Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mediocre Couponing

Free -- yes free! This was the Target spring beauty bag giveaway.
I just sent for the free -- yes free! -- summer beauty bag.
Great for traveling, trying out products, and it comes with book of Target coupons!
I am not an extreme couponer. I am a mediocre couponer. I aspire to be better, and it is a goal. Especially when I watch that TV show and realize I could be getting things for free or practically free. I like free, but I am also crunched for time to prepare for shopping trips. I mean, seriously, how much time do these people take to get all that free stuff? I'd just like to get some free stuff to keep my cabinets stocked so I don't have to make an urgent purchase for something we use all the time. That is the goal.

I do watch "Extreme Couponing" -- which returns to TLC on Monday -- regularly. I do know most of their coupon tips, so I'm not watching for that reason. My reason for watching is mostly to be inspired to do better with my shopping planning and strategies. (And it is a bit of a train wreck sometimes, isn't it?) I do think it is a major misrepresentation of how to coupon, however, since many coupon rules/laws have been broken on that program. And many of the featured couponers actually spend money to get more coupons, which isn't factored into their shopping trips. I believe in transparency regarding all this way of saving money, and one has to factor every possible expense to show the real picture -- paying coupon clipping services, the cost of ink and paper to print coupons, buying extra Sunday papers, etc.

And I can't stand when they get things for free that they don't need unless they are donating them. Cat food without cats? Diapers without babies? Why are you holding on to this in your stockpile? Let's be real, right? Is it just hoarding and mental illness at that point?

Couponing can get completely ridiculous and out of hand. My goal is to save on things we use and need. Occasionally, I'll try something new with a coupon, or get a treat, but the real idea to keep our cabinet stocked with things that won't spoil/expire before we will use them. Not junk food or ridiculous food that is still expensive with a coupon. Things like canned food -- soups, veggies, etc. -- and toiletries -- deoderant, toothpaste, paper goods, etc. The things we always use and need should be there when we need them so we aren't paying full price when we run out of them. It's as simple as that.

While most extreme couponers carry binders of coupons, I don't think I'm heading in that direction. First, for me, couponing requires having my coupons on me at all times so if I can stop in a store, I have them with me. I'm not carrying a binder everywhere I go. So I have an accordion-type plastic file that fits in my purse and holds a ton of coupons. Plus it's easier to clean out than those clear plastic pages, and we all know coupons expire pretty quickly now, so cleaning out often is a necessity. I also carry a clear plastic pouch with an envelope in it -- the pouch has coupons which I think I might use on my shopping trip; the envelope in it has coupons I know I will use. As I go through the store, all coupons I need at the register get put in the envelope. That way I'm not the annoying person at the cash register searching for a coupon -- they are all organized to hand over to the cashier.

Do you print coupons? I do, but mostly from two sources: and I shop at Target frequently, and I like that you can stack their store coupons with manufacturer's coupons and save more.

I also pay attention to a few Web sites for frugal tips and offers: Couponing to Disney is probably my favorite. It's updated frequently during the day, is easy to search, and has more than just couponing tips. I like its premise of setting a budget for the week/month and every dollar you save under that budget is set aside in a special fund (in the author's case, for Disney trips). I find it a wise way to save for something one might need or want. And no, I haven't set up a fund like that for myself, but it's an idea that is always in the back of my head.

Couponing doesn't have to relegated to just groceries and toiletries. There are so many tips to saving money from so many sources. I always try to make sure I know my prices for big purchases. I check the internet often to get ideas of price ranges. I also have a habit of never ordering anything online without searching for a coupon or coupon code first. And before I head to the mall, I also check my e-mail for printable coupons for stores where we shop frequently. And I'm always thinking of the next holiday/birthday, and trying to plan ahead to combine sales with possible coupons for additional savings.

Now, I'm not perfect at this at all. But I'm trying to be better. There's always room for improvement. I'm always on the hunt for new tips, so if you have any, leave them below!

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