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  • The Benefits of Having A Stockpile

    Stockpile: a reserve supply of something essential accumulated within a country for use during a shortage – Merriam-Webster

    When couponers refer to stockpiling, they generally mean a big enough supply of something to last at least until the next sale, bought at a low price. There are significant benefits to building up a stockpile:

    Saving money – Because you buy stockpile items when prices are low (usually combining a sale and coupon), you have them on hand when you need them and don’t have to pay a higher price. Stockpile enough items this way and you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

    Less stress – Because you have items on hand when you need them, you don’t have to rush out when you’re short on time and cash.

    Emergency preparation – Living in earthquake country, we always have an emergency kit ready, but I also like knowing that I have lots of things on hand that would be handy in an emergency, like breakfast cereal, crackers and batteries.

    Real life example: A couple of years ago, my oldest son was hospitalized and I didn’t shop for a while. But I was able to draw on my stockpile for portable snacks to take to the hospital, and I didn’t have to worry about running out of basics like toilet paper and tissue when we got home. That meant I could focus all of my energy on taking care of my son and family.

    Couponing is just a small piece of the big picture

    The show Extreme Couponing seems to have raised awareness about how much money you can save with coupons – though I suspect many people now have unrealistic expectations of how much they can save or how much time it’s going to take.

    I also suspect that many people will fixate on couponing instead of focusing on their overall financial picture. And that’s too bad, because no matter how much money you save with coupons, your financial situation will never change unless you spend less than you make.

    Couponing can help you do this, by saving you money on things you already buy. That can help you find money to put toward savings, or debt, or in my case, help you keep your spending level as needs increase with growing children.

    But couponing alone is not going to transform your financial situation. It’s just a small piece of the big picture.

    How to Make Couponing Manageable

    It’s easy to get overwhelmed by couponing, especially when you’re just starting out. There are so many good deals, and since you don’t know if it’ll come along again, you often feel like you have to get it. You may also fear over-spending now that you know you’ve been wasting money for years.

    But I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to coupon and build a stockpile while still maintaining your sanity. Here are some tips:

    1. Accept that couponing takes time. Trying to fight reality is futile, so just accept that it takes time to coupon. The only thing you can control is how much time you’re willing and able to put into it.

    2. Establish priorities. It’s easiest to establish a stockpile of free and cheap health and beauty products, but maybe what you need most is cheap food. Decide where you want to focus your energy for now. You can always rearrange your priorities later.

    3. Focus on 2 or 3 stores. If food is your priority, then pick the nearest grocery stores and focus on getting the best deals there. Or, if you don’t have any particular need, pick one grocery store and one drugstore. Let the deals at other stores pass you by, because they’ll likely come around to the stores you’re focusing on too.

    4. Limit your number of shopping trips. It always blows my mind that many forum posters seem to hit the stores every day. For most people, that’s pretty unrealistic. If you’re really pressed for time and/or stressed out, try to stick with one shopping trip per store per week. And don’t hesitate to do more than one transaction in a visit. (My strategy is to make one purchase, then collect the items for my next purchase from the shelves, and get back in line. Since I’m not holding up the line, I’ve never had a cashier or fellow customer complain about my multiple transactions.)

    5. Let some deals go. You’ll inevitably forget to pick something up during your weekly trip, but most times it’s best to just let it go. I do this almost weekly (I forgot to check out the John Frieda during my trip to Walgreens). Unless it’s a mind-blowingly good deal or something you desperately need, it’s probably not worth the cost of gas to head back.

    6. Try to shop early in the week if you can. Since you’re only going to the store once during the sales period, the store is more likely to have the items you want in stock if you go at the beginning rather than the end of the sale. Alternatively, try to find out when the store gets its truck deliveries and try to go late that day or the next day (so they have time to unload the truck and get items out on the shelves).

    7. Limit your coupon clipping time by using the insert method of filing coupons. I Heart CVS has a good description of how this works. I use this method personally but without the stapling, and rather than filing by week, I have 24 folders that are labeled Jan. 1-15, Jan. 16-31, Feb. 1-15, and so on.

    8. Give yourself a break. Remember that even if you’re not saving the maximum possible amount of money, you are still saving. Most deals will come around again. And every little bit counts toward achieving your financial goals.

    Thoughts on Extreme Couponing

    The monthly Nabisco Cookies Facebook printable hit its print limit so quickly this month that I couldn’t help but wonder if the new TLC show, Extreme Couponing, has resulted in more people using coupons.

    That in itself would be a great thing – while it might eventually cause prices to rise because stores can’t afford to lose too much money on loss leaders, I think everyone should have a price book and pay rock bottom prices whenever possible. It would do wonders for our collective financial consciousness if everyone paid more attention to how much money they spend. Maybe it would even get people thinking about living within their means!

    I’ve only watched one segment of Extreme Couponing, and I have to admit that it made me uncomfortable to see carts full of the same item. If the store is okay with a customer buying 100 of the same item for free after coupon, I guess it’s fine. I personally would be uncomfortable and reluctant to do that, especially in one transaction.

    I’ve read some things that indicate some of the couponers portrayed are actually committing coupon fraud by using coupons for items other than those stated on the coupon. That is obviously detrimental to all coupon users, especially those of us who follow the rules stringently. I hope that rather than glorify coupon fraud, the show will actually condemn it and maybe even help to stop it.

    I’m also hoping that the show will result in less animosity toward coupon users. There are so many stories in the coupon forums about cashiers and other shoppers getting annoyed or even rude when the coupons come out. I’ve experienced this a couple of times myself, always at Target, and I now shop there a lot less than I used to. Maybe Extreme Couponing can make cashiers and other customers supportive or at least curious when someone uses a bunch of coupons. I’ve gotten “wow”s on occasion and that’s always fun.

    One thing about couponing that I’m not sure is accurately portrayed on the show is how much time and effort “extreme” couponing takes. I don’t consider myself “extreme” and yet I’m maxed out on time and effort. It takes time to plan my shopping trips and transactions, clip my coupons, go to the different stores, make adjustments depending on the store’s stock, and pay for my purchases. It’s a part-time job in and of itself – which is fine for me, because I consider it fun. But I certainly couldn’t do more.

    What do you think about Extreme Couponing?

    Morning Coffee: Pasta Salad Recall at Trader Joe’s

    Select packages of Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad sold by Trader Joe’s have been recalled for possible salmonella poisoning.

    Target stores have supposedly been told to have cashiers watch the amount deducted by a coupon to ensure the proper amount was deducted. I believe it, because I used a $1/3 coupon at Target yesterday, and the cashier caught that it didn’t deduct the full amount before I did.

    Get a printable coupon for $1/1 any Progresso Broth. (Via Money Saving Madness.)

    Get a printable coupon for $1/2 Lucky Leaf Pie Filling. (Via Printable Coupons and Deals.)

    Get a printable coupon for $1/1 Pepperidge Farm Tim Tam Cookies via Facebook. (Via Totally Target.)

    Bargain Briana has details on a hot board game deal at Toys R Us this week.

    For locals: Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution has moved to LA, and so ABC is looking for families with children who could use Jamie’s help in the kitchen to overcome the obstacles to healthy eating.

    Banner via Escalate Media Network

    Using Coupons To Get What I Need, Splurge & Help Others

    I went to Ralphs this morning, and I have to say, the current Mega Sale, where you buy 10 participating items and get $5 off, combined with the doubling of multiple like coupons, is the best Mega Sale ever. I bought 20 items to get a total of $10 off, bought a splurge item, and bought some items to donate – all for less than $10.

    Here are the “needs” I bought, which I define as things I bought because we will definitely use them:

    I picked up some Challenge Butter, which is my preferred brand because it does not contain growth hormones. The Mega Sale price is $3.49, and I used 50 cents/1 coupons that I found in previously purchased boxes to make them $2.49. It’s not the best price I’ve seen for Challenge, but I was down to my last box and $2.49 is still about a dollar cheaper than Trader Joe’s (their store brand is also RBST-free).

    Thanks to a tip from Valerie, I also got Green Giant Valley Steamers. The Mega Sale price is 99 cents, and I used 60 cents/2 coupons from the 9/12 GM insert (there are also coupons in the 10/10 GM). E-coupons are hit and miss for me at Ralphs, so I never count on them, but I was pleasantly surprised to have two 50-cent e-coupons come off too, so I paid a total of 96 cents for the four bags.

    We’re running a little low on cereal, as 50-cents per box deals have been harder to come by in the last few months. My kids are also somewhat picky, which doesn’t make it easier to get cereal at my target price. But Quaker cereals are included in the Mega Sale at $1.49, and I had one 50 cents/1 Cap’n Crunch coupon (8/29 RP) left, so I was able to get a box for 49 cents.

    I decided to “splurge” on some Athenos hummus (clarification: not included in the Mega Sale!) – they are $1.50 per tub, and there were $1/1 coupons in the 10/10 SS insert, making them 50 cents each. I had four coupons, which all beeped for some reason. Normally, I wouldn’t pay $2 for hummus, which my kids don’t eat, but it’ll make it easier for me to snack on veggie sticks when I’m in a snacking mood.

    I also bought some Honest Tea, which I wouldn’t pay for but was free except for 5 cents CRV after this printable coupon (thanks, Brian!).

    The rest of the items I bought in the Mega Sale will be donated:

    An anonymous commenter reported that La Victoria Salsa has a Mega Sale price of $1.49 and there’s a $4/2 printable coupon (the coupon beeps, so whether you get overage will depend on your cashier).

    I also bought some Carnation evaporated milk using the $1/2 coupon in the 9/26 SS, making them 19 cents each, Stove Top Stuffing using this $1/2 printable coupon making them 25 cents each (via My Good Cents), and Campbell’s Chunky Soup using this 50 cents/1 printable coupon which made them free.

    What I love about using coupons is that I was able to get so much for so little. It saves my family money while we still eat well, and we can give even more than we normally would. Yes, couponing can take a lot of time – but it’s well worth it!

    Sorry there’s no picture – I had put everything away before I decided to write this post!