Just before Ben came back from Iraq we knew we needed to tighten our budget. Soldiers get extra money while deployed that we would no longer be getting when he got back and we have two more mouths to feed. Just before he got back, our ward at church had a lady come for what we call enrichment night. She taught us all she knows about couponing. Just after that, a friend of mine , Chrissy started doing similar things and taught me what she knows. A little more I learned threw trial and error. So far, I have cut our monthly budget for food and other like items in half. Still have a ways to go but it is a start. I have been asked to share what I know like the others have with me so here is what I have learned so far so maybe some of you can benefit as I have.
One of the things that helped me in the beginning was being told not to expect to save more than $10-$20 the first time. A little more the next and so on. It only took me three months of this to cut our budget in half but everyone will be different. It is really easy to give up in the beginning but it you stick it through, you will be glad you did. Since I did this, I was able to score things like two packs of diapers that normally would have been $20 for $1.44. I bought some stuff that normally would have been about $7 for $.89. Savings like that make it worth it. We figure I make about $50-$100/hr by doing this. Much better money than a part-time job would pay and I do it my way on my time.
In the beginning it takes more time than future months cause you will be doing stuff you don't have to in the future and you will get to know this stuff so that you can do it quicker. Lets start with coupons.
Initially I bought a little wallet thing for coupons but it only lasted me a month before I outgrew it and moved into a binder. I just grabbed an old one sitting around the house and filled it with those see-through plastic protective pages used for things like scrapbooking or protecting documents, etc. I put lables on the side that said things like Frozen foods, cereal, etc. for each category I knew I would be using. I left a couple of pages in between each lable to seperate into smaller categories or to seperate manufactoring coupons from the company coupons (more on that later).
The best places to get coupons in my opinion is online, in the stores, and in Sundays paper. I do not regularly get the paper and my paper does not have an option for Sunday only delivery so I have to buy a paper each Sunday. If it has what I want, sometimes I will buy three or four. I usually get a minimum of atleast $10 worth of coupons in each paper that I USE so it is worth the $1 is costs to buy it.
Online there are so many great sites like:
These are in no particular order tho coupons.com is the one I use most. Also, if there is one particular thing you need to buy like lets say you need chocolate chips then check the company website for coupons. Places like bettycrocker.com nestles.com etc. will usually have coupons on them.
For coupons, my theory is that the more the better. It is better to have extra you won't use than to find out you need one you didn't think you would need and not have it. I usually pick one day a week to really do most of my stuff. Once a week or so I will go to coupons.com and print pretty much everything I buy and put it into my binder. I will also get the ones from the paper and anything I need that I don't have one for I will do a search or go to the company site. That is probably the most time consuming part other than the actual shopping.
My next step is to head to sites like www.publix.com and www.iheartpublix.com . Publix is the store I use cause it is closest to my house and has the best deals. Places like Kroger, Smiths, and Albertsons are others you may have. The store adds will become some of your best friends.
Each store has a different coupon policy so check the ones near you. I called the two closest to me and actually go to the farthest of the two cause the one closest to me does not take target coupons but the other one does and www.target.com has some awesome coupons! My store has a policy that it will take one manufacturers coupons per item, and one company (publix or another competetor like target, walgreens, or winn dixie). You can get the company coupons online or in the front of the store and sometimes even in the paper. Any coupon $.50 or less they will double. They tend to have a ton of Buy one get one sales. On those sales, they are really 50% off as you don't have to buy two. They just ring up at half the price. Not all stores work this way tho. Also, keep an eye out for the coupons on items or in those little booklets things are flashy things on the shelves that have them. Even if you don't plan on using it any time soon, they usually are good for months so pick up a few anyway but do be respectful and leave some for others. If you aren't going to use a coupon before it expires, either find a place that takes expired coupons or leave one near that item for someone else to use. I go through my coupon binder about once a month to check for any expired coupons.
On a BOGO, you can still use two coupons from each area and end up getting things for free or darn close to free. For example, lets say soup is one for BOGO. It usually costs $2.50 but with the BOGO it is $1.25. Then you add a company coupon for .75 off and then a manufacturer for .50 off (which can then be doubled at my store) and you end up getting it free! I just got a whole bunch of butter the other day for free by doing this. Sounds hard to figure out but you know what makes this so freakin easy? Sites like www.iheartpublix.com and www.grocerysmarts.com do the work for you. If you go to iheartpublix then each week she lists the deals at publix and where to get the coupons. She has done most the work for you. All you do it print the coupons or cut them out and put them with the others. Because my store takes both Manufacturers and Company coupons I will paperclip them together so I have easy access to both at the same time.
When you go to http://www.grocerysmarts.com you click on your state and a store (i.e. CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target) and she lists the sales, how good of a sale it is, and where to get coupons for it. These are the two main sites I use but there is also www.southernsaves.com www.athriftmom.com and a million more. There are different ones for different areas of the country. Grocerysmarts is where I plan my trips to Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens. I didn't use to shop at these but it turns out they pay you to shop in their stores. They have these cards that are like the typical store cards but when you use them, they put money back onto the card. You can end up making money shopping there. Example, lets say CVS has a sale on French Fried Onions. They maybe are on for $3 instead of $5. Then you use a coupon for another dollar off. CVS then may say if you buy $10 worth, we will give you $5 back on your card. The FFO started off at $10 for 2. Between the sale and the coupon you paid $4. Then you got $5 back on your card for buying $10 worth. So, you made $1 buy buying FFO. Cool huh? If you plan it just right, it works. Even if it is something I don't generally use, if I am gonna make money to buy it, I buy it. Even if it is just a great deal, I will stock up. Rule of thumb is things go on sale every three months. So like the other day I saw a great sale of laundry detergent at CVS. I ended up paying something like $1 per cantainer I bought intead of the normal $9. So I bought three months worth to last me until their next sale and I only spent what you normally would have on one! Walgreens doesn't tend to be quite as nice with theirs as the others, but I still check it. I try to hit one or two of these three stores a week and it only takes me a minute to do it cause they are so small so it is worth it to me.
I do the same thing with stocking up with things I get at Publix as long as it is not perishable. By the end of a couple of months of doing this, you will see a huge difference in what you pay. I try to plan my meals around the sales so I don't have to pay full price for things but if it does come to that, I weigh the pros/cons of either paying a little extra at Publix or getting sale stuff their and hitting Walmart later for things that maybe are not on sale anywhere. But I have not had to hit Walmart in a while so that isn't often.
So, I hope this is helpful. Sounds very mindboggling but it actually isn't once you get into it and is well worth the time for the money. I will probably be adding info into the comments if I think of things I forgot. Feel welcome to do the same.