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“But you’re not really saving money.  You’re just buying stuff you don’t even need!”  I’m sure we’ve all heard this before and probably more than once.  Being a freshman couponer without a familial coupon support system, I wondered, Am I just getting caught up in the hype of buy one, get ones, coupon matchups, and ExtraBucks? AM I really saving money? I took a mental inventory of my couponing successes and disappointments and then looked with pride on my slowly growing stockpile.

I needed a challenge: a specific goal with clearly defined rules–something even a non-couponer could understand.  So here it is:  How far will twenty dollars get me in the couponing world?  To simplify it further, I will limit it to one store- CVS.  As a newbie, I seem to have migrated to CVS, initially, because there is one on every corner in my town (five of them within one square mile of my office), then consistently, because I have never had a coupon turned away, and I love, love,love the rainchecks!

I pulled a twenty dollar bill and my CVS ExtraCare card out of my purse and put them right into my reusable shopping bag.  There can be no temptation to cheat on this challenge!  Not even for a really, really, really great deal!  I even used up last week’s ExtraBucks so I couldn’t inflate my starting capital.  I love a challenge!  I’m starting to think this is more for me than for my skeptics.

Week 1

I read and re-read the CVS page on KCL (my couponing bible) then sat down with my binder (I’m not that new), my three copies of Sunday’s inserts, and the CVS circular.  I wanted to hit the ground running and scoured every page twice.  SCORE ONE:  Wahoo!  My Oral-B floss coupon is for $1 off one!  Even better than KCL’s!  This never happens to me.  I’m so excited, I can barely stand it!  Later that night, I organize all the coupons I’ll need, and read the KCL CVS discussion.  Lo and behold!  A fellow couponer posted the $1 off Dawn coupon matched up with the $0.99 Dawn sale!  Great!  So here is my haul from week 1:

2 Oral B Floss 1.99
3 Dawn with Olay $0.99
1 St. Joseph Aspirin, 81 mg $2.00
1 Always Pantiliners, 20 ct $1.49
Buy 1 Oral B, Get $2 Extra Buck, Limit 2
Buy 1 St. Joseph, Get $2 Extra Buck, Limit 1
$1.00/1 Oral B manufacturer coupon
$1.00/1 Dawn manufacturer coupon
$1.00/1 St. Joseph manufacturer coupon
Free Always coupon [max value $1.79] from magic coupon machine
Scan Green Bag Tag (prints $1 Extra Buck on every 4th scan.  This is my 3rd.)
Spent $3.38, Received $4.00 Extra Bucks
Total cash remaining $16.62 + $4.00 Extra Bucks = $20.62

Even my husband was impressed.  Did I save money this week?  Nope.  I made money.  I can’t wait to see what happens next week!

Week 2

After my first week, I’ve suprised myself at my massive success!  I’m actually $0.62 ahead!   I’m left wondering if it was ‘just a fluke’.  So going into week two, I feel the added pressure of living up to my now higher expectations: Do I try to top last week's overage? Or at least match it, to prove that it's not a fluke? Or do I view last week's astounding success as a cushion and allow myself to relax?  I take a deep breath and tell my Type-A personality to stop over-thinking it and wait for the CVS circular to be released.

When at last KCL posts the CVS deals for the upcoming week, I squeal in anticipation and grab my binder to get ready for the matchups.  But alas!  Again and again, I don't have "the right" coupons- no Excedrin, no Carefree, no Skintimate Shave gel, and my Suave deodorant coupon was only $0.50 off, rather than $0.75.  I had to suppress the part of me that wanted to give up right then and there, and focus:  It's not the same deal, but is it still a good deal? And with a resounding YES! I refocused my energy and got down to business.

At the store, I first hit up the magic coupon machine.  This week it didn’t disappoint: Free (my favorite four-letter word!) Milky Way or Dove candy bar, and $2 off U by Kotex.

Week 2:

Suave Deodorant $0.99
Carefree Pantiliners $1.00
Dove Milk Chocolate Bar $0.79
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar $1.19
Hershey’s Air Delight Bar $0.99

Buy 1 Carefree, Get $1 Extra Buck, Limit 1
Buy 1 Hershey’s, Get $1 Extra Buck, Limit 1

$0.50/1 Suave manufacturer coupon
BOGO Hershey’s Air Delights manufacturer coupon
Redeemed $2.00 Extra Bucks from week 1
Scan Green Bag Tag (generated $1 Extra Buck)
Spent $0.88, Receive $3.99 Extra Bucks
Total cash remaining $15.74 + $4.99 Extra Bucks = $20.73

I earned an additional eleven cents this week, even without "the right" coupons.  So while my stockpile was largely unimpressed this week, I gained even more credit with certain skeptics.  Fluke? Nope, just par for the course, and who doesn't love free chocolate?

This has been a guest post by Melissa from Whitney Point, NY
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