Coupon Ninjetta

14 Jun

Hey ya’ll!  Ninjetta is in da house!  For those of you who didn’t sit over with the cool kids (read: PM dorks) when the Redneck Ninja video became popular, Ninjetta is a Ninja’s female sidekick.  I jokingly refer to myself as Ninjetta when I feel particularly proud of something.

Today’s topic is Coupons!  This may have to be broken down into two posts, since my first draft is getting a big lengthy.  That long winded thing I was telling you about?  I wasn’t kidding!

First off, do you pronounce that word as ‘coo-pon’ or ‘cue-pon?  I use the former but have noticed that all the folks on Extreme Couponing us the latter.  Which really irritates me.  But on the pronunciation key uses the former as well.  Winning!  I really like that show but I do find myself very amped about saving money afterwards, which I guess is good, however the Husband and I try to not live on Ramen alone, but on every living thing.  (Well not EVERY, just the living things that can be found at your local major grocery store chain.)  And I rarely see milk or fresh foods like meat, fruits, or vegetables included in the massive hauls these folks take home.  In our house, we have what I think is a nice balance.  Yes, we use coupons and I do put a lot of effort into stretching our dollars; however we also eat a lot of non-packaged foods and those don’t usually have coupons.

A few years ago, when I went to the store to get groceries, I would go up and down every aisle, doing what I call ‘unconscious shopping.’  I also exercise ‘unconscious eating’ sometimes too!  Basically, this is just shopping without a plan or a budget.  You have to have a budget!  Even a caloric one, but definitely a financial budget or plan.  At the time, I would just purchase whatever I wanted, and then would just pay what bills I could with what was left over.  Looking back, this sounds so immature and crazy.  And this is also why I’m still in debt today, because I didn’t manage my money well back then. 

Why did it not occur to me to use coupons??  I remember my Mom clipping coupons, but they usually were placed in a kitchen drawer where they stayed for years and were never used.  (She still does this and if you were to go in her kitchen right now, I would be willing to bet that on top of her microwave are months old coupons for random things.)  So I really didn’t see the value in them.  That was until a couple of years ago, when a friend at work told me about a coupon that when doubled at Kroger, allowed for free toilet paper!  The thought of anything free, especially something that I used daily and doesn’t expire, was very appealing.  I wound up with so much free toilet paper that when I moved, I still had packages of free toilet paper in my closet.  I estimate that I didn’t buy toilet paper for at least a year.  My friend was doing the Grocery Game plan which costs money each month, after the free trial month, and the more store lists you want, the more expensive it is.  I did the month free trial, learned how the system worked, and tried to do this on my own.  I think the Grocery Game is wonderful, but for someone just shopping for two, and who doesn’t have a lot of extra storage space including freezer space, I didn’t feel like it was a good return on my investment.  If you are shopping for a large family or want to buy extra to donate, or if you just have extra space, I think it is worth trying! 

What I do now is sign up for coupon previews from websites like Red Plum and Smart Source, which are the companies that publish some of the coupon inserts into the Sunday papers.  I receive weekly emails with a list of coupons that will be in the following Sunday’s paper.   Every Sunday paper doesn’t have coupon inserts in it; many ‘holiday’ papers, the Sunday before a major holiday like Christmas, do not have coupons in them.  Since coupons are not in every weekly paper these previews help me determine if I should purchase a paper, multiple papers, or none at all.  For example, if there is a coupon that I know I will use and I can justify buying multiple papers to get multiple of that coupon, I will go buy my papers early on Sunday mornings, as they are nearly all sold out by late afternoon.  Additionally, if there are ‘good’ coupons or several inserts in that weeks’ paper, others will buy multiple papers and thus, are gone earlier in the day.  If you don’t have access to email, you can just go get a paper, look through it and see what coupons are in there, and then determine if you want more papers or not.

The first thing I do is clean out the coupons I currently have, throwing away any that have expired or will before my next shopping trip.  Next, I get the inserts out of the paper, and start clipping!  I clip coupons for products that we use and also products that we would be willing to try.  Just think ‘if this were free or very cheap, would I purchase it?’  If so, clip it!  Next, I sort my coupons into groups, according to my accordion folder that I keep my coupons in.  Depending on your needs you can break these up however you want.  Examples of my categories are: Medicine, Paper Products, Personal Care, Household, Freezer, Fridge, Breakfast, Baking, etc.  The folder I use was purchased for around $4 at Wal-Mart, and has several compartments, and fits nicely into my purse.  I also keep some paper clips in this folder, to help me sort coupons and stay organized during my trip.

Don’t forget about e-coupons!  These load directly to your store shopper’s card and will be deducted at the register.  I print out a list of the coupons I added  and factor those in to my list and calculations.  These coupons probably won’t double and now the stores have gotten smart and the register will not allow the use of a paper coupon and an e-coupon on one item.  I got a lot of free or very cheap stuff this way before the policy was changed. 

The next thing I do is go through the paper and set aside the sale flyers for the stores that I purchase items at.  My list usually consists of Kroger, Food City, Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens.  Not every store has a flyer every week, and stores like K-Mart aren’t that close to me, but if a deal is good enough, I may go to that store.  Some stores double coupons, but the only one from the above list is Kroger; they double your paper coupons with a face value of up to $.50.  The other stores all accept coupons, but do not double them as their regular coupon policy. 

This is where the couponing gets time consuming.  With my list of items that I want or need that has been compiled, along with my trusty notebook, and my sale ads, I make a list for each store.  I look at the sale ad and if there is an item on sale that I also need, I write down the item, the sale price, and if I have a coupon for that item, I also write the value of the coupon, and show the final price for the item.  This helps me stay on budget, and is very helpful when trying to keep within my budget at the store.  As I go through the lists, I determine who has the best deal, so I don’t have to keep referencing multiple sale ads.  I may end up re-writing out my final shopping list, once I have compared all the store prices.  I also keep a stack of the coupons I anticipate using, and have them paper clipped together, in the front pocket of my folder, which is reserved solely for this purpose.


I also will look for items that we use that may be on sale and worth spending budget money to purchase.   Non-perishables and non-grocery items are good to stock up on, such as breakfast bars or toothpaste, since they don’t expire for a long time.  This also keeps me from buying out of necessity.  My bathroom closet currently has 5+ tubes of toothpaste, 2 new toothbrushes, about 10 bars of soap, a few bottles of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner.  I also keep staples like laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bleach, trash bags, and dish soap stocked up, so I’m not running to the nearest place to purchase these, usually at a much higher price. 

Once I have decided what stores are worth visiting and purchasing items, I determine whether I can make one loop and get all the items I want, or if I will have to stop to drop off refrigerated or frozen items at home, between stores.  With my plan of attack and my budget figured out, I head out on my trip.  I take my store sale ad, notebook, list of e-coupons, my final shopping list, and of course my coupons!  If you have a small calculator, this can also be very helpful.  I find that between trying to do ‘coupon math’ and ‘budget math’ I need to keep a running tally of what I have in my cart so far, to ensure that I don’t blow my budget at the register.  I also plan on being there at least an hour, because the couponing process can be tedious.  Weighing options on what to buy to stay in your budget, how much to buy of a particular item and making sure you get everything you needed, all take time.  There are also always going to be items that are on sale at the store that didn’t make the sale ad.  This is why you need to take all of your coupons with you, even if you don’t think you will use them.  I learned this the hard way when I saw an awesome deal on an item, but had left my coupons at home. 

Hope these tips and tricks help you save your hard earned dollars!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: