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!