Practice Smart Shopping

Yesterday my wife and I went grocery shopping. Our new hobby has been seeing how much money we can save purchasing products we can and will use, usually product we would have purchased full price anyway, using coupons and shopping smartly. We got a late start yesterday, but we managed to hit three stores yesterday saving a combined total of around $90 on purchases of around $170. In this post, I just want to show how we prepare for the shopping trip and show examples of some of deals we were able to score in this latest trip.

One of the biggest criticisms of shopping smart is that it takes too much time.  In this world today, when people are so busy, they just don’t think that they have the time it takes to clip coupons and plan your shopping trips.  Well I say, it doesn’t take as long as you may think and you will surely find time if you just look.

Where do we get our coupons?  We buy a Sunday paper each week which typically comes with a handful of coupons inserts.  You can view contents of the upcoming inserts at http://www.sundaycouponpreview.com/.  I know of some people that will buy multiple papers just to get multiple sets of coupons.  We don’t typically, but will sometimes ask other family members for their inserts that are just going to get thrown away anyway.

Another huge source for coupons is on the internet.  The three main sites; www.coupons.com, http://www.redplum.com/ and  http://www.smartsource.com/, provide access to many coupons that you can print (often multiple copies).

You can also check out company sites as they often offer coupons for their products as well, sometimes requiring signing up for a newsletter or something, but it is often worth the hassle.   Also don’t forget the store websites themselves.  Most stores offer store coupons or special coupons / deals for card members.  Also most stores will allow you to stack store coupons with manufacture coupons, thus getting double savings on a single product.

Prepping the coupons.  Much of the time, and the resistance by others to couponing is the cutting and sorting of the coupons.  We found that while relaxing in the evening, we were simply watching TV and doing absolutely nothing else.  We now take this time to clip and organize.  I will often clip, do a very loose sorting into very general piles (food, non-food, …) and then my wife will sort how she likes them and put them into a binder.  At the same time we check for expired coupons and remove them.  This is pretty mindless work, so perfect for sitting in front of the TV when you are doing nothing else.

Our binder is a typical three-ring binder you can purchase just about anywhere for a dollar or two.  In the binder we use inserts designed for baseball cards.  We had some laying around, but you can find these just about anywhere you can find baseball or Pokémon cards and are not too expensive.  My wife will categorize as she see fit and then places similar coupons into the individual sleeves.  This binder fits nicely into my wife’s purse, she carries a fairly large and roomy purse, and is easily accessible in the stores.  Check out this post as this is how we modeled our binder after.

How do we determine which products to buy?  This is pretty simple.  We buy what we need.  We rarely buy just for the sake of getting a deal (we will sometimes if we can get the product free or close to free).  Someone once said the best deal they ever got, was the one the did NOT buy. 

If it’s a product you use and you get a good deal, feel free to stock up.  Sure you have to be careful on perishable products, but if you can get a great price on toilet paper for example, then by all means buy as much as you can.

During yesterdays shopping trip, one good deal we snagged was a buy on a feminine product my wife uses.  Rite-Aid had a buy one get one free special (B1G1) on this product.  We also had a manufacture coupon for B1G1.  We also had two more coupons for $3/1 (three dollars off of one item) for this particular product and another for $1/1.  Here is how we did this deal.  Purchased a quantity of 4.  Rite-Aid’s deal gave us two of them free.  Because however we had four items, we were still able to use four coupons. With our B1G1 coupon, we got the 3rd free.  Then with the other 3 coupons we had $7 knocked off the fourth item (the only one were were really paying for).  These are regular priced at $7.98.  So we snagged four products, totaling about $32 at regular cost for a total of 98 cents, through the usage of store sale and coupons.  According to my wife, this will last here almost a year.  I would say that was worth the couple minutes it took us to plan.

Another fun deal we got yesterday was on pickles.  We love dill pickles and with spring coming up (we’re being optimistic here) it’s getting time to start grilling (hopefully sooner than later).  And what goes better on hamburgers than a few good dill pickles.  Well Giant Eagle had Vlasic pickles on sale 2/$4.  Giant Eagle has a program called eOffers that allows you to load coupons on your store card that automatically come up at the register. The had an eOffer coupon for $1/2.  This knocked the price down to 2/$3.  Already a good deal.  We then had two manufacture coupons for $.55/1 off of Vlasic pickles.  Since you can stack manufacture coupons with eOffers we were able to use those two coupons as well.  Giant Eagle also doubles coupons under $1.  So those coupon values jumped to $1.10/1 once doubled.  For those two jars of pickles the final price came to 2/$.80 for two large jars of  pickles.  Good deal for sure.

Planning our trip.  We plan pretty much what we will buy and from where based on our needs and store sales.  We will write out a list of items, their prices and any coupons we plan on using, with one list for each store we plan on going to.  Between the two of us this really doesn’t take much time at all.

Then we plan our route.  We try to plan our trip to travel the shortest distance possible.  Another common complaint of couponing is that you spend as much on gas as you save with coupons and sales that you really aren’t saving anything.  While that may be true if you were only buying one or two items, if you plan well you will come way out ahead. 

Our last trip, I drove maybe an extra 10 miles to get to the different stores (living out in the country we are used to driving distances to get to stores so not a big deal).  We might have spent an extra dollar or two in gas, but when we saved $90 dollars, I think we came out way ahead.

Yes going to multiple stores takes time.  Yes we take a few hours to purchase stuff from multiple stores, but when my wife and I go together, I say what better way to spend time with my best friend.  With four young kids, we don’t get a lot of alone time as it is, so we take it where we can get it. 

Why do this?  Well as I’ve stated many times before (here and here for example) we are trying to become more frugal with our money because of the current world economic state. It just makes sense to save money as best as you can.  The stores give you these means to save money, but so many do not take advantage for one reason or another. 

But we also found that God wants us to use our money and resources wisely. 

The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.  -Proverbs 21:20

 

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. – Proverbs 22:7

and we should never forget this:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,   “Never will I leave you;   never will I forsake you.”  — Hebrews 13:5

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The Simple Life

One of the ideas that I wanted to talk about on this site that I’ve not explored much (only one article really) is living a simple, frugal life.  What do I mean by that.  Well quite simply, to be a better steward of my money, to be smart about where my resources go, and to live a comfortable life.  Another aspect I want to share with you on this blog is tips on how to do just that.  I’d like to share tips on how to stretch your money by shopping smarter (my wife is getting quite good at this) and how to enjoy life and live comfortably on less.

Stretch your money

Whether you’re on a fixed income or not, stretching your money to its fullest just makes sense.  If you’re wealthy, then being smart about your spending habits will make more money available for other uses.  If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you’re spending habits may be the difference between eating this week or not.  Either way, here are some quick tips on stretching your money.

  1. Use coupons especially when matched up with sale prices.  There are tons of sites out there to help you with this.  One of my wife’s favorites is www.hip2save.com.  You can spend as little or as much time on this as you want. 

    For example, just the other day there was a coupon from Swiss Miss for $2 off any Hot Cocoa product (expired now, but here is the post we found).  We were able to print off two of those coupons, which when combined with a sale price at our local grocery, we picked up 60 packets of hot chocolate for under $1.00.  Something that normally would have cost at least $5 or more.  Doesn’t seem like much, but add those up over time and it can mean a lot to your grocery bill.  There are plenty of other sites and I’d like to link to these as I come across them or to good deals as I find them.  No this won’t turn into a coupon site, but you’ll see some good deals from time to time.

  2. Take advantage of store customer appreciation type of cards and programs.  Most stores now have some sort of customer advantage card or cash back coupons that print on the back of your receipt.  For many years we ignored these completely.  But again, when combined with coupons and sales, you can often go buy a lot of product and spend very little out of pocket.  Again, we are just beginning, but can see the benefit of it already.  Friends of ours who’ve figured this out, have come home with hundreds of dollars of product for virtually nothing (think about getting $150 worth of items for under $10!)  This doesn’t mean buying product you wouldn’t use, but by just being smart and stocking up on items when you can get it cheaply. 

    A few months back, I had multiple coupons for the brand of deodorant I use.  These were for $3.00 off of two sticks.  We combined that with a buy one get one free sale (normally $3.50 or so) and managed to get two sticks for 50 cents which normally would have cost me $7.00.  Needless to say, I got as many of those coupons as I could and stocked up with enough deodorant to last me months.

These are the types of things I’d like to share with my readers.  I’ll find good deals and share them with you or just share with you a good purchase that may inspire you to try it yourself.

Enjoy life and live comfortably on less.

One thing we’ve done to simplify our lives is to learn on how to live on less.  For us this means we’re starting to grow our own food and put it up for the winter.  We’ve learned how to can or freeze our vegetables.  We’ve begun to buy food in bulk as we’ve learned how to store it properly to last for longer periods.  We’ve begun to make our own breads and other baked goods instead of buying mixes or premade baked goods at the store.  We haven’t completely moved over to that type of lifestyle, but we’re making progress.  One good resource we’ve found is, Back Woods Homes magazine.  This is one of the best resources online or in print on self-reliant living.  Check it out and it is the only magazine that I still subscribe to.

One thing I’ve enjoyed about our lifestyle changes, is that we seem to be happier with less.  We still have a ways to go and still need to make some serious changes, but our goal of becoming debt-free while it is a long way off, is within our grasp.  By shopping smarter, we have more money to not only pay towards our debt, but to give and bless others.  By blessing others, even by buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, can go a long way to helping you enjoy life.  Start with the small things and then like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill, those small things can grow into the large things.  Either way, I’ve found that by making an effort to bless others, I feel better each day and much to my surprise, I’ve been blessed in return.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  -Malachi 3:10

God promises that by giving a small part of what He has entrusted with you to further his kingdom, He will bless us in return tremendously.  I’ll have more on this later in my series on Power Thoughts, but when you give freely to others to bless them (even that cup of coffee for someone else), God will use that small action, that small gift to, bless yourself and others in ways you cannot even fathom.

What does this all have to do with living simple and shopping smarter?  Well when you shop smarter and live simply, you’ll have more left over at the end of each paycheck to bless others.  This, at least for me, allows me to enjoy life in a way I never imagined.

Future direction

The purpose of this post is really to share with you some ideas for new posts you’ll see here.  This fits in with my theme of helping Christians live exceptional lives in a world that often fights against us.  By being frugal and living simply we can allow ourselves to live exceptionally.

I would love to hear from you if you’ve taken steps in your own lives to live simply.  Please comment, I’d love to hear from you.