Great Shopping Trip

My son rolls his eyes & asks if he can stay home. Why? Because I’m going shopping. I have my notebook, my ads, my canvas bags, and – of course – my coupons!

I know, many people think couponing is a waste of time. But I paid attention this time. The whole thing – looking at the ads, reading the money-saving blogs, making the lists, gathering the coupons, traveling, and shopping took a little over 4 and a half hours. So, I will make the math easier by saying that it was five hours.

I subscribe to four main money-saving blogs and get their daily digests. They are (in alphabetical order):

So, I get my Sunday paper (usually two of them) and take out the ads and coupons. I get my notebook and check out the blogs for my weekly trip. My printer is nearby so that I can print out the coupons I need right away. I used to be a skeptic when it came to printing my own coupons, but after trying it, I have found that it is well worth the ink and paper. I usually spend around 30-60 minutes on the list-making and coupon-gathering steps.

This week, I went to Walgreens, CVS, and Shoprite. I think the most difficult thing about couponing is learning the different rules each store has for using coupons. I have made many mistakes at Walgreens because their policies are a little more involved and a little more restrictive than CVS. However, I still get really good deals there, so I just keep trying.

At Walgreens this week, I went in with two Register Rewards (RR) certificates – one for $10 and one for $1. They only allow you to use one certificate per transaction, so my daughter and I each had a separate transaction. They also only allow you to have as many coupons as items, so you can’t buy one item with a coupon and a RR. So, we just break down our list accordingly. Together, we purchased Arnicare Gel, two packs of razors, Purex and a newspaper. Because these items were on sale, right off the bat I saved $11.50. Then I used some manufacturer’s coupons and my register rewards. That saved me an additional $18. I saved $29.50, but what did I spend?

I spent $4.80 and I received another $8 in register rewards for me to use later. Basically, Walgreens paid me to take these things off their hands.

Next, it was off to CVS… Now this one is not as spectacular, but it’s still worth my time. I bought shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste and I used a coupon for each item. These items were on sale and combined with the coupons, I saved $6.61 and I spent $7.35. This would have been a much better deal had I not forgotten my Extra Care Bucks from my last shopping trip. You see, I had $5 in CVS cash hanging on my refrigerator and I forgot it. I would have only paid $2.35 otherwise. Oh well, that just means I have $5 more to spend the next time.

Even though I spent $7.35 on the above, I walked out with $6.79 in Extra Care Bucks to spend next time (unless I forget them!). So, it was still a great deal.

Now on to the groceries. Another common complaint I hear about coupons is that there are no good food coupons. While I agree that meat, dairy, and produce coupons are not as easy to find (they are out there), there are some really good deals out there – and I found a few during this trip. I do go to multiple grocery stores, depending on the sales, but I tend to shop more at Shop Rite. They allow you to use up to four of the same coupons during a single transaction. So, I did hit two different Shop Rites this day, as they were both on my way home. At the first stop, I only bought pasta. They were having a great sale and I had some coupons! They have a limit of four of each variety of a sale item, so I bought 12 boxes of pasta; four each of three varieties. Shop Rite also credits you $0.05 for every canvas bag you use, so I got $0.15 additional cents off just for bringing my own bags! Anyway, my savings from the pasta being on sale was $4, but my savings from the coupons was $15. So, I saved $19 and spent…

$2.73 on twelve boxes of pasta!

Then I went to the second Shop Rite and got a little more. Yes, I bought more pasta. I got milk, bread, yogurt, cereal, toothpaste, air freshener, and more.

On this trip, I saved $12.51 because many of the items were on sale and then I saved an additional $27.02 with my coupons. Buying all of this…

I spent $26.80! When I combined both trips to Shop Rite, I spent $29.53 and I saved $59.53.

If I go back and add up everything I spent and saved, I would come up with:

Spent: $41.68

Saved: $95.64 (plus, I had $8 to spend at Walgreens and $6.79 for CVS which will translate to free or almost free products the next time around)

Now back to my original reason for paying more attention this time… Was it worth my time? I have heard people say that I’d do better if I just got a part-time job. Well, let’s think about that. I spent about five hours total on this trip. If I worked five hours at a part-time job, and I earned a generous $10 an hour, I would make $50. Then Uncle Sam would take his cut, leaving me with around $35-40. Given that, I would have to respectfully disagree with anyone who tells me that a part-time job would be better than clipping coupons. You see, I would have earned $35-40, but I saved over $95.

In addition, I got to spend time with my children instead of paying for childcare (which I didn’t even figure into the equation above). I know it’s not the same as playing with them, but we did have some fun and got to listen to a really good book on CD in the car.

Is it worth it to clip coupons? A resounding “yes” ~ and it can be fun too!

Do you have any favorite money-savingĀ  or couponing tips?