Friday, October 21, 2011

non-extreme couponing

First, allow me to introduce you to Bubba and Jbug (and their parents) ...

Same kids, new names. I got a little eeked out by having their names on the Internets. Not really from anything specific, just... well you know. Paranoia and all.

Photo taken by the always AMAZING Tracy Wood. Seriously, if you're in Eastern Nebraska, you need to call her. She took the most incredible pictures of our little family a few weeks ago - and she did it in 25 minutes since we signed up for a mini-session. You won't be sorry!


I can't believe in all the time I've been babbling at this blog that I haven't mentioned how Dave Ramsey is the 5th member of our family. Or he might as well be. Not quite two years ago, we decided to dip our toe into really trying to get to the point of being debt-free. Except we fell in head first and haven't looked back. Someday I'll write in greater detail about our experience thus far, but for now: we've paid off $20,000 in 21 months and it feels fantastic. But that means we've had to be very mindful about what we're spending our money on.

Random confession: buying things like toilet paper and toothpaste drives me crazy. I'm not saying that the manufacturers don't deserve to be paid for their products nor do I think we should have a socialist toilet paper program. It's just that being an adult didn't hit me so hard as that first toiletry purchase when I started college. Growing up, some of those things (toothpaste!) were just always there, in the drawer, like a magic elfin toothpaste genie deposited it while we slept.

In the past, we'd head to Walmart (yes, I know, we have a love/hate relationship) once a month and load up on groceries and household goods because they have the market cornered on price and convenience (where else can you buy hair gel, tortillas, and windshield washer fluid at such low prices?). If we needed it, we bought it. It was a necessary evil; we used to joke that part of our paycheck should just go directly there. We were casual couponers then - if we happened to get the Sunday paper, we'd cut out a few things that we used or we wanted to try. We maybe saved $5 a month with coupons.

Last Spring during one monthly budget revamp, I began to realize we needed to stretch our dollars further if we ever wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel with being debt-free. I started following a local coupon blog, Chicks Dig Deals - she does matchups of coupons + what's on sale at our local stores. I was totally overwhelmed at first, so I started slowly - just clipping coupons and matching one or two stores per week. In truth, I still don't do as good of a job with grocery couponing but that's my next goal. It's so easy though - I just make the list of what's on sale and what we'll use and match it with a coupon. We don't have coupon "doubling" around here (except at our tiny neighborhood store, once a week) so we don't get the amazing deals that other parts of the country do. But still, it's something, and I bet we save $40-60 a month on our grocery bill now.

However. CVS and Walgreens have all my love. I haven't paid anything for a tube of toothpaste since, I don't know, March or something. And I've gotten past my hatred for buying toilet paper since we can get it so very cheap. I delved into drugstore shopping around the time Jbug was born. It uses the same principle of sales + coupon matching, but the deals are much easier to get (for me). For instance, last night I went to CVS and got 2 jumbo packs of Pampers, 2 bottles of Wisk laundry detergent (probably my favorite detergent anyway), and 2 tubes of toothpaste. After my manufacturer's coupons and store coupons (they stack - you can use 1 manu. + 1 store coupon on any item) and CVS' ExtraCare Bucks rewards (they're like cash back from a previous purchase), I paid $6.42. Before the discounts were applied, it was $34. And that is all on stuff we'll use (I keep donating the toothpaste to family members, because it's FREE) (hi, Mom!), I don't buy stuff we won't use, unless it's free and I can donate it to a shelter or something. We have a nifty little stash of stuff started, but usually just 1-2 extra of something, I don't have 23 bottles of ketchup or anything (although we would certainly use it, Joey).

For drug store shopping I use Hip2Save (just a personal preference - there's dozens of couponing sites). She does a great job of laying out the entire week's ad for a certain store (this is last week's CVS ad). I just go through and pick out the things we use, match them to manufacturer's coupons I have, and then cross my fingers for some extra savings from CVS' magic coupon machine (talked about here, in the store guide).

So now, rather than that mega Wal-mart trip, we're buying things ahead of time, when they're on sale. I imagine we save, conservatively, $100 a month over what we were paying prior to my deal busting. It's an awesome feeling to buy things we'll use (hello, diapers) for $3-4 per pack (of Huggies or Pampers) rather than $9-11 that we paid when B was in dipes. It's possible, I did it last night!

I've acquired some tips and tricks over the last few months, and I might share them in a future post. But I want to hear about your tips too! I know I'm not the only one stretching a dollar lately - what do you do? And do you have any questions? I can answer those too.

Have a fab weekend!


  1. If you have not tried them, internet printable coupons are the best, they are for consistently higher amounts and a big plus for me is that they are all the same size. Since you live in the land of No Doubles, try matching a coupon with a BOGO sale. That is my favorite. I save about 15-20 dollars a week, because I buy organic and while organic coupons are out there they are not as prevalent as mainstream coupons. Try some of your favorite brands websites, I routinely get Ovaltine coupons and just got a few from Driscolls in my email. We love Dave Ramsey too, and have been using his program for maybe three years now.

  2. LOVE this post!

    Dave Ramsey is definitely a member of our family too -- husband used to poke fun at me, but now is 110% on board with listening to his radio program each night while we do the dinner dishes. We did FPU last year (online) and managed to pay of our van and become debt-free. I'm now a SAHM and we are saving more money than we did when we had 2 incomes. Of course our lifestyle is quite different now too, but - wish we would have found Dave a looooong time ago ;)

    And couponing, YEAH!! I agree about grocery couponing, I'm not great at that yet - but we have an Aldi which helps our family of 6 stick to a budget without having to go coupon-crazy - which works for me, because I'm not nearly organized enough for it (oh to have a few more hours in the day...?!)

    But I LOVE LOVE LOVE CVS and Walgreens -- the Drugstore game is a fun way to save a bundle!

    Do you read She's one of my favorites!

    PS. LOVE the family picture - your boys are so darn adorable =)

  3. I'm glad I just read this. We've been thinking of adding Dave to our family as well.

  4. Beauuuutiful picture of you all! Miss you :)

  5. I wish I could be better at this couponig thing. I tried 2 years ago and did ok-ish, but since the whole 2 kids + part time job thing has left me flailing to even get out of my pajamas most days, the couponing thing was the first to go by the wayside. In fact, we out take out most nights. (FOR SHAME) Maybe I can come to you for help whenever I get a management hold over my life again... Dave Ramsey is DA MAN!

  6. I'm sending this to George. He'll swoon. :-) I make fun of his couponing, but I'll admit, his CVS adventures leave me speechless... in a good way!

    Way to go on chipping away the debt! That's so awesome!!! I didn't know much about that before I met George (I was pretty sure people were "supposed" to live with credit card bills out the wazoo), but now, I am grateful, grateful, grateful he's got us living as close to debt free as we can. Pretty amazing feeling! Keep on keepin' on!!!


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