Coupon Dabbling

My giant receipt and total savings

I have never been much of a bargain hunter to be truthful – don’t get me wrong – I love to get a bargain, but I just don’t invest much time in seeking them out – I kinda stumble over them. I am a big fan of TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack – but once again it take little effort to score a bargain when you are in a store that has nothing else but bargains….

I also like to shop at Kohls, but every time I get those Kohls dollars, I tend to forget about them and they expire – which is I know is just like throwing money away –  but I am just not that organized and don’t really need any incentive to buy more stuff – I can do that all by myself…

A few months ago I was thrilled to come across some crumpled up in the bottom of my purse the very day they were due to expire and was able to actually use them for once. I scored a pair of diamond dust hoops for FREE. I felt like jumping on a table and proclaiming loudly to the world at large about my shopping maven prowess. I was suddenly the smartest shopper in the world – somebody put me in a damn commercial right now!

I have, however, always worked pretty hard and therefore my time is a precious commodity – so I won’t drive out of my way for the best deal on gas and I do my grocery shopping wherever is most convenient for me. I have been fortunate enough during most of my career to make enough money that I am not always worried about a few cents here or there. I have never been able to tell you exactly how much a dozen eggs cost or the best deal on a gallon of milk but recently things have changed a little…

Maybe it is the effect of living in this bleak economic time – the ongoing recession that turns 401Ks into 201Ks – having to sell a house that plummeted in value in a few short years as part of relocating across the country, worrying about our retirement and our kids futures…. I think everyone seems to be paying more attention to where their money goes these days. I have moved away from the big banks in favor of a long standing relationship with my credit union and certainly seem to get much more of a thrill out of a good deal when I do find one.

One fateful day, I got sucked into that Extreme Couponing show on TLC – which is sneakily and horrifyingly addictive. I was stunned to see people going to their local grocery store and buying $1000 of merchandise but paying only $5 for it – what strange sorcery was this? I started to feel like an idiot – why was I paying hundreds of dollars when other mere mortals saved 97% on their household shopping? If I paid less for the stuff I have to buy – like food and toilet paper – then I would have more money to support my Grey Goose Slushee habit and my continuing shoe fetish… (I really should be in Shoes Anonymous – just call me Imelda)

So although I refuse to go dumpster diving for coupons and I am not going to buy 400 cans of cat food for a cat I don’t have just because it is free, or set up an end of the world style stockpile in my garage with a lifetime supply of minty mouthwash and Cheerios – I decided I was willing to buy a Sunday paper and see if it made a difference in my regular shopping. And so began the great coupon experiment…

It started innocently enough – I picked up a paper and used a few coupons on items I normally buy. Not so bad, I saved myself a little money and felt like a slightly smarter shopper. The next week I looked at the Krazy Coupon Lady’s web site (I know – gotta watch out for that slippery slope…) and realized that the proper way to do this was apparently to match store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons – if I really wanted to save the big bucks…

I also discovered that Target, which already has pretty good prices, gives you back $5 gift cards when you buy certain combination of items –  like for instance detergent, toilet paper and paper towels. Well I use all of those things, in abundance, all the time and was amazed to be given a gift card last time I shopped. This meant that when buying more shoes (on sale) for my fast growing teenager this time, I used my gift card and felt like an even smarter shopper – this was actually pretty cool!!!

So on our last trip to Target we managed to save $127 on items we normally buy and got three, count them three,  $5 gift cards. Thats 142 more dollars in my pocket – well in my pocket for now – clearly they will soon be spent on shoes and cocktails…..

It may not be anywhere close to 97% savings – more like 30% but still pretty impressive if you ask me. And, more importantly not a single bottle of mouthwash or can of unnecessary cat food has ended up taking up space in my pantry.

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