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My Start in Couponing
Getting Started in Couponing
How it all started...
I have been one of those stay-at-home moms with a house of kids to raise. That is not to say I didn’t work, I just did not work outside the home... well not much. I always had some type of cottage industry going to make extra money. I married young and promptly started having babies, then grandbabies, and now great-grandbabies. We now have seven children, twenty-two grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren. Most of them live within fifteen miles of me, so I see them on a regular basis. And since I live across from the Primary School, I have eight to ten of them at my house everyday after school... and of course they come to me starving to death!
Now here we are living off Social Security, on Medicare and with all the problems older people face who spent all their lives just making ends meet and raising their families. Until recently I was the one in the family with the health problems, many, many health problems including hypertension, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and arthritis in one hip and both knees. Between the two of us we are paying about $600 a month for health care, plus about $100 every month for my medicine. Then the hubby started having memory problems. We just found out his medicine is going to cost about $300 a month. And yes, we both have drug coverage, but it will not cover all the cost of this new treatment.
With needing almost a thousand dollars every month for health care and with neither of us are able to work any more, how were we going to manage? And as I have always paid all the bills I could certainly relate to a cartoon I saw recently, “we have stretched our dollar bills until we can almost see George Washington’s underwear!” So what to do was the big question.
While sitting alone one night surfing the boob tube while I worried about where the money for medicine and other living expenses was going to come from, I happen to click on a show called Extreme Couponing. It was high drama. No way what they showed on the show was real... or so I thought. But it did get me to thinking. Maybe there was something to this “couponing thing” after all. Maybe I needed to check into this fad more closely.
For all my married years I was one of those people that occasionally cut out coupons with the good intentions of using them, but I never did. About once or twice a year I would remember to bring a coupon to the store and was pleasantly surprised when the clerk actually took the thing! Mostly I just shopped the sale papers and went from store to store getting the best buys. I bought a fifty pound bag of potatoes every week and lots of dry beans. We also had a large garden and filled freezers and canned fruit and stocked up for winter every year. Our family did without a lot of things but they never went hungry.
But after watching that television show, I did what all self-respecting Moms do now... I surfed the “net” and checked into this Extreme Couponing thing. I also took a class locally, paid my ten bucks, but about all I got for my problems was winning the door prize. Duh! I learned more on the “net” than I did at that class. But I still did not understand how to get $900 worth of groceries for less than $20!
A few weeks later, one of the “Extreme Couponing” stars was holding a class about twenty-five miles from my house... at night... a cold rainy night. I talked my daughter-in-law to driving me and away we went. I came back from that class with the information I needed. It was well worth the $20 and the long drive... that dark rainy night... on slick two-lane back roads... to get that information. There were only four of us showed up that night and she went into much detail. We also got to ask questions. Needless to say, I learned a lot... a whole lot! This woman was fantastic. It is her sales receipt that is shown on the show. She teaches classes all over Louisiana and you can find her on Facebook.
I took the information she gave us and realized not only could I save money becoming a “Couponer” I could actually make money... if I worked it right. I went to the websites she recommended and studied and started to learn all the ins-and-outs of shopping at the different stores.
Rule #1: You use coupons just like cash. You have to make a mental decision: Are you going to hand the cashier dollar bills or little pieces of paper? I personally would prefer to keep my George Washington’s and the other legal tender folks in my purse and pay with the free or almost free coupons!
Rule #2: You got to KNOW the store and how it works to get the best deals!
Rule #3: You can use your coupons and buy emergency products, but you don’t buy to stock up unless it is rock-bottom prices. (I will tell you more about that in another article.) Then you stock up about a three month supply for your family. Sales will cycle about every three to four months and you want to be a “Responsible Couponer,” not a “Coupon Terrorist!”
Rule #4: NEVER clean the shelves. Leave some for other people. If you have a lot of coupons and you want a lot of product, privately talk to the manager and ask if the store will help you by ordering in what you want to get. NEVER clean the shelves. Be a Responsible Couponer.
Rule #5: If you are not going to use it, don’t buy it just because you have a coupon. Get just what your family uses or be a good neighbor and donate your excess to your neighborhood food pantry. And you only need a six month to one year supply of any item. No one needs 423 packages of cereal unless they have a bigger family than I did!
Rule #6: Print out coupon policies for the stores you planned to shop at... this is a very important part of Couponing. Search the web for information on how to shop at your local store. Some of the trickier but better "getting started" couponing stores in my fifty mile area are Kroger, CVS, and Walgreen’s. You MUST have a store rewards card to get the best deals. These are free, you just ask for them. Some stores let you stack coupon, such as Register Rewards, manufacturing coupons, and store coupons. Some stores will double or triple the coupon value. Some stores will not take internet coupons and some stores have mobile or digital coupons and some stores have store coupons that are downloadable to their card. My Wal-Mart store will price match within fifty miles and will take coupons, but they do not let you stack coupons. Again let me state: You gotta’ know your store!
Getting coupons is a class in itself. I actually spent $23 to order a stack of coupon inserts just to get started. I have already recouped the money I spent on the class and on buying my first set of inserts. You don’t have to order inserts, but you can. There are other ways of getting coupons which are easier and faster. I now just buy ten newspapers every Sunday, especially the Sundays that have more than one set of coupon inserts. And then there are family and friends that will save you their unwanted coupons. I also buy at least one Wednesday newspaper, just for the sales ads, some of which have store coupons!
I started out using envelops but could never remember what I had. If you are like me and want to be really organized, a binder is almost a must if you plan to take couponing seriously. You can buy a binder – zippered is best – and pick up sheet protectors at your favorite office supply store. I ordered my binder online for $42. My binder came with sheet protectors that will hold nine sports trading cards per sheet. I bought extra of that type at a local office supply store, plus a small package of 4-to-a-page photo sheets. I also added several whole sheet protectors I already had a home. You can set up your binder anyway you feel comfortable. There are several websites that offer suggestions for setting up a coupon binder. Remember, it is YOUR binder and you need to be able to find your coupons quickly and efficiently when in the store. You want to be able to have the coupons you need in your hand when you get to the cash register. I prop my open binder up on the child carrier part of the buggy and take out the coupons I plan to use as I place the product in my buggy. But... I already need a bigger binder!
But to explain the title of this article... During every Christmas holiday my large family gets together on Christmas night after all the Santa Clausing to just have a relaxing end to the day and for Mamaw and Papaw to hand out each baby under the age of 18 a small gift. This year we had 22 babies to buy for.
It was at this 2012 Christmas gathering that my kids started teasing me about my couponing obsession. Lately every time I found a “special” I would email all of them to let them know about the upcoming coupons or sales papers in the Sunday or Wednesday newspapers or an unadvertised special I saw in one of the stores.
Then I had to get my “new” coupon binder out of the car and show it off. One of the kids said they had heard about “that old woman who was becoming an Extreme Couponer” in our small town. She was acting like those on that TLC show. Another daughter popped up and said she had heard that “the old woman was fast becoming a Coupon Terrorist and even the clerks said to watch out for her!”
No, I am not anywhere near that... yet... but it was nice to think my children thought well enough of me to know “this old woman” could get the job done... or can I?