Misadventures in Couponing

Well, like I said the other day, I thought I’d give this “Extreme Couponing” thing a try in an attempt to minimize my monthly budget. So, I spent the better part of the week educating myself on couponing websites, writing to manufacturers for coupons to buy my favorite brands, and first-thing Sunday morning combing through the Sunday paper in the hopes of saving my family hundreds of dollars this month.

Because I live on an island with no major shopping centers in the near vicinity, I have three choices:

1. Spend a lot of money on gas to drive to the opposite end of a 46-mile long island to get to the grocery store chains.

2. Waste a lot of time waiting in ferry lines (and pay for gas and ferry fare) to get to the suburbs where I can spend all day trying to hit every major retailer in the hopes of making the trip (on a sunny summer weekend) worth it.

3. Clip manufacturers coupons and try to support my local businesses, knowing full-well that I’m missing out on some significant savings.

I opted for #2. And I thought I was prepared. I even convinced my husband to join me. And drive separately so he could load the back of his truck with a cooler and patio heater while I loaded all of the groceries and the children in my car. We had a list a mile long and great expectations. Safeway. Albertsons. QFC. Lowes.

That’s when I got suckered in to all of the Sunday flyers. The Office Max flyer had such great offers on school supplies that I was reminded of how much money I spent last year to outfit two preschoolers for school. Office Max was definitely a must, I told my husband. So, he took the kids and went to Lowes to see if they had any good deals on patio furniture since ours is on its last leg(s). It turns out the Office Max I thought I was going to was actually a Staples, so I decided to just go there–sans flyer coupons. I was able to $ave a ton of money on school supplies by spending a ton of money on school supplies. But I did get that pack of pencils for a penny. So I guess I can’t complain.

Then, I noticed that RiteAid neighbored Staples, so I thought I’d head in there to $ave some more money. There were all of these bright yellow stickers on the shelves that read “FREE with Rebate.” I had already done some research on couponing at RiteAid and learned that they had this online rebate program where you spend the money up front, then go home and enter your receipt details into their website and receive a check back in the mail. Kind of a hassle, but if this couponing thing is really as good as everyone says it is, I’ll take that chance. You should see how many carts I filled in RiteAid with the products we actually do need–shampoo, conditioner, soaps (because you’ll remember I made my husband use the rest of my fruity left-overs), toothpaste, razor blades, contact lens solution, deodorant, the list goes on. Amazingly enough, everything I chose to purchase promised me it was FREE with a rebate. Looking forward to that rebate check already! (As it turns out, when I got home and read the fine print on the website, I learned that my FREE with Rebate offer was not exactly the free products I was purchasing, but instead a free cosmetic case. So, now I’m out a considerable amount of money on toiletries and have more junk arriving in the mail. Fortunately, I did not go crazy stocking up on items we don’t need. But, I’m less than enamored with this couponing business.)

And, since my husband wasn’t having any luck in the outdoor furniture department, I found some decent outdoor cushions we can use with a fresh coat of paint on our existing furniture to solve our deck seating crisis. $15 per cushion at RiteAid. I challenge you to find a better deal. (Note that I would have simply recovered our disintegrating cushions in the best interests of reducing, reusing, and recycling, if our feline foes had not slept on them all spring, rendering them un-smell-able.)

Meanwhile, in related outdoor-furnishing news, my husband did discover a $250 propane deck heater on sale for $99 at Home Depot. And since it was the floor model, they gave him an additional discount. And, since he is King Barterer, they gave him an additional discount. And, because they honored our 10% off coupon for Lowes, the grand total was $61. One could argue that we don’t actually need a deck heater, as minimalists. But then one would have to remind you that my husband is no minimalist. Then, I would also have to point out that the warmer our deck is, the more time we’ll spend there, perhaps even eating at home more often than dining out, thereby saving a considerable chunk of our grocery budget, which will minimize my need to clip coupons. Deck heater = budget minimization. That’s how I justify that purchase.

So, there we were … hours later, with a car full of un-planned school supply purchases, full-priced cosmetics, cheap chair cushions, and an industrial-sized deck heater. Two tired kids. A husband who is done shopping. And no groceries. Yet.

Instead of trying to hit all of the great deals, we head to Safeway, armed with about five coupons for food we’ll actually eat, and cruise the aisles with a cart and one child each. Divide and conquer, we decided. It will come as no shock to you, I’m sure, to find that when we met at the cash register, we each had a full basket of “essentials.” Only, mine contained ingredients that could actually be combined to make meals, and my husband’s included Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs and some awful-looking canned fruit submerged in Jello. Somehow, we still managed to save 28% on our receipt for the day.

The output was still more than the savings. Apparently it takes a couple of months to get the hang of this couponing thing. Or, I should quit my day job and become a full-time coupon clipper and deal researcher.

Maybe I could find an online rebate for my entire day.

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About Not-so-SuperMomma

See my previous blog at www.theminimalchallenge.wordpress.com to learn about how I used to be a SuperMom ...
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One Response to Misadventures in Couponing

  1. annie says:

    I once tried couponing, and used to be a member of Costco, too – all in the hopes of saving money on groceries. This was a pain, we didn’t have a grocery store I could walk to, so I’d drive out of town, too. I also made grocery trips as infrequently as possible, stocking up and then hoping to use things throughout the weeks in between. Then we got a gourmet grocery store in town and I thought I’d wind up spending much more there. Luckliy I have been tracking grocery expenses for ages so I could compare, and for us it turned out that I actually saved more by going to the expensive but local grocery store every few days, just when I needed certain things. I think this worked out that we never had waste and we never buy things we don’t need, since we know we can get them when we need to. Conventional wisdom says that couponing and bulk shopping may be the way to go, but it works better for us to do the opposite.

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