed, so I also have to watch the amount of space I am using. I am careful not to let stuff spoil, even if I do get it free or for little money. This is also a way to be a good giver. If you get lots of items free or for low cost, you can donate them to the church pantry and families in need. This is something I'm wanting to do better at. (New Year's Resolution, perhaps?) Because my time is so limited and I don't want to use it up running around to the different stores, I will dedicate some times where I do really well and get us stocked up.....then other times I only make quick trips to the grocery for perishables such as dairy, meat, bread, etc. I believe that is smart as well and allows me to maintain a good balance. I can always tell when I've been busy couponing because I will use up all of our grocery budget one month and we will have full cabinets. Then the next month I might only use a third or half of the budget just buying the necessities. But we've yet to be hungry, so I guess the mission is accomplished and it works for us!! :)
I could go on and on about this for quite a while, but I don't have time for that right now so I at least wanted to get you started. These are a few to get you going. Sorry for the short list, but it's all I can recall from memory:
Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to help - I am far from an expert though! Please know that the best way to maximize savings is NOT through coupons alone.....the best way is to find a sale and then combine coupons to score a great deal! In addition to paper coupons (from the newspaper, printed from the internet), you can further increase savings by using your store's loyalty card and use sites like www.shortcuts.com and www.cellfire.com -- I've only done a little of this, so I am planning to look more into this method soon.
GOOD LUCK & HAPPY COUPONING!!!