Wednesday, July 24

Couponing - A Review

I have tried figuring out the secret formula to couponing. I've subscribed to coupon sale-matching lists, subscribed to newspapers I never read, and even bought coupons off of ebay. I have never had great success. I have had great embarrassment. Couponing makes me sweat profusely.

This time around, I tried implementing techniques found in Couponing Made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach. Christi promised that it would be real (not extreme) couponing for real people. That was reassuring. While I do love the idea of getting free things, I don't need a garage full of free Depends or Baby Formula, which I don't use.
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Christi's book had me excited about the extreme results that are possible with couponing. She lays it out there step by simple step. There are specific things that need understood and combined in order to get the great results you hear about on t.v. Christi helps you understand the magic formula.

 photo christithecouponcoachbook_zpsfd7911d1.jpg As a chatty shopper, I want to share all of the details, but it really is best to follow through the steps in the book itself, so I'm resisting giving away all the details. Christi even illustrated it for people like me who have a tendency to start skimming sometimes. It really doesn't work to skim this book. There is a specific outline and it might not be what you expect. I was surprised when I read that I should sort and store my coupons by date, rather than by product type. But once I read on and was able to connect the dots with the rest of the plan, it made perfect sense.

A common misconception about couponing is that you will end up buying things you don't need just because you have a coupon for it, causing you to spend more money in the long run. Coupons have changed. It is now very possible to find coupons for items you really do use. I have a nice collection of organic, gluten free coupon treasures in my coupon book. Manufacturers know the market is changing and they're changing with it. The only time I've been tempted to buy something that I wouldn't usually buy was when it was free. So I bought it. It will get used.

I am in a small town with a uniquely unwelcome terrain for couponing. Christi suggested shopping for the cheapest Sunday paper, sharing that she buys several at her local store for $0.50 per paper. The cheapest option in my small town is $3.00 per paper!  In my first paper, I found only $5 worth of coupons that might fit my family's needs. That was discouraging. The next week contained $25 worth of coupons. Also, I discovered All You Magazine, which has a LOT of coupons inside. I've seen these with anywhere from $35 to $85 worth of coupons in them. Another option is to buy coupons online, which I will probably resort to. Christi recommends several reliable sources for trying this method.

I took a road trip part-way through this review and discovered there is a big difference in newspapers and coupons from city to city. A Sunday Paper paper in my town (which cost $3.00) yielded about 10 usable coupons. The same Sunday, I found a paper in Jonesboro for only $1.50 and it contained 4 times as many coupons!

Another problem in my small town is that there is no such thing as doubling coupons. Our stores know the closest competition is an hour away and they don't have to try too hard to win our business. Also, my local stores don't accept coupons that I print at home. Locally, I do save much more than I spend on newspapers, using Christi's techniques. But I don't save 50% of my grocery bill.

However, I have been following the websites she suggests and collecting the coupons for a trip to the city. It will add $20 in gas to my grocery bill, but I have been watching and I will save three times that much if I pair up my coupons, the grocery sales, and Christi's suggestions.

In the meantime, I keep my coupons with me and I keep my eyes open. While on our road trip, I was able to stop at a Walgreens (a luxury store for me) and I found Revlon products at Buy One/Get One half price. I had 4 coupons for Revlon items and I received a couple things free this way. One of those things was a scented nail polish that ended up turning my fingernails a bizarre shade of urine-yellow, explaining why it was on clearance, but that's another story for another day.

In addition to taking the mystery out of couponing, Christi has great tips for smart shopping: tips regarding quality and price! I'm 30+ahem and I've learned quite a bit from this gem.  Couponing Made Simple seems a bit high for a paperback book at $18.99, but the kindle edition is much cheaper. Also, if you have a decent grocery store in your town, you'll easily save that much the same week you by the book, so it all comes out in the wash.


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