A New Year!

Hi everyone!

First off, just want to let y’all know I’m still couponing, saving an average of 52% when I go grocery shopping– and I’m always hunting new ways to save money.

It’s a new year, and with Spring working its way into the frigid nothern region in which I reside, I’ve decided to take this blog in a bit of a new direction. The main focus will still be frugality, because that’s one of the most important things in life. I truly believe you can live well without emptying your wallet, and I strive to enforce that philosophy on my own life. Like so many Americans right now, I am not exempt from consumer debt: I have student loans, credit cards, car loans that need to be paid. Beyond the debt, I want to live better and manage my finances better to taste the freedom of being debt free.

As I work towards those goals, I have also begun a journey towards a dream of self-sufficient living.That’s right folks, I want to homestead. I think it’s a logical step in my lifestyle changes and I honestly feel it’s a better and healthier option.

So, in terms for how the blog will change: I’ll still post finds, deals, and couponing help, but I’ll also start sharing recipes and gardening adventures as well, focusing on a frugal, more holistic lifestyle that I’ve started striving for. As a tidbit, I’ll post an amazing stain remover recipe I found online that works great for almost anything– grease, wine, tomato sauce, etc! Using only a few household ingredients, you may save a few bucks a month by giving up commercial stain removal booster products.

 

Mama’s Miracle Stain Remover

2 tbsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. dish soap (preferably regular dawn or ajax)
3 tbsp. hydrogen peroxide

Mix baking soda, dish soap, and peroxide in a small bowl. Work stain remover into stains on dry clothing with a soft bristle brush (like an old toothbrush).

Wash clothes like normal! (For deep or older stains, try letting the mixture sit for 5 minutes before washing)

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A Begginner’s Guide to Couponing

I’ve been asked many times as I’ve gone through my couponing journey how difficult is it, how hard is it to get started, and does it really work? Couponing is easy, as long as you have the time to dedicate to your savings. I’ve finally found a simple way to explain the basic principles to get started.

1: Collect your coupons.

There’s no right way or wrong way to start clipping coupons, and there are many resources out there to help you with your savings collection. The most obvious resource is the Sunday Newspaper– and I encourage every begginner to start buying one or two copies a week, especially if you a local paper and a nearby paper. Sometimes the coupons may vary, and the papers always have the weekly sales ad for your local groceries, a must-have tool for maximizing savings.

If you don’t want to invest a few dollars a week in a paper, or are more tech-savvy, there are websites, like coupons.com where you can print off manufacturers coupons and use them. Most grocery stores now have an online copy of their weekly ads on their websites as well, so you can utilize that instead or in addition to the sunday papers. I highly recommend using both methods to get your coupons, especially if you’re planning to stock up on items, that thanks to your coupons, you’ll now be getting for free or close to it.

2: Review Your Store’s Coupon Policy

As you start to pile up the coupons, you want to make sure you’ll be able to use them, and use them efficiently when you go to the store. The best way to do this is spend a few minutes on each of your local grocery stores’ websites and print off their coupon policy. The limitations and allowance listed in the policy will greatly impact where and how you save the most when you start shopping. For instance, most grocery stores double coupons up to a dollar, but limit the amount of the same coupon that can be doubled in one transaction.

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I have a great example of this on my receipt from a store run today, where I bought 5 items with a coupon, but only four coupons doubled, meaning the store matched the price of my coupons up to .99, but only up to four identical coupons in one transaction. My last coupon for .50 off wasn’t doubled, so instead of my dollar item being free, I paid .50. I did this intentionally to have an example, but when your trying to maximize savings, little mistakes or your ignorance of the store’s coupon policies like this could throw your budget out the window and leave you frustrated because you thought you’d save more.

3: Weekly Sales

This is the most crucial part of maximizing your savings when you start couponing. This is why you collect the store ads. Part of efficiently couponing is patience: unless your coupon is about to expire on an item you need, it’s best to hold out for the sale on that item to apply your coupon to. For example, if your favorite soup is usually 2.49 and you have a coupon for .55 off one soup that doubles, using that will save you 1.00-1.10, depending on the store coupon policy. Your out-of-pocket (OOP) cost for that can of soup is then 1.49 (for sake of argument). However, if next week that soup goes on sale for a 10/10 special, you could use that coupon and walk away with free soup.

Well, what if your item doesn’t go on sale while the coupon is good? This happens. In the case where your coupon is about to expire and your item never went on sale, sometimes a little savings is better than none; but it’s up to you whether you really want to buy that item. For instance if I had a coupon for olive oil, a staple item in my kitchen I used practically every night, and the brand never went on sale while I had that coupon– chances are, I’d use it anyway because I use olive oil all the time and I’d rather save a dollar now and have it on hand then run out later and hope that week I have a coupon and/or sale price on that item. However, if the coupon was for something like a novelty food item like chips or a frozen entrée deal, and that item never went on sale, I’d probably not worry about it and save that money to buy a stock up item or something I need. (I don’t throw away my coupons, I donate them to military families overseas, so even when I don’t get to use them, they go to help someone else save. Waste not, want not.)

Well, that’s basically all you need to know to get started! If you have the time to pour through sales ads, clip coupons, and make shopping lists, you can surprise yourself with how much you save! On the average I save 50% every time I shop for groceries, and I’m sure I could save even more if I made more of a conscious effort to match sales and coupons than I usually do. So I guess, to answer the question of does it really work: Yes! It does work, but it’s up to you how much effort and time you’re going to invest in bringing that grocery bill down. I hope you’ve found this helpful and you’re ready to get out there and save, save, save!

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Coupon Adventures Week of 2/24-3/2

Howdy!

So, this week there were some good buys, but I didn’t get a lot of coupon match-ups… one great deal going on is Weis has barilla pasta 10/$10, so if you guys still have the 2/$1 or the 3/$1 coupons, that’s a steal! They also have 12 pk snapple BOGO; I took advantage of both! Also, if any of you are artsy folks, Michaels and Hobby Lobby have some great deals! Michaels has a BOGO special on green and brown Strathmore art pads, and they have a 25% off frames purchase with most wall and table frames 40-50% off. Definitely a deal to check out!

Also, Staples this week has an interesting coupon, 20% off anything you can fit into one of their green bags, and you get the bag for free! Plus, Angel soft tissue 12 pks are on sale for 7.99 (if you’re not buying anything else, take the coupon and slip one one of those in the bag) I managed to fit the toilet paper, a 50 pack DVD-R stack and ink for my printer into a bag, plus I used up my rewards from January to really cut down my total! i went from nearly 70 dollars to 32.88. Not too shabby.

So my stops today were for groceries & pet food at Tops, Weis, and Wegmans, Michaels to get a new sketchbook and frames for prints I’ve been meaning to put up, and some techy restock at Staples.

Overall, I saved less than my last adventure check-in, but even without the coupon match-up boosts to my spending, managed to cut $175 dollars off my shopping, coming in at a modest 52% savings overall. how did you guys do? 😀

The Golden Rule

On a personal note, I have renewed faith in people today. I fell in love with and bought a desk for my crafting at Salvation Army yesterday. I came to pick it up today, and it did not fit in my car at all. Not phased because my car has 0 hauling capabilities, I called my fiancee to borrow his car since most of the time whatever it is will fit in his spacious back seat. Not this time. It was about a half an inch too wide on every side to fit into his trunk or back seat. I joked about and then seriously considered laying a towel down and strapping it to the roof of my car with some rope or something. My sweetie turned down that idea, so we stood there for a moment, scratching our heads. Right when I was ready to accept the fact that this was an irreversable error and I’d have to give up my desk, a pair of elderly good samaritans (who were watching and probably laughing at our attempts to fit the desk in his car) offered to haul the desk and follow me home. Their names are Lois and Fran Gehl, and I could not thank them enough. When we got the desk into the garage I tried to insist on some kind of compensation for them driving all the way out there, but all they wanted was me to pay it forward. Which I will… and for those who read this, be kind to a stranger today for me.

Coupon Adventures! Week of 1/27-2/2

Okay, so this week I really wanted to pull together all I’ve learned in the last month getting into couponing. Most of the items on my list were either on sale, I had a coupon for, or both. I spend a few hours before the shopping trip looking through store ads and online match-ups to determine the best deals and strategize my trip around the stores. (Yes, multiple stores… something I’ve learned is essential to finding the best deals around where I live… however, it means driving to two different nearby towns, which is why planning the trip out is so important.)

Here was my list for the week:

Dollar Tree

Palmolive

Scotch-brite

 

Rite Aid

Covergirl BOG 50%

Naturesbounty BOGO

 

Weis

Natures Made BOGO

McCormick Seasonings

Avacados 10/10

Pistachios BOGO

Furamos Tomatoes 10/10

Lipton Tea

Purina Cat Chow

Tidy Cats Litter

Tresemme

 

Tops

Totinos pizza rolls 3/9

Lipton Recipe Secrets 2/3

Tops Batteries BOGO

T Bonz Treats BOGO

 

 

As you can see, when I constructed the list, I added in some of the deals at each store to remind myself, and also to compare incase I found better deals elsewhere. I also hit up another stop on my way to Weis, and scored another deal with a coupon I’ve had on hand for a week for Irish Spring bar soap.  I wound up not getting any Palmolive soap because no one had it on sale, but I double lucked out on the scotch-brite sponges and Weis had an on-product coupon on the Tresemme for 1.75 off, which when paired with the BOGO coupon I got out of the 1/27 paper, meant I got 4 bottles for 6.08. Not too shabby.

So here’s a basic break-down of how it went:

Store

Total Before Savings

 Total Savings

Amount Paid

Dollar Tree

4.00

2.00

2.00

Family Dollar

3.59

1.00

2.59

Rite-Aid

13.28

5.90

7.38

Tops

44.18

11.51

33.95

Weis

156.28

68.66

87.62

 

So I spent 133.54 for 221.33 worth of product, that’s a savings rate of 60%! For a beginner, I feel pretty proud of saving over 50% of my grocery bill this week. How are your couponing adventures going?

Deals of the Day

Today there are some ripe deals on some really cool stuff! Check out the Serious $avings!

Cultured Pearl Stud Silver Earrings – only $0.01 with a Rebate up to 15 Swag Bucks! http://www.froobi.com/

Neutrogena Makeup Removing Towelettes, Only $0.47 at Target! (After Coupon)
Neutrogena Makeup Removing Cleansing Towelettes, 7 ct $1.97, regular price
Use $1.50/1 Neutrogena Cosmetic Item, Target Coupon, Limit 4 identical coupons per household per day from JJ 1/6 (exp 2/2)

Apple iPhone Cases, as Low as $1.83 Shipped at Amazon!
Cases not only give phones a protective cover, they also add a touch of personality. There are tons of cases to choose from. Here are a few examples:

Buy 1 eForCity Snap-on Rubber Coated Case Compatible with Apple® iPhone® 5, Fancy Owls $1.46
Shipping $2.94
Final Price: $4.40

Buy 1 Pink and White Polka Dot Gloss Flex Gel Case For the NEW Apple iPhone 5 $1.83
Free Shipping
Final Price: $1.83

Buy 1 Light Blue Polka Dot Rubber Skin Case Cover for New Apple iPhone 5 5G 5th $1.98
Free Shipping
Final Price: $1.98

Personalized Valentine Cards, Only $0.25 Each at Cardstore!
Grab this sweet deal while it’s available. School Valentine’s Day cards are only $0.25 each with the coupon code CCA3117 at Cardstore. You can even upload a photo to personalize them.
Choose from 21 different Valentine’s Day cards.

Steel Shelving Unit
Here’s a geat deal on Amazon for everybody looking to organize up this year (like me) a metal seven shelf unit for $28 on Amazon with free shipping.