Staying Afloat With Coupons: My New Solution to an Old Problem

IMAG3238-1

little duck friends

While I was walking across the street with my new duck friends, I started to think about all the things that I have been keeping up in the air lately. We are moving in a little over a month, I’m starting my new internship at Smarty Media Tuesday, I’m still trying to figure out what I can do with a part time job to pay the bills while spending a substantial amount of time working said internship, but mostly I’ve decided to latch on to a new obsession hobby. Hoping to get everything I can set up and settled before Tuesday, I have been investing quite a bit of myself in a very new mindset. Couponing. Yes, I said it. My internship is unpaid and unfortunately I still have to eat, so this is my solution. 

I didn’t grow up quite understanding the purpose of these little sheets of paper, they just weren’t necessary, and until recently they were just a nuisance that fell out of the newspaper or my magazine. And I know most of my friends and family won’t really get what I’m doing because of this, moving to Chicago almost 5 years ago has drastically changed the way I live my life, but they can suck it when I start saving 80% on my grocery and drug store bills (that’s right, I’m talking to you Philip).

Since I’ve been spending so much time on starting this journey, I figured sharing it may help me clarify things just by documenting it, and maybe help someone else that’s on the fence about going down the same road. As time goes, and I get a chance to put concepts into practice, I will let you know how things start panning out.

So here’s how I began:

1. I did my research.

There are tons and tons of sites that go over the whole Extreme Couponing thing. I’ve read a fat handful of them, and the two I have found most helpful are The Coupon Project and Living Well Spending Less. These ladies are helpful on a much more realistic level.  The both have written a series on how a normal person, who really doesn’t need 800 boxes of diapers piled in their garage even though they don’t have kids, can get started and save money without going insane.

2. I looked into the stores I regularly use and learned their policies about couponing.

Coupon Binder and Davy Helping

Coupon Binder and Store Policies with Davy Helping

ex. Both CVS and Walgreen’s will allow you to double on BOGO and get both items free if you have the coupons for it, while Target has a much more strict policy and won’t allow this and many of the combinations that are accepted at the other stores I frequent.

Personally I like free. It’s helpful. I’ve found that within the Chicago area, Strack and Van Til has the most lenient policy. Which is why it may be worth the longer trip down Elston to take advantage or what they offer.

3. I learned my coupons and how to read them. Very important.

There are two main types: Manufacturer and Store.

4. Then I got organized. (still doing this actually)

She doesn't like pictures without her in them.

She doesn’t like pictures without her in them.

I created my pretty coupon binder by looking at templates that were free to download and using their category ideas to create a format that would suit my needs. Using a regular three-ring binder and a stack of business card holder sheets (some people use the baseball card binder pages), I folded the coupons so that the front shows what it’s for and the back shows the expiration date. The coupon policies have their own spot, as do the store specific coupons.

Here’s where my weakness comes in… I suck at math. Ever since I faked knowing my times tables (I stood on the table and wrote them on the ceiling by the chandelier so I could cheat by glancing upward when my mom quizzed me. This trick got me pretty far by the way), math and I have not been friends.

Excel and I don’t get along either, so I found some downloads to help me keep track of my price calculations because I couldn’t build one myself to save the Queen’s life. I went through a few and found that they didn’t have the options I needed (I was looking for one with a space for calculating store coupons as well as one for manufacturer coupons, since these can generally be combined for one item). Eventually I came upon this spreadsheet and Working Mom Coupons:

It pretty much had everything I needed to keep that part of my trip organized. So far I am happy, I’ll let you know how it does in action once I spend some more time with it.

wmc-couponing-spreadsheet-excel-1331310745

From here on I’ll be fine tuning and planning my first trip for some time soon.

But be patient. The next few months are so full of changes that if I actually stop and think about it too long I’ll miss half of them as they go by. Think good thoughts, and if you have any tips or basic questions about couponing, moving a two bedroom apartment, or just staying centered in this busy beautiful Chicago of ours, please let me know.

Love and Spreadsheets.

“Industry, perseverance, and frugality make fortune yield.”
–Benjamin Franklin

Advertisements