Living With Less: Super Couponing

Last year when we made a major life change, our income decreased by 75%.  We began to strip away unneeded expenses: second vehicle, whole life insurance to term insurance, higher deductibles on our auto and homeowners insurance, gym membership, etc.

Out food budget had to be adjusted, too.  That’s when I got down to business learning a new skill: super couponing.

Super-couponing is when you match up manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons or specials to buy groceries and health and beauty supplies for pennies on the dollar.  When I did my first deal on my own, I bought over $60 worth of food for $18.  Mark and I left the grocery store high-fiving each other and I knew I was hooked.

Just yesterday, I bought Mark 8 deodorants at Jewel and they gave me .65 back because of my coupons and an instant savings the store was offering (yes, I paid NOTHING for the deodorants…they paid me .65 because I also had coupons!) and then I headed over to Target to buy $28 worth of food and health products for $5.  Amazing!

Super-couponing operates on the concept of stockpiling (the attached photo is one of my stockpile shelves in our basement).  Most sales run in 12 week cycles so you are buying enough to last your family for 12 weeks.  Then you shop your shelves rather than running to the store.  I “deal shop” almost ever week, going to 3-5 stores in my area where I have the most success finding deals (Jewel, Meijer, CVS, Walgreens, and Target).  For the most part, our family makes meals and only uses products that I find deals on (you can’t be too brand-loyal when you deal shop).  About every 6-8 weeks I do a WalMart run where I pick up non-deal items that we need.

Would you like to learn how to super-coupon?  If so you’ll need to “go to school.”  I spent quite a bit of time learning terminology and acquainting myself with the strategies used. Here are the best of the best that I have found:

Some of my favorite reference sites:
Coupon lingo
Coupon Database
How Jewel Catalina Deals Work

Steps I take to find my deals

1) Learn the concepts and the lingo. Understand the strategies of stockpiling. Learn what catalina’s are and how to use them as cash for your groceries.  Learn how to “roll” and “stack” deals.  You can do this by familiarizing yourself with the above websites or other websites you can find that give you coupon match-ups for stores in your area.

2) Use the premise that you have more time than money. Preparing for my weekly “deal shop” trip takes about 60 minutes or so.  I go to my favorite websites to find the deals of the week.  I then print out the needed internet coupons or find them in my coupon inserts from my newspapers.  (Every Sunday I take the coupon inserts out of the newspapers I subscribe to, mark the date with a thick black marker, and put them in my coupon file system.  I don’t clip coupons…I simply find my deals online and they tell me which coupons to print out or find in my file system.)

3. Organize your deal lists and needed coupons. I usually copy and paste the deals I want to do right off my reference websites into a Word document.  Then I print out the Word Document and use it as my deal shopping list.

4. Head out to deal shop. Sometimes I’m heading into a store to do just one deal.  For instance, yesterday when I “bought” the 8 deodorants at Jewel, that’s all I bought there.  Nothing else.   It usually takes me 1-2 hours a week to deal shop.  But I usually come home with over a hundred dollars of product for around $20 or $30.  I feel that’s worth my time!

5. Cut yourself some slack. Super-couponing has a learning curve to it.  Occasionally I plan out a deal and it doesn’t work just right or I end up paying more for something than I thought.  Don’t be afraid to learn the ropes and start doing deals.  But don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes along the way.

What about you?  Do you super-coupon?  What websites/strategies do you use to find your deals?

Living With Less: Decrease Spending When You Increase Contentment

Yesterday’s conversation about needs and wants was so good!  My blog posts are also posted on my Facebook page and there’s always a second conversation going on over at Facebook for each post.

I thought two suggestions were worth mentioning here today.

Wendy suggested that when you see a sign that says “Save 25%” read it as “Spend 75%.”  I think this is an excellent suggestion that can help us battle the temptation to “fall” for a sale on something we don’t really need.

Becky said that without realizing it, advertising can cause us to feel that if we don’t shop we’re missing out on something.  So true.  If we don’t recognize the emotional pull that advertising has on us subconsciously, we’ll fall for it every time!

To further illustrate this and to give us some additional strategies, I want to share an excerpt from Living With Less So Your Family Has More. This excerpt is from the chapter on contentment.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens, who were three beautiful, seductive women, would sing their beautiful songs to lure sailors to their island. The men couldn’t resist listening to the sweet song, and ended up shipwrecked on the rocky shores. In today’s culture, advertising has a similar draw to us. We’re enticed by the right words, the right colors, and even the right music.

We’re writing this chapter during a one-week Florida vacation. Even today I (Jill) found myself drawn into the advertising hype as we drove to our favorite, free snorkeling site in Destin, Florida. “Sail Aboard Blackbeard’s Pirate Ship,” called one sign. “Oh…my boys would so love that experience!” I thought to myself—even though a cruise like that isn’t in our family vacation budget.

A few blocks further we happened upon Krispy Kreme Donuts and the “Hot Donuts” sign was brightly lit. “Mmmmm. Krispy Kremes sounds so good!” In fact our daughter Erica saw the sign and immediately said, “Can we stop at Krispy Kreme?”
And then right next to Krispy Kreme was a beach store having a huge sale. “Everything $5 or less!” screamed the big banner signs. “Wow, what a great sale!” I thought to myself. “Maybe we ought to stop.” Then I realized there wasn’t a single thing I could think of that we would need at a beach shop. The advertising was doing its job well, drawing my mind and my senses into its siren call.

Is there nowhere to turn without being assaulted by advertising? Think about it. If you go to a movie, you’ll watch a half-hour of straight product advertising followed by movie trailers advertising even more movies before the film you actually want to see begins. When you’re on your computer, pop-up ads pester you anytime you surf the internet. When watching an hour show on television you’ll see about 20 minutes of commercials. In grocery stores, there are ads on the child seats on the grocery carts, coupon machines right in the aisles, and “sale” signs blasting you with the “best” deals. In the checkout line, product placement of candy, gum, and magazines calls for your attention. And have you ever noticed the little plastic bar that separates your groceries from the customer’s groceries in front of you on the conveyor belt? Yep! You’ll find advertising there, too! Even the most savvy shoppers can get worn down into buying all kinds of things we really don’t need or don’t have the money for.

Another reason we struggle with contentment is that we get caught in the comparison trap. A small child always seems to want the toy another child has in his hand. The “comparison trap” starts early doesn’t it? And we don’t really seem to grow out of it. Our human nature naturally hunts out and sniffs out what “toys” others have that we don’t have. We have our own perfectly good toys, but someone else has something new or slightly different and suddenly we want it, too!

We’re all tempted to compare our life to the lives of others. Proactively, however, there are some strategies that help us to stop longing for what we don’t have. Try putting into practice these five ways to conquer comparisons and increase contentment.

First, develop a thankful attitude. Many times we’re unhappy not because we aren’t doing well, but because we think others are doing better. Instead of looking at what others have, let’s move our eyes to what we have. And let’s start thanking God for those things everyday.

Second, establish a reasonable standard of living. We need to develop our lifestyle based upon our convictions, not our circumstances. Wherever God has you financially, stay convicted to live within your means. Learning to live within a predetermined budget is important, too.

Third, learn to discern between wants and needs. Needs are the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. Wants are anything beyond the basics. The world screams to us that wants are actually needs: every child needs this toy, every dad needs this tool, and every mom deserves this kitchen appliance. But the definitions of needs and wants must come from you, and not from culture.

Fourth, recognize that appearances are not necessarily accurate. When you see someone who has a bigger house or a newer car, they also likely have a bigger mortgage or a larger car payment. They may have “toys” that you’d love to have, but it may be they also have a huge home equity loan to finance all those toys. The stress they may be experiencing from debt may not be readily evident, but it could very likely be present.

And finally, ask for God’s help. If you struggle with envy, jealousy, or coveting, ask God to help you change your heart and your mind. Usually this means we have to start by confessing to God and asking for his forgiveness for how your heart is twisted up by the sin. But then we’re able to start with a clean slate that has new possibilities. Ask God to remind you of what you do have when you are tempted to want what someone else has.

What about you? How do you work to increase contentment in your life?