I have a pretty expensive moving-all-over-the-country habit. To maintain this lifestyle I’ve had to buckle down and wise up about money, which takes a little finesse.
About a year ago I watched TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” and thought, “I can absolutely do that.”
Then I absolutely did it. I got like, twenty boxes of cereal for $0.17. We had so much cereal that we started feeding it to neighborhood squirrels just to get rid of it.
The trouble with extreme couponing is that there aren’t many things that I want in quantities of five million. Having a “stockpile” of cereal or razors I’ll never use seems insane to me. I don’t have room in my freezer for fifty frozen meals, and I don’t have hours of free time to search for bargains.
If you’re looking for a way to get a stockpile and never pay for food, this post isn’t for you. If you want to learn a few ways to save money so you can support your party habit, read on.
Before you begin, first things first: Mix things up. You won’t have the exact same grocery list from week to week, and that’s the way your life is now. You’re buying what’s on sale.
Step 1: Sign up for your grocer’s online couponing and rewards, and get their mobile app. Or, start shopping somewhere that has this feature.
You will get so much free stuff this way, and many stores offer discounts on gas.
Step 2: Pretend you’re practicing for The Price is Right. Grab your store’s ad (or read it online). Give it a glance so you can figure out what’s on sale this week. Make a few notes of how much things cost, and what items you actually want to buy (during this part I also plan my dinner menu for the week).
Step 3: Get manufacturer’s coupons. Smart Source, Red Plum, and Coupons.com are some of the big coupon companies. You can get them in the Sunday paper or online. I do a mixture of both and only clip coupons for things that I might actually want to own. Just make sure you keep your coupons until they expire. Pizza rolls might go on sale in a few weeks, and you’ll be glad you kept what you clipped a few weeks ago.
Step 4: Now, combine the two. Match up your coupons with your store’s ad. You can do it in your head, but I sit down and do this literally. It’s easier for me to plan this way.
In this example, Glade candles are on sale for $2.98. I have a coupon for $1.50 off of two. Good news, I want two of them. Boom. 25% savings. If you’re savvy, you can get a lot of stuff for free this way.
( Coupondivas.com is a really great resource for this, and they do the “matching up” for you.)
Step 5: Remember the online couponing I made you sign up for? Log in and add things to your list. Safeway sometimes does deals like free produce, double fuel points, or $5 off of $20. Each store has its own method and bonuses, and you need to jump on that shit. (Note: learn the store’s coupon policy. Some places are dicks about “coupon stacking,” using a manufacturer and store coupon together.)
Step 6: Get good at it. I don’t spend hours on this every week. I sit down and do a quick matchup and menu before I go shopping. If I want to buy something (clothes, furniture,etc), I do a quick Google search for offers. Retailmenot and Greg That Dude even have posts of sweet deals (sometimes free gift cards!) from department stores and restaurants.
Not every deal is a homerun, but some of them are.
On this one, we used a 15% off coupon to buy up a few clearance items at JCP, so we got a lot of things for our new kitchen at 90% off. AND IT WAS AWESOME.
TL; DR: Buy what’s on sale, and sweeten the deal by using a manufacturer’s coupon. Sign up for store offers and rewards, and google coupons before you make big purchases. Half an hour or less a week can save you thousands of dollars a year.
Good luck, and get out there and save some money!