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By Shakema Wilson from 1mom2girls2boys8inall
Couponing is NOT for the faint of heart. More likely it is for the super “mom” sleuth who understands her family’s bottom line. What is that bottom line you ask? The grocery budget.
Nine years ago, I found myself separated with divorce looming in my rear view mirror. I had a 4-month old baby and 3 other kids that I needed to feed on one income. Not only was I tired out of my mind, but I was desperate for answers. I remember sitting at my kitchen table and saying to the Lord, “How am I going to feed my kids?” I believe God answered, “Coupons.”
There it was. One simple word that would change the course of the next 9 years of my life. If God said I could coupon to feed my family, then I was just crazy enough to believe Him. Now, I am by no means EXTREME, although all of my friends might disagree. What I consider myself is a mom on a mission, a mom on the hunt for the best deals to feed my family and feed them well. I am a deal hunter and bargain shopper that will clip coupons into the wee hours of the night if I know there is a SUPER DOUBLES event coming to my local area grocery store. In the beginning, I had some false starts. I spent way more on items than I should have. Once I realized that my strategy for shopping was not working I stopped, took stock of what I might not be doing right, then started again. Here are the tips that have helped me SUCCESSFULLY feed, not only my children, but over the years many other families as well. I know they will help you, too!
1. Establish a System.
There are many different systems that have worked for many different people who coupon. There are accordion style folders, boxes with dividers, paper envelopes or (my favorite) the BINDER system. That is right. I am a visual learner, and I need to “see” my items and dollar off amounts in order to do quick calculations in my head as I shop. When I first started out, I googled, “Couponing 101,” and clicked on the first result in my search. It was on that site that I found my system, and it is the same system I use today. My binder is broken down into like categories of items at my grocery store. That method makes sense to me. While the milk and coffee are not anywhere close to one another in the grocery store, they are both “Beverages.” So, they are grouped together in my system.
Gather your supplies, put them together, and GET STARTED. There is NO time like the present. While you may not get it all right, you will be well on your way to saving your family money.
2. Pick a Store.
The FIRST mistake I made was trying to do too much too soon. I tried to shop at ALL of my local grocery stores. Talk about overwhelmed! My head was spinning. Remember that each store has its own couponing policy, and if you choose to shop at all of the stores, you WILL have to learn all of those policies. DO NOT do that to yourself. PICK ONE. Just one and learn that ONE. Learn your store, its layout, sale cycles, best times to shop when you will be least overwhelmed and commit all of that to memory. You are NOT LESS THAN because you can’t master all of the stores at one time. Every good “sleuth” must learn its “mark,” one trait (policy) at a time. I promise you that after you learn that store you will be ready to take on the next and the next. Give yourself some grace. Trust me. If I can do this, you can do this.
3. Pick Your Coupon Option.
There are many different ways to save money. Some people use Internet printable coupons. Some people are digital couponers only. Some people opt for using coupon saving apps. As good as the savings are, multiple options can overwhelm anyone. I am a printer junkie. I like the feel of the coupons under my fingers. I want to be able to see my savings when the cashier scans my pintables. My favorite sites for printing coupons are:
I do check my coupon sites daily. Coupons pop up every day, and I want to get THE BEST deals I can for my family. Most coupon sites will allow you to print 2 coupons of a like item, per browser, per computer. I know. I know. ONLY 2 coupons? That’s not enough to make this entire thing worth my while. I promise you it will be. It has been for me. See, for every coupon you print and use, you are saving your family money. If, today, you only print 2 then you have 2 coupons worth of savings. The next shop trip, as your confidence builds, you will use more and more thereby saving your family more and more money. Work the process.
You have no way of printing coupons and no smart phone? NO problem. Do what I did in the beginning. I sent out an email at work and ASKED for ANY unused coupons to be passed along to myself if they were willing to share. Nine years later, I am still getting coupons from “coupon friends,” even though I have long since stopped asking. Let people help you. They really want to. The good book tells us we have not because we ask not. So, start asking.
People always ask me how I get my items for so little money. My short answer is that I shop on sale with a coupon. That gives me FREE items or CLOSE to FREE items. I had to make a decision early on. That decision was I would not depart with my hard earned money unless I absolutely had to. I do not get an item then submit money for my Ibotta rebate later. I would much rather use a coupon on an already on sale item THEN submit for the Ibotta rebate AFTER I have gotten the rock bottom price at my grocery store. Couponing is simple. Get the items as cheap as you can and save your family money. Some people have enough resources coming in that will allow them to pay now and redeem their money back later. Sadly, that was not then nor now my testimony. I have what I have and no more. I have to get my deals up front.
5. Remember the Six Week Cycle.
Simply put, if an item is not on sale during this sale cycle, it will be on sale within the next six weeks. My family and I have learned how to live without certain items until they go on sale. When butter is on sale, I find as many coupons as I can so that I might stock up on butter knowing that it will not be on sale for a few weeks. If it is NOT on sale, we DO NOT buy it. The End. Shopping the six-week cycle will save your family money.
Here are a few things that I want to add that I think might be helpful.
* Shop with a buddy if you can. Shopping with a friend or friends can help to take the pressure off. Plus, you have someone to help bounce deals off of as you shop. They also laugh with you at your mistakes at the register.
* Be a “nice” couponer. Cashiers take a beating from some couponers. Do not be the one they hate to see coming. Have a positive disposition when shopping. Remember you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
* Share the wealth and love. Couponing will help you save money for your family. I promise you it will. Once you are able to save money for your family, consider helping someone else by either sharing some of your stock pile (you will build one over time) or teaching someone else how to coupon. Have patience with them as they work the process and remember how you started.
* Make your coupon journey just that, YOURS. Comparison will kill your confidence. You may not save as much as someone else today. You may miss a deal this week. You may not have all of the coupons you need to restock your pantry after using up all 16 cans of black beans (lol). It will be ok. You do not have to get every deal. You do not have to shop every week. You do not have to clip coupons this sales cycle. Make work for your family what works for your family. In due season, you will reap a harvest if you faint not.
Couponing has literally been one of the best things that was born out of my adversity. I never saw myself as a divorced, single mother of four children. I never saw myself being able to feed my family well either, BUT God knew the answer to my problem- COUPONS.
If I can do it, so can you! I do hope these tips help you to be successful as you enter one of the BEST times of your lives.
Shakema Wilson is a full-time, public school teacher and homeschooling mom who shares her life, family, frugality, and faith on her YouTube channel, 1mom2girls2boys8inall. She is also the Frugal Family Food’s couponing expert. You can watch the first part of her, “Learning to Coupon” series here.
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