Sunday, March 22, 2009


The other question I get is, "What does X mean?" So, here is a brief rundown of what various terminology means in the couponing world. If you ever don't know what something means, post a comment and I'll add it to my list.

  • BOGO - Buy one, get one. This is often a great way to get amazing deals. Walgreens, for example, will accept two manufacturer's coupons (MC) if you buy two products. So if you use a BOGO coupon on the first item, then you can use another MC on the second (free) item and save even more. Even better if you can then combine it with a store coupon. Often the three coupons lead to free or for-profit deals.
  • MC - Manufacturer's coupons. It's good to know what kind of coupon you are using because most stores will only accept one MC per item. If the store also offers coupons, you can combine those with the MC to get even better deals. Most coupons are MC, but if you're unsure, they'll say at the top, next to the expiration date usually.
  • $#/# - For example, $1/1 or $1/3. This is a way of saying, "Save $1 when you buy one item" or "Save $1 when you buy 3 items."
  • OOP - Out of Pocket. A lot of times the savings are in rebates or register rewards (RR). That means you have to pay the money out of pocket now in order to recieve the savings (which you can then use on future purchases instead of paying OOP) at the register or in the mail.
  • RR - Register Rewards. Walgreens advertises items with Register Rewards. Basically, you pay the full amount of the item, but when you check out, the register will print out a Register Reward for a specific amount that you can then use on a future purchase just like cash. They do have expiration dates, so be sure you use them in time (I currently have $21 in RR that expire tomorrow! Time to plan a shopping trip!) There are some rules you have to follow, but they're pretting simple. (For example, you can't use RR to buy prescriptions or medication, nor can you use an RR to buy the same product you got the RR for.) You can read a good write-up of the RR rules here.

That's all I've got on the top of my head today, but I'll add to the list as I think of things or as people ask.

Getting started

I've had several people ask me how to get started in couponing. My mom is even threatening to have me teach a Relief Society (the women's society in my church) class on the topic. I find this highly entertaining, since I really know very little about couponing. Most of what I do is based on other people's brilliance as I slowly learn how to do it for myself. However, knowing where to look and what to do in order to rely on the brilliance of others is something I can teach others. So here we go.

First, I would strongly suggest subscribing to the Sunday paper. A lot of times it's cheaper (or the only option) to get the weekend newspaper. I get the newspaper Friday - Sunday. I started couponing without getting the newspaper and although you can still get some coupons (e.g. store coupons, Internet printable coupons, etc.) it was really frustrating to see all of these amazing free or even for-profit deals that I couldn't get because I didn't have the manufacturer's coupons from the Sunday inserts.* Another option is to find someone (a family member, neighbor, coworker, etc.) that subscribes to the paper, but never uses the coupons. Lastly, you can uses Freecycle to request Sunday coupons.

Second, subscribe** to couponing blogs. There are a lot of websites that will post upcoming deals at stores around Provo (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Target) as well as stores in other areas of the country that we don't have here (like CVS and Publix). You don't have to go into couponing on only your own wisdom. There are people out there that make couponing a full-time job and are willing to share their wisdom for free with everyone. Take advantage of it. Pick a couple (I'll list some of my favorites at the bottom), read through the weekly deals that they post, decide which deals you want to do (or the ones that you can do with the coupons you have acccess to), then try it out. Start small. Build your confidence. Most importantly, don't be scared off if you make a mistake. There have been a few times that I bought the wrong thing for a rebate, or even worse, the wrong size. By making mistakes, however, you get better, because you remember what to check in the future.

Third, read through your weekly grocery ads. They often come free in your mail every Tuesday or Wednesday (depending on the store). I've definitely been guilty of getting the mail, pulling out the actual mail and tossing the newspapers without even glancing at them. If you take the time to actually look through them, you'll start getting ideas of what a good price is on various items and help you decide where to do your weekly shopping. My favorite thing the last several weeks has been to see who has the cheapest milk. It's something I constantly buy and is easy to price check in the grocery ads. Before I started couponing, I thought that finding milk for $2/gallon was a fantastic deal. Now I'm not happy unless I get milk for $1.50. Smiths, for example, has been offering milk for $1.49 for the past 3-4 weeks. (I'm hoping this isn't a fluke that just happened to start after I started couponing and will end now that I've told you all about it.) Also, pay attention to store promotions. Don't get sucked into them and end up paying for things you don't need in order to save money on things you do, but look for deals on things you actually will use. For example, Smiths ran a promotion where if you bought 10 items marked under this promotion (which were varied and across the entire store), you'd get $5 off instantly at the register. This worked out fantastically with pasta. I ended up getting 10 bags of pasta for only $4.90. That's only 49 cents each, my friends. And it's definitely something we'll eat at my house. Also, Albertsons will randomly double coupons up to $1. Look in the ads for those promotions. (Basically that means that if you have a $1 off coupon, they'll give you $2 off. This is a great way to get things for really cheap, free, or even make a profit off them!)

Fourth, don't be afraid to buy items that you won't use if you make a profit off of them. That's basically free money to put towards an item that you will use. For example, earlier this month I bought a box of Sambucol Cold and Flu Relief. Oh sure, I have a cold right now (again) but because I'm pregnant I'm twice as careful as to what medicines I take, meaning, I probably won't use this box. But look at it this way, it cost $10. They had a $10 off coupon in the EasySaver booklet, meaning it was free. Even better, I had a $4 off manufacturer's coupon, meaning that by buying it, I made $4 that I was able to put towards something else in that transaction. And now I have a box of Sambucol that either my husband can use, or I can give away to someone who will use it. Consider it an extra step to get a $4 coupon for anything you want.

Fifth, learn the terminology. I'll write another post about this and link it here once I have it written. If you find some terminology that you don't understand, ask. Couponers tend to be ridiculously nice about helping other people understand how to coupon.

Sixth, have fun. Make it a game to see how much money you can save. See if you can make a shopping trip spending less than $X. See how much you can get for a small amount of money.

Now, as promised, my favorite couponing blogs:

* There are websites you can use to buy just the coupons you want if you don't want to buy the Sunday paper, or if you want multiples of a specific coupon. If you do it right, you can save money by not paying for all the newspapers and coupons you won't use, but it requires even more time and dedication and I've never really looked into it.
** If you have an email client downloaded onto your computer such as Outlook or Mail, you can often subscribe to RSS feeds directly in there. Another option is to use an online RSS feed reader. My favorite is Google Reader. By using an RSS feed reader, you don't have to keep checking every blog to see if there is anything new. Instead, you only have to check your reader (or email) and anytime something new is posted, it will automatically update.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grocery Challenge, part 3

I'm starting to think that I'll actually be able to do this. Though, many of the casseroles I had lined up I've made already. But still, only one more week and still plenty of food in our cupboards. I'll just have to be more creative.

Yesterday I decided to make banana bread with some of the bananas in our freezer and realized I was out of flour. I went to Smiths because I wanted to see if I had to spend all $25 on my card all at once, or if I could do it a little at a time. I wasn't planning on using it, though, since I'm trying to do this without the buffer, but it ended up on there anyway. Oh well. I'll keep track both ways.

Then today I wanted to make a fruit salad with the cantaloupe and kiwis from last week, but without any other fruit, that's kind of a lame fruit salad, so we stopped by Buy Low today. Great news is, I only used half the fruit (well, only a tiny fraction of the kiwis) and had enough to feed three people with leftovers, so I'll be able to make another fruit salad to send with lunches.

Flour: $3.89
Tax: $0.12
Total: $4.01

3 Pink Lady Apples: $0.24
2 bananas: $0.44
Tax: $0.02
Total: $0.70

Budget left: $8.85 ($4.84 w/o buffer)
Buffer left: $20.99

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grocery Challenge, part 2

First, I forgot to factor in a $5.14 purchase for milk and salsa that BJ made just before I started this challenge and that didn't get categorized as groceries until a few days ago. [sigh] So I'll figure that in at the end.

Today I bought a few things at the grocery store. I didn't plan ahead to get any fantastic deals (though, I did get lucky on the prices), nor did I need the stuff, per se. But I really wanted to make this tonight, and I needed the pudding. Also, we were almost out of milk (which is bad when you need to make pudding). Since I'm keeping track of my grocery spending on here, I figured I had to put it on, whether it was a fantastic deal or not.

  • 2 boxes of Vanilla pudding (turns out I only needed one, but oh well. I have it for next time now): $0.69 each
  • 1 gallon of 2% milk: $1.59
  • Tax: $0.09
Total: $3.06

Budget left: $9.55
Buffer left: $25

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grocery Challenge!

I'm currently in super penny pinching mode right now, so in trying to figure out where else we can save money, I decided to present myself with a challenge. On average (since November anyway) we spend about $181.50 per month on groceries. This month, I wanted to drastically cut that and see if I could make it. So this month's goal is $100. That wouldn't be so bad, except we're already partway into the month and I've already gone grocery shopping and have already spent $72. That leaves me $28 for the rest of the month. I'm feeling quite brave and adventurous, though, so I decided that I can do this.

Please note, I'm not trying to live off of only the food I can purchase with $28. My shelves are pretty stocked up, and this will force me to be creative in making meals with what I have. It will also teach me to read the grocery ads and search for really good deals.

My first shopping trip was today. I spent $10.63 at Smith's and Buy Low. I purchased:
  • 10 bags of pasta $4.90 (I figure that will go a long way in eating frugally)
  • 1 lb. bag of carrots $0.25
  • 16 kiwi $2
  • 3 onions $0.17
  • 1 cantaloupe $1.28
  • 1 red pepper $0.78
  • 1 green pepper $0.78
In addition, I transferred my pre-natal prescription (which I ran out of last night) to Smith's and they gave me $25 on my Preferred Savings card. I'm going to try to still make it in my original $28 budget, but if I don't, I have a $25 buffer. (Side note: with my groceries and my prescription, I still made $1.27 after the $25 of free groceries.)

Budget left: $17.37
Buffer left: $25

Monday, March 9, 2009

Walgreens 3/8-3/14

Today my list was a lot longer than what I was able to bring home, owing to the fact that I don't shop on Sunday, so a lot of what I wanted was gone by the time I got to Walgreens this morning. Luckily, we have two Walgreens, so when the Provo Walgreens turned up empty, I headed over to Orem's where I hit jackpot on the most important portion of my shopping list—diapers. Sure, there were a lot of other things I wanted to get that they were out of, but my understanding is that this is the best diaper deal in the history of couponing... at least, that's what it sounds like on all the couponing blogs I read, so that was my main goal. Anyway, here's my shopping trip of the day!

Grand Total: $10.50; Grand Savings: $66.33

Transaction 1: Total: $4.68; Total Savings: $32.47
  • 3 Huggies Jumbo packs. On sale for $10 each. $5 internet printables. (You can print two per computer.) RR: buy $25 of participating products (which Huggies jumbo packs are part of) and get $10 in RR. So, $30 - $15 - $10 = Total for three: $5
  • Skintimate Shave Gel. Price: $1.99. RR: $1. Total: $0.99
I also had a RR from a previous shopping trip for $3.50, which helped pay for this. (It counts as a MC in the savings.) You have to have more items than coupons, so because I had three Huggies, I had to throw something else in there without a coupon. I was getting the Skintimate anyway, because I'm almost out and it was cheap, so I put it on this transaction.

Pre-checkout savings:
  • Total WAG advertised savings: $2.97
  • MC Savings: $18.50 (Including a $3.50 RR I had from a previous trip)
  • Total pre-checkout Savings:$21.47
  • Subtotal: $13.49
  • Tax: $2.19
  • Total OOP: $15.68
  • RR:$11
  • Total: $4.68
Transaction 2: Total: $5.82; Total Savings: $33.86
  • 3 Huggies Jumbo packs. On sale for $10 each. $5 internet printables. (You can print two per computer.) RR: buy $25 of participating products (which Huggies jumbo packs are part of) and get $10 in RR. So, $30 - $15 - $10 = Total for three: $5
  • Colgate Toothpaste: On sale for $3.49 $1 internet printable. $2.50 ES. Total: $0.01 profit
  • 1 Thingamajig; 2 Watchamacallits. On sale 2/$1. (I got these to put my total number of products above my total number of coupons.) Total: $1.50
Pre-checkout savings:
  • Total WAG advertised savings: $2.36
  • MC Savings: $21.50 (Including a $3 RR I had from a previous trip)
  • Total pre-checkout Savings:$23.86
  • Subtotal: $13.49
  • Tax: $2.33
  • Total OOP: $15.82
  • RR:$10
  • Total: $5.82