I like to spend money on stuff. There - the secret is out. Truth be told we all love to spend money but know that if we over spend we will be in a world of hurt before too long. I had known for 9 months that it was a good possibility that I was going to be unemployed. I also knew that I didn't want to look for another job and wanted the opportunity to be at home. I knew that to be successful I had to have a change of viewpoint on money, spending and saving. I used to log on to amazon.com and purchase any dvd's or books that I wanted. A trip to Wal-mart also meant a quick trip around the store to "see if there is anything else we might need." I used that comment a lot. We didn't need anything else, but I always found something. I guess it is a feeling of entitlement from working a 40 plus hour work week.
Well - living on one income meant a major change in my way of thinking. I have used coupons off and on but never consistently. That changed in February of this year when I saw an interview with Teri Gault of the Grocery Game on a news program. I decided to give it a try and I enrolled for a trial subscription.
If you go to Teri's website here she does an excellent job of explaining the grocery game. Basically it comes down to this, you sign up for one or more stores in your area and she will post the sales each week. The list is color coded to show what items are free with a coupon, what items are on sale but not at a great sale price yet, and third, a list of items at rock bottom prices. When items are at rock bottom prices you are to stock up. Teri talks about sales rotating every 12 weeks so you buy at the rock bottom price for what you will need until the next sale. The list in an of itself would be great at that point but what really makes it wonderful is that next to each item she teams it up with any coupon available and tells you where you can find that coupon. I simply place a check mark next to what I want to buy and print it off.
Since using this program I have saved money and my pantry is piled high with lots of items that I purchased at rock bottom prices. All of these items are items we will use. The regular subscription cost is $10.00 for eight weeks and I more than recoup my $1.25 per week outlay for this service.
Why is this helpful to me? I like the power of knowing that this is the time to buy, this is a good deal and this is the time to stock up. Teri always says to trust the list. One time I went ahead and purchased something with a coupon because I thought it was a good price. Then the following week this item went on sale and it was on Teri's list to buy. Lesson learned.
I started collecting coupons from the Sunday paper. We have had a subscription for years as we love to read the paper on Sunday morning over coffee prior to going to church. I found out one day that a local convenience store gives away the Sunday paper if you fill up your car on Sunday (fill up means anything over 1/4 of a tank). Now I get two sets of Sunday coupons.
The above two steps were big for me: subscribing to the Grocery Game and saving and clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. Remember, this path to frugality that I am on is a "baby step" path. If I try to take on too many changes at once I will set myself up for failure. My next step was getting coupons on line. First of all I made sure that our local stores would accept them. The town I live in is a population of 11,000 and we have two grocery stores plus a Super Wal-mart. I wanted to make sure that these stores would take these coupons before I turned them over at the cash register and got a surprise. My favorite site is obviously the coupon mom. I have added other sites along the line but I love the coupon mom's site the best.
My goal with using coupons and the Grocery Game subscription is to buy only items my family will use with a goal of saving $20.00 average per week with coupons. None of the stores in our area double coupons.
Two weeks ago I made my biggest savings when there was a sale on General Mills cereal. I had to buy 6 boxes of any GM cereal and then I would get $10 off with an in store coupon and would also receive a coupon at the checkout for a free gallon of milk on my next trip to the store. When I got to the grocery store I was armed with manufacturer's coupons for the cereal as the store allows you to "stack" coupons. In other words you can use a store coupon and tag team it up with a manufacturer's coupon for more savings. The cereal that I purchased totaled $16.00. Then the $10.00 store coupon was taken off and I presented them with 3 coupons for $1.00 off two boxes of ceral. Now my net cost was $3.00 for those 6 boxes of cereal. I then received a coupon for 1 free gallon of milk on my next visit. Milk was $2.99 a gallon at that store. So for 1 penny I was able to buy 6 boxes of cereal and milk.
Couponing does take some time but now that I have been doing it for 9 months I spend about 1 1/4 hours a week clipping, sorting, storing my coupons along with planning the shopping trip itself. It is worth my time for any coupon savings as I am not bringing in an income so my goal right now is to not spend and to save.
Because of all the stock piling and such I have a room in my basement that has a lot of paper products, soaps, canned goods, cereals, flour, sugar and more. I have several shelves of items to choose from. My estimation is that I have in my pantry and my freezer close to a 6 month supply of food items. In the news today you will hear about the need to have a 6 to 8 month emergency fund in savings in case of a job loss. I cannot fathom how we would be able to save that much money right now, but at least I have our groceries covered. It is a beginning. I do want to add that while stock piling I used a budget of $100 per week which was lower than what I was spending when I was working full time. In maintaining this stock pile I have been able to go a lot lower which is my goal. As I continued to buy mostly stock pile items, my grocery expense went down each week. It is a beginning and also is characteristic of my taking baby steps along this journey.
One additional benefit to couponing is that I have been able to buy items and donate them to our local Ecumenical Food Cupboard to help those in need. I look at it as a way to stretch my donation dollar. I have been able to purchase deoderant for 25 cents a stick and shampoo for 50 cents a bottle. Recently they had a 4 roll brand of toilet paper on sale for $1.00 a package and I had five $1.00 off coupons. I donated these packages.
My goal is to get my grocery expense as low as I can without feeling deprived. Right now I am averaging $70 to $80 a week for me, my husband and our teenage son (along with a cat and a large dog). I want to get my grocery expense down to $60 to $65 a week. I think that is quite doable and the money I save can be put in savings. For this month I want to get the weekly grocery expense even lower by using food from my stockpile and only buying rock bottom items such as turkey, flour, sugar and other baking supplies that go on sale. I want to use the money that I don't spend towards Christmas gift giving. We have set some money aside for Christmas but I would prefer to use what I can from our grocery budget savings and leave the Christmas money in savings to help build up our emergency fund.
I may not be a coupon queen but I'll settle for being a coupon duchess for now.