Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coupons, Stockpiling and Saving Money from Holli's Point of View

I'm fairly new to this whole couponing thing, having started in April after my daughter was born.  Luckily, my sister in law told me about the Bargain Blessings website and I pieced together information from there.  At first I relied solely on what she posted, but over the last few months I have started to become comfortable trying to find my own great deals.  
Before I figured it all out, I always saw those people on T.V. who could spend $5.00 for $200 worth of groceries and I wanted to be like that.  I would go out and buy a paper, cut the coupons and then head to the store to see what I could get.  It always came to be that the generic brands were cheaper unless I bought only one item when the coupon stated I needed to buy two.  I hated doing that, it was dishonest and I always thought I would get caught going through checkout, but I figured that is what these people HAD to be doing.  It isn't.  The key to this whole thing is realizing that 
Now that isn't only it, it is also realizing what is a good price and how much you need it but basically combine the two and you have the potential for a good deal. 
The whole concept of stockpiling as I see it is much like playing the stock market, BUY LOW!  Not when they sell high.  You buy as much as you can of an item that you can use or donate when the price is as low as you think it will go.  That will begin your stockpile.  Next time you need that item, instead of going to the store and paying full price, you will go to your cabinet and get it from where you stored it.  The reason for buying a lot of the same item is so that hopefully you don't need to purchase it again until it goes on sale again.  This will require a total change in thinking about how you shop.  
When you first start out, you most likely will not see a huge reduction in the amount you are spending, but you should see a substantial increase in the volume of stuff you are bringing home.  Over time this will not be the case as you stockpile things you would have bought and no longer need to add to your list.  Also at first, the price you are willing to pay for stuff is a little higher.  You have been paying $3.00 a stick for deodorant so $1.00 is a great deal, but when you have a stockpile of deodorant then you can start to be picky about it and setting your own personal price limits.  Right now I have 32 sticks of deodorant under my bathroom sink, my price limit is $.25.  If I see it for less than that, I will buy it if not I don't need it that badly.  This too is a difficult concept to adhere to because you see that good deal, you might not need it but it is a good deal.  Ask yourself a few questions: Do I need it? Can I wait for the next sale? Do I want my house to look like they do on the Hoarding shows? That will usually keep you in check.  
Personal price limits are just that, personal.  What I'm willing to pay for an item might be much more or less than someone else based on how much I have or need of that item.  For example, I refuse to pay for toothpaste, I would rather legally "steal" it with a good sale and a coupon.  But toothpaste is something that you cannot go without, so you might have to pay some money for it until you make it to the next big sale, THIS IS OK TO DO and I highly encourage it, especially if we are going to be talking face to face!    The key here is just buy one or two to get you through.  Over time (not a lot of time, I haven't been doing this that long), you will start to realize that lots of stuff goes on sale in cycles.  
Another thing to saving the most money is you CANNOT be brand loyal.  If you like Crest toothpaste, you might not be able to get it free when you need it or fill up your stockpile with that one brand.  It doesn't mean you can't save money on it, because you can, but you probably won't be able to save the MOST money because you use only one brand.  The people on T.V. paying $5.00 for a cart of groceries eat what is on sale, they wipe with the sale priced TP, they wash their clothes in the sale detergent.  Since that might seem like a con, let me give you a pro.  Not being brand loyal allows you to try other products that you probably wouldn't have tried and you might find something love.  I got some face wash and lip balm for free, so of course I tried it and I adore both of them!  I would not have spent $2.50 on lip balm, but since it was actually a money maker, heck yeah I got it and now I love it. 
Money Maker-  This also was a very difficult concept for me to grasp at first.  If I am making money, I want it in my pocket.  This is not the case in couponing.  A money maker is a deal that is so good, that the sale and coupons combined will leave money left over to take off of the other products in your cart.  A great example, Rolaids soft chews were 2 for $3.00 during one sale, since I had just had a baby we really didn't need any more heartburn meds in the house because we had so many left over.  But I had a coupon for $2.00 off each one making it $4.00 off two, giving me $1.00 that they took off of my total.  I MADE MONEY by buying those two Rolaids, which went directly into my donate box.  Very rarely will a store pay YOU actual cash to take things out of the store.  But often they will pay you in coupons that are exactly like cash.  Now onto:
Catalinas- Catalinas are those coupons and ads that print out at the register based on what you buy or have bought in the past.  Before I started organizing my shopping trips I rarely got a Catalina that was good on anything, usually it was a coupon for $.50 off of something.  This is because you have to buy so many products of the same type in the same transaction for the big ones to print out.  Catalinas (or Register Rewards as they are called at Walgreens) are manufacturer coupons that print out for a certain amount of money good off of your next transaction.  Often stores will pay you in these to take their products out of the store.  A perfect example happened a few weeks ago at Safeway.  Safeway was running a deal that if you bought $15 of participating cleaning products, that were already on sale 2 for $5, they would print you a $5.00 Catalina at the register.  the SC Johnson company was also running a Catalina deal that if you bought 2 scrubbing bubbles you would get a $2 Catalina.  This turned into a $2.00 money maker like this.  Six cans of Scribbing Bubbles with the sale cost $15.00 (2 for $5 times 3) this total triggered the $5.00 Catalina.  Then you brought in 3- $2.00 off two coupons, bringing your out of pocket expenses from $15 down to $9.  After the transaction, a $5.00 Catalina printed out, then a $2.00, then a $2.00 then another $2.00 making a total of $11 that you could spend on almost ANYTHING in the store.  My step-daughter needed cough medicine, so I picked up 2 bottles (that I didn't have coupons for) and 6 cans of Scrubbing Bubbles.  It was late at night and no one else was in line so I didn't feel badly about doing two separate transactions.  First I ran the Scrubbing Bubbles deal, paid my $10.08 (with tax) and got my $11.00 in Catalinas.  Then the medicine came to $11.60, so I paid with the Catalinas and $.60 bringing my out of pocket expense to $10.60.  I got $11.60 worth of medicine for $10.60 and they insisted I take the 6 cans of Scrubbing Bubbles with me since I "paid" for them.  There is a BIG downside to shopping like this.  My husband now thinks that since I have 25 cans of Scrubbing Bubbles that I will actually clean the shower, how sadly mistaken he truly is!  
Going through your head is wow! she is hoarding so many of these things that no one else can ever get in on that deal.  WRONG!  I did this many times over a week, never depleting the stock on the shelves, I did leave a lot of coupons for others, and even taught a random lady in the aisle how to do it too!  I try to be as courteous as I can and as a matter of fact, if you come to my house, most likely you will leave with a con of Scrubbing Bubbles just for stopping by!  The biggest drawback to Catalinas is they are only a great deal if you use them, so keep them in a place where you will have them for your next shopping trip.  This brings us onto
Coupon Organization- I have already done a post about this so I'm not going to be redundant, so check it out here.  Find what works best for you and run with it.  If you find something different, please let us know and we can add it so someone else may benefit.  
My shopping trips have changed drastically over the last few months, I HATED grocery shopping before and now it has become a game that I'm WINNING!  I used to make a list of the things I needed, forget the list and wander around the store for an hour throwing things in the cart and almost passing out at the total when I went to pay, then wondering where $250 worth of groceries where after I put them away in my cupboards.  Now I spend the most time getting organized.  I go to the store, I buy what is on sale (sometimes a few other things) and when I get to the register I have the total in my head.  If there is a HUGE difference, then I know I probably forgot to hand the cashier my coupons.  When I get home, I have to juggle things around to find places to put stuff in the 2 pantries and many cupboards we now store our stockpile.  I keep a pair of gloves by the chest freezer, because it is so full I have to rearrange every time I need to get something out (not a bad problem to have).  I also have a space in my house for donations waiting to find a good home.  I save on average 68-70% off of each order, but have saved 99% a few times.  There are the times where you have to spend more money then you thought you wanted to, but last week's rare $75 was much better than $250 every week.

The last thing you may be wondering is, "If Jennie has all the sales over at Bargain, then what the heck is the purpose of Dealin' Divas?"  We want to be an extension of what Jennie is doing over there.  We would ultimately like to organize meetings to get people together to talk, swap and donate all things coupon.  It could also serve as a teaching tool.  Jennie teaches Couponing 101 classes, and I haven't taken on yet but look forward to the day where I can fit it in my schedule and while we do NOT want to take the place of that, we realize that some people want to start now with the basic knowledge while they wait for a class to become available, we can help with that.  We are also hoping to reach enough people in and around Colorado Springs, that for a small fee, we can hire Jenny to come to one of our meetings and maybe teach her Couponing 101 class.  

I know this is a lot to take in and you should be really thankful that you weren't my new friend, Kim, yesterday trying to absorb all of this in the middle of Toys R Us, while I was talking 100 miles a minute! If you have any questions, ANY at all, please leave a comment or email us at  Let me know how your couponing adventures pan out!  Remember, not all good deals will pan out and not all cashiers know the store's policy regarding coupons, so don't get too frustrated with someone.  I usually walk away and try another store, or wait until there is another cashier available.  I try to frequent the same cashiers I have had good luck with before, it makes things smoother, but if not possible chances are that item will be on sale again soon!

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