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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Art of Frugality

There really is an science to saving money.  But when you save a lot of money, it feels like an art.  It seems perfectly designed for your benefit.  That is what I have been learning through experience for the last month and a half or so.  In a post last month, I wrote a little about somethings I learned online from different "coupon experts" and bloggers.  I linked myself up to several good RSS feeds to be "in the know" about specials and deals in my area at my favorite stores.  And I feel like I have learned SO much from them that I would like to tell a little about how I have saved by following these ladies lead.
It REALLY began for me after getting in line behind two old ladies that were "power shopping".  I decided to go ahead and get in line behind her, even though she had a large order, because it looked as if she were almost done.  What remained on the conveyor belt was about 30 boxes of cinnamon toast crunch.  I kinda figured they might be non profit, because I had seen these two shop together before, and I even knew that they drove together in a large van with no seats so they could pile all their goods in about once a month or so.  As I looked up I saw her friend was talking with an employee who was loading up a huge cart (I mean huge, like a lumber cart from Lowes) of what appeared to be full of boxes and boxes of frozen food.  There were two of these carts.  I had my son with me at the time, and we patiently waited behind them, mildly curious about what the were up to, and if they worked for Boys and Girls Club,  or the Kitchen or what?  As we waited the lady was licking her finger, counting out her coupons and handed over what looked like 300+ little clippings, and she told the other lady, "oh I owe you such and such" amount of coupons, and thumbed out a few more.  She then turned to me and asked..."Do your kids like cinnamon toast crunch?"  I said "Well, sure! It's full of High fructose corn syrup and doused in sugar, who doesn't?" with a huge grin.  She said, "well they are on sale, why don't you go back and get yourself a few boxes, with these coupons they will only be...$x.  This is going to take a while" she said as she looked back at the cashier who was furiously swiping and scanning as fast as he could, while the bagger was packing box after box of discount goods.
"Thanks! I will" and I ran back to get them.
When it was all said and done, the cashier asks her for $83 and some change.  She pays her tab and he hands her some catalina coupons and looks at the end of her infinitely long receipt (he must have folded it six times!) and says "You've saved $348 by using your Dillon's Plus card.  Have a great day."

What else could she do but smile???? 
and say "thanks, I sure will!"
Wouldn't you?

Not long ago they also did a spot on a cold news day about a lady who buys coupons online and uses them during sales to get things cheap.  She claimed to save all sorts of money doing this and could justify paying for other people's duplicates and extra newspapers.  She caught a lot of response when the newscasters asked the viewers to email their opinions.  Most folks said they clip and occasionally use coupons but that they save more money by far, using store brands and sale shopping.  Now, these are also frugal folks, like I thought I was at the time.
I became loyal to store brands that I began using as soon as our little family was out on it's own.  I would always feel so grateful when I could spend $100 on groceries, and feel spoiled.  Only to have the groceries run out before the next payday, then having to calculate what ingredients I could afford to buy for dinner on a Wednesday and Thursday night.  And I bought tons of generics, while my family insisted (although no complaints at mealtime) that I should buy the known brands.  And I insisted that sometimes the store brands are just better.  (this is my opinion here).  But still, I thought I was being as cheap as I could be...still thought I did well to get on sale what I could, and buy what I need when I need it. But after a few good go around's, I finally see what they are doing right, and why it works so very wonderfully.

I shop pretty much at Dillon's and Walgreen's only.  I trust their store brands and they always have great sales.  I have shopped at both stores loyally for many years.  But now I know how to shop so much better.
I used to go to Walmart for the items I found were too pricey at the grocery store.  Always a special trip for bathroom, laundry, and cleaning supplies, paper goods and pet food. I just assumed it was always cheaper.
But now I know that is not always the case, and it'd be hard for them to really keep track of what the bottom dollar rollbacks SHOULD be, to match the deals I find everyday, at my grocery store.
I have proved the value of this by buying boxed Au gratin Potatoes.  I used to go to Price Cutter's for their store brand, until I purchased the Kroger and it was just as good.  Then I didn't have to cross the street for them and save a bit too. The Generic potato at Price cutter's was $1.89, never a sale.  I am not positive how much regular price for the Kroger, but they run their brands on sale all the time, and a good deal for theirs is $.99.  The Betty Crocker Potatoes at Dillons are regular price $1.69.  And a week ago the SALE price at Walmart was $.94. (are you following me?) I also have a few $.40 off One box of Betty Crocker potatoes coupons that I could use at any of these stores.  Why chose Dillon's? The highest price is actually the Price Cutter store brand, so they are out. I'd imagine Betty Crocker would be more (if I remembered the price).
So its between Dillon's and Walmart, and Walmart looks like the winner...on the surface.
If I take my coupon to Walmart, my $.94 Potatoes are now $.54 potatoes, which is a steal by any account.  Cheaper than the Dillon's store brand, even.  Almost worth the trip to Walmart, if I planned on buying other things at the same time.  It's a 20 minute drive through lots of traffic to get to Walmart.  So back to Dillon's ...I could save the gas and just buy the $.99 store brand and call it even if I factor in the gas...but probably not feel better about it since I already know there is a cheaper box of potatoes out there. Or maybe just that it is nearly half price for name brand, either way.... but now that I know about a few VERY IMPORTANT websites, I buy them closer to home, at a discount!
Here are the links
Cellfire..............Shortcuts.................and...............Upromise where I can load coupons onto my store loyatly card.  Not to mention all the printables from Coupons.com........RedPlum.com..........and SmartSource.com......and many others. Store sites like Walgreens, CVS, and Dillon's home site are invaluable, they allow you to see (or downloaded if you really wanted) their weekly flyers, and usually will have exclusive, web-only printable coupons as a bonus.  It really is worth the afternoon looking at these, to save BIG.

So, back to my story! The above sites are how you get cheaper potatoes without a trip to Wally World.
I went to those first three sites and I registered the number on my CVS and Dillon's cards on the appropriate sites.  Then I loaded a score of coupons to the cards, not thinking much of it all.  In fact, most all of these coupons were duplicates of coupons you get in the Sunday Paper.  At the time I didn't realize how cool that is, I thought, geez...how many boxes of potatoes do I need?  HMMM...that is a good question!!!
So there is a coupon for Betty Crocker Potatoes, for guess what? $.40 off per box.  So that is $.89, right?
WRONG!!!!  Dillon's is so awesome...they double paper coupons, a lot of time they even double the ones that say not to.  {Up to one dollar}.  If you have a $.50 to $.75 off coupon, it is actually a dollar off.
 So, my $.40 is now worth $.80.  That works out to $.49 a box, cheaper than Walmart's $.54 a box and half price from the store brand!
The cellfire and shortcuts coupons you load from your card come off before your coupons, without any action on your part.  What is better?  They have duplicates on your card from the different websites, and you can load them monthly.  They do have expiration dates, but they are easy to use.
NOW imagine you used this in conjunction with a sale.  For example.....this week both Kroger brand and Green Giant brand frozen veggies are $1.  Normally I buy the kroger when it is 10 for $10, and I am out of my own homegrown frozen veggies. But on my Dillon's card I have loaded $.50/2 coupons, and I also have $.50/2 paper coupons.  If I buy 2 veggies, I can subtract the $.50 right off the top....$1.50 for those two...but I also have the coupon...THAT DOUBLES to $1.  That is $.50 for TWO or $.25 each.  If I bought the store brand I would still be paying $1 each....so you can see how this works out very well.  You always have your store brands as back up if you run out, and nothing is on sale...but the point is really to stock up. So it lasts until the next sale, and save up your coupons.
Ok so how much time do you have to spend figuring all this out?  Not much really, you are already wasting a lot of time listening to me ramble aren't ya?  Check out the other blogs, and waste some time with the specialists....Coupon MOM, Frugal fritzie, I heart coupon deals, Be centsable....google more blogs...find one in your home town, some one who shops where you shop.  Buy the paper, save the printed coupons from the register, and print online (they have some really good ones online.) Join facebook, a lot of companies think it is cool to make you be their fan to get the coupons...so I do....and print it twice.  But the most important thing, is read the parts about store policies...not everyone knows Dillon's will double those under a dollar coupons up to a dollar...(a $.75 only goes up to $1, but it's YOUR quarter!) Not everyone knows that many Dillon's will also take expired coupons. Not everyone will remember what coupons they have either, and that is why the blogs are great.  They are so fast to update with each and every deal, so they can do some legwork for you...all you have to do is decide, what you like to buy, that is on sale, that matches your coupons....and Viola! You save more than you spend.  I have done it 3 times in the past 24 hours....I saved $15 on my $12 out of pocket at Walgreen's on some odds and ends.  I saved $17 over my $13 out of pocket at CVS on absolute necessities.  But the best was at the grocery store, Dillon's huge 10 for $10 sale, store wide, with many unadvertised manager's specials....I saved EXACTLY $65.35 on my $65.34 order! One penny over.  But I realized right then and there....last time this year, i was hitting those same sales, and coming home happy enough to spend $130.69 on that amount of food.  (this trip I threw in a few tubs of ice cream, and caramel topping, and kid's toothpaste....all sorts of impulse, not on the list buys...yet I still SAVED BIG TIME).  And all I did was walk a bit slower and thumb through some little pieces of paper, and read a blog or two every other day while I drink my coffee.   That is it.  I saved $65 this morning, by doing not much....and last year...I didn't.  And that is the kicker.

I have saved so much money in the last month and a half.  I have been able to buy name brands cheaper than store brands, and stock up on a lot of household goods while at rock bottom prices, that should last until the next time they are on sale. I have been intentionally over-buying the things we use the most.  I am shopping for things "because it is on sale".  But, once you have a small stockpile, you only have to replenish what you have set aside, instead of starting from scratch.  Even so, I was able to begin the stockpile at a discount to begin with!

Google: Coupon Match ups, and Coupon Stacking...I promise you will learn a lot!  =)
There are several sites linked to what they call the "frugal Map" so you can locate a "good deal" blogger in your area, that will post the sales, coupon matches and discounts or rebates for you.  All you do is read, print and buy the Sunday paper! And maybe All You magazine.
It is so easy...and it is worth the 50% off, especially when your store runs as many great sales as mine does!

Good luck to you, I hope you save a TON of cash, and invest it in something you WANTED, instead of always those things you NEEDED that always cost too much!!!

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