It's funny. I wrote and edited, deleted, and rewrote this post over and over again. Every time I thought it was good, I would hear from a friend about coupons. Lately I have been watching that "Extreme Couponing" on TLC. I definately have some opinions on it.
First off, this is not normal for couponers. I really became a "hard core" couponer when I found out I was pregnant with my second child. My first is only 1 1/2 and I am a stay at home mom. I don't do this to show off, I don't do it for no reason at all. I do it to survive. Like many people in this economy, work hours are not exactly great. But we do with what we can. I am very disappointed in this show. It really puts a bad light on coupons and couponers. Usually those people are doing things either the wrong way, using coupons fraudulantly, or they are treating the stores badly. They also have become obsessive and are changing their lives to fit their coupon use, instead of using coupons to enhance their lives.
Your average couponer will not have time to run to 5 stores to get a "free" item. (By the time you pay for gas it's not free anymore). However, I do encourage a REASONABLE stockpile. This should be about 1 year supply for your family. No more. This gives you the option to look for a sale or deal and never have to pay retail if you run out of something. No running to the store at the last minute for something. This also protects you in an emergency. There are weeks during the winter or early spring when my husband works only 10 or less hours a week. Having this stockpile keeps us going in lean times.
Do not run out and stock up items you won't use. Don't pay too much either, but don't be too frugal. If an item you use is on clearence for half off, and you don't have an "Extra coupon" for it, don't skip it. When you run out next week you won't be getting 50% off anymore, you will pay retail.
Donate when you can. Before I had my second child, my old high school was doing a "Fill the bus with diapers" for our community. I went home and took 5 packs out of my own stock, and 4 large packs of wipes. They were so grateful that the woman was practically falling over herself to put them away. I asked if they could use anything else. She said they were also taking donations for the homeless teens attending. I was shocked. I had no idea that an average of 75 homeless teens attend the school every year! I quickly went home and filled as many grocery bags as I could carry with deoderant, shampoo, razors, and other necessities I had stockpiled. I believe that to be blessed, we must bless others. Give back to the community. They were so blown away with what we brought I think the woman taking donations could have cried. Even when we are not doing great, we can still help others.
We also had some close friends, both husband and wife, lose their jobs. They had their daughter living with them, who had a young daughter only a couple of weeks older than my first. When we heard the news we quickly filled a basket with diapers, shampoo and other needs. They were so happy. Now they have learned the ways of coupons and we exchange leftover coupons and discuss deals. I'm so glad to see others able to do well with little money like we are.
The reality of couponing is simple. Buy a paper each week. Clip your coupons and keep them all with you at all times. You never know when a clearence will pop up on an item you didn't know you would buy. I made the mistake of throwing away a coupon a few weeks ago thinking "This item is $7 and the coupon is only $1 off. I won't use it" I later found the item on clearence for only $2.08! Luckily I found another coupon for the same item (from another paper) and was able to buy it for only $1.08 and add it to my stockpile.
If you are lucky and coupons match the deals, then you can score some amazing prices. Here are some examples of my trips. But this is not all the time. I do have to buy groceries without coupons on every item, I buy fresh fruit and vegi's and other things that are staples. That's normal.
This was 2 stores and a total of about $5 (with tax)
This is my infamous "Great Wall of Huggies" that I paid only about $65 for the entire wall! This is perfect for my kids. Please ignore the mess, we are right in the middle of moving. About half of the stuff is in boxes, and the rest is a mess while the 1 1/2 year old terrorizes the rooms.
This order would have been only about $2.78 without the baby tylenol. But it was a total of $5. Very reasonable since I needed it.
This all cost $4.16! (The similac is only one of 21 I purchased. )
In another trip I bought x20 similac to donate to our local abused woman and children center. I ended up getting about $20 in overage at walmart! This was perfect because we are buying new things for our room at our new house, and they can be expensive. During that trip I also got another $9 in overage from coupons. I got paid $29 to shop! This is when you really love coupons!
When you can manage, do stock up. I also use a coupon clipping service for coupons I really want or need. The particular fabric softener we like is up to $4.19 a bottle. There was a $3 off a while ago, so I bought 10. It cost me about $2, but saved me a total of $27. I bought all 10 bottles and put them away. We go through a lot of laundry with 2 young kids. If you do purchase coupons (clipping fees. not for the actual coupons) never pay too much. I don't like to pay more than what 1 or 2 coupons is worth. Otherwise you have to use all of the coupons and only save a couple bucks. I purchased $1/1 purex and got all of the sheets above for free.
Follow lots of blogs (especially on facebook. Some of the best promo's go on there) and sign up for as many freebies as possible. They usually come with great coupons.
The perfect example of why you should have a stockpile. Yesterday I woke up with a cold. Sneezing, sniffles and such. I went into my stockpile and grabbed everything I needed. Vitamin C, Emergen C packets, Zinc, cough drops, sinus rinse, anti viral tissue, and some things for my oldest daughter (the youngest is only one month, but nursing keeps her with enough antibodies to keep her well). I was so happy not to have to go to the store, thus exposing others, and making me feel even worse. By this morning with all of the items I needed I felt much better. And almost everything was free that I used. This made our bank account feel well too! Now I will have enough time to look for coupons for the next time and be prepared.
If you are in this side of the U.S. with me, then here are a few great coupons. Fred Meyer has a printable pdf coupon for every day this week. 50% off a different item each day. Today is sandwhiches, but tomorrow is kroger brand tylenol or ibuorophen! I printed my coupons and am ready to pick up what I need. It's 2 per transaction, so the small bottles (and the baby ibuprophen) should only be about $1-$1.50 a piece! This is perfect too because my baby medicine always gets lost and I end up having to buy more.