Every so often, people ask me how I am able to save so much money on everyday items. Sometimes it’s the patient customer behind me in line, and other times, it is the sales clerk. Sometimes it’s a curious friend. But they always want to know how I do it.
Well, there’s no quick answer. And there’s no easy answer. There are no get-rich-quick ideas here. It’s a combination of hard work and passion. Saving money is truly a thrill of mine. I love the rush I get from saving 20, 30 or 60 percent on my grocery bill. I love getting free or next to free items.
So, I’ve decided to put together a little tutorial for saving money on groceries, personal care items, and household supplies.
First off, recognize that this will take some time. I’ve been doing this frugal living bit for seven years now, and I still spend an hour or two a week finding deals. (If I counted all the time I put in on the blog, it would be a lot more!). When I first started couponing, it would take me two or three hour blocks to figure it all out. It gets easier once you know where to look for deals and have a good coupon stash assembled.
I have a good organization system for coupons. You have to find what works best for you. I personally have a coupon binder that is organized by types of products (baby, cleaning and laundry, dairy, etc.). I like to see all of my coupons at once, so I like using the binder.
I clip coupons from the Sunday papers once a week, usually while watching television. We get three different newspapers on Sunday (my hubby and I are former journalists!) and my parents also give us their coupon leftovers. I also have a very sweet uncle who sends me all the diaper/baby coupons in the mail. I’m learning to be more selective in my clipping… but if there’s a chance at all that I may use a product, I clip it… you never know when a really amazing sale will come along. Read some more about couponing here.
You need to have a sense of what you already have. I like to establish a stockpile of stuff when it’s on sale so that I can make it last until the next great sale. A current inventory will help you know where to fill in the gaps. Committing to building a stockpile does take some money up front, but once you get a good stash of stuff, it’s really nice to not have to go to the store as often. Because of my stockpiling, I don’t set a weekly budget for groceries. Instead I think more on a monthly basis. Depending on the sales, I may have one month that I spend $350 and another month I spend $160.
You should also know your prices. Some people keep a price book, where they write down the best price on a given item. I am such a deal hound, that I’ve committed most prices to memory and don’t need a price book anymore. (I am SO ready for the Price is Right!)
I look at all the sales fliers for my area: Super One Foods, Ogles Marketplace (local), Cub Foods, Kmart, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart and see if anything leaps out at me as being a good deal.
I’ll match up coupons to good deals in the fliers… which makes them an even better deal. To save time, I always check out the following websites for other deals: Coupon Mom, Money Saving Mom, A Full Cup, Hot Coupon World, The Centsible Sawyer, Centsible Shopper, Sisterly Savings; sometimes I’ll peruse a few others if I have time. (Check out my blog roll (at right) for ideas). Usually these sites have links to printable coupons that I can also use for more savings.
Then I make my shopping list. I pay close attention to what things we need immediately, and what things would be good to stock up on if there’s a decent sale. Some weeks there are NO good deals… so I don’t shop at all! How can I do this? Well, I have my stockpile! I simply pull items from my pantry or freezer. On these off weeks, I still may buy milk or fresh fruit, but that’s it.
I like to shop by myself. I love my family, but they distract me on my money saving mission. I like being able to take my time to evaluate the deals…. or discover clearance/discounted items. I don’t have that kind of time with three little boys.
If I don’t find the deal I’m looking for in the store, I usually don’t buy the item. I just file the coupon back in my binder for a better day. I try very hard to stick to my list, and I really think about sale items before I put them in my cart… it must be something I will use.
I try to hit several stores in a day. A trip to town costs $8 for me now, and I don’t get out much without the kids, so I combine all my errands into one trip.
So that’s how I shop. In May, I was able to save nearly $300 using these methods. I’m on my way to a $200 savings for June.
What are some ways you save on the basics? Do you have any favorite resources?