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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Couponing for the Working Mom

Couponing.  I've read tons of blogs about how much money everyone saves going nuts with coupons, going through store ads, comparing prices...but not a one was written by a working mother.  Because the truth is, if you work full time, there's no way you have time to do all that.  And the time you do have, you don't want to spend couponing, you want to spend it with your kids.  So how can you get some of that savings?  Here's what I do.  It's a very watered down version of couponing that saves you some mulah for about 15 minutes a week.

Buy you a little coupon file for a couple bucks from the notebook aisle at Walmart.

Label each tab with categories.  Try to stick with categories by aisle of the store you shop at.  Here's mine.  I use dry food, cold, frozen, toiletry, baby, grocery, and I have a couple tabs for store coupons.

Sign up for your local Sunday paper.  They will try to talk you into getting the Wednesday paper too, but all of the good coupons come on Sunday.  They charge about a dollar a paper.  You will save far more than that, so it's easy to justify the extra cost.

Now yank out the coupons and start clipping.  Now here's the tricky part.  What to clip?  If you follow a few basic rules, you won't spend too much time clipping, and you won't be the crazy coupon lady who takes 30 minutes to check out.

1.  Lose your brand loyalty.  Try the brand that has the coupon.  There are a couple of items that I absolutely have to stick with (my favorite organic milk and Huggies One & Done wipes, there's just no substitute,) but for everything else I try to use what's on sale.  Especially with toiletries.  Colgate or Crest, who cares, as long as your kids use the toothpaste!

2.   This may be the most important rule.  ONLY CLIP COUPONS FOR PRODUCTS YOU USE!!!  Folks, this is why companies do coupons.  They are trying to get you to buy their product.  If you don't already use pre-cooked boneless ham, DON'T clip it.  You'll just end up spending more, and that's what those companies hope for.

3.  Stockpile.  Not everything, don't go all Disaster Prepper, but a few extra bottles of shampoo under the sink isn't going to drive your husband nuts.  Here's why:  coupons come in cycles.  If you want to know what they are, look here.  I don't know or care what they are.  If I see that there are a ton of diaper coupons that month, it's diaper coupon season.  I clip them and stock up on diapers.  I know I'll use them.

4.  Only shop at one or two stores.  I get most of my fresh food from Publix, and I always shop their two-for-ones.  I get cleaning supplies, dry goods, and baby items from Walmart, because even with the Publix coupons, they are usually cheaper.  Make sure you know those stores' coupon policies.  Publix doubles everything $0.50 or less and you can use a Publix and manufacturer coupon for the same item!

5.  Plan ahead!  The more often you shop, the more you spend, because of those little impulse items.  I go every two weeks, and I try my very best to stick to my list.  I make meal plans and write what I've planned for on my dry-erase board.  So the fam still gets to choose dinner, but from the list of what we have, so less goes to waste because I forgot I had that bag of baby carrots at the bottom of the crisper drawer.  I also keep a running list of what we need so I don't forget anything (this also helps cut down on the grocery trips.)

6.  Last but not least, use the coupons to make your dinner list.  Take those coupons out of the file and stick them in your pocket.  So now when you check out, you just hand the cashier a little stack of coupons, they quickly scan them, and you're done!  Make sure you've read the coupon fully so you don't only grab one bag of diapers when the coupon is only good if you buy two.

And that's it!  Headache-free, quick & easy couponing, from one working, busy mom to the next.  Happy shopping!

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