January 30, 2009

Back to Basics: Couponing, Part Four {Evaluating}

{Every Friday during the month of January, I'll be posting my Back to Basics: Couponing series. Go here to see what the topics will be. I hope this series will help those of you out there who are just starting to use coupons to reduce your household budget. I'd love to hear what works for you! Add your ideas or links in a comment.}

Back to Basics: Couponing {Evaluating}

Congrats! You've made it to Part Four of my Back to Basics: Couponing series. So far, you've learned about collecting and organizing your coupons, planning your shopping trips to maximize your savings, and how to handle a mountain of coupons on real shopping excursion.

I hope that by this point in the series, you've had the chance to actually shop with a fistful of coupons and walk away *thrilled* by just how much you saved. It's a good feeling, isn't it? It's the opposite of the *shopping high* that some shopaholics say they feel when they're maxing out their credit cards.

We couponers don't get a *shopping high* - we get a *savings high*!

This final part of my Back to Basics: Couponing series is all about ways to take that savings thrill and make it work for you and others.

Let's go!

Documenting Your Savings

One of the best ways to keep your momentum as a couponer is to document your savings.

This can be as simple as an envelope system or as complex as a spreadsheet system; no matter what approach you take, it's important to stick with it and update it every time you go shopping.

Why?

Well, some weeks are *stellar* savings weeks during the year. Think of the big sales seasons during a typical calendar year: Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking; back-to-school shopping; Easter cooking {and goodies for the baskets}; New Year's resolutions to eat healthier and lose weight.

There's many more; you can probably name a few I left out. All of those times of year are usually preceded by big sales events at the grocery stores and lots of high quality coupons in the Sunday paper. The deals to be had during these weeks are fantastic and make shopping with coupons so!much!fun!

But there are also many *dead* weeks during the calendar year, weeks where the deals are scarce and the coupons inserts are thin. It can be challenging to find those incredible deals and as a result, you may find yourself getting discouraged.

Documenting your savings week to week will help you in two ways. One, you'll have a record of how much you've spent and how much you've saved so your savings document can serve as a good measuring tool. By that I mean if you start out trying to lower your budget by 10% with couponing, you'll have your savings document to track your spending. Once you hit that goal, you can look back at your past weeks and see how you could challenge yourself in the future to save a little bit more.

The other way it will help you is simply by offering you encouragement for those weeks when deals are scarce. Take a look a back at how well you've done and don't despair! The next great deals are just a week or two away!

I used an envelope system when I started couponing. For each month, I had (4) envelopes: Kroger, Wal-mart, CVS, and Walgreens. I put all my receipts from each store in their respective envelope and noted on the front of the envelope the date, amount spent, and amount saved of each trip. It worked well and was simple enough to keep updated.

This year, I'm using my friend Andrea's Savings Spreadsheet that she's made available to everyone who wants it as a Google Doc right here. If you're blogging on Blogger, you already have a Google account; downloading it will be very easy. If you don't have a Google account, you can set one up for free right here.

Bottom line: choose a method to document your savings from shopping with couponing that works for you and tweak it if you need to. There's no *right* method!

Stockpiling

I've touched on this a little bit in parts two and three of this series; let's look at it a little more in-depth.

Stockpiling can save you a lot of money - and time - if you stockpile those items you and/or your family uses on a regular basis. If you have tiny ones, diapers and wipes are great stockpile items. For those with older children, stocking up favorite foods is always a moneysaver since kids have a way of growing and eating constantly! Everyone needs toilet paper and soap and toothpaste and deodorant. The list really can go on and on.

The best way to know what items would be good stockpile items for you is to just take a pencil and paper and start poking through your cabinets, your freezer, and your bathrooms. See what you have on-hand and ask yourself what you *always* seem to run out of every week. It won't be long before you've got a good feel for what items you should try to stockpile.

When you see a great sale price (a price that can be lowered with current coupons) on items you know would be good for your stockpile, grab 'em! Gather those coupons and load up on those deals.

You'll find that after a few weeks to a month, you may have enough goodies stockpiled that you need to dedicate a certain space in your home for your stockpile. Depending on your family size and needs, this could be as small as a Rubbermaid box in the bottom of your linen closet (like *yours truly*) or as big as an extra set of shelves in your basement or garage. No matter what size your stockpile is, it's a good idea to keep it organized so you can quickly see what you have on hand vs. what you need to replenish.

How this saves you money? Well, easy! Now, when you run out of toilet paper or shampoo or crackers or whatever, you won't need to worry about paying full price for it when you make a last minute trip to the store. All you'll need to do is shop your stockpile. Not only will you save money, you'll lower your stress (who really wants to run out late at night for a must-have item?) and save time by eliminating extra shopping trips. Saving time is saving money!

One last thing: sometimes you'll find that you have TOO much on hand (like toothpaste), which brings me to my final topic here in part four of this series...

Finding Ways to Give Back

One of the best parts of couponing and stockpiling is ending up with *more* than I know I'll use in a reasonable amount of time. Why do I love this? Because it means I can share my extras with others, from family and friends to my local food pantry.

This is one of the reasons why I keep my personal care items stockpile in a small Rubbermaid tote; when it gets too full, I know it's time to clean out a few things and give them away. For the food items I stockpile, I simply fill up my pantry and freezer. Some months I do have extra cans and boxes to donate, but not always since I have (3) growing kiddos who like to eat.

Looking for your local food pantry? Visit Feeding America and enter your zip code to find the food pantry or food bank closest to you. They will be *overjoyed* with anything you can donate, trust me!

If donating items is out of your reach because you're on a limited budget and need every deal you can find, you can still give back by helping others learn how to save money couponing. When someone asks you how you save so much money, show them the ropes.

Or go one step further: start your own blog dedicated to saving money and whatever else is important to you. You'll have a place to add all of your favorite links that help you plan your shopping trips and before long, you might find that your posts are truly helping others.

And that, dear frugal friends, is always a good thing!

Looking for parts 1-3 of this series? Click here for links to each post.

Thank you for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marianne... I enjoyed the first part on Back to Basics. Terrific advice. FYI, about documenting your savings. Would you mind if I suggested a site my family and friends set up as a community pricebooking site? It is pricebooking.com and it's free of course.
    All the best to you

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