Six months ago I canceled my subscription to the newspaper, stopped checking the couponing websites hourly, and let several Register Rewards from Walgreens expire…Uggg! I was just plain burned out. My third baby was 3 months old, and I had just returned to work full time. Newspapers were piling up with coupons unsorted, and I just couldn't deal with it any more. So I had a radical idea: Why not just shop like a normal person?
The first few months were fine. We had a nice stockpile of everything our family needed. In fact, our storage of food and other products was overflowing! It was nice to start seeing a little wiggle room in our pantry. I didn't have to un-stack 6 boxes of cereal to get to the cans of peaches piled up in the very back of the cupboard.
Around month 4, we were still doing okay. It was late summer, and the local produce stands were overflowing with fabulous fresh food. We went grocery shopping about once a week usually just to get milk or charcoal for the grill. Living off our stockpile was amazing because we spent far less than our allotted weekly grocery budget, leaving more money for fun!
But then the downward, spending-too-much-on-groceries spiral began. It started suddenly but quickly escalated out of control! First we were down to one pack of diapers. With two children in diapers and one still in the process of potty training, this is a big deal. “Okay,” I thought. “I'll just buy a box of Great Value diapers, like any normal person would.” Little did I know I would have to buy a box every 1-2 weeks, and at close to $20 a pop it was adding up quickly!
Next, I realized we only had one jar of spaghetti sauce left. Yikes! Spaghetti is our go-to meal that we have at least once a week. How could this happen? We had close to 20 jars. I guess that explains why we only have 3 boxes of spaghetti noodles left too. The final straw: when my husband had to buy body wash at FULL PRICE! Anyone who has couponed for any length of time knows how easy it is to get health and beauty products for free. What were we doing wasting our hard earned money paying for products we can easily get for free? This could not be happening! That’s when I realized I NEEDED to get back to couponing.
To sum it up, this is what I learned from my coupon sabatical:
- It is a very good idea to have a 6 month stockpile of items around the house–not only to be prepared for a job loss, but for other times when you just might not want to go to the store.
- Only buy items you or your family will use. Those cans of peas I got about a year ago for a ridiculously low price are still in my pantry. Even though they were close to free, and even though our pantry became close to empty, we still didn't eat them. I'm sorry, we just can't stomach canned peas. No deal is a good deal if it goes to waste.
- Use it or lose it. Your newspaper subscription, that is. The point of getting 6 (or however many you get) newspapers a week is to save money with multiple coupons. But you’re losing money if you just let your papers pile up. Cancel if you need to, save a tree, then re-sign up when you are ready.
- Couponing can save you thousands of dollars. During the end of the 6 months without coupons, my husband and I found ourselves going to the store 2-3 times a week. We were out of items we got used to having on hand, and shopping on such short notice doesn't leave much time for clipping coupons or looking for sales. I'm scared to go back and check receipts to see how much money we wasted by not being prepared.
- Moderation in all things, including coupons. Cut yourself some slack. You don't need to get every deal. Sales and seasons cycle. You don't need to clip every coupon, either. I found myself saving contact solution coupons because they had previously been moneymakers. But I don't wear contacts. I don't need to do that. The time would be better spent playing with my kids.
This Sunday our dry spell came to an end. I was excited beyond words when my 6 Sunday newspapers were delivered. I no longer have to shop like "normal" people, and it feels so good! It will take a little time to rebuild everything we have depleted, but I am re-energized to keep on top of the organization and stockpiling. It was good to have a break, but it is GREAT to be back!!!
This has been a guest post by Tamra from Fruitland, ID
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