Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saving Money

I have had some requests to write about how I save money. More specifically, how I recently saved $71.95 at the grocery store. I will share what works for me... and it may work for you!

Before this recent trip to the grocery store, I averaged $30 in savings. I cut coupons, I cut my mom's coupons, I filed them in an accordion type coupon organizer, and I compared the coupons with what I needed and what was on sale at Giant that week. I was pretty consistent. Then my friend from high school, Missy, told me that she was saving an average of $70 a week without double coupons and told myself it was time to kick it into high gear, make the commitment and make the money...

I looked online for a solution to better organize my coupons. I came up with an idea that I saw on www.coupondad.net. I bought a zippered binder at Walmart. The binder had storage spots for a calculator, pens, pencils, and scissors. It also had an accordion file inside. Then I bought dividers. On each of the dividers, I wrote a section. I divided it as my grocery store is laid out. Then I got baseball trading card pages. Next, I organized my coupons to the sections and I put like coupons in the slots with the most recent expiration date on top. Next, I divided out my list in similar sections as my coupons. I looked on the weekly flyer, compared what I needed with my coupons and the good deals for that week.
Another good resource for this is www.couponmom.com. This site has many stores organized by state and they list what sale items match up with recent coupons. For example, Giant had a 10 for $10 deal on Barilla Pasta. I had 8 coupons for $1.00 off of a box of Barilla mini pasta. By pairing up the special and the coupons, I got 8 boxes of pasta for free. (We now have pasta to last us a LONG time!) There are some items that I don't know what the best deal is until I get to the store. On my list, I write: see coupons, I can easily flip to the section, compare prices, pull the coupon out, put it in my section for coupons for the day and move along.

In summary:

1) Find a system that works for you.
2) Scour manufacturer sites, and www.coupons.com for additional coupons or ask a neighbor or relative if you can have theirs when they are done with them.
3) Take 30 minutes out of each week to plan ahead.
4) Organize your coupons, pulling out expired ones.
5) Make a list of what you need. I use a spreadsheet that has a column for items, a column if they are on sale and what coupons I have.
6) Cross reference the sales flyer and your coupons.
7) Go to the store, try to go when you don't have kids, so you can concentrate... :)

Other tips for saving money:
  • Buy chicken in bulk and pay attention to other stores flyers. In my area we have two main competitors, Giant and Safeway. One week one of them will have chicken breast on sale for under $1.99 and the next week the next one will have the chicken breasts on sale... it's amazing how competition can be beneficial!
  • The chicken in bulk are usually enormous and one breast is more than enough for my husband and I... especially when I pound it out:)
  • Go crazy with veggies.... use veggies to bulk up a meal. They are generally better for you than pasta anyways.
  • Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My neighbor and I joined one this year. We purchased a half share. This means that together we paid $300 (we split the cost - each of us paid $150.) and every other week we got enough veggies (fresh) for a family of four (for the growing season May-Nov). This was nice because not only did they taste great, but we got to try new veggies out that we wouldn't normally try. Go to www.localharvest.org/csa for a farm near you.
  • Eat breakfast for dinner. Breakfast is usually cheaper and a fun alternative!
  • Shop at Walmart and Target. They don't double coupons, but the prices are usually significantly less.
  • This past year, I made a lot of my own baby food. I used a lot of steamed frozen veggies and put them in the food processor.. it was much cheaper and I knew exactly what was in it.
  • Save your coffee! Brew a little extra in the morning. Then put the leftover in the fridge. The next day, pour over ice, add milk and flavored creamer and you have a yummy iced coffee!
  • Check your junk mail. There are often hidden coupons in there! For example, I know that Giant and Safeway hide their sale flyers mid-week in amongst a "junk" mail paper. Well, often, Giant puts 4 $1.00 double coupons in there and only in that insert. Giant only doubles coupons up to $.99 usually, so if I throw it away, I've thrown away $4.00!
  • Join clubs online. I belong to the Similac club, Gerber club, Huggies, etc... I get coupons in the mail all the time...
  • Shameless plug here: I sell Avon. www.youravon.com/tiffanypatterson . Seriously though, I get a lot of great deals through them. For example, in the current campaign their shampoo (advance techniques) is on sale for $1.99. It is equivalent to Pantene. At the least, I get a 20% discount. At the most, it's 50% . I buy my lotions, soaps, and other personal care items through them. My husband is using them too! (Yes, they have masculine or unscented items too!)

I hope these tips have helped you out in some way. I'll let you know if I come up with anymore and please let me know if you have any tips too!