It’s simple math: the less I spend on the things I have to buy each month (food), the more I can spend on the things I want to buy each month (shoes). Which means that my first order of business on this new budget of mine is to get my grocery bill under control.
I’ll freely admit that when I am not paying attention, I spend a lot of money on food. Since we moved back to Florida 9 months ago, our grocery bills have been well over $1000 a month. It seems like every trip to Publix at least another $150 down the drain and we can never make it out of Sam’s Club without spending at least $250. It’s not that I am being careless, per se. I plan my meals each week and I rarely go to the store without a list. But my goal, with 2 restless girls in tow, is usually just to get in and out as quickly as possible without a meltdown. Saving money is an afterthought.
My husband and I first attempted this separate bank account lifestyle when we were living in Seattle and it worked great. For the first time in our marriage, we didn’t fight about money. And while we were in Seattle, I happened to catch a story on the local news show, Evening Magazine, about a woman who used coupons to spend almost nothing on groceries. The concept was simple (even if the execution was somewhat time-consuming): combine store coupons and sales with manufacturer coupons to get the very lowest (and sometimes even free) prices on all your grocery items. I was intrigued, and so I decided to try it. I found a website called couponmom.com that listed each stores‘ weekly specials and the corresponding coupons. It meant taking a lot more time each week to clip coupons and to drive to several different stores, but after getting more than $400 worth of groceries for less than $100 on my very first week, I was hooked.
For months I fastidiously clipped coupons and made my weekly rounds–Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Walgreens, & Rite-Aid. I bought a great little book on Amazon.com called the The Couponizer: Save More Than Money that helped me sort and organize the hundreds of coupons I was collecting. After a month, I unsubscribed to Couponmom.com (which charges a fee), finding that it was just as easy to analyze the ads on my own, once I knew what I was looking for. Best of all, it was the first shopping obsession my husband had ever approved of. But then life kicked in. My second daughter was born and we began preparing for our cross-country move. As soon as we arrived in Florida, we jumped right into the holiday season and then were busy juggling a fussy baby with an elderly parent and a major house remodel, and before we knew it, we were where we are now.
But now things have finally settled down and it is time to get back into the coupon groove. Luckily, I still have my trusty Couponizer book. Collecting & using coupons effectively is a cumulative thing, contingent on saving coupons until the item is on sale. It requires a commitment to getting the Sunday paper every single week, and it can take more than a month before your coupon supply is up to speed. To get started a little faster, I went on ebay and won a couple of $1.00 auctions for grocery coupons. I also printed a bunch of coupons online, which is not something I plan on doing regularly, as it wastes a whole lot of paper and ink. Here in the South there is an amazing (free!) blog called SouthernSavers.com, which basically provides the same service as couponmom.com, but for southern grocery store chains like Publix and WinnDixie. It is an amazing resource!
And I have to say, I think my coupon bug is back. On my first trip to Publix, despite having only coupons I was able to print online AND despite needing several items that were not on special, I still managed to save $67.00 (while paying $87.55). I think that might even be enough for a new pair of shoes.