Monday, March 15, 2010

Adventures in Couponing.

Last week, I was so excited to take a coupon class with Su Soutter at Bayleaf. She feeds a family of six, including their toiletries/tylenol/TP/paper towels, etc. for $100 a week... and that also includes one child in diapers! She writes a blog with TONS of useful information about using coupons, building a stockpile, meal planning and freezing, and home decorating.

The Intentional Home

I have only been couponing since this past summer, and knew I could use some help to step up my game. The class was an intense, high-energy 2 hours full of how to stack coupons, how to use double/triple coupons to your advantage, and how to benefit from store rebate and register rewards programs. It was a lot of fun, and Su's very encouraging motto was, "you can so do this!"

When she told me she never pays more than $4.50 for a pack of diapers, I was sold. That equates to about 16 cents per diaper (she has gotten as low as 8 cents per diaper), and the best I've been able to find was about 21 cents at BJs or Sam's. I was excited and anxious to try out some of her ideas, so I used one of her exact examples to try it out on my own. My results proved that this would take a lot of practice to get it just right.
This was the plan:

Regular price of jumbo diapers at Rite Aid:
$11.99 each (approx. 52 cents per diaper)

Sale price at Rite Aid: $9.99 each
I bought 3 making it$29.97 (down to 43c/diaper)

Coupon printed from online: $5 off a $25 purchase
Print and use as many as you want!
$24.97 (down to 36c/diaper)

3 normal coupons from the Sunday paper, 1 per pack of diapers
$1, $1.75, and $2 off... $20.22 (down to 29c/diaper)

Rite Aid was offering a $10 gift card with any $30 PG purchase (Pampers qualified)
making the total $10.22
which is $3.30 per pack
and down to 14 cents per diaper!

Not too bad! So I went on Saturday and they were out of Kenna's size, so I remembered to get a rain check and was so proud of myself. I went back today and they were still out of size 4s, but I didn't want to have to come back a bunch of times, so I got size 5s instead. When I got to the check out, one of my coupons was only good for swim diapers. So that's $1 added back on. And, since the drug stores start their sales over on Sundays, I didn't realize the gift card option had expired.

So I ended up actually getting the diapers for 28 cents each... not the best deal. Live, learn, try again.

Here's another one I'm excited to try:

CVS has Raisin Bran on sale 4 for $10 ($2.50 per box) and you also earn $5 in Extra Care Bucks (ECBs)- store credit that prints out from the register after your transaction.

So that is like getting them for ($1.25 per box).

Then from the Sunday paper I have 2 coupons for $1 off two boxes
I can use both since I'm buying 4 boxes anyway (.75 cents per box!!!)

That's already a great deal, but I happen to have a $3 ECB from another purchase, so really I'm getting 4 boxes of cereal for free!

The $5 in ECB that prints out from the purchase I can use on anything else I want in the store- I'd probably get milk or paper towels, things we are using up daily. It really is like a game with CVS because each transation links to another- you earn ECBs on one purchase, then use them with coupons for the next and start getting things free.

If you're thinking as you read this, "yeah, but that's a lot of work," you're right it totally is. It's a lot to keep track of, getting rain checks, making sure things don't expire on you, etc. I feel like I'm doing a middle school math/economics project, to be honest. But when I think about it as Su put it... she reduced her family's monthly budget from $1000 to $400 by using coupons. That's a savings of $600 by doing 8 hours of work a month (about 2 hours a week). It's like having a $75 an hour part time job (that you can do in your pajamas at any time of day you prefer!).

And even though I'm still not convinced that "couponing" is an actual word, the thrill of a bargain probably transcends all languages! The big thing for me will be to not be a perfectionist about it, and remember that sometimes your time is worth more than driving all over town using up a whole tank of gas just to save 50 cents on some paper towels!

Here are some basic and really helpful tips from Su's blog:

List of restaurants' Kids Eat Free days

How to start a stockpile

List of target prices (how much is a "good price" for something)

What are your favorite coupon tips or the best bargain you ever found?


Tara said...

I love couponing and bargain shopping too! I use the Grocery Game and only shop at one store, but normally save anywhere from $70-$100 per trip, and spend only about $100 for our family per week too! Right now, I don't have the time to drive to more stores but feel like at least I'm saving at the one place where I'm shopping:)

Matt and Lindsey said...

that is awesome tara! yes, i can imagine with 4 carseats, you try to make your trips short :)