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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our adventure with "extreme" couponing

I do use coupons, but not as frequently as I used to because when you eat Real, there aren't that many coupons to be had.  But, since I'm off of work for a few weeks and can't really lift heavy things (like I would be doing my garden beds this month but I can't haul around the bricks to surround the garden areas), I figured I would work on the girls' scrapbooks (I'm way behind) and coupon.  It only occurred to me to blog about this when I noticed that an area grocery store is having a day (yes, one day, and I've never seen them have it before) where they will double coupons with a value of up to .50.  If a coupon is $.50, then it goes to $1.  If it's over $.50, then it goes to $1.  If it's over $1, then it's face value. It is not like the TV shows where they will double unlimited amounts of coupons up to any amount, and the item can be free but the store will not give more money back than the item is worth.  It's this Saturday so that gives me a few days to plan. 

I don't like to spend retail prices.  I admit that I am rather frugal.  In losing weight while breastfeeding and eating Real food, I needed new clothing.  That means the thrift store.  You'd think that I'd just go whenever and buy whatever fit, but I am so "frugal" that I buy on 50% off days, or days where certain color tags are $1.49.  I prefer Banana Republic, or Ann Taylor, but I'm not spending more than a few bucks for an article of clothing.  (Ok, I did spend $20 on a pair of jeans at a consignment shop a few months ago, but they retailed at well over $100 and they are an amazing fit).  I like to consider price per wear (ppw).  Your wedding dress should be the most expensive ppw (one time at how much!?!), but the shoes or shirt you love should have a very reasonable ppw.  If it's something I could wear multiple times that fits well and is comfortable, then it will likely be a good ppw.  If not, then I reconsider the purchase.  Time to get off the tangent and back to groceries. 

For grocery items, I have found that generic items are generally as good as name brand, with a few exceptions.  My mom tended to buy some things name brand growing up and I have found that I like certain things name brand as well.  As far as store-bought ice cream goes, because of the ingredient list and a refusal to spend several dollars on a single serving, I will generally only eat Breyer's (but we also make it at home).  Of course, some flavors have more (fake) ingredients than others, but there is nothing like a natural vanilla ice cream.  Yum.  However, I will buy generic most often because, even with combining a sale and both a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon, the generic brand is often still less expensive (hence my habit of shopping at Aldi).  I really don't see how people are buying stashes of food and merchandise for pennies on the dollar in those extreme instances.    

Previously, I watched "Extreme Couponing" and got a bit miffed rather than inspired.  People stockpiling stuff that they don't use and could never use up before expiring seemed wasteful and greedy.  It's also unrealistic.  There's no way a full-time worker and full-time parent, who also gardens, blogs, works out and often likes to sleep could spend 30-70 (yes, seventy) hours per week clipping, researching, and using coupons.  I decided to set some ground rules for our adventure (my MIL is being supportive of this adventure and has already printed off some coupons for me to use).

1) The food (or merchandise) must be something we would buy without a coupon or would otherwise try. 

2) If it's 50-ingredient, artificial junk, we're not buying it to say we saved money.  The idea that you are "saving" money when you are really SPENDING money is something that marketers love.  Really, if it costs you, you are spending.

3)  What if it's free with coupons or a "money maker?"  Since the store will not give more than the money is worth, at best it is free (not a "money maker," which means that you get money back after "buying" it).  Why pass up free?  Because free can cost in ways other than money.  Bad health with bad food choices, a hoarding mentality, and more that you can probably think of on your own. 

4) Yes, the trip will cost money.  I do not expect to buy $144 in groceries for one penny (as was in the show mentioned above), but if I could do better at Aldi with their generic brand, or with a store brand, I do not feel as though it is really saving money.  So when someone tells you that you saved so much money or such a percentage, really you spent what the bottom dollar was for the stuff in your cart.

5)  I'm not going to spend all day grocery shopping and bringing several friends just to make separate transactions.  If I can't do it with the people in my household, it's not realistic.  Also, I don't find shopping for groceries to be the best way to spend my time.  We will be going to two stores (Family Fresh, which has the double coupons, and Target, because they give me 5% off when I use my Red Card, and because they share a parking lot and, as mentioned before, I don't want to spend my day shopping).   Did I mention that I'm not that big into shopping?  It's why my guy friends didn't mind shopping with me when I was younger, because I could do the entire mall in 30 minutes by just running in to stores that I thought may have something I wanted and didn't browse too much.

Back to the coupons...  So I did some researching on the best ways to save.  I do get the Sunday paper and cut coupons from those.  There were four sections of coupons (Red Plum, Smart Source, P&G, and one from Pepsi product stuff).  My MIL printed some off a coupon site and on Target's site (go to See More, Coupons).  I also checked out a blogger who wrote a post about it in My Frugal Adventures.  From there, I learned that Target also has mobile coupons that you can get on your phone.  And I just found that Our Family brand, which is what Family Fresh carries, has its own coupon site online.  For organic foods, you can try the four sites MFA suggests.

I do have a coupon organizer, not the 3-ring binder kind, but it works for what I need it for. Check out the next post to see how it went.

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