Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To clip or not to clip.

Welcome to All my Coupons, a personal blog, detailing the couponing adventures of a regular mom, full-time worker, and the knowledge that was shared with me by my friends. Now I want to pass this on to the rest of my friends.

I would like to start this blog with some basics about coupons in general, and what I learned in the short 3 months of playing the "coupon game". DISCLAIMER: I am not a pro, I am not an "extreme couponer", I am  a green newbie. However, I feel that things that I have learned so far might help others, who have toyed with the idea in the past, but weren't sure how to start.

So let's go over a few basic things. One of the main things that I had to overcome, when it comes to starting to coupon, is my personal feelings and perception on the act of couponing and who the people behind it are.

1) When you use coupons you are not robbing the store or the item manufacturer of money.
When I first started, I felt like I was cheating in some way. That I was getting away with paying less for something that I should be. Take that thought and throw it out the window. Right now - take it and toss!
Companies pay oodles of money into researching shopping patterns, creating demographic statistics, paying to have their coupons in various places (like the Sunday paper). If they are willing to pay millions, perhaps ..they WANT you to use the coupons they offer?
And it makes sense. Any rational person, who wants to make money on their product will say "I would rather someone pay a dollar or two less for my product, that not buy it all." And that's what it comes down to - you are not cheating. You are taking the company up on the offer to try their product. To buy Joe's bread buns, rather than Mike's brad buns. Mike should have put himself out there, if he is sad now.

Also, the stores are compensated for their trouble - each coupon is actually reimbursed to the store with a little something-something on top. So, the store actually makes money on coupons. I am not even talking about people coming out to shop, to spend money in general.

2) I will end up buying stuff I don't need, spending money I did not intend!
That is the #1 objections I have heard from my friends, whom I told about couponing. I have said those exact words myself. Trust me. Well, in this case, lets do a bit of soul-searching. In my case, I found that it's not that I was such a strong-willed person, impervious to marketing suggestions that I would never buy stuff I don't need. In fact, I found that I did not buy a lot of the things simply because I was not willing to spend the money on them. Or on myself.
It's been about a decade if not longer since I shaved my legs with anything other than the cheap brand-X razor, and without shaving cream. I know, not a big deal. But I was not willing to spend that kind of money on myself. I would have never in the millions years buy a 12$ lipstick, because that kind of money would buy a lot of things for my family/kids. I would NEVER consider buying 10 bottles of shampoo, because I am not crazy.
That quickly changed, when I realized that I can and I should reward working hard all week with things like shampoo, and shaving cream, and even "GASP" good tampons, and not the cheapest thing I can find. But the best thing, is to get it guilt-free to the same price I would have gotten the other cheap crap. Only now, my shelves have things like Pantene, L'Oreal, "Gillette on them.
Another thing, just because you don't need it now, doesn't mean that you might never need it. If you are to loose your job, and have no income, are you going to be THAT picky about the type of shampoo you are using, or the type of cereal you are feeding to your kids? But what is those things could be purchased for a fraction of their cost, or even free? I am not too proud to buy something for a quarter.
Also, keep in mind, that whatever you don't need - you can give away. Give it away to a charity  homeless shelter, your church, half-way house for abused women. We have the means to help those are less fortunate, or who are having hard times in their life. It's not being greedy, or cheap - I look at it as another of God's gifts. I am blessed to have a job, home, savings account. you bet your butt that I will buy a bottle of shampoo for a quarter even if I don't need it myself. Because someone else might be desperately trying to scrape some cash for shampoo next week.

3) But I need to buy the newspaper! And that costs money.
Girlfriend, please. You gotta spend money to make money. and the cost of newspaper (or two, three, four, etc) is a fraction of what you essentially making, by using the coupons inside. Honestly. After a while, the newspaper buying will become second nature - you don't even think about the money spent on it.

Also, there are ways to minimize the spending on paper (and you will find many of them in the various couponing sites). If your state has "boys" that sell the newspaper on the side of the road - use them. They sell them for 1.50$, where as you will spend about 2.50$ in a store like Publix. Honestly, I feel awkward buying from the boys on the street, so I buy the "doubles" (which is 2 newspapers in one bundle for 4$.)

4) I don't have the time for this crap.
Girlfriend, please. Where there is a will, there is a way. I guarantee that after a month or so of bumbling with the cutting out of coupons and spending an hour to figure out the sales, you will find yourself devising ingenious ways to make the process fast and amazingly satisfying. My first newspaper cutting took hours. I spent forever individually cutting out each coupon. Sorting them. Putting them in their little pockets in my binder. Looking through the KCL ( site for sales, the painstakingly matching my coupons. It took me over an hour to prepare for a single grocery trip.

Now I can cut up 4 newspapers  and sort the coupon under an hour. While watching TV. I can prep for a shopping trip in under 30 minutes, and be on my way. I come back saving 50$ or more each trip. So, lets say I spend 1.5 hours on preparation. But made 50$. I will NEVER have a job that pays me this much.So, its worth the time, in my opinion. I find that I used to (and still do) waste way more time on things that don't even make money for me. So why not?

5) I feel bad holding up the line at the store.
Me too. I don't get angry with people who do, frankly, because I come from Russia. Long lines at the stores were as natural to me growing-up as breathing. Or the grocery store not having bread. But that's another story.
But you don't have to subject your fellow shoppers to your couponing. There are ways around it, and the main one being: PREPARATION.
Have your coupons ready. Have your list ready. Have your coupons ready when you get tot he register. Make sure you are not missing any, and not having any extras. Read the coupon - make sure you have the right kind of coupon for the right kind of product. That, by the way will go a LONG way towards what I call "Trust Points". I'll talk about that in my later installment.
Also, we all know that stores are busy during some hours of the day and not the others. Unless there is absolutely no other way (I've been there, trust me), try to shop during off hours. I am positive that most of us are aware of what those might be. I myself prefer the early morning, right after the store opening. Things are fresh, the store is full of helpful employees, not jaded by the day's work, and the other couponers haven't gotten there yet. :)
And another thing, a simple "I am sorry for holding up the line" goes a LONG way. 99% of the people will smile back and said it's OK. We've all been there. We are all human, and we are all trying to do what's best for us and our family. But a simple smile+sorry helps a tonn.

So, this is basically some of the common questions and objections that I have come across (and myself held) against couponing. Or not even objections, but concerns about the whole process. The funny thing is - companies and stores want us to buy. We want to buy cheap/free. But only a small fraction of people actually use coupons. That's why people like me, who tried it and liked it, are educating our friends and family on the value of saving. Even if I ever become rich (unlikely), I will still be using the coupons, because frankly - its a lot of fun.

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