An Experiment in Q’s

Q of course being the shorthand for coupons. But it works either way.

So this fall, we ramped up our couponing experiences. We sat down and discussed a budget of what we needed to save to make it worthwhile. You might think any money saved is worthwhile, but there are some newbie mistakes I’ve seen from reading up.

  1. Buying things you don’t need because they are a great deal.
  2. Buying so much of something that it expires, takes over your life or otherwise is not a win.
  3. Storage.
  4. “Spending” more on couponing than you save. Even if you eliminate your time which you shouldn’t, there are things like paying for extra inserts. Sorters, lists, etc.

So we set out with some simple goalsFirst, we picked items that we can definitely use in bulk. They are: cat litter, gatorade, cereal and paper products.

Second, we identified storage. These items can all go into the unfinished basement.

Third, I researched coupons on Ebay and compared to existing sales. I calculated how much I would need to save to make the “purchase” of these bulk item coupons worthwhile.

Fourth, I noted the sale dates and promised myself to limit my extra trips to pick up the items. For example, Target limits you to 4 of the same coupons per person per day. So I could spend 4 hours and drive to 4 Targets which would negate the savings. Instead, I plot my routes a bit so I’ll pass near a Target.

How is it going nearly a month in?

Cat Litter – this is great. I accumulated 30+ coupons for a dollar of the Tidy Cat we buy. I found a sale at Target good thru the end of October that reduces the size we need by another dollar or so. So I’m getting cat litter for about $5.50 a jug. Its the size we prefer because we have to carry it up several flights of steps and the entire container (plus lid) is recyclable. It has been great not to run out – I’ve purchased about 25 containers so far. Downside? Well, its a lot of containers. But otherwise, its okay.  BONUS: I also had a coupon to get 2 free cans of cat food with the purchase of this item. The cat food is really a treat so it was valued at $1.00 each. Thus for each jug of cat litter, I get $2.00 in free products that we also use.

Gatorade – we go through a lot o Gatorade. I found coupons, but 9 get 3 free. Ledcat used these 32 ounce bottle at work as opposed to max size versions we buy at home. Downside? Coupon only good for $3.00 total so if I pay $1.50 for those extra three bottles, they aren’t free. Best deal I found was Target at $1.06 per bottle so I’m spending $.18 for the freebies. There’s not a lot of Gatorade on the shelves so even though I could theoretically buy 48 bottles at once per Target’s policy, they never have that much. Its always on the top shelf so that’s a physical pain. And we have a lot of extra bottle. Even stacked in the basement, its a pain. This worked out as a wash in terms of not losing money, but its not something I would do again unless I needed 48 containers of Gatorade for a specific issue.

Cereal – there are tons of Catalina coupons for cereal, Buy 3, get One. I’m still not well versed in how to price match this well but I did find a few good deals at Walgreens and Target so I stocked up. I checked the expiration dates and we are good. Downside? I’m eating more cereal than I need to eat (and not healthy brands!) I also feel like I could use these coupons more effectively.

Paper Products – this has been pretty good. We use Scott and I am on their email list so I get a coupon every month or so which I can match with other coupons. Target prints these pretty often. I buy a giant pack – like 48 rolls. We had already invested in a basket to store about 14 rolls in the bathroom, but out of site. I found a set of drawers in the basement and put the rest down there.  This is a win and a no-brainer. I’m sure we could save on other brands, but we are satisfied. I’m ready to branch out to paper towels in October.

Overall, we did well. We didn’t “waste” money and learned some valuable lessons.

  • Go to Target at 11 AM on a weekday.
  • Almost any destination can include a Target stop.
  • 12 32 ounce jars of Gatorade are too heavy for a tote bag.
  • Read the fine print about maximum return.

I hope October will prove as fruitful.There will be a Couponing Workshop on November 10 in the afternoon at Assemble. It is focused on Community Couponing, not Extreme Couponing. So while we’ll learn how to save for our families, we will learn how to use those other deals to donate items to the food pantries. Details here. 

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