Monday, October 17, 2011

Does Couponing Work in California?

Sorry for the long wait! This is what my system has come down to and what is working for me in my crazy busy life:

Couponing does work to save money so I will continue with it after my summer experiment! But only on certain items, mostly non-edible items, such as soap, toothpaste, detergent, cleansers, etc. These are the things I stock up on.

The first of each month new coupons come out, so I check http://www.coupons.com/ and www.couponnetwork.com for online coupons, but only print those I know I will use, such as laundry soap, cereal, yogurt, etc. I don't print many as the cost of ink outweighs the savings in most cases. I always check www.kelloggs.com also.

I save the newspaper inserts each week, and would love to clip all coupons so I have them with me at the store in case I come across a sale or clearance item, but I just can not possibly find the time to keep up with them, so I save the entire insert, date & file them.

Each week I check my favorite site, which is still www.couponmom.com, for extreme deals. When I need to grocery shop I check the store flyers and www.couponmom.com for sales on things I actually need that week. (I keep a list on the fridge & add to it as I run out of things.) I modify my grocery list if needed to substitute for sale items or add something I can't pass up. I print my list, then pull & clip those coupons. Then I check for store coupons or any other coupons I may have to go with these. I keep these in an organized binder.

If I'm going to Safeway, I check my personalized Just For U prices & card holder prices, add the savings to my card, make my list online at http://www.safeway.com/, print it, write the rest of my shopping list (any items that were not online) at the bottom or on the back & write the amount of each item I want next to it (usually based on the # of coupons I have for that item or sometimes the limit you're allowed to buy for sale price) & take it shopping with me. I don't bring the binder, just my little mini coupon organizer folder that has the coupons I will be using in it. In the back of it I may have coupons I might use after I check prices when I get to the store. It's not always possible to know ahead of time how much something is, or if another brand will be a better deal.

I always check the clearance section! And then do my shopping. Watch to make sure your coupons scan correctly at the register & your card savings are applied! And always check your receipt before you walk away from the register. Yes, people behind you will be impatient, but there's always mistakes. Of course I don't always see them till I'm home because I don't operate well under pressure!

I love Costco, and always check their coupons before going there. I go once a month to stock up on things I use a lot of. I have made a price list of things I always buy, so I can make sure I'm getting the best price at Costco vs regular stores. It's hard to tell since you're dealing with bulk amounts if you don't know how much they normally are and in what amounts. Some things there are awesome deals, others not at all.
I always buy bread, tortillas, frozen chicken & ground beef, and freeze them. And you can't beat their milk & eggs if you'll use that much, which my family will!

RiteAid is my favorite for most household items/non-edible stuff. I really like their +UP rewards program. You can save a lot if you pay attention to what rewards you'll get. Buy those items first. Then buy your other items & use the rewards you just got on that second transaction. CVS has a similar program, but RiteAid has so far had better & more deals, I have found. Also, RiteAid lets you use multiple manufacture coupons if they're different, on the same item, where CVS does not. I compare prices at theses stores and sometimes Walgreens (as these are the drugstores in my town) and sometimes with PetSmart or Petpals if I need cat food or litter. I have been getting canned cat food (Friskies or 9Lives)at .30 per can if I have coupons and/or there's a good sale. Costco sells it for .50 per can when you buy a flat. Which is still pretty good.

I still shop at Trader Joes, they have great prices to begin with and healthy yummy food. Just can't beat that! I like to stock my freezer with dinner's from there. And the farmer's market is the best for produce. I go to the Dollar Tree a lot for pretzels, popsicles, rice, dried beans, candy, etc.but you have to be careful there that your food is healthy (check those labels for MSG, high salt, & high fructose corn syrup!). And sometimes things seem like a good deal, but you may be able to get them for less than a dollar elsewhere.

I make sure not to buy just because it's on sale or a great deal. If I don't need it, I don't buy it. At first I spent way too much! And I'm careful not to stock up on something I haven't tried. I have had to give away things because my family didn't like it! I do buy extra if it's an extreme deal and give all the extra to my church food pantry. They give it to the needy in my community. Not just food, but toothpaste, deodorant, etc, they need all that stuff!

I try to send expired coupons to the military. At first I sent them tons, but now that I'm not clipping all my coupons, I only send what I have clipped and that's if I have time to pull them out of my binder before they've been expired for more than a month. 

To keep up on it as much as possible, I date and file my inserts each Sunday. After I print any or get coupons elsewhere, I file them right away in my binder. While I'm filing, I check the page I'm on for expired coupons as I am putting the new ones in. I put the expired ones in a designated box to sort and send to the military when I have a handful. I also file right away when I get home with coupons I didn't use. If I don't do this immediately, I never will! They will get mixed up, lost, and/or ruined. So that's something I have to force myself to do & put off other things till it's done, but if I don't, this whole coupon thing will be a waste of my precious time!

If done right, you can save quite a bit of money! I don't think you can save tons and ton here in the middle of California, where we have no double coupon days. It may be also because I eat healthy. If you buy lots of junk food, you probably could save more. There are always coupons on chips, candy, frozen foods that are not the best for you, etc...

But every little bit counts! It does add up quickly. It is a bit of work, but just being aware of the sales, how to use rewards, and check for special prices you can add to your store card, etc, can save you a lot!
You just need to find a system that works for you that is manageable & not overwhelming.

If I think of something else I already do that really helps or come across something new and wonderful, I will post again. Otherwise,

HAPPY COUPONING!

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