Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rekindling Your Romance with Coupons

Guest Post: By Angela Russell at The Coupon Project

Remember those early days?

The day when you found out you didn’t have to pay $2 for a box of pasta anymore?
Or the day you learned you could now buy 10 boxes of cereal for the same price you used to pay for one?
Or the day you discovered you could actually be paid to buy your favorite brand of toothpaste?

Ah…the couponing honeymoon! And what a good trip it was, too!

But what’s happened since? You routinely go through the Sunday inserts, clip and file (or not), and somehow it just ain’t what it used to be.

The truth is, saving money and using coupons should be something you enjoy. So if you’re lost your spark, here are a few ideas to get you remembering why you fell in love with couponing in the first place:

1. Teach someone else how to coupon. How about rekindle your excitement by getting someone else excited? Trust me, folks. People want to learn how to do this. Not everyone…but the ones that do really do. Show them how to get started, maybe go on an outing with them. Cheer them on as they begin to slash their grocery bill.

2. Team with a local food pantry. Why not call a local food pantry and ask what items they are hoping to stock? With the holidays approaching and many food banks ramping up to provide holiday meals, this would be the perfect time to lend your savvy shopping skills to help others in need.

3. Change your couponing style up a bit. When I was feeling that clipping and sorting each week was getting monotonous, I switched to just filing the inserts for a few months. It relieved some time for me, and offered me a bit of a break. It also gave me some perspective on why clipping and sorting is still the best method for my brain. So when I went back to that method, I had renewed interest and energy.

4. Become a coupon fairy. Have great coupons about to expire that you know you won’t use? Consider leaving them on the shelves for other customers to use. My local store even has a “coupon exchange” basket in the front where you can leave and take coupons as you need. If your store doesn’t have something, perhaps you could get one started!

5. Take a little break. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, then maybe distance is exactly what you need. Eat off your stockpile for awhile. Buy generic or in bulk to save money. Once you’re ready, come back to it. The coupons and deals will always be waiting for you.

Still in a rut? Remember that you’re in this to save money. So if you aren’t already, start tracking how much you’re spending and saving. Consider setting aside some of the money you save on your groceries in a savings account. When the savings account is full, you will announce to your coupons that you will be celebrating and going on a second honeymoon.

Except this time instead of going to the grocery store, you’ll have a plane waiting to take you to Bora Bora.

Angela is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. She launched her blog, The Coupon Project, as a project to help others save money on things that matter most. October marks her one-year anniversary using coupons and she is celebrating by spending the month focusing on topics to help readers get started saving big money.


Aiden said...

The link has an extra C in it so it doesn't work! Yikes!

Evan and Amber said...

Thanks for the tips...I agree with teaching someone new the trade. It's fun to watch their excitement when learning you can REALLY get something for "free"

Anonymous said...

Colin you are something else. I love this article. What great ideas. I was feeling burned out a bit from the clipping and sorting and decided to start filing my weekly inserts and only clipping and filing my ips. I took a new friend, she tries in her spare time to coupon, to the last Kmart doubles with my coupons and help her stock her home with diapers, food, personal and household items. That felt great.

You have great ideas, especially the food pantry donation.

Keep inspriing and doing what you do. I LOVE YOUR SITE!

Anonymous said...

I have been clipping and sorting and doing what I think is good and I am not saving more thatn $10 every 2 weeks! What am I doing wrong? Sorry, I get discouraged because I hear/read how much other people save and I am no where near saving even 20% of what others save.

Carla R. said...

GREAT ARTICLE! :) I'm still in the "honeymoon" stage for sure, but I'll remember this article whenever I'm feeling burned-out! Thanks for sharing! :) Just a side note, I now spend more time on your site than facebook, and that is really saying something! :) As someone else mentioned, you really should print up some business-type cards for people to pass out! I've given your blog name to lots of friends because I love it so, and you are the key to how I've saved SO MUCH money!! :) Thanks again for all you do!

LoraMomOfTwins said...

Thank you...I was just having a conversation with my husband last night while I was clipping. He said Do you really want to be doing that right now. And I said no it feels more like a chore. But the pay off is good and I agree with teaching someone. Its great to see the WOW on their faces when they see how much they can save. Makes my day!

Learning2CouponFL said...

Briar Rose,

It sounds like you're shopping the way you normally shop and just using a few coupons here and there. If that's not the case, you can disregard the rest of this comment :)

The people that are saving tons of money use their coupons when things are on sale and then they stock up, buying enough at that super low price to last their family 6-8 weeks (when the sale cycle starts over again). I would read some getting started type articles and find some match-ups (where bloggers make a list of the current sales and the coupons that match them) for your local grocery store(s).

Most people who talk about getting free personal care items know how to work the promotions at CVS (easiest in my opinion), Walgreens and/or Rite Aid. You can find lots of how-to articles online.

Try not to get overwhelmed/discouraged. Like anything, couponing is easier and more rewarding with practice and it takes experimentation to figure out what works for you.

I'm sure you'll get lots of replies here but if you have more questions you can email me and I'll try to answer them. Learning2CouponFL(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

oooh, im so happy to read this. the last couple weeks ive felt in a rut, i even missed the last two sunday im feeling a bit more on track! :)

Anonymous said...

Briar Rose,

I feel the same way sometimes. I was stuck on a $15 savings in coupons whenever I went to Walmart. I think its just that I have good savings days and bad.

I usually spend Sundays matching my coupons both new and old to the sales going on and end up saving a lot more than I thought. If not free then almost free. Try to buy items that you don't really need at that time when they are on sale. Some of those smaller coupons can really make a great deal if paired with a sale.

So far, I've got a lot better. But it did take awhile of practice. I have gone from $15 a week to between $30-$45 a week. I hope to become pro soon! lol

My only problem now? When do I go shopping?! lol I'm getting burned out on that! My Walgreens, Walmart, and Target are about 40 minutes away. Time and gas..when do I know when its worth going. Does everyone go shopping right after Sunday papers to get in on the deals for that week? I guess it wouldn't be that bad, but I always have a very active 2 year old tagging along so I get burned out of shopping before I even get into the car lol.

Anonymous said...

This post describes exactly how I feel right now! Perfect timing-- THANKS!

Anonymous said...

Learning2Coupon & Anonymous,

thanks for the tips. I appreciate them both.

The blogs I have found don't match items up with HEB which is the grocery store we have. I can find some really good deals myself sometimes. And when I do, I try to stock up as much as I can. But with not having very much room to store anything (freezer and pantry room are limited), and living paycheck to paycheck because we only have my husband's paycheck (soldier), it is hard to stock up. I will just try harder. A few dollars here and there is better than nothing at all right?
The main thing that drives up our grocery bill is my hubs gatorade, anybody know where I can find some coupons on gatorade? I spend $60/month on gatorade alone!

Thank you, and I do appreciate the tips and advice that I have found on this site.

Anonymous said...

And minute maid juice boxes! I need coupons for those as that is the only juice that is allowed to take for my daughters class snack 1-2 times a month. AHHHH!!!!

Abby said...

Angela you do so really great guest posts!!

Angela R. said...

Thanks to everyone who commented on the post I did for Hip2Save today. I appreciate it! I think it's easy to take ourselves FARRR too seriously and beat ourselves up if we miss a deal. Sometimes it's fun to lighten up, relax, and remember to enjoy LIFE.

Thanks again! ;) - Angela

Anonymous said...

Another way to curb burnout is to find a coupon buddy or buddies. Set one time aside a week to get together and cut and sort your coupons. While we are cutting and sorting we enjoy some girl time and talk. We can offer each other the coupons we wouldn't use. And then we look through that weeks ads and make a list of the best stores to hit that week. And usually we set a time to shop together. It is much more fun to shop with a friend. And sometimes they see deals I might have missed. And if there are a couple of stores (we are lucky enough to have 3 major grocery stores, Target, Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens ) that only have 1 good deal we just pick 1 person to hit that store and we give her all the coupons for that item and then split them up when we next meet.

Pat said...

I love coupon fairies! Lately in two different stores I've found coupons sticking out from the shelves. Usually it's ones that print out when you check out. I thought it would be a good idea to do that with the ones that print out and I know I will never use. Little things make me happy!

fishinglady said...

My husband says I am a coupon addict now, I love finding the great deals. I told him it is saving us money honey......

Kristin said...

Briar Rose - I would just stop sending juice for those snack days! Kids don't need juice they will do just fine having water with their snack. I have to provide snack for my son's preschool occasionally and though other parents send juice along with the snack - I never do.

Learning2CouponFL said...

Briar Rose,

You're right; it can be really hard to get a good stockpile going when your grocery budget is already stretched tight.

I started by stocking up on basic pantry staples (bread crumbs, canned vegetables and tomato sauce, soup, broth, pasta noodles etc.) and condiments, which don’t take up a lot of room and usually don’t cost a lot of extra money. Not having to buy those things when we needed them freed up money to start buying extras of other things. Once I got going it kind of snowballed so don’t worry if you’re not seeing major results right away. Menu planning has been a huge help in feeling organized and I base the week's menu off of the meats that are on sale so I don’t really have to buy a lot of that in advance except ground beef and chicken breasts.

I had the same freezer problem until we were very lucky to be given one by a family member who didn’t use hers much anymore but I remember all too well how frustrating it was trying to cram more things into the one attached to the fridge or passing up deals because I had no place to put them. I found that a lot of times taking things out of their boxes saved a lot of space. I just cut off the panel that had the cooking instructions on them and saved that part. You can also freeze liquids in ziplock baggies to make thin packages that you can stack on top of each other or slide in vertically like books.

I’m sure you’re already being creative with storage solutions but have you tried looking online for more ideas? I’ve heard of people using those over the door shoe pockets to hold everything from spices to cleaning supplies. Personally I love the metal hooks that fit over the top of the door. I’ve found white ones with 6 hooks on each strip for $1 at a lot of flea markets. I have them in the bathroom for wet towels, in the closet for hats and purses and on the back of my daughter’s bedroom door for her diaper bags. I plan to buy a door mounted spice rack to free up another shelf in the pantry too. I fell in love with one an adjustable one from Home Depot that's $12 but I saw a set of 3 small wire shelves at Walmart that could be mounted on the inside of a regular cabinet and it was only $5! Bed risers (might be able to find some cheaply in back to college clearance sales) might give you more storage space too. I bought a lot of small crates, designed for DVDs, for about $1 at Walmart and I use those under the sinks to organize my drug store surplus.

Generally I try not to post links to other blogs but hopefully Hip2Save won’t be offended since she doesn’t cover HEB so here’s one of the match up lists I found:

Staying Lean said...

Briar Rose here is a website that you can find match ups at. Go to Grocery Gathering then local stores for what you need. That's how I found my local Meijer's site.

These are the ones I found under HEB. (I remember that store I lived in Austin TX for Two years!)

When you can't stockpile remember to always buy what is on sale or from a everyday low-price store. Do you have any Dollar stores or can you get to an Aldi's? And remember Dollar General takes manufacturer's coupons! (but no IPs)

Hope that helps!

Staying Lean said...

I agree with Kristen too you have to sacrifice some things. I used to spend $40 on pop and flavored water, I gave up my flavored water and only buy certain things once in a while when it on sale and my husband had to buy his own diet pop, since I didn't drink it.

Michelle said...

Kristin, what a horrible thing to do to save money! They are preschoolers and they like juice. Your son's classmates are probably like oh great Kristin sent the snacks guess we are on bread and water rations today. I would never make my child suffer to save a buck (and I do save lots and lots of money)!

Learning2CouponFL said...

Last comment, I promise! :)

Here's a recipe for homemade Gatorade:

I bet you can find more, I just typed "substitutions for Gatorade" into Google.

You can also put slices of fresh fruit (like orange or lemon) or frozen berries into water and they give it a different taste that might satisfy your husband's Gatorade craving.

Anonymous said...

Kristin, I agree that short-changing your child puts them in an unnecessary and embarassing situation. Just watch the papers and match the juice sales with coupons so you have the juice onhand when it is your turn to send in a snack. They are only children for such a short time. This is not where you cut corners.

I save at least $100 (spend less than $10) every week with coupons. I buy everything and save over 90% with coupons by strategic shopping.
What we can't use, we donate to the shelter. There is no need to go without if you plan ahead.

Today, I got 18 tubes of toothpaste and made $2.30 using Bogo sale and coupons. I can be done.

Andrea A. said...

I know you can buy powdered gatoraid (like gatoraid) pouches online. Just google it. I know because my husbands office starting stocking them last year when they sent to people to the emergency room due to heat stroke. They are a lot cheaper!

I never sent juice to class for my son. Not to save money but because they are loaded with sugar. I think it is a little crazy to sugar up kids then expect them to sit still in their seats the rest of the day. If you don't want to or can't afford to send juice then don't. Why they are asking for this OOP from parents? Raising kids is expensive enough without all the extras. (we homeschool now a whole other subject all together lol!)

I have noticed since I started couponing in June that I buy a lot of stuff that I normally never would have bought. You kind of have to think outside the box in order to save. Try new products when they are free or close to free. I found the best toothpaste this way.

Don't feel bad about low savings. You will get there. If you need any specific help feel free to email me at Would love to make a new friend and help you with anything you need. I live in a military town so I understand the limited resources of military families since I have several for friends.

Denise said...

What a relief reading this article today! I have been a coupon junkie for months now and have saved a ton of money. But I am currently going back to school with 2 small kids and just feel like I don't have the time this semester. I have been dealing with so much guilt (LOL!) over not couponing and missing on some great deals. Keep in mind I have such a huge stockpile - we could survive for months without ever going to the store! My husband said to just let it go until the semester is over. Upon reading this I feel better - that it is ok to put this on hold for a bit and use my stockpile... Do I sound crazy??? Thanks for the article - it has made me feel more normal... ;oP

Anonymous said...

i would cut the juice out or buy a cheaper one but it is required to take juice and snack that is listed off the list. And buying snack once a month for her class is almost $20 just because of what is allowed. there are plenty of cheaper options but not approved. :( And we don't drink pop, we have water delivery (because it is cheaper than buying bottles, and I get sick from tap) and my hubs has gatorade to take with him for lunch because he has to drink water the rest of the day when working.

Thanks for the links! Will definitely look into them all before next payday and see if I can do better! You guys/gals are so awesome! Thank you thank you thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Guest Poster, what a hilarious title! You have really great ideas, and your point is well taken. I don't believe in doing things you don't enjoy (unless it's mandatory). When I get sick of couponing, I stop shopping and use my stockpile. This not only gives me a break as you suggested, but also makes me appreciate just how much I've been able to save. Thank you for the article - lots of great advice.

Anonymous said...

BriarRose, I too used to be in your situation. Here are some things I've changed to put my couponing into hyperdrive.

1) Invest in a good binder system, and file your coupons. Be ready to strike at a moment's notice.
2) Don't be brand loyal. Buy what is on sale and use coupons. I rarely buy things that are not on sale and don't have coupons for.
3) Plan your meals from your stockpile, don't go the other way. Be an iron chef!
4) This is key - you need start up money. This will allow you to stockpile. Some weeks, you may spend $50 on toilet paper. You need that cushion. This is what allows you to buy things only when it's on sale and you have coupons for. Else, you're always living hand-to-mouth, very expensive.
5) Buy an inexpensive freezer, this is a must. I always freeze my leftovers. We take it out couple weeks later, and it feels like new food! When whole wheat bread is on sale, I buy and freeze them. I always eat toast or make a sandwich in the morning to eat later on for lunch.
6) Buy coupons from coupon websites. This is the very last thing I've incorporated into my plan. It felt weird at first, but extremely effective.
7) I too had little room to stockpile. My husband built a shelving unit for me in the garage. I keep boxes on there filled with mostly health and beauty items.

Angela R. said...

Briar Rose et al, I also wanted to mention that this month I'm celebrating my one-year couponing anniversary by focusing on helping folks get started. I'm trying to cover all the basics - from stockpiling, where to get coupons, how to match them with store sales, etc. My post yesterday was called "Deal or No Deal," and focused on whether or not the deal is right for you. You can find these series of posts on my category called "October Coupon Lessons."

I also HIGHLY recommend Hip2Save's "Follow me Monday" video series - these are EXCELLENT posts that she has spent quality time putting together for those out there that are visual learners.

And a second vote for BeCentsAble. I recently teamed up with them myself and holy cow, you can find matchups for just about ANY grocery store that's out there!

Abby W said...

I'm sortof new to the mega couponing-store sale-bogo-matchup madness and my problem is that I get this frenzied feeling whenever I see the scenarios lined up with all the coupon links and I find myself spending too much time hopping stores and searching out this variety/size etc...I have to limit myself to 1-2 stores per week. For me, RiteAid has been having the better deals lately, so CVS is on the backburner. I've been having luck with the lower value coupons being doubled at some of the more value-oriented grocery stores ($1 Fiber One cereal...yay!)

But does everybody get that high as they walk out of the store when you've handed over a handful of coupons and watched the total when I walked out of the grocery store on double/triple coupon day and my total went from over $200 to $98. mwwwaaaahahahaha!!! mwaahahahahahahah!!! OK now I have to plan for a final trip to RiteAid tomorrow (with a 3yo and 1yo arrrg) :) :) :)

Anonymous said...

That was nice. For starters, I only clip the coupons I think my family will use so I don't get overwhelmed. I am sure I will switch to a binder method soon and organize them that way, but for now, I am just getting started and starting to see the savings. If I can ever get something free or nearly free or a GREAT deal that I can't pass up, even if I can't use it, I can always think of others who can. We were put on this earth to serve others and all have a purpose. Why not make it to make someone's life easier by number # doing for others and helping them, and better yet, #2, teaching them how they can do it too. You can honestly hold a class on this. I had a friend to tell me about this website and a few others and I asked her if I could follow her around but she did not respond (that's okay though!), but I will FOREVER be thankful that she gave me these websites and has been impressing upon me since then how much she continues to save. Think Mother Teresa Folks! ;)

Teresa said...

My husband is not into it. He always tells me "nothing in life is free, someone is paying for it".
He teases me about my nearly daily trips to Walgreens (we don't have a CVS). But he still reaps the benefits.

Today I got my $25 Starbucks gift card in the mail for playing the Huggies game online! He was pretty happy about that.

Anonymous said...

I sure wish posters wouldn't use phrases like "shortchanging your child" (or whatever it was). We all see things somewhat differently, and I certainly agree that many children seem to drink way too much juice--natural sugar is still sugar and helps get their little tastebuds used to everything being sweet. And really, I can't believe that parents are being ordered to bring expensive treats to school (and to soccer games, etc.). Makes me glad I'm an old fogey and my kids grew up when the only food they took to school was their lunch! On the other hand, I cheers me up to see how many of you want to help Briar Rose. That generosity is one thing I love about coupon sites. Kate

Barbara said...

OMG - I am a nutritionist and must doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, it doesn't matter if your kids like juice or not, it doesn't matter if it is natural or not...if you DON'T give your kids juice, YOU ARE DOING THEM A FAVOR! All it does is cause tooth decay and sugar addiction (a "sweet tooth") from a young age.

Argue all you want about my comment, sure it is your choice to feed your kids what you want, and sure, juice is OK once in awhile...but to Michelle: I find it absolutely HORRIBLE that you would think that NOT giving juice is bad!!!

Kristin said...

Wow my poor kids I guess all that money I save in not buying juice (or filling cavities) will pay for the therapy they will surely need b/c I "shortchanged" them.

Blair - it can be overwhelming at first but following blogs like hip's and the couponproject will teach you so much every day! I also love reading comments b/c like you saw people can be sooo helpful when you are confused or frustrate. Kudos to you for saving your family money no matter how much or little it is!

Anonymous said...

Well I do agree we need to be flexable, I only buy what I know I will use. When I started out I bought stuff cuz it was a good deal. I do get cheap stuff I don't used for the soup kitchen. Also, I have found that Publix can still be more expensive then regular price at walmart even with BOGO. For example, Thomas's english muffins was BIGO at Publix. The price was $3.99 get one free. Well at walmart they were only $1.99 each, so I can use a coupon at either store. Since walmart did not advertise that special I did not know, but I find certain products can be cheap everywhere 4 that week. I do not stress any more. I do what I can. Ppl that get huge savings prolly don't get then every week. I also rarely go to Walgreens its too stressful, and only go to CVS when I have drugs to pick up. Keeping my coupons to use at just 2 stores Walmart annd Publix. Hugs Collin u r the best, Hipchik

Shannon in Phx,AZ said...

Loved it!

CM said...

Okay, I don't have kids, so forgive the ignorance... but why does the school have a list of "approved brands"? Are they getting paid by those companies or something? I have a hard time believing that Minute Maid has some unique nutritional value that other juices don't have.

In any case, I grew up pretty poor and never had any of the stuff my classmates had (like a tamagochi and all the other junk that was popular back then); I was given juice pretty often, though - we grew our own fruit. I can say that it did affect my self-esteem in a negative way, not because I thought the worth of a person was measured by the amount of crap they owned, but because I just never had anything to offer as far as treats and toys were concerned, so I always felt like I was mooching off of the other kids even when they offered me things themselves. And on the rare occasions that I got a gift of some fancy chocolates or something, I would give them all away and hardly even try them myself to make up for all the "mooching". It was a lose-lose:)

So why not give your kids juice if they want it? It's pretty easy to make kids happy with little things, as opposed to adults. They are going to grow new teeth anyway. And they don't have to feel bad for drinking someone else's juice because their family never reciprocates.

Shannon said...

Just what I needed to hear.

MomDG said...

Be it juice or whatever, CM hit the nail on the head. I am sure Michelle was just thinking of the kids' feelings. Kids can be cruel and I would never put saving a dime before my kids feelings -- and believe me I do not think kids need to be over indulged (which is what I am sure some are thinking).

As far as the approved lists, they are not necessarily brands, but items that have been "approved as healthy snacks" by a lot of schools. This was just starting as my kids were getting out of school and it can be a hassle. I never really complained as I chose to send my kids to a private school and we were "required" to donate a lot of things to help keep our school afloat.

Anonymous said...

MomDG, You got it right. The only brand required is Minute Maid 100% juice boxes which run $3/10pk. The rest of the list is approved 'healthy' snacks. And buying 1-2 times a month for 20 kids puts a dent in my grocery money that we hadn't had before and was not planning on and am still getting used to. That is a reason why I started trying to coupon.

Thanks for all the tips, I have started to look at those websites that you wonderfully put up!

Kristin said...

I'm not really sure why it has been construed that I'm poor or that my child life is lacking b/c he doesn't get juice. And as a matter of fact he hates juice. Refuses it when someone like grandma gives it to him and asks for water. I provide very nice snacks for his preschool but I do not and will not ever believe my child needs juice for any social or nutritional reason. Briar simply asked how to save money on buying juice for school. I could tell that she didn't really even want to buy it in the first place so that is why I said not to. If her school requires it then fine. I would most likely have a discussion on why they feel it necessary to give juice but that's me.

Sometimes I hate the internet and the guilt that someone can put on you for making a smart decision. In no way shape or form does not providing juice for my child equate to him only eating bread all day and being dirt poor.

Goodness the child just had choc. chip pancakes and cantaloupe for breakfast. Though I'll admit the chocolate was dark chocolate b/c it's slightly more healthy :)

I will never put my child in a odd predicament. He's two years old. I doubt he even notices when I'm the one sending the snack! And like I said before I'm not the only mom that doesn't send juice with snack.

charmel said...

Briar have you asked the school if you can just provide your own child's snack each day? For those of you questioning the "only this snack can be brought" policy. Several years back the govt. started a new program that said nothing of non nutritional value could be given to a child at a public school. It was all part of a national program to increase awareness in helping kids to make healthier choices. In order to avoid arguments most schools created a list of acceptable snacks.

However a child can eat ANYTHING they bring from home, they just can't share it with other kids.

So I just asked permission from my school if I could provide my daughter her own snack and not ever provide for the whole school. This worked well for us because often my daughter didn't like what they offered for snack anyway. She will not touch pretzels or animal crackers (which were a weekly snack). I just watched sales and was able to send fresh fruit most of the time with my daughter (grapes, bananas, apples) or whole grain snack crackers. And this way I could send a refillable bottle. It was much cheaper to buy a large bottle of juice than juice boxes. And if there were times we didn't have juice she took water.

Anyway, that worked for us. Hope that helps you,