Tuesday, September 1, 2009

FREE Stuff?

OK, its no secret that I LOVE FREE stuff (doesn't everyone?), but how am I able to score so much of it?

The truth is that I have practiced. I didn't always score so many FREE deals, I had to learn what to look for, when to look, and how to strategically spend my wad of coupons.

18 months ago, when I first started clipping coupons, I would purchase just about ANYTHING that I felt was a good deal. For example, I would pay $1 each (after sale prices and coupons) for 6 tubes of toothpaste ($6 total) feeling like I was catching a great deal since each tube of toothpaste normally is purchased for $3.49.

I have learned over time to practice restraint in spending in a few different ways:

1. If an item that I like is not on sale, but I have coupons for that item, I will purchase ONE item with a coupon and I will save my other identical coupons in hopes for a sale before the coupons expire.

If I don't come across a sale on that particular item the week that the coupons will expire than I will decide IF I should spend more of my coupons on the non-sale item, and if I plan to purchase more of that item, I will decide the quantity that will last me for approximately 12 weeks since *most* coupons make there way into the newspapers at least once every three months.

2. After the first year of coupon spending, I realized that stores were duplicating last years sales patterns. I Keep this in mind for stocking up:

Spring: Cleaning supplies (think Spring cleaning), dental hygiene products and candy (for Easter).

Summer: Condiments, grilling foods like hot dogs, marinades, paper plates/cups.

Fall: Canned beans/vegetables, pastas, soup making mixes, the beginning of baking supplies like sugar, flour, chocolate chips and butter. (Remember to overly stock up on school supplies since they are ridiculously inexpensive!)

Winter: Baking supplies continue to be inexpensive along with turkeys.

Shopping by the seasons allows me to purchase items when they are on sale and often with coupons so that I am getting the best prices possible! When thinking about seasonal items, like ketchup for example, I don't just pick up the one or two bottles that I'll need over the course of the summer... I think of my year round ketchup needs :) !

Last year Meijer put their store brand canned vegetables on sale for $.33/can. I stocked up on 24 cans ($8) to use for soup making throughout the winter. If I had just picked up a Meijer brand can or two of veggies when we needed them, the same 24 cans would have cost me $26.40 little by little over the course of the year.

I'd rather over buy products at rock bottom prices than need to spend full price because I didn't stock up when I had the opportunity.

In the same vein, I have learned that quite a few items that I would not have thought were freezable actually are! I have learned to freeze butter, cheese and I just had a friend tell me that I can freeze yogurt!

My first year in couponning allowed me to stockpile the majority of our families favorite items, and the six most recent months of shopping have allowed me to maintain my stockpile by waiting for only the sweetest deals (or even passing up certain deals) to make my purchases.

My advice is to spend your first year of coupon spending stockpiling items that you will actually use (and FREE items to donate as well!!!). You WILL notice a significant reduction in the amount of money that flows through your hands, and as time goes on and you'll hone the skills necessary to care for YOUR family, you will be able to widdle down your spending even less, which is where I am currently.


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