WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Carla's couponing story!

Posted May 2, 2013


Carla's story is the eighth couponing journey we are sharing in our weekly series about how couponing works at your house. She coupons for 2 adults and 2 pups and saved over $5,000 last year using coupons! Here is her story and how she makes couponing work in her home!

My great thanks to Carla (jdouglas on the blog) for sharing her story!  I love to read Carla's recipes and baking and cooking tips here on the blog.  I am very grateful for the wealth of frugal living information she shares with us every week!

I also want to thank everyone who has sent me their stories so far! I look forward to sharing them each week!

If you would like to share your couponing story, it's not too late. Just send me an answer to the questions below at saving@smartspendingresources.com.  We would love to read your story!  To see the previous stories, click the links in the box above. As long as you all keep sending in your personal couponing stories, I will post them on the blog for everyone to enjoy.

Here is Carla's couponing journey:

How many people are in your household: 2 and 2 pups

Why did you start couponing: I wasn’t working, and we needed to start stretching our money. It was a pretty dire situation at that point, because I didn’t realize how much couponing could truly save us, and I was grasping at straws for help. I was going by my grandmother’s advice, “Watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves”.

How long have you been couponing? I’ve very casually couponed for many years. I’ve been seriously for about six years.

How much do you spend on groceries and non-food essentials per week?
Weekly is not a good indicator for us. Some weeks we spend almost nothing. Others we spend a lot. It depends on what’s on sale, if SD is running, if we have a big stockpile we’re trying to reduce, etc. I try to keep the monthly expenditures at around $400 per month. Some months are less, some more. We NEVER eat out, so this is for everything needed for the household except dog food (we need special stuff for allergies), and RX meds.

How much do you save each week? I save between 45 – 60 percent each month from retail price. The dollar amount of my annual savings for each of the last two years was $5,200 - $5,300, so that works out to about $100 per week average.

How much time do you spend couponing and shopping each week? How many hours we shop is a tough one to calculate, since the nearest store is at least 20 minutes away, and the nearest HT, which is my store of choice, is at least 45 minutes away (or maybe an hour?). We never go out and go to only one place. We shop at multiple stores, including HT, Lowes, FL, Kroger, Target, and occasionally CVS and Walgreens. You couldn’t pay me to go into Walmart, but that’s another story! ;) Actual shopping time – maybe 3 hours? Couponing? I do that sporadically throughout the day. Most of the time is spent looking for printables and reading money-saving blogs. Maybe 2 hours a day? Depends what’s out there.

How do you organize your coupons? I use the wallet type of coupon carrier. All coupons are filed alphabetically according to manufacturer. Because I have some vision problems and have trouble seeing detail on the coupons, I also keep a spreadsheet (in bigger print) which lists in a very detailed way all of my rainchecks (quantity of RCs, item, store, quantity of item I can purchase, price, and expiration date). Further down the spreadsheet, I have all my coupons listed. It takes maybe an hour a week to keep this up to date. Coupons are listed alphabetically by manufacturer and include number of coupons, item and description (i.e. 20 oz only), dollar value of coupon, and expiration date. This is done on an Excel spreadsheet so I can custom sort it. All coupons due to expire by the end of the current month are printed in bold red so it stands out and I don’t miss a good one. Freebies are highlighted in yellow. Anything highlighted in yellow is a hot item -- rainchecks, freebies. Anything in red means it is going to expire during the current month.

Where do you shop for groceries and non-food essentials?
HT, Lowes, FL, Target, Kroger, TJ, Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens. Not every store every week!

Do you have a weekly/monthly grocery planning/shopping routine? I keep a running list of what we are getting low on. I never let anything run out completely. I watch for the deals, and plan my shopping according to things I use at the best possible price. I don’t buy things I don’t use or need just because they are free. For us, that is wasteful.

Does anyone else in your household help with couponing and saving? If so, how do they help? My DW is my best cheerleader. She gets to hear me yell at the computer when it tells me I have already printed a coupon that I actually have not! ;)

What’s the worst part about couponing? Reading about a great coupon or deal, and then not being able to find it. Stress when I know about a good deal, but am not being able to get it either due to lack of funds, lack of the right coupon, etc. I need to remind myself that there will always be another coupon and another good deal, and that the world will not end if I miss a deal.

What’s the best part about couponing? I feel really proud of myself when I have saved us money on things we need.

Do you have a stockpile?
Yes, we have a stockpile. We have a double door pantry and a 17 cubic foot upright freezer, both of which are completely full. I have anywhere from 20 – 30 12-packs of soda, 3 cases of bottled water, and 5 – 10 lbs of freshly roasted coffee at any given time. We keep 30 – 60 lbs of dog food on hand. We keep a bedroom sized closet full of paper towels and toilet paper. I usually have 8 – 10 100-ounce bottles of laundry detergent on hand and 10 boxes of dishwasher detergent. 

Do you do any meal planning?
If so, do you plan weekly, monthly or at the beginning of each day? I do daily meal planning. Sometimes not until 6 p.m. But, it is always, always made from what we have on hand. I’ve found that I have the same list of core ingredients I use consistently, and I make sure I always have them.

Do you have any words of wisdom for someone just getting started in couponing? Don’t let it overwhelm you, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. My motto is “If you are saving money, you’re doing great!!” Make a list of the things you buy over and over again. Look for coupons for those items, or email the company and ask for them. If a good coupon for something you use comes out in the newspaper and has a reasonable expiration date, order some extras from one of the coupon clipping services. Wait until the item goes on sale, and then stock up. Before you know it, you’ll have a great stockpile. Remember to date EVERYTHING in a big black marker, and follow first-in, first-out to keep things fresh.

Is there anything else you want to share about your couponing journey? Keep it fun so it doesn’t become drudgery, and read Faye’s blog.




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  • jdouglas13 May 3, 2013

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments and compliments! If I do write a cookbook, I'll give everyone here a copy first! I actually did a bit of catering, very small scale, many MANY years ago. Nothing fancy, just some desserts, and some homestyle food for celebrations.

    Dee, my spreadsheet was inspired by Sue Stock's spreadsheet when she was at the N&O, although I can assure you mine is as simple as can be. If you send me an email to cbenedict111 AT gmail DOT com, I will be glad to send you a page of it along with a description of how I sort it to do the highlights, red type, etc.

    I'm also laughing about your pup watching you at the computer. Often, I have one sitting on my lap as I'm trying to type. He's not a happy boy when I do that, and keeps pushing my arm up with his head, as if to say pet me Mama, and leave the computer alone! LOL

  • 3boys3 May 3, 2013

    You are my mirror image jdouglas!! I absolutely LOVE yur excel spread sheet..did you get that from somewhere or did you devise it yourself? I would love to install that. I do have the sheet where I input my savings, OOP at each store I shop and then I get a running total of my savings. That was a sheet on a site that I found. Your stock pile also sounds quite familar. And my dog just stares at me when I scream at the computer for not allowing me to print a coupon I really want, have NEVER printed, and is says I've already printed the max number of times..ARG!!! You are amazingly orgnized. The other things that relly hit home was reminding myself when I miss a deal for some reasons that there will be other deals...Dee

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper May 2, 2013

    LOL, smolder- love the catering comment! And I am sure that your freeze ahead cooking is much less costly than sending your hubby out for take-out once the baby comes and you are too exhausted/busy to cook for your family every night. I think you are right on target and it really will pay off in the end both in $$$$ saved and sanity secured!

    And I agree with ascherer - you could write a great cookbook!

  • smolder13 May 2, 2013

    Great story. I've just started tracking my spending/savings with the spreadsheet that Nancy had posted a few weeks back so one day I'll be able to say for sure how much of a difference my couponing has made. Although I must say it has been very disappointing so far because I have been actively (and purposefully) spending over our monthly budget to cook for the freezer for when the baby comes. I guess I'll have to wait until the end of the year to see if it all comes out in the wash. But right now it just looks like I am terrible at following a budget.

    And forget the cookbook...how about catering. :)

  • ascherer May 2, 2013

    I enjoyed your story and I love to read what's for dinner from you. You should put together a cookbook. I would buy it.

  • grafted May 2, 2013

    Wow - very impressive organization!! We live a ways out and do what you do when we "go to town" (ha) - make it worth our while by shopping several places. Love your grandma's advice "Watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves." Think I'll borrow that one!! Thanks for sharing your story, Carla - enjoyed reading it! =)

  • jdouglas13 May 2, 2013

    Thanks for adding the other section of the spreadsheet, Faye.

    prisskat, tracking my expenditures has become a combination of a routine and reward for myself. Instant gratification seeing the percentage and $$ amount I save. I have (of course) another spreadsheet for that. Column headers: date, store name, total retail $, total OOP $, $ saved, % saved. The last column, I summarize in my own version of shorthand what I bought, and if there was a SD or triples event going on. It gets tallied at the end of the month using the handy at-sum key, and then the next month begins.

    I try to make myself do this as soon as I have the groceries put away. As I mentioned, it's sort of a reward to myself for doing my best to shop smart. :) It's also a way of being accountable to myself when faced with something really tempting, like the Everything Flatbread Cr*ckers at WF that go for $6.99. I ask myself if I really want to see that on the spreadsheet with a big zero in the savings columns.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper May 2, 2013

    Thanks again for sharing your couponing adventure and routine, Carla! I added a little more of the spreadsheet you sent. Hope that helps everyone. :-)

  • dawnl39 May 2, 2013

    Great story! I am a spreadsheet nut so I'm loving yours! ;)

  • TJ84 May 2, 2013

    I like your raincheck spreadsheet. That's a good idea and would make it easier to see which rainchecks I have. Great story. Your hard work has certainly paid off in savings!