Monday, February 28, 2011

Couponing {and such}

I have a confession.

{Well, two... actually.}

One, is that I have recently become OBSESSED with getting a year's supply of food storage for my family.

Like, nerdy obsessed.

Like, you would laugh at me really hard if you even had the slightest sliver of an idea as to just exactly HOW obsessed...

Like, I can hardly have a conversation with anyone about anything OTHER than food storage and survival gear obsessed... (just ask Celeste, she'll tell you.)

Like, I'm officially "that weird girl at the party who is a big ol' Debbie Downer who keeps on leewaying every. single. conversation. into some random discussion about food storage" obsessed...

{but I suppose that is a post for another day...}

And two, I have a deep and abiding jealousy of girls who are ridiculously rad {yes, I just said rad} couponers.

They post pictures of their hauls on facebook and on their blogs {photos of something like, oh, I don't know, 10 bottles of lotion, 23 boxes of fruits snacks, 2 packages of Qtips, and roughly 3,000 diapers on their dining room table...} and then they say:

"Got all of this for $9.35!"

And I immediately turn a sickly-sad shade of Hulkish green.

Let me put this into perspective for you:

I'm not jealous of people who have amazing cars.

I'm not jealous of people who have huge houses.

I'm not jealous of people who throw ridiculous, over-the-top parties for their 2 year olds {who frankly, couldn't care less about the $4,000 decorations, and instead, spend the bulk of their time crawling in and out of a cardboard box that is clearly more entertaining/desirable than the over the top present it once housed, and then bursting into tears when mom rips them away from said box in order to force them to blow out the candles on their far too expensive cake... }

I'm not jealous of people who are super pretty.

I'm not even jealous of people who are smarter than me. {Which is a good thing, since most people probably are...that could put a serious damper on my social life.}

I AM, however, suuuuper jealous of people who get awesome deals on things.

Ah, yes.

Couponing is the latest craze
{or, even already "getting old"
and "so last season" and such, eh?}.

But I am terrified of it.

Terrified of looking stupid because I got the wrong product for the wrong coupon.
Terrified of snarky clerks rolling their eyes at me and thinking "you crazed little cheapo!" with each and every scan of a coupon.
Terrified of the tapping toes of impatient store customers waiting in line behind me.
Terrified of the exasperated sighs of moms with 4 kids under the age of five hanging over the sides of her shopping cart {wiping boogs on their shirt sleeves and squealing for gum and Ring Pops, no less} waiting in line behind me.

Yep, I think terrified is a pretty fair word to sum up my feelings regarding couponing...

And thus, I have waited on the sidelines.

That is, until now.

I finally went to a class.

It was everything I was afraid it would be.

The presenter was witty, fun, funny, down to earth, and easy to listen to.

She also pulled out a receipt that could stretch from here to Timbuktu. This glorious strip of paper stood as undeniable, irrefutable evidence that getting three hundred and something something dollars worth of stuff for a mere thirteen something something dollars was not ONLY a mere possibility... it was, in fact, a reality.

I was hooked.

The very thought of getting a deal like that sent me on a high that was potent enough to warrant a DD {ahem, meaning a designated driver...not a bra} when attending such seminars in the future.

I went home, talked the hubs' ear off for roughly 2 hours about the exciting world of "FREE!!!", raided my in-laws' newspaper pile, and dug out every coupon booklet they had from the past month and a half.

Then I started clipping.

Even the clipping was heaven.

It's like crafting,
only instead of clipping out pieces of
future modge-podgery,
you are clipping out
colorful pieces of money.

Little gifts of
Dove deodorant,
cheap soup,
and possibilities.

Then, today, I actually went.


First there was Smith's.

It took forever to gather my items.

Check coupon, check product.
Check coupon, check product.
Read the fine print.
Read the fine print again
...and again.
{and I do mean finally}
I get to the register, and I am ready.

I have coupons in hand,
Items laid out in order,
and a plan.

I am not going to make everyone wait
{and tap their toes at me}
while the cashier and I put out fire after fire
of coupon crises....

No, no.
Not me.

But then, the cashier doesn't listen to me,
and she scans an item that I don't want scanned,
and it messes everything up,
and I have to walk her,
step by humiliating step
through the undoing of it
as the line grows behind me.

And it's not exactly rocket science,
but at every turn, she decides to try something else,
rather than just deleting the item
and letting me purchase it separately...
and she is SO DARN NICE
{and thank heaven for that}
but this is absolutely killing me!!!!!!!

What did I spend? $60
What was my savings? $28.
Hardly impressive when compared to the
"10 cents for 2 entire shopping carts full of goodies"
that my couponing goddess of a mentor paid,
but I am undeterred.

On to Rite Aid, where I am certain that my next
SUPER FREE-ISH purchases will make up for the disaster
that was Smith's Marketplace.

I pull into their parking lot,
and perfectly organize my coupons.

I put them in order,
make a game plan,
rehearse how I will walk the clerk through the purchase,
walk into Rite Aid,
make my way to the baby lotion aisle,
make eye contact with the super-smirky manager
{who has a pretty solid reputation of being nasty to couponers}
as I pass,
and find that ALL of the items I came to get
are already completely cleaned out.


So I take allllll of those glorious coupons that are supposed to be
"free money"
but are now technically worthless,
and drive {20 freaking minutes!!!! UGH!} home.

Methinks that I may have SERIOUSLY been onto something when I decided that I had no interest WHATSOEVER in couponing.

Last night, I couldn't even sleep for the lamenting of the "free baby lotion loss" that had been suffered so acutely earlier that day...

Unfortunately, my obsessive desire to get a year's supply of food storage, coupled with our limited financial resources may mean that I'm actually insane enough to give this whole hot mess another go round. Hide and watch, dear friends.

{Oh, the humanity.}


sostinkinhappy said...

Oh my, once you get bitten, you never go back. It's just a game Laura and once you figure out the game, it is game on!!!!

One word of advice: RAIN CHECKS. I guess that is two words of advice. Always, always, always get rain checks.

I have been doing the couponing "thing" since 2006 and love it. I currently live in the Valhalla of couponing ~ Sunday papers for .50 a piece (we get 10 each week), .99 cent doubles every day, $1 dollars every Wednesday, Super Doubles every month (any coupon $1.99 and less doubles), triples every quarter!!! I rarely pay cold hard cash for stuff other than fresh produce, dairy, and meats. Why pay real dollars when I can get it for free with coupons (AKA "mom money" to my boys)???

For instance, this week at Walgreens, Motrin is on sale. When you buy one bottle for $3, a "save $3 off on your next order" catalina prints out from the register. I also have a $6/2 Motrin coupon (actually, I have twenty of them.) I will buy (2) bottles of Motrin and use (1) $6/2 to pay for them. At the end of the transaction, out pops that magical "save $3 off on your next order" catalina. Essentially, I have just made $3 for hauling 2 bottles of Motrin out the store. Rinse and repeat 20 times. At the end I will have (20) $3 catalinas, which I will then use to buy Huggies diapers with (on sale with a coupon, of course).

Essentially, I will end up with (12) packs of (pre-ordered) Huggies and 40 bottles of (pre-ordered) Motrin for very little out of pocket. I will keep what Motrin I need for our year supply and then donate the rest to the Veteran's Hospital in Richmond.

[HELPFUL HINTS: ALWAYS make friends with the managers and ask them to order in extras of the hot items for you. That way you aren't clearing the shelves for other customers!!! The stores usually call you when it comes in so you aren't wasting time either. Also, shop in off-hours when you aren't likely to get a line behind you.]

It takes a bit of work to get the game figured out, but once you do it is a party every week in your bank account!!!

(P.S. I teach classes/RS meetings about it so if you ever have any technical questions, feel free to ask. I have mastered the fine art of grocery stores and pharmacies like CVS, Wags, and Rite-Aid. I don't know much about commissary shopping though.)

the Lola Letters said...

Okay, so I am going to ask you my questions on here so all of my reader can see the answers mmmkay?

Yay Melynda!

1. What do you mean "pre-ordered?" Does this mean that you ordered a large amount into the store just for yourself because you somehow knew what was going on sale?

2. At the Rite Aid I went to, they had HAND WRITTEN "Limit 4" on all of the products that were on major sale. There was no limit listed in the advertisement, and it USUALLY DOES list a limit in their ad print out when there is one... so what is up with that?

3. So, if Rite' Aid's manager is a big ole jerk... should I just not bother? I doubt that he would be helpful... but maybe there is a different manager on duty at a different time and I should go in then? I seriously wanted to punch this guy in the face... if I'm being honest...

I'm kind of excited again.
{and scared ;) }

the Lola Letters said...


Do clerks get super annoyed at doing like, 20 transactions?

I guess I just don't get why stores do promotions like these and then turn around and act so put out by it!

sostinkinhappy said...

Great questions, all of them!!! I will do my best to answer them. I will have to post each response as a separate comment since I guess I am a bit...wordly.

1. What do you mean "pre-ordered?" Does this mean that you ordered a large amount into the store just for yourself because you somehow knew what was going on sale?

Exactly!!!! I use the store-specific forums at free websites like to plan my shopping *before* heading out the door. Those sites will have the upcoming ads posted 1-2 weeks before the sales start, which means I can see what will be on sale & then call my fav manager & have him order in how ever many I need. That way, I won't be accused of shelf-clearing. also has a searchable data base to find coupons that are "active" for different products. There are a couple of other sites like it out there, it's just the one I am familiar with. There in UT, you have the added benefit of where they will actually put together shopping lists for local grocery stores! How sweet is that?

sostinkinhappy said...

2. At the Rite Aid I went to, they had HAND WRITTEN "Limit 4" on all of the products that were on major sale….so what is up with that?

The hand written limit was there because someone had walked in & cleared a shelf (i.e., loaded their cart up with excessive amounts of product X just because they could). Stores have the right to limit supplies & I don't blame them. That's why I always pre-order & let them know up front how many I want & ask if it is going to be a problem. I rarely run into any kind of push back, & when I do, that's OK. There's another great deal around the corner.

Just play by their rules, smile really big, & thank them for their time. In UT, coupon competition is FIERCE because there are five gabillion other like-minded women all competing for limited resources. Another solution I learned while in UT is the rain check - stop by on Monday, get a rain check. Send hubby in (or stop by again) later in the week to get another rain check if they are still out. Now you can go back & get 8 when they are in stock.

sostinkinhappy said...

3. So, if Rite' Aid's manager is a big ole jerk... should I just not bother? I doubt that he would be helpful... but maybe there is a different manager on duty at a different time & I should go in then? I seriously wanted to punch this guy in the face... if I'm being honest...

Yes, find a manager that you get along with. If one is just too prickly, then make friends with another one & make sure to shop when they are working!

Most of these poor store managers have been used & abused by coupon ladies & are very leery of us with good reason unfortunately. Some people's morals & ethics take a vacation when it comes to saving .50 on a roll of toilet paper for some reason.

Play fair, play nice, learn their names, treat them like humans deserving of respect & they will all cheer when you walk in the door. Never argue over a deal - is it really worth the time & good karma to argue with someone about a buck? If things don't work out the right way, just kindly ask them to take whatever product it is off the transaction and go along your merry way. It also doesn't hurt to pass along coupons for things that you don't use that they might use or let them in on some of the good deals that are happening in their own store! Some don't even know about them!!!!

If all else fails, find a different store. Or vote with your feet & don't shop there. Sure, you might miss out on free baby lotion sometimes but like I said before, there's always another great deal around the corner.

It takes some time to learn the ins and outs of each store's policies & to build relationships with your favorite cashiers/managers but all it takes is one look at my food storage room to remind me it was worth the effort.

Just be patient and don't panic about missing out on a good deal or two. I promise, the same deal will come around again!!! Yes, even free Poligrip will be back next year if you are just patient.

sostinkinhappy said...

Do clerks get super annoyed at doing like, 20 transactions?

I guess I just don't get why stores do promotions like these and then turn around and act so put out by it!

I don't quite understand it either. Some cashiers will treat you like money you are saving comes directly out of their pocket. I have even had an occasion where the cashier came unhinged because according to her, there was NO WAY I could save that much money. Her head just about popped off and spun around but I stood my ground (calmly) and asked for the manager to come sort it out. Turns out I could in fact save "that much." I invited her to attend one of my free classes so she could learn how to do it too.

I will always ask before I do a large number of transactions if it is a new cashier that I don't know. When I do them and someone comes in line behind me, I always step out of line and go to the end. It's only fair - those people in line behind me should not have to stand there waiting for 20 transactions to be rung up!!!!

I just try to coupon by same way I live (call it the Tao of coupons if you will): Do unto others as I would have others do to me. Play by the rules. Read the fine print. Treat others as if they were the most important person I know. Be nice. Smile. Share. Remember there is always enough, even if there isn't enough right now. Most importantly: Have fun.

Housewife on Fire said...

Ha ha! SUCH great advice, all of it!

Yes, I am CERTAIN that some psycho-coupners have abused managers in the past and given all couponers a bad name...

I like the idea of going really early or really late so that the stores are calm and near-empty and it won't inconvenience anyone if I ring up 20 separate orders.

My neighbor just informed me that there is an AWESOME store clerk at our town Walgreens and that she totally knows her stuff and totally even takes couponers to a different register so that we don't hold up regular lines - score that! I'm going tomorrow.


Thanks SO MUCH for all of that info!

You are a wordy girl JUST LIKE MEEEE!

Housewife on Fire said...

Ooops, I love how I'm logged in as a different user...oi, me and my blog obsessions...

Heather said...

Wow! Yay Laura! That's what i was going to say- you got a raincheck, right? :)

Life with Kaishon said...

i try and fail at it all the time! My brother is pretty good at it. You will get it. You are a a super star!

Housewife on Fire said...

Thanks for the encouragement Becky!

Heather - UGH! No! I totally should have! I didn't think you could get them at Rite Aid... I thought that was a grocery store "only" type thing...

Ashley Koz said...

I tried the couponing thing, ordered 3 Sunday papers every week. Problem was the coupons I would get were for stuff I didn't want. I think you can't be a picky eater, which I am. and just be willing to eat/cook with whatever is on coupon, which I'm not haha. So it didn't work for me but power to those that love it.

Jeff and Jessie said...

Don't make it more work than it should be. Your time is also worth money (in my book) so if you are spending too much time doing the coupon, it isn't worth it-you know?? Check out this site:
you hook up with your grocery store, it tells you the sales, you 'clip' the coupon right there and save time rifting.
My sis's-in-law and I have a constant, 'I spent less than you' game (not in a mean way though). we celebrate when each get the 'best' deal. It is a TON of fun!

Andrea, Mrs. said...

I totally agree with Jessica. My hubs reminds me all the time about the time-to-money ratio.

Some people claim that they can coupon super fast. I don't believe them. I have been couponing for a year and it still takes me a long time each time I make my trip out the door.

BUT--I also find that it is very satisfying and worth it. Last year I tracked what I spent. I spent, on average, and I bought the stuff I usually eat plus stock-up foods, and I saved about 50%. To me--that's worth it. For a whole year, to buy what I normally bought PLUS storage...I feel good about that.

Another thing is to not get discouraged if your free stuff isn't on the shelves when you go. I've faced that many times. Just remember that things go on sale again and you can try the next time.

Be patient.

sostinkinhappy said...

Man, I could talk about coupons for days if it weren't fer this dern dissertation I have to have to my committee by March 31 to make graduation on May 6!!!

Without getting too side tracked, I thought I would share one of my best time-saving tips: DO NOT CLIP EVERY COUPON! In fact, for the past 3 or 4 months, I have not clipped ANY of them unless I am going to use them.

My husband lays out the pages of the inserts and staples all of the same pages together (that way I only clip ONCE instead of 10 times!) Then I write the date the insert came on the front cover and file it away (you can find the date in tiny print down the spine of the insert if you forget). When I plan my shopping trips using the websites I mentioned, I just pull insert I need, clip the coupon, and I am on my way.

When I am not in the middle of writing a dissertation, nursing a baby, kids wrangling a 6-year old, or harassing my teenage son, managing a home, or dating my husband, I tend clip more of them on a weekly basis. Then I file them away in my coupon organizer so I can go "sale-ing" and ferret out unadvertised deals. Right now though...right now I just stick to the no-clip method and it is working just fine.

sostinkinhappy said...

Here's a scenario from this morning.

7:46 a.m. ~ The Professor is ready for school, baby girl is dressed and fed for the morning. I sit down at my computer, pull up my favorite coupon website and take a look at the list others have posted for the super-doubles event at a local grocery store. I jot down the 6 things I want w/ the date the insert came out. I pull those inserts, clip those coupons (Remember how hubby stapled them for me? I "clipped" 6 coupons but ended up with 60 to use at the sale.)

8:00 a.m. ~ In the car with baby girl buckled in, we are backing out of the garage.

8:09 a.m. ~ Get to store, make a bee-line for the things on my list. Discover they don't have any Olay soap the right size & were out of the other item I was looking for. Load my cart up with:

(10) McCain Natural frozen Potatoes, assorted varieties [I am on the compassionate service committee and stuff like this is SO handy for those meals I need to put together in a hurry!]
(10) Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta, assorted varieties
(10) Sour Airheads (4.2 oz bag) [note: these expire 09/2012 so I will keep them in the Halloween candy stash. I do this all year round so by the time Halloween happens, the neighbor kids know whose home to come to first. ;)]
(10) Dannonino yogurt things (we don't eat these, but my friend who is a single mom & runs a daycare will appreciate them!)

Went to check out, paid .90 out of pocket for $87.08 worth of products.

8:32 a.m. ~ In the car, groceries loaded, baby buckled in & ready to head off to our next adventure.

Couponing doesn't have to take a lot of time once you figure it out - it's kind of like learning how to play cards. You have to learn when to use your coupons, when to hang on to them, and when to just walk away from a "deal."

Emilee said...

Looks like you already got a lot of great advice. Just start small and master one store at a time. But beware- it's very addicting! (and fun)

Anonymous said...

I use a few coupons when I go shopping, but it seems like a waste of time and energy to focus so much on it. I think life is too short to spend it clipping coupons--and worrying about stocking up a year's supply of food.

Natasha Ireland said...

I have friends that ROCK at it and I so want to do that. I've done the cut and file , I've done the whole files I've done a bunch of organization ways and to be honest, it caused me way more stress then I was getting out of it. I hated sunday mornings cuz that meant MORE NEW papers and more coupons , haha so I stopped. I figure I cant do it ALL :) But good is great if you can do it. I can't :) simply said.

the Lola Letters said...

Natasha - I'm definitely finding that I have to do it in moderation. I know that I can't know and do it ALL perfectly right away {which, I was totally trying to do!}and I have resolved to take it slow, get some rockin' deals where I can, and leave it at that.

I am going to do my shopping on Monday and get whatever great deals I can get... Then, DONE! {Okay, I might also hit Walgreens or Rite Aid when they do "unlimited" items on some Saturdays too! ;} But that's it.

I sort of have enough on my plate as is!