Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Couponing: Lesson Learned!

I posted last week about how I'm trying to use coupons to cut back on our grocery expenses. I have learned that there is a whole science behind organizing coupons, saving them to match them up with sales and/or store coupons, finding internet coupons, and knowing the coupon policies of the stores in your area.

I still have a lot to learn.

But I did learn one valuable lesson during the past week: if you really want to maximize your savings, don't shop with a preschooler and a toddler!

I went to WalMart a few days ago to take advantage of a few deals and to get a few things. I had coupons to get all of this for free:

That's two boxes of Artisan Wheat Thins, 2 packs of gum, and 6 bars of Johnson's Buddies soap. For the Wheat Thins, they were actually on sale for $2 each, and I had 2 BOGO coupons from the Sunday paper (so I guess they technically were $1 a box). I got the gum for free because there were coupons in the paper for free gum. And Johnson's has coupons for $1 off these Buddies soaps, and they are priced at $.97 at WalMart! I've copied the links for those coupons below.

Ok, so I should have gotten all of that stuff for free, but somehow, I didn't! I got to the car and looked over my receipt and noticed that I ended up spending $3 for those 6 buddies soaps. My $2 off coupon and $1 off coupon didn't go through! Why didn't I notice this at the register, you ask? Why wasn't I watching the cashier to make sure everything scanned appropriately? Because I had a little 3-year-old who was choosing to be very restless and disruptive, and a toddler who was tired of being the cart but wanted to squirm all over the place when I held him.

I had a similar issue at Kroger yesterday. I have been taking great advantage of their Mega Deals where you buy 10 participating items and get $5 off. I brought my list of items to get, and I had more coupons so I could get the following, among other things:
  • Irish Spring 3-pack $.09
  • Soft Soap pump FREE
  • Stayfree packages $.99 each
  • Colgate toothbrush $.24
Well, you have to be really careful that you get exactly 10 participating items, or in multiples of 10. I messed up and ended up with only 19, so I missed out on $5!! I was so upset. I figured out what I did wrong, though--something I thought was a participating item ended up not being a participating item. Pbbbbt. If I hadn't been distracted by my squabbling kids sitting side-by-side in the car-shaped cart, this probably wouldn't have happened. So, it is now my resolve to do my coupon shopping while Caleb is at preschool so I can concentrate a little better!!

If you are interested in couponing or want to see more on how to get free stuff, take the time to check out Money Saving Mom.

Another tip: I have gotten lots of coupons by telling companies what I think of their products (both good things and bad). Like my complaints to Palmolive about their terrible Eco+ stuff scored me a slew of coupons for Colgate, Soft Soap, Irish Spring, and other stuff that has come in handy at Kroger lately!


some chick said...


I commented today on your other couponing post. Joshua and I had a conversation tonight about this - even though you can get some really great deals this way, I'm finding that the majority of the time, I wouldn't have bought the stuff anyway.

Like all the stuff you got at Wal-Mart for such great deals, I would never buy in the first place. So even if I got a great deal, or it was free with discounts, sales, and coupons, I don't know if I would do this.

I'm not saying this to be critical of your purchases, 'cause that's not my point. So please don't hear that. I just wonder at what point is seemingly great deal not a great deal. Especially when you factor in environmental impact for a lot of this stuff, what with all the packaging for items and whatnot. I can give you some more concrete examples if that makes it clearer.

I wonder if just because it's free - is it still worth it?

I went to Safeway today and took advantage of their $5 off specials too, and stocked up on some dry goods that I would use anyway - like toilet paper, dirt-cheap pasta, diced tomatoes and bacon(!!!).

For example, I noticed that the discount card price, without the $5 off price, for a 16 oz. container of sour cream was still more expensive per oz. than the 32 oz. container. WITH the $5 off price, it was about the same, but the per oz. price was not listed at the cheaper price, so I couldn't tell you for sure (calculator next time!). So do I pay the same for two containers of sour cream, which is more packaging, when I could get the same per oz. price for the same amount in one container, without taking advantage of any discount at all?

I ended up getting the two containers, to get me to my ten items price, and I feel a little bit guilty, and not just a little bit had.

I'd like to hear your thoughts, 'cause I am looking into this just now, the same as you, and wondering how we can slice our grocery bills.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the great comments! Yeah, I think about the environmental impact of those "little" packages, too.

I'll do a post on this later, but until recently I just discarded (recycled) any coupons I got for stuff my family doesn't normally use. But then a trip to my local food bank changed all of that. Any free or almost-free stuff I can get that I don't normally use will go to our family services center. With so many people out of work lately, they really need some help. So I try to consider them when I go to the store. (Like those Buddies soaps I got--most of those will go to charity.)

And I hear what you are saying about the price per ounce--you're right to look at that to make sure you're getting the best deal. Sometimes, like you did today, I get smaller packages just so I can get the overall better deal. But then I feel guilty about the packaging. Ugh! There are no easy answers, are there??

some chick said...

that's an interesting thought - to donate the stuff you get for virtually free. hmmm. seems much easier to write a check! but it's a learning experience, too.

i didn't think of this earlier, but i wonder if i can mix and match the price points and still get the $5 off at the store? i didn't even think of that, and was trying to make sure i had 10 items at the same price.

i actually bought a couple of pudding cup packages to get to my 10 items. they are not something i ever buy. I think the first time mary judah ever had one was at a girl scout meeting!

of course, now i want to go buy more. that's the point of sales and coupons, right? to get you hooked on the product you buy so you'll buy it at regular price later? I wonder how much money a package of instant pudding would have cost me, vs. buying the snack pack? never mind the packaging again. wow, i'm cynical.

do you have a costco or sam's club membership? We just went to Costco last night to use some of their coupons and I wonder how that all works out.

You might just get me blogging again. We're such MOMS.

Tiffany said...

You can absolutely mix and match price points! As long as you get 10 items that are part of the promotion, you get the 5 bucks.

Does Costco take manufacturer's coupons, or just their own? We have a Sam's Club membership and use it about once a month. They don't take coupons. We used to go there quite a bit, but lately we haven't needed as much from there. The things we typically get there--soap, diapers, wipes, cereal, salad, garbage bags--have been items I've been able to find at a better deal using coupons elsewhere. I hear Costco has better produce and organic stuff. Wish we had one closer. I have almost every store I'd ever want within 10 minutes from me, but that's one we don't have.