Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living Penny by Penny

I am in fact still here. Life gets bogged down in the minutia of scrambling for daily existence sometimes. When work, poverty, the heat, the noise, whatever gets me down it's impossible to concentrate on much of anything.  My life lately has consisted of working, cleaning, and purchasing the items we need to survive at the lowest possible price I can find. Living life penny be penny can get you down sometimes but usually it is a challenge that I am proud to have just about mastered.

The bills are paid, we have a place to live, we have food to eat, why complain? I'm not complaining, we have it better that so many others who have no job at all, and others who have lost their homes. We know how to survive on smaller salaries. We've even managed to add to our savings during a recession. Not everyone can claim that. I am grateful.

I just about gave up on couponing when we had an empty nest. We were purchasing much smaller quantities of everything and adding very few processed foods to the pantry. Things have changed now with a full house, the combined eating and cooking habits of six adults, and the scarcity of free time. I have restocked the pantry very carefully so the bills would still be paid on time and we could continue adding a bit to savings each week. I'm couponing more now than I ever have before.

I've found a new way to use coupons that takes a lot less time to do. Let's face it couponing is a chore that can steal too much of your time. After I read my Sunday paper I look through the coupon inserts with a pen and a 3 by 5 index card. I write small and keep track of the coupons I might use. I write the amount of the coupon, the item description and the expiration date. When done I tape the index card to the front of the coupon insert and file it in an expandable file. The end of the month cleanup is a breeze. I simply pull out the section of coupons that will expire and toss them in the recycling bin.

This has freed up so much time! I simply browse through the sales circulars and make a list for each store I may shop at. After my list is complete, I look in my folder, read the card on each circular and clip only the coupons I will be using. As I clip each coupon I mark through it on the index card so I don't look for it again. Some weeks the sales are great and I buy a lot and other weeks I purchase only milk and produce. Either way, I only spend about an hour deciding and preparing for a shopping trip and I save at least fifty percent off the regular price. This is still nothing like the Extreme Couponers on television.

I decided to keep track of how many coupons I used for the month of August so I could decide if it was worth it or not. With the increased family to feed I have started purchasing four Sunday papers when there are good coupons in them. So I could spend up to sixteen dollars each month on papers alone, and then there is ink and paper for online coupons, but I don't use as many of them. I did quite a bit of shopping in August, there were good sales and my pantry was depleted. I used $126.89 in coupons for the month. I included store coupons for dollars off in that figure. I didn't include the 3 ten dollar gas cards I obtained for free with a purchase at CVS. I also didn't include the online coupons linked to my reward cards in that figure.

I've learned three new things about shopping this past month. First I've learned that when CVS says you get a free gas card with a thirty dollar purchase of certain items, that is a pre-coupon price. You can still get that gas card when your order drops to $23.00 after coupons. I've learned that coupons, for now, are still worth it for me. I've also learned that it isn't a myth that you can get virtual coupons linked to your store savings card. I'll give a proper link for that in an upcoming post.

I watched a few Extreme Couponing shows last week. In one episode a huge donation was made to charity. It was thousand dollar order and they paid around fifty dollars for it. That just doesn't happen in real life shopping, at least not at that scale. It can happen in small amounts here and there. I bought four bottles of bathroom cleaner for fourteen cents each. I also paid $1.84 for three bottles of laundry detergent and twelve rolls of toilet paper. I imagine an extreme couponer would have ordered extra coupons, obtained the sales fliers early and ordered huge quantities of product from the store.  I was happy with the few of each item that I purchased. I don't have the spare room to store the stuff, and the spare time to prepare for gargantuan shopping sprees.

The past month may have been rough. There were weeks with too much work, and weeks without enough hours, the heat was brutal, the air conditioner was not working as well as it should, but we survived. I feel as if I've suffered through and overcome another horrid Florida summer.  I feel this way every year around this time. Welcome Fall!


  1. no extreme couponing in my state, we have to pay sale tax on the precoupon price, sales tax is almost 9% in my town so even if I get $10 "free" after coupons, I would have to pay almost a dollar in sales tax.
    Coupons can still be a good deal here but those tv shows are not in the least realistic for me.

    Like you, I use coupons when I can but not like on that show.

  2. Glad to see you back and that you're all ok. We live in Florida too and it's brutally hot. I enjoy your insightful comments!

  3. I like the system you describe...and it greatly simplifies things. We are feeding an expanded household ourselves. 3 adults and one child, but every adult seems to have special dietary requirements.

  4. Glad you're back - I had missed reading your blog. I don't do much couponing. We don't have any stores nearby that double them and I usually just buy what's on sale anyway. I try to keep my pantry stocked when items are on sale and we eat whatever is there. I know what you mean about surviving a FL summer - we've survived a TX summer and it was horrible! Blessings! Michelle

  5. I'm so glad your back. We also have four adults and a teen at our house. Making sure my panty is full is one of my most important things to do now.

  6. WP: I'm glad you're back.

    We have added another adult to our household on an indefinite basis--the grocery bill is still stable, but the water bill is climbing. Due to the increasingly high price of groceries, though, I have to be more and more creative in my shopping. I am impressed with the coupon ideas...but still not there yet for what we buy and how we shop.

  7. I can't use coupons like that either, but I sure notice a difference using the sunday paper coupons along with store specials or store coupons, and we rarely if ever get the double coupon deals. In August I saved 53.00 with coupons, and for me... that is worth my time clipping. Especially since everything just keeps going up and up... everything that is, except our wages.
    Have a Fabulous & Frugal Day

  8. Do you have a Big Lots near you? I often find wonderful food deals there.

  9. Nice to see you again. I hope the weather cools down. "Cool" being a relative term, of course.

  10. So glad to see you posting again. Wish you had more time to post. You're doing great! I've missed you.

  11. Ugh! The heat here in Alabama has been brutal, more so in FL, I am sure. I am so glad you are back. I missed your posts. Mostly, I am hanging on like you are. The way you handle coupons is great, but that would never work for me. I still like the clipping and notebook. Besides, the coupons in the ads expire at different time, even different months. It is good you can keep the pantry stocked well. Like you, some weeks I only buy produce and milk. Then, when the big sales and coupons hit, I have the money. I like the way you put it--living from penny to penny.Those extreme couponers are all for the show. Maybe I will start getting the gas cards from CVS. Gotta look into that. The one time I really considered it, I used none of the stuff. Oh, another time, I just did not have the money to purchase. Stay cool as you can.

  12. Glad to see you back! You might be interested in this post where she explains that what goes on in Extreme Couponing is misleading I found it a great article.

  13. Rhonda, I agree the shows aren't completely realistic.

    Terry, thank you. The air is out in our car and one of the two window units is giving us problems. Summer has been rough.

    Terri, it's working very well for me so far.

    Michelle, I'm still waiting for fall to actually arrive. I've heard TX is just as muggy.

    Laura, it's easy to keep the pantry stocked the hard bit is getting anyone to cook what's there. :)

    April, if you can't find coupons to use that is fine. You are probably eating much better. I'm really impressed with your gardening skills! My water bill is a few dollars higher but my electric bill is double!

    De-ette, gee your wages aren't going up either? :)

    Frugal scholar, we have a Big Lots in the county but it is out of the way for regular shopping. I'll have to check it out when I am in the area.

    Donna, it has cooled down some but not enough to keep me from complaining.

    Anonymous, thank you so much.

    Practical Parsimony, they have had the gas promotion for some time but I haven't needed any of the products, or I didn't think the sale price was low enough. It's funny I did it three times in August and then after I mention it I haven't seen it since.

    Ingrid, I read the first article Jill Cataldo wrote about the show. Thanks for the link, I went and had another long read. The whole thing is fascinationg.

  14. Hi kiddo. I uses coupons when we did a big shopping just yesterday. I like the tip about the index card. That'll save me time. Thanks.

  15. You've totally inspired me to start couponing again. Our grocery bill has been insanely high lately, and we've been trying to cut it back by simply buying less food, making sure we use things before they expire, and taking advantage of sales. I haven't been couponing at all because I remember it being so much work, and I really don't like the hassle it can sometimes be at checkout. But you've reminded me how it can be worth it. Especially when money is tight. Thanks for the encouragement and advice!

  16. hang in there dear, it will get better. maybe not tomarrow but some day soon.

  17. Bodacious Boomer, glad this could help.

    Lynn, what helps is finding a system that doesn't drive you crazy and take all your time. If you can stay organized and sane it is worth it.

    Chic Noir, thank you. :)

  18. When we traveled down to the states this summer, I noticed that prices for groceries were quite a bit more expensive than they were the year before. Still not to Canadian levels, but the gap is closing.
    I'm still amazed that I somehow managed to be fine in Houston, TX without A/C in my car - and with a baby at that. Not sure how I did that... I think I hung out at Walmart or somewhere with A/C until the sun went down.