How to Have More While Spending Less

Monday, February 28, 2011

How To Organize Coupons

If you play your cards right, you’ll find yourself holding multiple copies of each week’s coupon inserts.  Score!   That’s money in the bank, baby!  (& food in your pantry, too!)
But, that excitement can turn into Coupon Claustrophobia in a hot second! 
“What do I do with all of these flyers?”
“Am I supposed to clip ALL of these coupons out individually?”
“If I actually DO, then where do I put ‘em?”
“They just end up expiring anyway, so why bother?”
“It’s a $5 item…it’s NOT worth me combing through this stack of mayhem to find a 35 cent off coupon!”
My BFF Ginger finally gave me the epiphany I needed.   We sat at lunch & I took notes so fast my pencil was smoking! 
She showed me her method AND 2 other variations.
In the end, you should do what works best for you.   Our brains are wired differently & some peoples’ methods would drive me crazy!  Likewise, my method might not be the perfect one for you, so I’ll show you all 3 & let you pick your favorite.  (Even then, you’ll probably end up tweaking it a little along the way.)
Method 1
Keep all coupon inserts in-tact.  Look on the spine for the publishing date & write that in Sharpie on the front (you won’t want to squint & search the spines every time you search for a coupon).
File that insert in an accordion file by date.
Then, when you hear about a hot sale, you can go to the inserts that contain the coupons for those items & cut them out.

Method 2
This is what I do & it’s a tiny variation/expansion of Method 1.
I still keep the coupon inserts in-tact & sort them by date.  BUT, I’ve amassed so many that I have 2 separate accordion files & further sort the inserts by the type of insert
My black & blue file is for SmartSource. 
My purple file is for Red Plum & all the others.  The front pocket in that one is full of P&G, General Mills & any other full pages I come across.  Behind that are my Red Plums in order from oldest to newest.
In addition to these 2 big guys, I keep a smaller accordion file for individual coupons that are small enough to get lost in the big file.  Those are organized by category (freezer, pantry, household, dairy/meat, drinks).  I use the very back pocket of that file for the coupons for my current shopping trip.  I always take that little file into the store with me just in case I run across a sale & have a coupon to match it.

Method 3
Cut out all coupons individually.
Method 3A:  Some people sort them by category like I do in my little file. (dairy, freezer, etc.)

Method 3B:  Other people use baseball card sheets in a 3-ring binder & sort them by individual item.  (Kleenex, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, etc.) 

There you have it.  Those are the 3 main methods I’ve heard the most about.  If you have a creative twist or an entirely different method altogether that works for you, tell me about it & we’ll post it!  The more the merrier.
My personal experience:
Method 3 : Both variations would give me an aneurism.  I tried clipping & sorting by category in the past & about 90% of those ended up expiring.  It wasn’t organized enough & I was frustrated by wasting the time searching through my 75 household item coupons each time I needed toothpaste…then again 2 minutes later for shampoo…
Also, Method 3B lends itself to an additional type of expiration.  Rotation Expiration.  For example, I probably have Kleenex coupons from 12 different weeks right now.  If they were all in my plastic baseball card sheet, chances are good that they’d get at least slightly out of perfect date order.  What if the coupon is long & narrow so you have tiny pockets full of folded up coupons all jammed in together?  There is a distinct probability that throughout those 12 weeks’ worth of Kleenex coupons, at least 1 coupon is out of date order.  Therefore, I will use a newer one & let the older one accidentally expire.  Plus, that robs me of using the one I just used on a later sale.
That being said…some people live by this method.  They’re hardcore, devoted fans & wouldn’t change it for the world.  God bless ‘em.  …& their brains that function much better than mine.  J
Method 1:  I began my Money-Saving Mission using this method.  It’s awesome.  I just gathered too many coupons for it to be practical.  Having 2 separate files cuts my searching time in half.  Simple math.
Method 2:  When I’m parked at the kitchen table on Tuesday nights, it’s like watching a Pit Crew at Talladega!  Every item has its function & they all perform with precision in perfect sync.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sunday Coupon Preview

Happy (almost) Sunday!  It's one of the best days of the week...especially for couponers.

Be sure to grab a Sunday newspaper (or 2) tomorrow.  The cost of the paper is nothing compared to how much you can save with its coupons.  Buy at least one.

Unfortunately, there are some exceptions to this.  I learned the hard (& frustrating!) way that there are some weekends that contain zero coupons.  I still have flashbacks to the Sunday I sat in McDonald's cursing under my breath as I tore through my THIRD newspaper of the morning.

Hopefully, I didn't scare too many people... I did have my scissors & I was pretty agitated.  Plus, we had just started the dreaded, but classic "envelope system" & my discretionary personal fund was now a precious $7.50 smaller.  Not. Cool.



Fortunately, I have recently found a way to see which coupons are in the next Sunday's newspaper.  Yes!  A planner's paradise!

If you'd like to know what savings you can expect to see in tomorrow's newspaper, click here.  It looks like we're in-store for a SmartSource and next month's P&G insert!  Woo-hoo!

Friday, February 25, 2011

2 Good Deals...More to Come

I was checking my "coupon-only" email account & found these 2 deals in my inbox this morning. 

Deal 1

Burpee is offering a special until February 28th.  Gardening season has begun for us here in Zone 9 & it's just around the corner for the rest of y'all. 

Click here to learn more & enter the code FEB30 to get the discount.

You get $5 off any $30 purchase of flowers & seeds.  They'll also send you 2 free 135th Anniversary seed packets with that.

As much as I love finding great deals & coupons to get really cheap food...I gotta say I much prefer even cheaper food grown in my own little yard.  The kids love to get involved, too. Happy Gardening!



Deal 2

 It's time for more P&G samples!  You can sign up for up to $39 of coupons plus free samples of household items.  They allow 1 set of samples per household address per quarter. 

Also, be sure to get a Sunday newspaper (or 2) this weekend because the P&G insert has $131 in coupons.

Go here to sign up for samples & coupons using your new coupon/junk email address. 


More good deals are on the way!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Congrats! You're About To Be Bi-Lingual

Let's learn our new second language!



If we're going to be talking about coupons, we'll need to understand most of the standard abbreviations & other coupon slang.

Here's a start:

Basic Coupon Lingo
$1/2                       One dollar off of two items
.50/1                      Fifty cents off one item
$/$$                       Dollars off when you buy XX dollars
WYB                      When you buy
MFR                      Manufacturer
OOP                      Out of pocket
BOGO, B1G1       Buy one, get one
FAR                       Free after rebate
MIR                        Mail-in rebate
Types of Coupons
RP                          Red Plum coupon insert (Tuesday mail)
SS                         SmartSource coupon insert (Sunday newspaper)
PG                         Proctor & Gamble coupon insert (Sunday paper monthly)
Tear Pad              A pad of coupons hanging from a shelf in the store
Catalina                A coupon that’s printed at the checkout after you make a purchase
Blinkies                 A little box of coupons (sometimes blinking) near a product

Peelie                   Coupons on products you can peel off &use immediately


Company Incentives
ECB                        Extra Care Bucks (at CVS)
RR                           Register Rewards (at Walgreens)
BTFE                      Box Tops For Education

This will help when I have guest bloggers (I have a couple lined up already!) or when I link to other sites.  Everyone has their own tweaks, but this is a pretty safe groundwork.

Next up:  The simplest way to keep your coupons organized.  No more hours of clipping just to have a huge pile of paper scraps that end up scattered everywhere...& then expiring.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Coffee Coupons

I also went digging through my coupon stash & found these.

The SmartSources are coupon inserts from the Sunday newspaper & I'll abbreviate those as SS.
The Red Plums come in the mail on Tuesdays with the grocery flyers & I'll abbreviate those as RP.


SS 2/6 $1.50 off Starbucks VIA (not for use in Starbucks stores, but fine at Target, etc.)
SS 2/13 $2 off Millstone Coffee
RP 2/20 Maxwell House 75 cents off
RP 2/20 Maxwell House $1 off (2)
RP 2/20 Yuban $1 off (2)

Coffee: Stock Up Now!



Cereal, corn & cotton have risen in cost so much my jaw literally dropped when I heard the numbers.  Now, good ol' coffee appears to be joining them.



Coffee may be cheaper than crack now, but who can say for how long?  ;)  It just hit its 14-year high, so let's find some great sales & start clipping those coupons.

Hector Galvin, a senior trader at RJO Futures said this on CNNMoney.com: "When you combine the demand and speculation that harvests will continue to be poor, it's not difficult to imagine where prices will be in the next couple of years,".

Here's what we look like over the past 7 months alone: 

That's why I'm buying now.  I know it seems contrary to the old adage of "buy low, sell high", but this new high might be the future low.

So, let's get going & make sure we're as ahead of this trend as we can be!
Here we go.
$1 off Maxwell House 34.5 oz size

$2 off (2)Eight O'Clock Coffee You'll need to use that 'coupon only' free email account here because they want you to sign up for their emails.  It's worth it for $2 and the spam won't matter because it'll only be piling up in your coupon/junk account anyway.

Also, Wal-Mart appears to have Maxwell House International coffee 8.4oz on sale for $2.58 & there's a coupon in the SmartSource from 2/13 for 75 cents making the coffee $1.83.

Last, but not least, you can always visit your friendly neighborhood barista who will gladly pour you a tall cup of
freshly brewed coffee for $1.50 plus tax.  :)

Tuesday Nights

Each Tuesday night, I park myself at the kitchen table with the following:


• The new batch of sales flyers that just came in the mail
• A hard copy of my price-tracking spreadsheet
• A red pen
• A glass of wine


I scour each ad individually.

If I see a price I think is a good deal, I consult the spreadsheet.

If it’s not the lowest price for that particular item, I return to the flyer & continue searching.

If it is that item’s lowest price, I write that week’s cycle number on the spreadsheet near that column & circle it.
For example, the upcoming week will be my 42nd week of price-tracking, so I will write a “42” in red by the Cycle column. I also write the store that’s offering that price. It helps me track cycles & is crucial when price-matching.


Trust me, it’s worth the effort! Remember, that the whole point of that sales flyer is to convince me to shop at their store. They really can pile on the ***stars***, exclamation points!!!!!, bright colors & LARGE PRINT!!!!! ...even when the price is nothing short of highway robbery.


“But I need A-1 Sauce, milk & toilet paper right now!”


Don’t stress out. Buy them. Just be sure to look online for a coupon before you head to the store. If there aren’t any coupons, go buy it anyway. At that point, you’ve tried your best & can cough up full price.




Now...to make the week's shopping list!


Scan your "Cycle" column for all of the items that are at their lowest price this week. That's what you'll be buying this week. If something is at a great price, but you're not familiar with it, search the internet for a fun recipe. It's challenging & rewarding to eat an inexpensive, new yummy dinner. You'll feel a fun sense of accomplishment & might have found a new family favorite!








In addition to the items at their lowest price, you may now add anything else you have an awesome coupon for. Not just any coupon, but one that makes for an incredible deal. I don't like clipping 35 cents off coupons...unless I've found the item on sale for 50 cents or less. Then it's fun.


Third & finally, now add the items you just can't go another week without. We will always use milk. It rarely goes on sale & hardly ever has coupons. But we need it, so I buy it. No biggie.


Next up...
My new favorite hobby! Price-Matching!

How To Track Prices

Now that you have access to the spreadsheet, here are 2 things you should know about it.

First, I realize that it looks a bit funky. I used a Google program to allow it to be available online since blogspot doesn't appear to allow me to attach a document. Here's the best way to save it so you can use it easier.

After you click on the link for the spreadsheet, Click on "File" in the upper left corner as shown in the green circle below. Then select "Download As" & choose which program you use. Voila!  Save it to your computer to use forever.


 
Second, I used some abbreviations for some store names. If you live in Las Vegas, you'll hopefully be able to deduce which stores I'm talking about. If you don't live in Las Vegas, you'll be replacing those names with your own awesome, local stores' anyway.




What the spreadsheet tracks:
• Food or Household Item (by category)
• Lowest price I have found it at
• What store offered that lowest price
• What date that price began (usually runs for a 1-week period)
• Which week-long cycle that price was during


Meaning, when I began tracking the prices, I referred to that as Week #1. It helps me quickly scan that column to know which prices are currently at their lowest & to recognize any Sale Patterns.


The spreadsheet is my #1 tool for creating that week’s shopping list. It’s also my #1 tool for my new favorite hobby… price-matching! (more on that later)

P.S.- My Dad reminded me today that if you don't have Microsoft Excel, there's a free program that allows you to read Excel spreadsheets & works just fine.  It's called Open Office & is a free download.  I tracked it down & put the link right here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best Grocery Prices

Today is a big day.  I feel like a proud Mommy sending my only child off to college.
Only, my kid is my price-tracking spreadsheet & I'm sending it to you.


This spreadsheet will quite possibly be the single-most important tool for your Money-Saving Mission.  I know I have saved hundreds of dollars because of it & would be utterly lost without it.

It contains 42 weeks of grocery prices in 11 pages.  And, not just any grocery prices, but the very best ones I was able to find.


People who live outside of Las Vegas should use it as a guide & a groundwork.  Sit with it each week & adjust the prices to match your flyers.  (Dear Southern friends:  Take pity on us that we have to exist without Publix, Kroger & double coupons.  Oh, how I envy you for so many reasons.)

People who live in Las Vegas can use this as a living, breathing, ever-changing document that's ready to go.

No matter where you live, this will help you make sure you don't accidentally pay too much for something.



I still get fooled all the time by the grocery flyers.  Something will look like a great price & the spreadsheet ends up showing that I should wait & buy it later for much less.

Just because it says, "Buy One, Get One Free", doesn't mean you aren't getting robbed!
The other day, one store had Oscar Mayer bologna Buy One, Get One Free at the price of $3.00 each.  Really?  For bologna?  The same bologna that's at your competitor for 98 cents?  Now, THAT'S bologna!

What's even sadder is that some poor, frazzled single Dad probably ran in & grabbed 1 package without paying attention to the little sign & actually paid the $3.00.  Ugh. 

Please use this spreadsheet & tell everyone you know to get on here & download a copy for themselves...& everyone they know, too, for that matter.

Disclaimer:  There are typically 4 children buzzing around me & I have probably been distracted during price-tracking time...at least once.  ;)  So, I'm sure I've missed some prices or made some other mistakes.  Shoot, you'll even see some items I've just completely quit tracking because I get them at CVS or Walgreens now.  Please forgive me, in advance.  I'm sure the spreadsheet is not perfect, but it is invaluable. 

Please embrace it, enjoy it, use it to save your family lots of your hard-earned money...and for goodness sakes, please tell it to call home every once in a while!  Mama wants to hear all about it's exciting new adventures out there in the real world! 

Here ya go!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top 3 Places to Find Good Prices

Before we dive in, let's re-cap our new shopping strategy: 


1- Find what items are at their lowest price each week so we don't accidentally pay more for something than we have to.
2- Use a coupon for that item.
3- Buy enough of it to last us until the next time it's at that awesome price.




So, now that we've changed our shopping strategy, what do we do first? 


We've gotta find out which items are at their lowest price this week.  (Some people call it the "stock-up price" since that's when we want to stock up.)


Here are my 3 favorite places to find the good deals.






#1- Circulars (Flyers)
Grocery stores’ flyers usually arrive Tuesday in the mail to show you the prices that begin on Wednesday.
Drug Stores’ flyers are in the Sunday newspaper (they're also on a stand in the store, but your trip will be well-planned long before you walk in).
           
Grocery Store sales typically begin each Wednesday & end on the following Tuesday (at least where I live).
CVS & Walgreen’s sales begin each Sunday & end on the following Saturday.

There are a couple of pleasant exceptions to this rule. 
A) Sunflower Farmers Markets in Las Vegas overlap their ads to run Wednesday to Wednesday.  This means that two sales flyers apply to every Wednesday (the prior week's & the next week's).  That makes roughly twice as many items on sale.
B) Walgreens will usually honor the current week’s prices AND the upcoming week’s prices on Saturdays.  (This depends upon the store’s hours of operations,  so ask the manager about your specific store.)
Keep in mind, this is what happens in Las Vegas.  I see I have some followers from back home, so I'll do some research & post anything that might be different in your neck of the woods.

***CAUTION:  Read circulars & sales flyers carefully!***
Here’s why:
1-      Just because it’s in the flyer, doesn’t mean it’s on sale.  They just print what they want to advertise that week.  Some items will be at a great price & others will not.
2-      Get all the details.  If an item’s on sale & you want to search for coupons, make sure you know its exact size & all necessary details to avoid disappointment at the checkout.  (Now, that's a buzz kill.)

#2- Online
There are countless websites out there that track sales.  They are invaluable.  I will share my favorite ones with you, but I encourage you to surf around.  Find a handful that are your favorites & cross-reference them each week to make sure no good deal goes un-turned!

#3- Emails
Sign up to receive coupons & offers from different products & companies.  My BFF Ginger told me to create a new, free email account just for promotional sign-ups.  She was right!  These coupons are usually high-value, so it's worth being a bit "electronically promiscuous", but be prepared for these companies to send newlsetters & other stuff, too. 
Some companies send out exclusive coupons & CVS sends out vouchers for $4 off a $20 purchase.  (That $20 is before you use coupons, so it’s a lot of fun!)

That's it for Step #1 of our new shopping lifestyle.
I will be sure to post something very soon to help you keep track of all of those amazing prices you're about to find!

Yes, this is an odd mix of products. 
But if you stock up each week, you'll eventually have everything you need...and LOTS of it.
I'll show you how I do it with my handy, dandy spreadsheet!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Glazier's Rocks.

Sing it with me...

Five.

Five Dollar.


Five Dollar Lobsterrrrrs.


The prices have come & gone for this week, but keep your eyes on Glazier's.  They had LIVE lobsters for $5.88/lb & all indications point towards them doing it again. 
One of the managers talked to Eric yesterday & said that the owner of Supreme Lobster also owns Glazier's.

I guess we got rewarded for skipping the whole fancy Valentine's Day dinner on the town.  It was a delicious $14 dinner & their buddies are still chillin' in the fridge for round 2.

If you don't get the Glazier's flyer, it's always online.  This place is definitely worth the trip!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Now, Let's Have Some Fun!

Whew! 
Thank goodness all of the "serious" stuff has been covered.

If you survived the groundwork & are still here...it's fixin' to get fun!  :)

Here's the very basic premise that has saved us the most money.  Don't worry...I will explain all of this in great detail another day.  We're just laying the foundation tonight.  (Shoot, I felt like I owed you some sense of hope after the smack across the head from this morning!)

I’m going to start out by explaining the basic shopping process that has saved our family the most money.  I'd feel cool if I was the one who created this, but thousands of people use this method.  ...because it's ridiculously effective.

First, we had to adopt a new mindset about how to shop for groceries & household items.
How Most Of Us Grocery Shop Now
1-We make a list of what we want to eat & go buy some. 
Some of us diligently plan our menus for the entire week before we go shopping.  The rest of us just stop on the way home from work & grab whatever we’re in the mood to eat for the next couple of days…along with some impulse purchases, of course.  (I mean, who doesn’t want the gossip magazine full of celebrities caught without make-up, right?  Plus, you had a rough day at work & deserve that King Sized Snickers bar!)
2- We make a list of what we’re out of & go buy some…for whatever price they’re charging that day.
Well, my friends, kiss both of those methods good-bye! 
And say “hello” to a lot more food in your pantry AND a lot more cash in your pocket! 

$       The New Plan       $

1-      Buy what is on sale when it’s at its lowest price
2-      Use a coupon with that sale. 
3-      Buy enough to last until it’s at its lowest price again.

It’s that simple.  Do those 3 things & you will amaze yourself! 
Now…Where to start?
I'll unleash the details on you very soon!  I admire your choice to simultaneously have more food & more money.  :)    When that happens, life is pretty sweet.
Love & hugs!
Talk to you soon!

Why Now?

Hey, everyone!
Today is my first actual post & it needs a bit of explanation.  Please bear with me.  It might not be pleasant for a few minutes, but please know that I am genuinely doing this out of love.


This blog will be about saving money & it will be fun!


BUT, today might be a little bit scary. 

I was not ready to start posting yet, but this past week lit a fire underneath my typing fingers.  I was working on making my content all nice & pretty for you, but you're about to get it pretty raw & hard-core today. 
But, it's only because I love you.  :)  I promise we will have fun after I get this post out of the way.


I have been very heavily burdened over the last few months.  I have had an overwhelming urge to help as many people as possible to have more food & more money than they had before.

That led me to start this blog.  What led me to begin posting much sooner than anticipated is as follows:

Food prices just hit an all-time high.  I began tracking grocery prices last May & have had a very disturbed last 3 weeks.  Each week went from having a full grocery list of items that were at rock-bottom prices to only having a few.  (...and having zero meat items or cereals on those lists which made feeding my family a bit of a challenge.)

So, we need to get this party started right now!

Sorry for the buzz kill right out of the gate, but it will hopefully make this new money-saving mission very real for you.  (...and I say the United Nations is the buzz killer...not me!  haha!  Check out their graphs.)

This is from the United Nation's website.  Their Food & Agriculture Organization monitors the world's food supply.  That's our last year.


Here's a more expanded view:




That one goes back to 1990.  Obviously, I expect prices to increase over a period of 21 years, but it just gives us a wider view of the recent spikes.  Keep in mind that this is the entire world.  There were food riots where we see that 1st spike in 2008.  We have now surpassed those levels & they say we are now on a trend, not just a spike.


OK, for my fellow nerds out there...or anyone who thinks I'm being paranoid  ;) here are the numbers that indicate the trend.  This chart isn't in dollar amounts, or any other currency, it just helps illustrate the general price movement of these commodities worldwide.




OK.  That's the last one, I promise.  I just wanted to get our heads in the game before we run out onto the field. 
This is the Super Bowl, guys!


I'm not looking for everyone to be on the team.  This might be too "real" for some people & that's OK.  I understand.  This reality is an unpleasant pill to swallow.  It's not warm & fuzzy stuff.  I get it.  I really do.  We're here to help lift each other up & not to look down on anyone.  No judgment here.  :)

BUT, I am ready to coach anyone who wants in!  Let's grab our helmets and suit-up, yo!  Ignoring something usually doesn't make it change course...unless it's an annoying younger brother or a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.  Unfortunately, this is bigger.

But, fortunately, we've found a way to beat it!  I'm going to keep doing what I can to have an abundance of food & have plenty of money left over.

Sitting here writing this, I just realized something that's hilarious to me!  All the articles I read today (as illustrated in the first graph) said that prices really began to shoot up last May/June & have been steadily increasing ever since.  Ironically, that's exactly when I began my "money-saving mission". 

Using coupons & price-tracking was successful even when things began to go downhill.

Since things started getting really hairy, I've actually spent less money than when prices were low. Ha!  And we have so much food that we had to buy extra shelves!  I want the same for you.

We can do this, guys!  I'm living proof, plus, there are thousands of other people out there who have done much, much more than I have.

Grab your helmet.  We're about to run out of the tunnel screaming!  Woo-Hoo!