Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coupons Part 3: How We Do It

This is probably the most important, yet complicated part of the process. I don't have the room and don't want to bore everyone, but I'll try to make this as comprehensive as I can without putting everyone to sleep.

When Sunday mornings arrive, I grab the sunday paper outside our front door, and I will briefly check the Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens ads as well as the coupon inserts (Smart Source, Red Plum, P & G). I also try to briefly browse the Southern Savers website which lists deals for all kinds of stores. Many times the website will have links to printable coupons so you can get deals even without a paper using,, to name a few. I stress the word "briefly" because I try to gauge whether I should buy another paper on the way to church at 8:30 AM. If the coupons have items we commonly purchase or if there are obvious good deals, we'll decide to purchase a couple extra papers. I've gotten much more efficient with this process and can complete it in about 15-20 min. (FYI: Publix changes their sales every Wednesday, so I don't check their ads on Sunday).

After church, I will cut coupons and Kelly will file them for items that we commonly use. We keep the actual coupon insert for about 3 months because the Southern Savers website will reference the weekly insert in which a coupon is located for a specific deal. For example, Chex Mix may have a coupon in last Sunday's paper. When Chex Mix goes on sale at Publix three weeks later, Southern Savers will remind us of that coupon from the coupon insert sent out three weeks ago. We then go back to the stashed inserts and find and cut the coupon. Since coupons do not expire for 2 or more months, this process works well. Plus, I don't have to memorize the coupons in each week's paper. A website does it for me.

In general, we plan our grocery list on Tuesdays and try to go to Publix on Wednesdays. If there are specific deals during the week, we'll stop by another store, but only if it is worth our time. Here is an example. This week, we saw that Smart Balance milk is on sale for $ 2.50/half gallon at Kroger. We have 4 coupons for $1.50 off so we'll buy 4 at $1 each, one day this week.

Here is a non-food related example. Our church is doing a backpack ministry for local school kids, so we started checking the sales ads for school supplies. Sure, we could have gone to Target and bought everything there for $40, but we wanted to be responsible with this just as we are with our other spending. If we can donate two back packs instead of just one, we've maximized our giving and helped two children, for just a little extra effort. For example, we saw that glue sticks were available for 28cents with the deal below. Scissors were on sale for buy one get one free for 1.99 (or $1 each). We used a $1 off coupon for each to get them both for free. Back packs were on sale for 3.99 at Walgreens.

The take home message:
1. To maximize your savings, buy items when they are on sale AND you have a coupon.
2. Save your coupons and obtain extras for good deals that you know about.
3. Utilize couponing websites to alert you of deals so you don't have to do all the leg work.
4. Stock up when you find a really good deal on items that won't go bad

Hope you found this useful, and stay tuned for the final part of our couponing series: Part 4 Practical Ways to Apply

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coupons Part 2: Why We Do It

Many people tell us that they don't have time to cut coupons, and it is "too much of a hassle." So why exactly do we bother doing it?

The main reason, and probably the obvious reason, is that we want to save money. As some of you may know, we have a pretty hefty student loan to pay off from grad school. We made a big commitment to pay off that loan in a little over a year {and it is almost gone!}. We knew that in order to put so much money towards the loan, we would have to save a great deal of money in as many other areas as possible. And well, couponing and shopping sales is a great way to save money {if you don't believe it yet, hopefully you will by the end of our series...or at least consider trying it a couple times yourself}.

On another note, coupons allow us to get the name brands we want at a bargain price. Most of the time, when on sale and with a coupon, the name brand is cheaper than the store brand. Often, you can get an item for free. Right now, we have about 45 boxes of a variety of Ronzoni whole wheat pasta. Since pasta lasts for almost two years, we are well stocked for whenever we want to make lasagna, spaghetti, or any other Italian dish. We also donated another 20 boxes of Ronzoni spaghetti to a church food pantry. Saving allows us to give more to church-related ministries, something we feel called to do.

Lastly, Cary views couponing as a game. It is him vs. the grocery store. He enjoys trying to make the end balance of that grocery bill "zero" and the percent saving as high as possible. I think it is kind of like taking a test. You can go in and "wing it" or you can study up and rock it. Once Cary gets home with all of his purchases {and I try to hide/store them throughout our tiny condo}, I like coming up with meals and then reminding him how little it all cost. Just last night we had a pasta dish with tomato sauce and sauteed veggies for less than about $2.

So hopefully that explains why we are so coupon crazy. I have to admit, I never thought I would be cutting out coupons and filing them alphabetically in a baseball card holder, but it is something that grows on you. Especially, when your grocery bill is in the double digits for the month!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coupons Part 1: Barriers and Dispelling Myths

It's been a few weeks since I alluded to the couponing series, but here goes. I wanted to do a series on couponing for several reasons: 1) a lot of people ask me questions about it; 2) I commonly hear "I don't have time for that"; 3) I told some co-workers I would. Over the next few weeks, we'll complete a 4 part couponing series. Yes, I said we, so Kelly will write a couple of the posts.

Here are 3 common reasons I hear why people don't coupon: 1) I don't have time; 2) I don't get a Sunday paper; 3) I am particular about the brands I buy.

And to dispel those myths...
1) Couponing doesn't have to take up all of your free time. It is like most anything though, if you want to be good at it, it does take a little practice. The good news is that many people do the leg work for you. We commonly use several websites that will find and describe the deals for each week. So the only thing you have to do is just to go to the store with coupons in hand. We most commonly use Southern Savers, I heart Publix, I heart Wags.

One of the best ideas I've learned to save time is regarding the coupon section in Sunday's paper. My aunt recommend that I cut coupons for products that I know I use and to keep the ad filed away until it expires (usually 3-4 months). This saves time; plus, Southern Savers references which ad to get coupons from when new deals arise. You simply go back and pull the ad, clip the coupon, and you've got a great deal.
2) No Sunday Paper? Well, that's a hurdle tough to jump. You can use online websites for coupons (, Red Plum, Smart Source, and multiple manufacturer's site like Proctor and Gamble), but you will be limited in your ability to take advantage of the weekly deals. Many coupon classes will recommend getting 3-5 papers each week. The Augusta Chronicle costs $1.25 on Sundays but I purchased a Groupon deal for daily delivery at 94 cents/week. Many newspapers offer a discount if you purchase multiples. The Chronicle will sell them at $1/each if you purchase 5. That may seem like a high initial investment, but the return will show up.

3) My Brand is never on sale! This is the easiest myth to dispel. Whether food, toiletries, snacks, household cleaning supplies, or a multitude of other products, there is not only a discount but probably a coupon for the brand you prefer. A couple of examples...Kelly like YoPlus Yogurt. You might have seen my post regarding the regular deal on this yogurt. It's normally $2 for a 4-pack, but Publix sells is buy one get one free ($1/each) and there is a coupon for 50 cents off which will double. In the end, we only pay food tax for her favorite yogurt. We both like Cottonelle toilet paper. It's normally $8 for the double layer 12-pack. It routinely goes on sale for 5.99. When I use a $2 off coupon, we pay half price. Now, I'm sure there is some obscure product that rarely goes on sale or does not have a coupon, but for the most part, most products will have a coupon at some point.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NYC Part 4: Getting Around

In NYC, there are 3 main options for getting around the city: 1) Subway; 2) Taxi; and 3) Walking. For some, driving would be considered another choice, but definitely not for us. We did a combination of walking and taking the subway, but we never tried a taxi. We had heard good and bad stories about New York taxis, but it was hard for me to justify paying $40 for something we could pay $5 for.

I tried to research on the MTA website and found that the shortest unlimited pass is for 7 days at $29. Instead, we decided to pay per ride, which is $2.10. We correctly assumed that this would be the cheaper option since we would probably not need 14 rides during a 2 and half day trip (although going the wrong way on 3 separate occasions put us awfully close). I've been on the T (Boston), Tube (London), and MARTA (Atlanta), and the NYC Metro is definitely the most confusing. Just when we though we had it figured out, we would realize we were going the wrong way and have to switch to the other side of the street at the next stop.

Similar to some European countries, many people walk in NYC. Whether walking to a subway stop, from a stop to our destination, or touring the city, we spent a great deal of time walking. Good thing there is lots of scaffolding overhanging the sidewalks since it rained each day. And I would definitely recommend some comfortable shoes. I think both of our feet hurt after day one.

All in all, due to the size of NYC, the subway provides an efficient access to the city and a fairly quick way of getting around. Once you are close to your destination, then you can either walk or grab a taxi. Do your research and don't hesitate to ask the locals, they were more than happy to try and help us get around the big city.