It’s 8pm. My kids are asleep. The kitchen is (mostly) clean. I’ve been looking forward to this since the mail came. It’s time for me to sit down at the computer and work on my new hobby: couponing!
I know, I know, I live a wild life. But it’s like a new game that I can’t get enough of.
Now, for as long as I can remember, frugal is not a word I would use to describe myself. And I am almost positive no one has ever accused me of being thrifty either. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely irresponsible with money. I am a shopper, and I like getting a good deal. But did I pay attention to prices at the grocery store? No. Could I tell you how much a gallon of milk should cost? No. Could I tell you where to get a great deal on some fancy shoes? YES!
When I became a stay-at-home mom, my shopping habit took a hit. It was a lot easier to justify buying whatever I wanted whenever I felt like it as a working mom. I was spending precious time away from my babies — the least I could do was reward myself with matching outfits for the girls. Perfect logic to me!
After a few weeks of staying home, I quickly realized that going to Target everyday was not going to work for our finances (and we should probably find a more appropriate playgroup as much as we love the cashiers)! I got better and better at using the Cartwheel app to save money, but the idea of couponing kept creeping into my mind. I had tried to coupon in the past. A few years ago, I got sucked into a marathon of the TV show “Extreme Couponing” and I was determined to give it a try. I bought the coupon organizing envelope and a newspaper, and I spent an afternoon cutting them out only to leave them at home when I went shopping (and forgot about it long enough for all of the coupons to expire). And that’s about as far as I got.
So I felt a little foolish when I picked up another coupon organizer at the store on a recent trip. But it seemed like something I should try again. I started printing out coupons that morning and putting them into my organizer. I also started a shopping list — not something I was very good at before. It seemed like the way to “win” the game was to have a coupon for something also on sale and on Cartwheel. So that was my goal, and I really like to win.
Now let me tell you, hunting for these deals is not a fast process. Our usual 10am Target run didn’t happen until 3pm because of checking out sales and looking for coupons! I was so sick of thinking about grocery shopping that I was ready to throw in the towel before we even got to the store. And the shopping process itself is a little more tedious. I had the Cartwheel app open to make sure I got all of the stuff on that list. I had my coupon organizer open with the coupons kind of fanned out to make sure I didn’t miss any of those. And I had my shopping list balanced on top of the diaper bag in the front of the cart. And oh yeah, the twins were in the front of the cart, too, with full snack traps to keep them entertained. Our usually graceful waltz up and down the aisles turned into more of a jerky stop-start-backup-keep-going jig and took a lot longer than usual. But you know what? That day we saved $75 on our shopping trip! And I was hooked.
I am still learning as I go, but the more I save, the more excited I get about this whole process. I look forward to leaving the house on Sunday morning just to run to the gas station to buy a newspaper for the coupons. And let’s be honest, having newspaper on hand is actually really helpful for art projects with messy toddlers — bonus! I try to think ahead now when I’m grocery shopping. I don’t buy something just because I have a coupon if I will never use it (although sometimes I’m tempted if it’s a really good deal), but I will stock up if there’s a deal on something I will use.
Right now I have enough marshmallows and Rice Krispies in my pantry to get me through the whole holiday season and any bake sale that might come up. I use an app called ibotta to earn cashback on groceries; it’s like ebates for the grocery store. And as much as I like having my little helpers in the store with me, if I’m doing a really big shop, I try to go by myself so that I can spend plenty of time meandering the aisles with my lists, apps and coupons without meltdowns over who gets to hold the bag of lettuce (true story). And on those days where we do run out as a trio because we are out of milk or some other necessity (think Diet Coke), I actually get hives if I forget the coupons at home.
I’m working on getting to wear the frugal badge with honor in other areas of my life (matching outfits are still my weakness), but so far this couponing game has me hooked!