After my last post, one friend of mine commented with a question that I answered at length. Then another girlfriend called for help and I gave her some of the same tips. Since both of those things happened in 24 hours, I realized maybe I should just post the answer as a separate article for those of you who are trying to become couponers.
Darby wrote: Okay KT, after watching your blog and moneysavingmom blog, I have organized a coupon box and started in. Please tell me there is a learning curve to this whole thing. I went to CVS to roll last weeks dollars with the great money maker only to find they were out of the products I wanted. So, drove to another CVS because, gosh darn, I WILL DO THIS! So, spent $7 got $14 to roll and got a mail in rebate for the $7 spent. So should be good minus the gas and trouble of taking 3 kids shopping. Things went better at Rite Aid and I paid $12 but saved $5 off purchase with coupons. So, tell me I can do this and the obsession phase will slow down.
Yes Darby, there is a learning curve. Here’s a few tips . . .
1. Don’t take your kids couponing. I know that making this happen can be near next to impossible, but you will save your sanity which is more valuable than money. I often end up doing CVS and grocery trips late at night when they are in bed and J is home. Its a pain, but it is kind of my own thing and fun. It is NOT fun with kids.
2. For CVS, I follow southernsavers.com and I go on Saturday nights when both sale weeks are still in effect. (Sunday sales usually start at 6 pm on Sat night and the current sale week is still in effect.) This is the best way to ensure that the good deals are still there. If there are other couponers in your area, midweek will be too late. Sales weeks do not start early at 24 hour CVS.
3. Time is money. Decide which you have more of, and be okay with that. I know that there are good deals to be had at every store, but I just have to let some go. I pretty much only shop CVS and occasionally Walgreens for freebies. You will burn out pretty quickly if you try to grab every deal.
4. The same deals on the same products tend to come around again (ie: I have about 10 razors under my bathroom sink), so you can eventually just say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s free, I don’t need anymore razors.”
5. Compare what you are spending now with what you were spending before NOT with what other couponers are spending. Couponing really is a job, so as such, people with more experience are likely to be better at it than you. If you focus on comparing yourself to others, you’ll just feel frustrated.
6. Have a “back up” plan or make the plan there. I often have a rough plan with a few alternative scenarios in case things don’t go as expected. Often I just go in with my Southern Savers list, get the products, head back to the pharmacy waiting area with my cart, paper, coupon book, and calculator to figure out my transactions once I know what I can actually buy. This is another reason NOT to take kids (and go on Sat eve.).
7. As for the obsessive phase, I would say it sort of passes. But you kind of have to make it work for you . . . hence the blog for me.
Also for those of you who want to learn couponing, there is a course called the “Savvy Shopper” program on mycouponteacher.com that is free and very helpful (and not really a course at all). She focuses on one aspect of savvy shopping per week for 12 weeks and recommends only trying to tackle one aspect per week. Presumably, at the end of 12 weeks, you’ll be a savvy shopper. I think her setup is great, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel; just go to her site.