Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crash Course in Couponing




I am going to start this off by confessing that I am NOT a professional couponer and have fairly recently gotten into this thing of 'extreme couponing'.

Couponing takes some work, patience and observation but anyone CAN do it.
Really the initial start-up is what takes the most amount of time.

Ok here goes.
So, I've always really liked getting a good deal, seriously, who doesn't?
I've used coupons many times before but not like I am now.
Have you ever filled out those online surveys and they ask how often you use coupons? Well, I have and I was also clicking the "about once a week box". I don't even know if they have a "several per trip" or "1 coupon per item box" but that was my shopping trip today.

I did a small shopping excursion to Walmart today and I'll share my deals with you.

Pull-ups on Sale for $14.97 - $1.50 coupon = $13.47
Oasis Juice on Sale for $1 - 0.50 coupon = $0.50
Goldfish crackers on Sale for $2 - 0.50 coupon = $1.50 x 2
Crest toothpaste on Sale for $0.88 - $0.75 coupon = $0.13
Betty Crocker snacks on Sale for $2.50 - $1 and $0.75 coupons = $1.50 & $1.75
Toothbrush on Sale for $1.47 - $1 coupon = $0.47


I also had a coupon for $3 for Purex laundry detergent. Unfortunately, I forgot my Zellers flyer where it was on Sale. I was going to price match at Walmart and get it for free! (I do have to go to the mall tomorrow so I'll try to remember then).
Maybe you're wondering why I don't just go to Zellers and use the coupon there, which I could do. The reason being that it's easier and less costly (fuel) to shop at the store that is closer to me and carries most of what I need.

Total bill was $22.53. Total coupon savings $6.50 So with 6 items that's more than a dollar saved for each item. Yes, I'm obsessing.
This is not my most impressive trip but that's not what I'm going for here. This is an average trip and still I'm saving.
Notice that each item purchased was ON SALE and had a coupon.
This is the most important tip. Wait for the sale, then coupon in hand, make your purchase.


Mail to Home Coupons and Printable Coupons
save.ca
websaver.ca
brandsaver.ca
gocoupons.ca
smartcanucks
mrsjanuary
Get yourself registered on these sites and remember your password...or pick one that's easy for you to remember...nothing like getting locked out on a limited time coupon!
One tip for websaver - you must have a MINIMUM of 3 coupons chosen to have them sent to you. This is a site that many companies will go through with new coupons so don't 'click' on all of them or you may not have enough available when something comes up that you really want. Choose wisely.




Tear Pads


These are ones you have to actually go 'out and about' to look for.
If you have a YIG (Your Independent Grocer) or something similar you will find inside the doors a large board with tear pad coupons. The ones at YIG are specifically for those store chains (Loblaws). Other store like Shoppers Drug Mart and Foodland also have tear pads. Some of these can be used at any store because they are a manufacture coupon - others are store coupons.


Free Samples
Links to these can also be found on some of the sites mentioned. Recently there have been many pages on facebook that if you 'like' them you can get a free sample or you are linked to one of the other sites to receive a coupon.
You can also try Free Samples Canada

Price Matching
I was seriously scared to do this the first time but I did it. I also had an awesome cashier ;) You can save so much just by price matching alone!
Here's how: If you're doing your regular shopping at say No Frills but you see great deals available in the Metro and Food Basics flyers, take said flyers with you (please make sure they are current), pick up the items (same as in the flyers, pay attention here too) and have the store 'MATCH' the price in the flyer. INSTANT SAVINGS! Note: Not all stores will price match. It does say on the store flyers if they price match. FYI No Frills, Freshco and Walmart DO price match.


Swapping
Here's where it gets fun! Find some people in your area that would also like to start couponing in earnest. A mix of people at different stages of life is great! Not everyone needs coupons for diapers and dog food, this means you will have coupons that others would love and vice versa. I have been getting together weekly with a bunch of fabulous ladies that are keen on scoring deals and sharing tips. It's also a fun evening out. :D

Online sites and Groups
So the mrsjanuary and smart canuck sites apply here.
Also, if you're on facebook you can 'like' Canadian Coupons / Free Samples Canada which will update on your newsfeed. Their website is Savealoonie This site will also link you to hidden coupons that are on some of the sites previously mentioned.

Flyers
If you don't get these delivered with a weekly paper then you may have to find these yourself like I do. Check your local variety store for a news stand or call your local paper. Flyers should be free. Yes, you can check them online, but then you cannot price match because you need to have flyer in hand to do that. Besides, there's something nice about sitting at your dining room table flyers spread out in front of you Sharpie (or colourful crayon in my case)in hand as you scour for deals! It's especially exciting when you find a deal that you KNOW you have a coupon (or two) for! SCORE. I unashamedly admit that this totally excites me! Seriously though, personal info here but we are a single income family of seven, we home school and my husband is currently on parental leave. Nuff said.

Etiquette
Please be honest.
Please be kind.
Please be considerate.
HONEST
Make sure that you KNOW what your coupon says.
Check the date. DON'T try to pass off expired coupons.
Check to make sure the product matches the coupon.
For example: My Betty Crocker fruit snacks $1 coupon said "For ANY Betty Crocker fruit product" Even thought it had Lightening McQueen on the front I was able to buy Spiderman. If it says ONLY for Lightening McQueen then that's what you buy.
Also check sizes or packaging. If it says 250mL or larger you can't get away with travel size. If it says ANY then ANY it is :)
KIND
This would apply to the cashier and to other customers.
Cashiers WILL read the coupons, it's part of their job. Don't get snarky.
If the customers behind you start huffing and puffing perhaps you could smile kindly and offer them a coupon.
I've given people coupons when I've noticed they're purchasing an item that I have a coupon for and will not be using. They've been nothing but pleasant. Would you refuse money in your pocket?
CONSIDERATE
Last month coupons came out on one of the online sites for a FREE box of Chocolate Cheerios. They were only available on June 21st. I had my trusty coupon in hand and got my free box. (not something I would regularly purchase but they were FREE, ahem).
I later heard on a facebook group that there were some women that got DOZENS of these free boxes. Ok, so to me that's kinda ugly. Don't go making up ALL KINDS of fake alias's and email accounts.
I'm pretty sure these things do get monitored and it would really suck if the people that are abusing these policies got caught and ruined it for the rest.
Find a friend, neighbour family member that you can send coupons that will share with you!
Also, when it comes to tear pads, please don't rip off half the pad and shove it in your purse. Yes, take more then one, take 6 even (always good to get a COUPLE extra to share or trade with others )but don't take the whole thing. That's greedy! There are other who would like to use them too. Consider that when your heart rate increases, your pupils dilate and your palms get sweaty as you spy the untouched tear pad just waiting for it's first rip!



A Few More Tips
You can sign up on sites like Pampers and Huggies and they will send you valuable coupons in the mail periodically.
Check magazines, for example "What's Cooking" from Kraft had a whole pamphlet of coupons in the last issue.
Mrs January had a list of when the Smart Source and Red Plum flyers come that are in the paper.
Also, many sites have free samples. Along with these free samples often come coupons - that $3 Purex coupon is one such coupon.
If there's a company that you like the product and can't find a coupon send them an email or call them...they might just send you one. It doesn't hurt to ask.
Remember that not all stores price match and several do not accept printed coupons.
Some stores (Walmart again topping the list) will even give you money back if the amount of your coupon exceeds the amount of the product.
Another helpful tip, if you have a coupon, but the item you want is not on sale and you don't NEED it right that minute....WAIT. It WILL come on sale again. What I've been told is that items come on sale roughly every 3 months, maybe even sooner. (Do you know how much toilet paper and toothpaste I'm starting to stockpile because it keeps coming on sale and I keep getting coupons?!)
Another tip from my master couponer friend A. Take along a roll of Scotch tape. When you pick your product of the shelf tape your coupon onto it and voila! Ready for check-out!
Remember - just because you Have a coupon does not mean you Have to use it. It may not always be a deal.
If it's not something you're going to even use then it's probably not worth the purchase.

You might want to get yourself a little accordion type folder....or...
When you start getting quite the stock pile of coupons invest in a binder and some trading card holders (3 ring). You can find them cheap at Dollarama (sorry no coupon) like my shown here.


Like I said before, I am in no way an expert...I'm still learning but enjoying the journey to "Master Couponer" (kidding).
I'm sure there are things that I've missed and others that I have yet to learn. It will come. Maybe after a while there will be a sequel blog to this one about new experiences and stories that you share with me.

If you have any questions or words of wisdom I would love for you to share.
Let me know if you start up your own coupon swaps too! I'd love to hear about it.

Have fun and Happy Couponing!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Adjectives

The other day I was discussing with my husband how I sometimes feel liked I've missed out on things (or others may perceive that I've missed out) by not going to college or university. I did go to Bible school but not so much for educational purposes as for personal and spiritual growth.
I suppose it was a 'woe is me' moment that my wonderful hubby was quick to discern and dispel.
Also, I still fight with caring too much of what others think.
Jed was fabulous for pointing out that I should be happy to be a 'life learner'.
Also the Bible is the only book that you can read over and over again and constantly be learning new things from. It convicts and instructs, encourages and challenges and draws us closer to our Creator and His purposes for us.
As Aslan says (Chronicles of Narnia) also another favourite of Jed's to quote...we are not to ask "what if". That's not the path we have chosen so it's not for us to know(this is not the direct quote but my paraphrase).
This is the path I have chosen and most days I love where I am.
It's just like God to throw in some humorous encouragement and proof that I am doing well in this path. I do not take credit for teaching my children everything that they know...believe me, they absolutely ASTOUND me often!
Here's one such story.
We did much studying on grammar this year with both Dane and Adelaide working with .First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
While Winter did not do very much'school' this year as in book work, she was around often enough to pick up quite a bit of information.
We also borrow videos like School House Rock and DVD's from the library. The children were watching one just the other day.


Yesterday my parents came for a visit. My dad and Dane were playing Cribbage together (I've been teaching Dane and Addie...it's great for math ;D) and the rest of us were here and there. Winter brought an alphabet puzzle to the table and was playing with it. Elsa and my dad joined her at some point and they were naming the letters and making sounds. (my dad multi-tasks) At one point Winter tapped Jed and said "Look! I spelled adjectives!" Of course it's not spelled correctly but I was flabbergasted just the same. I've often said that Winter has been learning by osmosis and this is just more proof. I love it!

Perhaps if I had gone and gotten that higher education we may not have as much debt, but we may have more.
Our children wouldn't have to wear hand-me-down clothes and ride hand-me-down bikes and live in a tiny house.
But I may have felt an obligation to have a 'good' high paying job so we could both make lots of money and live comfortably instead of us making the choice for me to stay home with the kids.
I'm not bashing education, having a second income, or women working out of the home, truly I'm not. I guess that's the "what if" that doesn't need to be known.
I love learning with our kids, seeing the 'aha' moments and teaching them that adjectives are the words that describe nouns.
I'm also pro higher education. I just don't think that I should feel like lesser of a person or unqualified to educate my children because I don't have a degree.
I am a domestic engineer! Even more that that though, I am striving for a higher goal and a higher calling. Check out Proverbs 31.
If you need to learn about adjectives...try some School House Rock.
If you need to learn about everything else...try the Bible :D