by Tawdra Kandle
Now that I had conquered (or at least tamed) the art of organizing my coupons, it was time to make a plan for actually using them.
In my past attempts, this part was my downfall. To be perfectly honest (and the experts admit to this), serious couponing requires serious time, even beyond the clipping and organizing. There are so many stores, each offering their own sales and specials every week. If you intend to stockpile shop, you really can’t afford to miss a week.
So I would always find myself trying to fit in all of the stores and then being frustrated when I couldn’t sustain the weekly routine of hitting two grocery stores and two drug stores. I was also disappointed when the big deals were already gone by the time I made it to the store (this is particularly true of drug stores).
This time I determined to make it work. I started out by visiting the Coupon Queeny’s website and checking out the weekly specials at our local stores. Deciding that the key to making this work long-term is starting out slow and manageable before ramping it up, I chose to focus on one grocery store and one drug store. I copied and pasted the applicable offers onto a Word document so that I had my shopping list on the fewest pages possible.
Once the list was printed, I tackled coupon matching. I flipped through my well-organized coupons and found the ones that went with each sale. Coupon Queeny suggests obtaining as many multiple coupons as possible through buying extra newspapers or picking up as many blinkies as possible, but since I’m such a newby, I don’t have much of a stockpile yet. I did have several copies of the brand-name facial tissue coupon that I found on the Internet, so I paper clipped them onto my list along with my other coupons.
Coupon Queeny also tells us that it takes about four weeks to have the coupons you need at your fingertips, so I’m trying not to be too disappointed when I don’t have all of the ones she references on her lists.
As I made my plan, I was forced to muse upon the obstacles I face as a coupon maven. First of all, there is the aforementioned time issue. I’m a homeschooling mom of four. Planning and executing our school days occupies me almost full-time. I’m also a wife, a writer and a homemaker, and at the moment, with my husband in school, I’m juggling most of the household responsibilities. Making time to save money is a big obstacle.
And then there are the smaller problems. One of the things the Coupon Queeny recommends is losing brand loyalty. She points out that we can save much more money if we’re willing to buy whatever brand is on sale. I understand that; I’m a big believer in buying generic brands for some products. But I do have my favorites! I’m picky about paper towels and toilet tissue, among other things. How much am I willing to give up to save some bucks?
There is also the question of integrity. Using coupons is certainly not illegal. I understand that the manufacturers issue the coupons to stimulate sales and that the retailers are reimbursed. But I have to admit that I wonder if using the coupons to this extreme is quite. . .honest. Pulling multiple blinkies from the machines in the stores makes me feel a little guilty. What if there aren’t enough for everyone? What if I’ve taken more than my share?
I found a possible solution around the time requirements. It turns out that while the major drugstores (CVS and Walgreens) run their specials and sales from Sundays through Saturdays, our local grocery store, Publix, runs its sales from Thursdays through Wednesdays. So if I plan to hit CVS and Walgreens on Sunday afternoons, when the sales are new (and hopefully there are still products in the stores) and then go to Publix on Thursdays. . .well, that just might work.
As for the brand names, I’m going to try to make small changes. There are some areas where I’m willing to compromise and others where it’s going to be harder.
The integrity question. . .that’s a tough one. I’m willing to use the coupons that I can find and to use the ones on the computer. And I’ll grab some blinkies when I’m shopping, because the manufacturers put them there for me. But for the time being, I’m not going to do anything that makes me feel I’m abusing the system.
This week, I saved some money by shopping at CVS, using the coupons with the sales and earning over $20 in Extra Care Bucks to apply to next week’s shopping. I had to go to Target to pick up prescriptions this week anyway, so I made sure to bring a list and my coupons. I saved a fair amount.
But I know I can do better, and I’m looking forward to organizing tomorrow’s coupons into their envelopes and making the plan for this week.
Next week: Part 4: Putting It all into practice
Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 8 years to almost 20 years. She and her husband of nearly 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel. She is also a staff writer for www.takingtimeformommy.com