Leigh Ann is back with more Confessions of a Couponer...
This is my story; how one momma earned the title “Couponer” (some say “extreme” but I do not feel I have earned that title yet). After hearing/seeing TLC’s new show. I began to reminisce back to when I first had my daughter and I did lots of couponing. I am a full-time teacher and in the spring realized I was going to be quite low this year on summer funds so decided to commit to a summer of couponing. Here is my story with a few recommendations from lessons learned. Feel free to ask questions.
How I started -
April/May - I simply bought newspapers, did online research, and set up customer rewards accounts. During this time of the year it’s very hectic around school with all the state testing. So I stuck to three basic tasks and set the goal to be complete within about 6 weeks. This research phase can probably be completed within 2 weeks it just depends on your personal preference but as I pointed out it was a very busy time of the year for me (I forgot to mention it was my hubby’s 30th birthday, a family cruise to celebrate, and my baby’s 2nd birthday so I was REALLY busy).
1. Buy the newspaper. Well kinda..Since this is titled “How I started” I’ll tell you want I did but I’m not necessarily recommending that this is “HOW YOU MUST DO IT” This is kinda a personal preference type of thing. I purchased 2 or 3 newspapers each Sunday and began asking friends/family for any coupon inserts they don’t use/want. Now at this point I had very little knowledge and I actually collected the papers but I did not sort or clip any coupons (again I don’t recommend following this method). Ultimately this was a double edge sword. I had a fantastic collection of coupons once I actually started “extreme couponing” but they were not organized they way I would go on to use therefore I did spend several long man hours with some friendly family volunteers to get the newspaper coupons all organized.
Recommendation - I recommend you DO gather newspapers during your “research” if you are unsure only collect 1 insert. I’ve seen it be recommended you collect 1 insert per household member but in the beginning 1 set of inserts is sufficient. Over time as you get into couponing regularly you will find a number of newspapers needed for your household.
2. I did lots of research reading “How to start...” blogs after the baby when to sleep. This helped keep my mind off of school and I found it interesting to read about others success. I had to learn the specific lingo, coupon organization methods, where to find coupons, and stockpile ideas. The research process is important for several reasons: it motivates, it familiarizes you with the jargon, and it exposes all the methods of couponing. I recommend checking out these sites which have great “how to start...” blogs
After checking out the “how to start....” I recommend doing your own generic searches for couponing blogs/websites. There are tons of websites dedicated to couponing. I have found I tend to stick with a select few but in the beginning during my “research” faze I was reading and viewing everything and anything on couponing. As you will see on some of these websites I also found that there are tons of “how to couponing...” videos on youtube.com.
3. Setting up customer reward program accounts was an easy process for me. Basically many grocery and pharmacy stores offer reward programs through the use of a store card. In the past I had cards but I never worried about maintaining them and at times I even would use other peoples cards. As an extreme couponer it is vital to maintain your store reward cards. I started with Giant, my local grocery store. I had a card but I did not know that you can go online and register the card. I am now able to view specific “gas points”. Many grocery stores offer coupons online that can be added to directly to your card. (no clipping or organizing YAY!) The next card I took care of was CVS. I activated my online access to my account and updated all the information. At that point I did not sign up for any new cards because I was just beginning and wanted to stick to three stores: Giant (my regular grocery), CVS (i was familiar with their plan from previous couponing experiences), and Target (i LOVE that place).
1st - check out your local and most commonly used grocery store’s website and get signed up for an accurate account online and in the store
2nd - research CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. Decide to commit to one store and set up an accurate rewards card account. I do not know anything about Walgreens but I can direct you to 2 great sites for CVS and 1 for Rite Aid.
3rd - research/consider signing up for several different incentive style websites
June/July - Jumping In
After the school year finished I began taking all my new knowledge and coupons and putting them to use. Following the advice of several blogs I started with small specific well planned shopping trips. These small transactions help me recognize the value of shopping with coupons. At this point it really helps to have couponing buddies both my best friend's husband and my sister started “extreme couponing” during this time. Throughout the month of June I was experiencing crazy emotional highs and lows. Sometimes I left the store feeling like I didn’t have a successful trip because I wasn’t getting items free or saving 80-90%. Other times I was on an emotional high after scoring free or dirt cheap items. Throughout the first two months I have constantly reminded myself I committed to couponing all summer. At the end of the summer I will be doing a comprehensive evaluation to determine if this “extreme couponing” will continue to be my primary form of shopping.
Recommendations for the first two months:
Only buy items you need/want.
Be open to trying new products/food.
For every coupon deal set the goal of saving 50% or more on individual items.
Try to find a couponing buddy.
Words of encouragement:
I PROMISE IT IS WORTH IT! Do the thorough research and spend the extra time in the beginning to set up an organized method of collecting/organizing coupons. The additional time in the beginning will be worth it.
Stay Tuned for further adventures in Couponing....