I mentioned yesterday that I have a good 6 to 18 months stock of many non-food items. Here are a few of the strategies I used – and mistakes I made – hopefully they’ll help you if couponing is your thing. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with coupon organizers and stacking and even just the math of it. I had all the same worries and here’s the result of overcoming those fears:
These cabinets and drawers were not filled overnight, it took me 3-5 months of intense shopping and saving to buy this much stock without going into debt. Or being featured on hoarders.
The first step was buying the newspaper to get my hands on coupons. Our city paper has NO coupons and the major one was going to be over $2/week to subscribe just on Sundays. So I started going to the Dollar Store every Sunday morning and buying 2 papers: $2.18 total. I probably bought the paper for 2 weeks before I did any shopping, just to get an idea what kind of coupons I could find.
The biggest challenge here was not spending a lot of money in the dollar store! But the bright yellow plastic containers were a dollar store find. They are perfect for high shelves in my closet.
When I got home with the paper, I’d pull out the ads and coupons and starting cutting, usually while watching a movie or listening to music. Food coupons in one pile, household in another. I threw away a lot of the coupons immediately. Ones for nicotine patches, products I never buy or want to try and all the advertisements for checks, snuggies, bird feeders and figurines. I made this part of my Sunday routine, it was almost like being in first grade and cutting up magazines for an art project only instead of a stick figure pictures on the fridge I was getting yummy smelling shampoo and saving money!
Here’s the important part: Knowing what I already had on hand I chose ONE group of items at a time that I wanted to stock up on.
First it was oral hygiene products. Oral-B was coming out with new toothbrushes and Walgreens had a sale – free after register rewards. So for one week I’d sort through my household coupons ONLY looking for that ONE product. I’d buy however many I had coupons for (usually 2 or 4) and get the rebate back. Let’s say the toothbrush was $5.99 minus $1 coupon and $5.99 reward back.
Cost: $5.99 x 8.25% sales tax = $6.48
Less: $1 off coupons = $5.48
Less: $5.99 RR = -$0.51
Now technically I was out $21.92 because I bought 4 toothbrushes but I also had $24 in Register Rewards (RR) to use. So I’d go back to the flyer and see if mouthwash was on sale.
Sort through household coupons and find 2 for mouthwash. Common sale situation was $6 for a BIG bottle of mouthwash, coupon for $1.50 when you buy two. Eh, not great but since I’m out of mouthwash not terrible.
Cost: $6.00 x 8.25% sales tax = $6.49
Less: $0.75 coupon/ea = $5.74
Less: $5.99 RR = -$0.25
I’d still have $12 in RR to use and the next week I see a sale on toothpaste (RR are generally good for 2 weeks).
Cost: $1.50 x 8.25% sales tax = $1.62
Less: $0.50 store coupon = $1.12
Less: $0.75 manuf coupon = $0.37
If I have 4 manufacturer coupons and the store limit on coupons is 4 I can get everything for $1.48.
Register Rewards at Walgreens have a few, let’s call ’em quirks. They will always have an expiration date, can be used for most any purchase and you can only use one RR per item. I learned this trying to use 4 RR worth $20 to buy a $22 knee brace. Nope.
In order to use the $12 rebate I need to get 2 items worth over $12 so at this point I might pick up something for $11 like medication on sale or even some food items I need. Either way I’d get up to $12 and use the rewards.
So in this situation I’d spend $21.92 out of pocket, get 4 toothbrushes, 4 tubes of toothpaste, 2 big bottles of mouthwash and $11 worth of food or other necessities. Would it be worth your time and effort to buy 4 toothbrushes, 4 tubes of toothpaste, 2 big bottles of mouthwash for $11?
It’s really a value judgement and I leave that to you.
And now that I have that stock I won’t need to buy these items for a year or more. And all it really took was a weekly trip to pick up the paper, a little tip clipping and sorting and closely looking at the deals on 2-3 items at a time.
I did one other trick to help my addled brain remember how much I spent. Using these stickers I would jot down the price and stick it to the item. Lining up purchases I could see when I got items free or nearly free. I don’t keep a price book but a quick glance in the cabinet can tell me if $2 toothpaste is a good deal or not.
I made a bunch. First was letting RR expire, the second was never sending in rebates. Finally I faced the fact that I don’t care enough to send in a rebate with a 45 cent stamp to get $1 back. And if I got the $1 back I was equally unlikely to drive it to the bank to deposit.
Second big mistake was the months when I went overbudget (it’s been too long to remember specifics) but it doesn’t really help to overspend when you’re stocking up. Set yourself a budget and focus on just 1 to 3 items at a time. If you come up a deal that’s too good to pass up decide ahead of time how much you’re willing to spend. Again, a feature story on Hoarders is not the goal here.
Instead of throwing out coupons I probably should have set them aside. Even if I didn’t buy coffee frequently it might be free after coupons and sale and something I could give away. Also baby supplies, I don’t need them but it wouldn’t hurt me to offer them to the moms I know who might benefit.
Hope this helps y’all and if you have any questions or clarifications let me know!