Sunday, December 31, 2000

ThE cOuPoN eXpErImEnT

After watching a couple of episodes of the new show Extreme Couponing on TLC I decided to give using coupons a try once again. I gave up using coupons years ago. I stopped using them because I'd figured it was cheaper, especially living in Lancaster county, to shop at discount stores such as Amelia's, Sharp Shopper and Green Hills Grocers. I always seemed to do pretty well at these stores and kept a fair amount of foods in my cabinets and freezers. The problem for me though is, I'm always running out of things which results in more frequent trips to the stores. With my health getting worse this year, those shopping trips are starting to take a huge toll on me physically. I can say I'm going to do the shopping "tomorrow" but wake up in so much pain that those trips get put off until a day when I do feel well enough to go. Usually by then I really need to stock up on things so I end up over doing everything resulting in more pain and needing a couple days to recover. Another reason for wanting to try this little experiment is that over the past couple of months our income was reduced drastically due to the nature of Jon's job being dependent on the weather. When it rains he can't work, period. I've been stressed just trying to make sure all of our bills got paid and being very conservative with spending.
So, the other day I gathered up all of the coupon circulars I'd been saving for about a month and sat down and cut out all of the coupons for items that we usually use. This step literally took me hours of cutting but at least it isn't a taxing job and I could do it mindlessly while catching up on DVR'd programs I'd wanted to catch up on.
The next thing I did was take the pile of coupons I'd cut out and separated them all into piles according to categories such as cereals, condiments, cleaning supplies etc. This step was extensive and sort of exhausting but I got it done in about an hour. After that was finished I started making. A list of what we needed and a list of items that could be stocked up on to prevent running out of so often such as paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, toiletries etc.
Next came them most time consuming part of this process. I took this weeks ads for CVS, and Weis and looked for the needed items that were on sale and collected to corresponding coupons for those items. This step was extremely exhausting and literally took me hours to do. As a part of this process I made a list for each store with columns for item, sale price, coupon discount and number of how many of that item to purchase. I then took each list with the coupons and organized them according to e store layout so I could enter each store and go through isle by isle and pick up the items I had on my lists. This step is important, especially to me, since it forces me to stick to the list and try not to do any impulse buying. It also serves to get through the store as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So, 2 days later I'm ready to try and pull off this first experiment in couponing. I'm extremely curious to see if this is really going to pay off when all is said and done. Armed with my lists and coupons in envelopes marked by store, I'm off. I left the house at 1:30pm Saturday afternoon. *As a side not here for future reference, don't wait until Saturday afternoon to do this for two reasons, the stores are crowded and most of the items on sale are out of stock.
My first stop was CVS. Getting through this one store took me about an hour. Many of the items were completely sold out but I did get mostly everything on the list that I did have coupons for. I found also that a couple of the items also had manufacturers coupons attached to them..."score", meaning added savings that I'd not calculated.
Now off to Weis market. This took me about two hours to complete as I had to make sure I got everything that we really needed and everything that I had coupons for. The funniest part of this was the priceless look on the guy at the cash registers face when I handed him the huge wad of coupons after he rang everything up.
And now for the results of all this hard work. At CVS I purchased 30 items at a total retail cost of $178.39 minus $57.33 using my CVS rewards card, minus $26.00 using 22 coupons for a subtotal of $94.37 plus 6% PA tax of $3.05 for a grand total of $97.42. I also received a total of 5 CVS Extrabucks coupons totaling $11.00 that I can use on a future visit to the store. All said and done at CVS I saved $83.33.
At Weis Market I purchased 92 items at a total retail cost of $376.69 minus $44.79 using my Weis rewards card, minus $30.00 using 29 coupons for a subtotal of $181.46 plus 6% PA tax of $2.06 for a grand total of $183.52. All said and done at Weis Market I saved $74.79.
To sum everything up I spent about 3 1/2 hours shopping. I got a grand total of $555.08 Worth of food and products and paid $280.94...a savings of $274.14. Of that money I spent, $80.00 of it was a refund I got from PP&L for the purchase of a new washing machine which came in the mail in the form of a Visa debit card making the amount I actually spent from our account $200.94. I don't forsee having to make a trip to the grocery store for at least 2 weeks at this point.
I will say that this is definitely something that I want to work on getting better at for several reasons.
1. Less trips to the stores.
2. Healthier meals for my family.
3. The ability to now start better planning weekly menus...I even downloaded an iPad app for that!
4. The ability to better budget out our money.
5. The satisfaction of knowing that I'm not going to run out of staples for some time.
6. I don't need quite a few products such as shampoos, body wash, deodorants, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, paper towels etc for several months.

Not bad for my first experience and that wasn't anywhere near as extreme as the crazy people on the new show Extreme Couponing which airs Wednesday's at 9:30pm on TLC.

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Location:Brookfield Rd,Lititz,United States


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