Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy!

Here at Momma Making Moves we concentrate on saving money, time, and sanity. However, I will be the first to say that in order to accomplish this, we need to continue to learn and try new things. With that being said, I have to make a confession…

Couponing can be more than a little bit scary to me.

There! I said it! While I advocate doing what is necessary to save money, especially for us big families, I have just recently jumped on the couponing bandwagon. And I am going to share one more little secret…

I may not know much about couponing, but I know how to find good bloggers who do!

Tiffany at The Crazy Shopping Cart not only explains everything you need to know about couponing, but offers great resources to help you be successful. Annnnnd, she agreed to guest post on Momma Making Moves to explain couponing 101 to us. Here is her advice!

 

Couponing 101: learn how to save money with couponing!

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy

When you hear the word “couponing,” what do you think of?

For me, I remember my mother sitting every Sunday evening at the kitchen table, intently pouring over the weekly ads and clipping the newspaper coupons.  She spent hours each week preparing and executing each shopping trip, only to save a few dollars.  (Although, a couple of dollars was quite a lot of money back in…..well, let’s just say that when I was kid, it was quite a few years ago!)

This image is what came to my mind two years ago when, at a church activity focused on emergency preparedness, a woman in our church raised her hand and stated she used couponing to help build an emergency supply of food to have on hand in her home.  I started to tune her out until she said, “I haven’t paid more than $.50 for a box of Cheerios in years, and I always get my toothpaste and shampoo for free.”

Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing With the Internet

After that meeting, several of us surrounded her and begged her to teach us her ways.  I braced myself for hours of work, repeating that it would be worth it.  Imagine my surprise when our first meeting with her took less than 30 minutes, and I ended up saving over 50% on my groceries that week!

What makes the difference between my mother’s way of couponing and my own?  Two words: the Internet!

Now, instead of having to find each deal on your own when the Sunday paper comes out, someone else has most likely already had an early edition of the ad and upcoming coupons, done a matchup, and posted it on the internet to share!  What used to take hours of work to clip and catalogue coupons, read ads, and prepare shopping lists is now already completed several days before the sales actually begin!

In fact, there are now so many different websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. that focus on couponing, it’s a bit overwhelming!  When I first began couponing, I felt adrift in a sea of acronyms and phrases that were more like a foreign language than English.  Thankfully, my friend from church walked me through it all until I was confident enough to go on my own.  And now, two years later, I even blog about it!

Couponing 101

Couponing can be very simple, if you follow the steps and go slow.  Here are some steps to help you along the way:

  1. Get coupons.  You can purchase the Sunday paper each week, or there are even some websites where you can order pre-clipped coupons mailed to your door!
  2. Start learning coupon terms, slang, and rules.  It’s extremely important to recognize that there are rules to couponing.
  3. Pick a grocery store that you already shop at and feel comfortable with.  Chances are, there is a website or Facebook group that is dedicated to that store!  They will provide you with lists of deals each week, matching up coupons with sales to help you get the best deal.
  4. Choose just one or two deals that you want to try out.  Perhaps something that you would normally purchase anyway (like diapers or cereal), collect the necessary coupons, and go try it out!
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help!  If you get to the store and feel lost, just slow down.  I found it helpful at checkout to tell the cashier something like, “Hi!  I have some coupons to use today.  I’m new to couponing and haven’t really done this before.  Please let me know if I’ve messed anything up.”  They’ll be very happy to help you out!

    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
Continuing With Couponing

After the first few trips, as you start to get the hang of one or two deals, you can then start doing more.  Please, please go at a pace that you feel comfortable with.  It’s so easy with today’s technology to see posts on couponing Facebook groups of amazing hauls that cost almost nothing and feel like you are so far away from that.  I used to feel that way, too!  In fact, I still make mistakes sometimes!  Just last week, I messed up my coupon count and ended up losing out on $10 of savings.  It was pretty disappointing, but since it was something I normally needed anyways (diapers), I reminded myself that any savings on something I would already buy is better than the full-price I would have otherwise paid!

If you’re still feeling nervous or overwhelmed about couponing, you’re in good company!  I can’t count the number of times I received emails or Facebook messages from people who just feel lost with couponing.  To help them (and you!) get a firmer understanding, I’ve put together a free ebook:  it’s called “The Beginner’s Guide to Couponing,” and it walks you through all of the different steps I mentioned above.  You’ll learn all about where to get coupons, how to organize them, what the coupon rules are, coupon lingo, and so much more!

How To Find More Information

You can find Tiffany’s ebook (and so, so much more about couponing) at The Crazy Shopping Cart. I plan on utilizing her ebook when my hubby and I sit down to do our meal planning tomorrow. If you want ideas on how you can save money on meals for your family, go snag her ebook and then check out my series on meal planning here.

Tiffany is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi, and saving money.

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies
11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

Even if saving money on school supplies captures your interest, right now you are probably wondering why in the world I am mentioning school supplies in the middle of June. Fair enough, but hear me out. There really is a method to my madness- most of the time.

As with most things, saving money on school supplies takes planning. I really, really do wish that the only requirement for saving money while shopping for my large family was to wake up and want to keep money in my bank account. But, alas, big savings does require some time so there is no time like the present to start! Here are 11 ways to start saving now.

Back to school lists
Get the back to school supply lists as soon as possible.
  1. Get your school supply lists as early as possible. This gives you more time to find supplies throughout the summer. For example, one of my local office stores is closing. They are having closeout deals and I have been stalking the clearance shelves for items on my list. If I didn’t know what I was looking for ahead of time I would waste money (see #8). I mean, come on, CLEARANCE during a CLOSEOUT! Is there any other way to spell win-win? But, since I know what I am looking for, I have only purchased things I know I will need.
  2. Check your closets. You may actually already have some of the supplies but completely forgotten! Even before I had multiple school supply lists, I was collecting school supplies because a) I loooove school and office supplies and b) I have issues with passing up great deals. If I find a pair of scissors for 10 cents I am buying a dollar’s worth. (FYI- stores usually have a limit on how many items you can buy at rock bottom prices so make sure you know your limits before you go too crazy. I may or may not be speaking from experience.) Also, don’t discredit your child’s school supplies from previous years. I  took a baby wipe to my daughter’s scissors from last year and she still was excited to go to school with scissors that were her favorite color. She had no idea they were from the previous year. We also only had to replace a few of the uniform shirts which was a nice way to save money.
  3. Find out if your school sells school supply kits. This, of course, varies from school to school (or even grade to grade) but can be an awesome deal if it is available. For one of my daughters I already purchased her kit. I probably could have purchased the items in the kit for a couple of dollars less but the convenience was worth it for me (see #11). Also, I know that she will have all of the same supplies as the rest of the kids in her class so that will hopefully help ease the transition into kindergarten. My oldest daughter had a kit available but the price was way out of my comfort zone. My oldest son didn’t even have one offered so we already knew we were going to be out with the crowds shopping anyway.

    Beware of dollar store deals.
    Beware of dollar store deals.
  4. Beware of dollar stores. As a mom, I love dollar deals. In fact, they can convince me I need something I don’t. Then, the next thing I know  I am sheepishly smiling at the cashier as she rings up $20 worth of merchandise I probably (absolutely) could have passed on. This actually is not the only pitfall of those lovely, enticing dollar stores. During the back-to-school sales, the prices at the dollar stores often get beat. That’s right, their “deals” are no longer deals. That dollar composition notebook is most likely at least half of that dollar in a different store. Same rule applies to pencils, pens, even notebooks and binders. Basically rule of thumb is check the price of the competitors before you decide where you are going to shop. This leads us into…
  5. Do not stay loyal to one store. Most big box stores are trying to compete to get your business. Let them work for your money, especially if the stores are in close vacinity of each other. We have a Target and a Walmart that are literally within walking distance to each other so I do not feel like it is too time consuming to go to both. If the stores are too far apart from each other, however, it may cause more in gas than it is worth.
  6. Check to see if your state has a tax free time to shop. Some states actually remove the sales tax from supplies that are used for school. Dates and rules vary so make sure that you understand them before you start shopping. While taxes may not seem like a lot, it can really add up!

    Try searching online for school supplies.
    Try searching on the Internet to save money on school supplies.
  7. Try unconventional places to find what you need. Think of places like Craigslist or Facebook groups. (Please just be careful and think smart before meeting anyone you do not know.) I belong to a local supportive moms group on Facebook  (see my post here about why) and saw several moms swapping supplies throughout the year. I also see teachers that are getting rid of extra supplies when doing their end of the school year cleanups.
  8. Do not buy unnecessary things. As a lover of school supplies, it is sooooo difficult for me not to stray from our supply list. Surely we can find a use for that 4pack of pretty paperclips that cost quadruple the price of 60 paperclips. And has anyone else noticed that Lisa Frank stuff is back? I don’t know if it ever really “left” but I definitely remember turning on the waterworks while begging my parents to buy me each of her folders. Now the only thing that is standing in my way is this pesky budget.
  9. Think about what you might need for next year. I know, I know, this sounds like the complete opposite of what I just said. But there actually is a difference. You may not know exactly what you will need next year, but you can scoop up probable items while they are on sale for a dime. If you are going to have a child in elementary school, most likely glue will be on the list next year.  Items such as those can be great buys. You can even look on the supply list for the grade above your child to get hints.
  10. Sell and replace. One year I bought a cute backpack for my daughter on clearance and saved it for the next year. I proudly placed it in a safe place and patted myself on the back for such a great deal. Somehow over the next year she grew to despise pink. Since the backpack still had the tags on it, and was being sold for four times as much as I paid for it, I listed it online and sold it for twice as much as what I paid for it. I combined that cash with Amazon credits from my Ibotta and ordered her the “best backpack ever” from Amazon. I didn’t even have to leave the house to win Mom of the Year. This also applies to any extra expenditures that maybe you couldn’t help (too much Lisa Frank perhaps).
  11. I know this is a money saving post, but let’s just include our sanity and time as well. If it is easier for you to buy a kit from your child’s school, or make one stop at a pricier store, determine if this convenience is worth your money. Time is money too, and sometimes it may be worth that larger price tag in the long run.

    Saving money on school supplies .
    Remember time is money.

I’m sure there are more ways to save money on school supplies than just listed here. What are some of your tricks?