About 5 years ago, I took on a new identity.
I became a couponer. (Or dough stretcher.)
I’ve intermittently used coupons in the past, but now I’m pretty committed. I created a 3-ring binder with baseball card sheets and homemade dividers.
I keep the binder in the car, so it’s with me on every outing, like a fashion accessory.
I got the couponing bug from my friend Jessica, who is a coupon whiz. It’s appalling the money I’ve unconsciously doled out over the years. Coupons are FREE money, but I simply didn’t give them much attention.
Until the housing market went down the toilet, and gas prices rose, then our grocery bill began to climb. Then, our home insurance sky-rocketed. It rose 63%!!! Can you believe it? I get irritated just typing that.
I’m not complaining. We are blessed in many ways, and certainly have more than we need. But we can do better.
So I did some research, enlisted my daughter’s help, and now we get snippy every Sunday pulling the coupons we want from the paper. Our daughter goes online to coupons.com as well, which only takes about 15 minutes, to print off even more deals.
We stockpile extra items in our guest room closet. ‘Stockpile’ is a word I never thought much about either (or maybe even used) until I began couponing. But couponers need a place to store the excess, stuff they won’t need this week, but will need in two weeks, or two months.
Here are the things I’ve learned about couponing:
1. You don’t have to “drive all over town to save two dollars.”
Most non-couponers think you do. It’s simply not true. I regularly shop at two grocery stores and two drug stores, and I’m only taking advantage of deals/sales/coupons at those stores. You can drive all over tarnation if you want to (and you’d save more than two dollars, by the way), but you can still save by shopping at the stores you normally frequent.
2. “Stacking” (one store coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon on the same item) is the ultimate savings.
Especially if the item is on sale to begin with. Whoo-eeee! I love stacking. It makes me feel like I’m smarter than the average bear.
3. In your Sunday paper, regarding the “deals of the week” flyers – you need to visit those stores on MONDAY.
Because by Tuesday or Wednesday, the road-runners have cleared the shelves. The slugs who saunter in on Thursday or Friday are going to miss out. It’s not important how I know this.
4. Couponing encourages and promotes long-term thinking.
This is my favorite part. Because, I love long-term thinking. For example, I always choose maintenance over “wait ’til it falls apart, then toss it, and buy a new one” thinking. I’m a plan-ahead person. Which can frustrate my husband at times, because he prefers to live in the here and now. I guess you could say we’re a good balance, but mostly it makes us just disagree on where to put extra money.
Did I just say “extra” money? I don’t know where that came from, as I’ve never experienced such a thing.
5. On-going couponing enables you to donate extra goods to those less fortunate.
This is the feel-good part. Since we started couponing, we’ve been able to share items with struggling friends, or the local food pantry. Caution: Extreme couponing can turn into hoarding, and then you have to attend 12-step meetings to learn to let go of your surplus of Cheerios. I’m going to avoid that.
Here’s a dough stretcher we get regularly. I NEVER pay full price for Dawn.
It’s regularly a buck, or just over. We get it for 23 cents! HA!!! You can’t even buy a huge gum ball for 23 cents. Costs you at least a quarter.
I have to say my FAVORITE coupon of ALL TIME is KOHLS!
I wait until I get that 30% off coupon in the mail before I spend a dime at Kohls. If I don’t have that coupon, I don’t go.
Here’s my other tip: When I get the coupon, I go, even if we don’t need anything at the moment. I shop anyway – I stock up on dish towels, socks, underwear for the family, gifts for upcoming events, whatever.
But I go. Over time, I’ve discovered I get that coupon about every two-three months. So, I think ahead and shop for the next few months. By the time we need something – viola! – there’s another 30% off in the mail. Whoo-hoo!
I don’t know why I get a kick out of this, but I do.
Couponing makes me feel like a good steward, a smart steward, someone who’s bringing a little wisdom to the consumer-driven world we live in.
It takes a little time and some forethought, but all good things do.