Thursday, January 6, 2011

Budget Bride Tips: Couponing

I started out as a "budget bride" but I think I have blown the wedding budget. Good thing I am saving money on all the other stuff in my life! If you need to learn how to save money too, this mini-series is for you.

I used to HATE going to the grocery store. There were too many choices and a bunch of small children with their itty bitty mini shopping carts were all up in my way, and then the next thing I would know, I would end up paying a bunch of hard earned money for things like paper towels and milk. Ugh. I would spend a ton of money, have a bunch of items that required cooking before eating, and be really grumpy too. It totally sucked.

Yes, you're cute. Now please get the hell out of my way.

But about a year ago I learned about extreme couponing. I am NOT crazy like the people on that new TLC show Extreme Couponing. (TLC is really attracting a lot of freaks these days, by the way.) I am just being efficient in my shopping. I get to save more money and the added benefit is, I no longer hate grocery shopping because now it's more like a game that I always win!

Exhibit A:
These groceries came to $102.98 with tax and before any discounts. By using the grocery store's discount card, I saved $33.97. Almost everything I bought was on sale with the discount card.

-$33.97 savings with Harris Teeter VIC card

Then I used coupons, and since this was Super Doubles week, coupons up to $1.99 were doubled! I saved $52.45 with coupons.

- $52.45 savings with coupons
= final total of $16.56

Yes, that does mean I only spent $16.56 on $102.98 worth of groceries! I would calculate what percentage I saved, but I have already done enough math for one day.

I know, Isabella was amazed too!
Actually, she just wants some of those Pounce treats that I ended up getting, of course, for free.

Here are the very basics of extreme couponing.

1. Buy stuff when it is on sale. Ok, maybe that is, like, sooooooo obvious to everyone else but it was not to me. Don't wait to buy things when you need them...always buy what is on sale!

2. Use coupons. There are two types of coupons, manufacturer (the majority of the coupons in the world) and store coupons. Manufacturer coupons can be used anywhere. Store coupons are like "Target coupon" or "CVS Coupon." A lot of times you can print store coupons from their site. Usually, you can pair a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon. Crazy, I know!

3. If you're lazy and hate math, like me, you don't want to be bothered with looking at sale papers and comparing stores and items and prices. Who has time? So instead, find a (free) coupon website that will tell you what you need to know. I use Southern Savers. A magical angel named Jenny runs it, and she lists all the popular stores in the South including grocery stores and drug stores. Moreover, she lists what is on sale at a good price each week, and links the coupons to it. Yes, she basically does all the work for you. A LOT of the coupons are printable, so you don't even need the Sunday paper necessarily, although, of course, a lot of great coupons come in it as well.

Southern Savers screenshot

4. Pick one or two stores and start small! It took me a bit of practice to understand the systems at even one store. I regularly shop at Harris Teeter and CVS. Both are considered "pricier" stores, but if you understand their sales policies and their coupon/reward policies, in the long run they both are the most economical. At first I was stoked to save five or ten dollars. Then I regularly began saving between 40-60% on groceries. And on super special weeks like the one I broke down earlier, I save a lot more!

5. Be flexible. If you are a picky eater or are only loyal to one brand and flavor and size of toothpaste, you are not going to be as successful at couponing. Lucky for me, I eat anything and I don't really care about what deodorant or toothpaste I use. I especially don't care even more when I know it's free. Being flexible in terms of cleaning products and health and beauty brands will get you far.

So, that's it! I really recommend finding a coupon site that does most of the work for you. Once you get into the hang of it, it's easy. For the shopping trip I profiled, I spent about 45 minutes making a list and printing and cutting coupons, and then 45 minutes actually shopping in the store. For a savings of, um, some high percentage, that is well worth it to me!

Do you coupon*? Do you think it's ok for me to call myself a budget bride even though my budget blew up, if I am saving money in other ways? What if I keep using the quotations marks like this: I'm a "budget bride." Yeah...probably not....

*Yes, "coupon" is now being used as a verb especially to those of us who, well, coupon!


  1. Wow, awesome post! Extreme Couponing actually inspired me to look through and clip coupons. I did it once. I'm a little lazy to go through the mail and find what I need, then actually bring the coupons to the store. Mad props to you for finding ways to save for your wedding! Inspiring!

  2. I seriously get so excited by seeing how much money we save, especially at the super market. My fiancé is the couponing king.. he's a big fan of the Sunday paper because of all it's money saving goodness. I definitely need to start utilizing some websites, though.. just think of the savings!!

  3. Holy moly! We probably go to the same Harris Teeter - I'm going to start following Southern Savers to save more too!

  4. My husband does the clipping. It's my job, then, to figure out which ones we can use when. He puts them in order of expiration. This makes me crazy. I put them in order of the store aisles, so that I'm not having to go through the entire stack to see "Do we have a coupon for pasta sauce?" We're still working on our system. (c;

  5. Wow, I can't believe that so many of y'all have husbands who help you with coupons!

    Emma, check out this link for how to organize your coupons. There are several different systems posted, it might help! I used to do the binder system but now I just keep the inserts whole and mark the date of the paper they came in. But that probably only works if you se a site like Southern Savers, where she references the date.

  6. These are some great tips! I admit, I'm not great about finding coupons before I got to the grocery store. But I always pick the brand that's on sale through the store club card. I really need to get better about this.

    I'm so good with online shopping though, I always google for free shipping promo codes before I check out!