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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.