Tag Archives: cvs

Summer Couponing Update

14 Jul
Last week's CVS haul was amazing!

Last week’s CVS haul was amazing! I spent $6 on all of this, which is equivalent to paying for just one purple bottle of the shampoo shown here. I had $25 in Extra Care Bucks and a variety of manufacturer’s coupons to combine with the CVS weekly promotions and sales.

It’s been such a long time since I did a couponing post. The springtime is so busy at work and at home that I don’t have as much time to devote to couponing as I’d like, so I didn’t have a lot of really great hauls to write about. I got lots of little deals here and there, but nothing really blog-worthy.

However, this summer in just one week’s time or so, I had two huge hauls and when I posted the photo shown here on the left on Facebook last week, I had a lot of “Please tell me how!” type of requests, so I decided that I’d do a post about couponing soon.

On the night that I came home with all of the items shown here, I said to my husband, “And I bet when I go back, I’ll have earned $5 from the Beauty Club too!” At CVS, for every $50 you spend on beauty products you get $5 back. Shampoo, conditioner, hair color, hair supplies, body wash, and all makeup products count as beauty supplies. With three girls and myself living here, we go through a whole lot of all those things. At CVS there’s always great sales and great CVS coupons to stack along with the  manufacturer’s coupons for all these types of items, you can’t go wrong.

Sure enough, when I went to CVS tonight (I realized we were completely out of extra toothbrushes and I’d just tossed mine in the trash) my $5 Beauty Club reward popped out, but so did a $5 Prescription program reward! I walked into the store with $10 to spend for free! (At CVS, for every 10 prescriptions you fill, you earn $5. You can sign up three customers per loyalty card.)

My coupons and Extra Care Bucks rewards in hand, I headed straight to the toothbrush section. After comparing prices and sales, I opted to just go with a basic set of two CVS brand toothbrushes. From there I moved on to the makeup section because when I’d scanned my card at the CVS machine, a coupon for $4 off $12 of makeup popped out. I try to keep things like foundation, mascara, and concealer, on hand because again…a house full of women, two of whom use makeup, we go through quite a bit.

This week's haul was just as good, if not better, than last week's! I had $22 in Extra Care Bucks and several manufacturers coupons to combine with the new week's sales and promotions at CVS!

This week’s haul was just as good, if not better, than last week’s! I had $22 in Extra Care Bucks and several manufacturer’s coupons to combine with the new week’s sales and promotions at CVS!

Imagine my surprise when I came upon the Physicians Formula makeup section and saw those bright yellow CVS signs that said, “Buy any 2 Physicians Formula items and receive $10 in Extra Care Bucks!” I couldn’t believe my luck! I had $4 off already! I grabbed two of the concealers that we use, which are $6.99 each, which gave me the $12 I needed to spend to use the CVS $4 coupon, knowing I’d earned my $10 back.

I moved on to the cereal section. We go through tons of cereal for breakfast and snacks, especially in the summer. I buy a huge variety usually, and we range from the healthier types to the sweeter types, depending on what coupons I have, what’s on sale and what’s left on the pantry shelves.

I had a $1 off 3 Kellogg’s cereals coupon as well as a $1 coupon off two boxes of the Cheerios in the yellow box, which also had a “get $2 Extra Care Bucks Back” sign on display.

In the end I had a total of $22 Extra Care Bucks and spent only $7 out of pocket for my entire haul shown here. That’s equivalent to paying for just one of the concealer sticks!!

I can’t emphasize enough that it’s so important to utilize all aspects of any store’s promotions in addition to manufacturer’s coupons when you shop, no matter what store you’re at. If the store utilizes a customer loyalty program, sign up for it. If they accept their own store coupons, internet coupons, manufacturer’s coupons or any combination of those things, use them to your benefit. Try to shop the sales and promotions even if you don’t currently need a particular item. If it’s something you use, it’s better to get it for free or almost free, ahead of time than to pay full price for it the day you need it. My toothbrushes are a perfect example. I’m usually very good about keeping them on hand from sales and promotions as well as from the dentist and I have enough toothpaste to sink a small ship, but somehow I’d forgotten to keep up with the toothbrushes, so some of my first $5 of Extra Care Bucks went right to a 2-pack of toothbrushes. That’s kind of a waste of Extra Care Bucks, but at least I had them to use and I didn’t have to pay for them anywhere out of pocket.

In my first week’s haul shown above, the majority of my coupons were CVS store coupons coupled with their own store promotions. At CVS you can stack their own store coupons with each other, so for example, if you have a CVS coupon off of Almay makeup for $2 off $10, and you have a CVS coupon for $5 off $15 of makeup, you can use both. If you have manufacturer’s coupons off of Almay you can use those as well. And if you’re lucky there may be a promotion going on such as a Buy One Get One 50% off, or an Extra Care Bucks promotion where you earn back some of what you’ve spent. If you have two manufacturer’s coupons for the same item and you buy two of that item you can use both coupons in addition to your CVS coupons. You can use manufacturer’s coupons off of the half-priced items and even off the free items for a Buy One Get One Free promotion.

No matter what store you go to, be sure to know their coupon policies before you go in. Not all stores are the same. I do the best with my coupons at CVS and Target in my area because they have their own store coupons and promotions to couple with the manufacturer’s coupons.

If you’re new to couponing, or want to be, I’d say start small. Pick just a couple of stores that you frequent most and try it out there before going all over the place trying to hit up every store in your town with your coupons. And remember, anything you save is better than not saving at all, and you’ll get out of it what you put in to it. If you have lots of time to devote, you’ll save more money. If you have a little bit of time to devote to it, you’ll save a little less money, but every penny saved is money in your pocket rather than someone else’s pocket!

Good luck and happy saving!!

Couponing Update: Last week’s CVS haul

29 Apr
It's that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

It’s that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

About a year and a half ago I started my couponing, and last spring I decided to try to stock up for summer on things we go through most, so that I would not have to shop for those items over the summer.

This year, it’s springtime again and I’ve decided to do the same thing. As time has gone by, I have gotten a better handle on things we go through a lot of and things that last a long time.

For example, last year I found out that 48 rolls of toilet paper lasts way longer than just through the summer, but body wash we go through almost weekly. So this year I’m making adjustments in my stockpile. Recently I’ve gotten good deals on women’s deodorant, dish detergent, and a few other things. Last week, however, I had a particularly good “haul,” so I thought I’d share it with you and tell you how I did it. People often ask me for a quick tutorial, so this may help anyone who’s thinking about couponing.

Today’s post is about a CVS trip, and it’s probably the place I shop the most often because of their great store sales, their fantastic stackable coupons, their super Beauty Club, and their awesome Extra Bucks.

Going into CVS, here is what I had:

a $4 off $10 worth of body wash which I’d gotten out of the CVS machine. CVS brand body wash is $2.37 each or 2 for $4.00 normally. That week though in the CVS flier, it was Buy one get one half off. I had to buy 7 to get to $10, but then I got $4.00 off.

5 manufacturer’s coupons for Old Spice men’s deodorant for 20 cents off. The deodorant was on sale in the flier for $2.29 that week. So I’d be getting mine for $2.09 each.

1 CVS machine coupon for 20 cents off Palmolive dish soap. The soap was on sale in the flier for 99 cents already. Normally it’s more than $1.00 at CVS.

7 manufacturer’s coupons for $1.00 off two bags of Chex Mix. The Chex Mix was on sale at CVS that week four bags for $5.  Each bag is more than a single  serving, so it makes a great lunchbox snack if you put it into ziploc bags, and it is great for a playdate or after school snack. During the summer it’ll be great for beach snacks, assuming it lasts that long!

I also discovered that day that Chex Mix comes in Chocolate Turtle flavor. I had to remind myself that each bag was more than one single serving or I might have eaten the whole bag.

My total cost that day was $30.

I got:

7 bottles of body wash
5 deodorants
1 Palmolive dish soap
14 bags of Chex Mix

So, in total, 27 items for $30.

If you are new to couponing, the lessons to take away from today’s post are the following:

Be sure to examine *all* of your couponing and sale options. Use the CVS machine coupons, and remember you can scan your card multiple times a day until it tells you there’s nothing more for you.

Look closely at the flier because oftentimes the fliers and sales coincide with the store and manufacturer coupons. Remember that you can stack CVS store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Only buy what you use, unless it’s totally free and you can donate it. Don’t spend money on things you can’t use, just because it’s on sale.

And finally, use as many manufacturer coupons as you can. Having multiple numbers  of coupons is great when stores run sales such as the one I got on Chex Mix and deodorant this time around.

Happy Saving!!

End of Year Couponing Update for 2012

3 Jan
Hot off the press!

Hot off the press!

As many of you remember, I accepted a challenge from my college roommate, Karen, last January and tried my hand at couponing. I began at the end of January, right around the 28th of the month, or thereabouts.

My first couponing trip was to CVS and with that one trip, I was hooked on saving money!

This week marks the start of the new year, a whole new year of saving money. To celebrate, I am sharing with you some photos of a local magazine article in which I was one of the couponers featured. This magazine, Prime Time, is the January issue and it’s put out by the same company that puts out the two newspapers I work for, Beacon Communications. I was so excited when they asked if they could feature me for the story. Also featured is my friend Pam, who has been so helpful in teaching me her couponing strategies along the way.

Clip, clip, clip...

Clip, clip, clip…

I thought that with the feature story coming out today, it’d be a great day to share with you some of my couponing savings totals for the 2012 year.

Remember, all of the items I purchased were from places I already shopped, for things I already buy. I did not add any other stops to my already busy schedule and I did not start purchasing things I don’t need, like baby wipes for example, when I don’t have a baby, just to use the coupons.

Ready?

CVS: I saved $1604.36 at CVS this year. At CVS I utilized their own store coupons, stacked with manufacturer’s coupons, along with sales and their Extra Bucks Rewards to make the very most of every penny I spent there. I also made sure to enroll in their Beauty Club and just yesterday, their brand new prescription program, both of which earn you additional Extra Bucks for purchasing things you already were buying.

TARGET: I saved about $90 this year just by using my Target Red Card, which is not a credit card since we do not use credit cards, but rather a debit card. This does not count all of my savings from manufacturer’s coupons or Target store coupons, which I stack in order to make the most of my savings. With the Target Red Card you save an additional 5% off your total purchase after coupons. Caroline recently used our Red Card herself when purchasing an item that was over $200. She had saved up for months and used her Christmas money and a Target gift card for the rest, and saved herself quite a bit of money out of pocket by using the Red Card.

STOP AND SHOP: I only recently started popping into Stop and Shop  due to our new dietary needs, for things that my other grocery stores don’t have. Therefore, I only have one month’s worth of savings on my last receipt there, but I have saved $62 in that one month alone, according my last 2012 receipt.

I have also saved with coupons at Walmart, Staples, AC Moore and Michael’s. I’ve saved online using Groupon, Living Social and other group buying deals, throughout the year. I accumulated over $200 in rebate money through the year, which I used to start off my Christmas shopping early this summer.

My kids and my husband have also picked up some great couponing skills. They all scan the CVS card when we enter the store, as many times as it will let us, and they can spot a good coupon right away. We recently went to CVS to get some Zyrtec. I had a $4 manufacturer’s coupon and when we walked in, a $5 store coupon off that very product came out of the machine. Elizabeth came running down the allergy aisle holding it up. She knew we would now save $9 off a product we used to pay full price for.

Of course, being my competitive self, my goal for the new couponing year is to beat the 2012 totals for the next year in order to save my family even more money!

Time to get clipping!

Couponing Update: Back on the money-saving wagon

17 Sep

I had 3 BOGO coupons and $10.75 in manufacturer’s coupons so that I got almost all of these razors for free, and earned $10 in EB on to boot!

Last week I mentioned that after taking most of the summer off (not spending, but not saving either), I was now ready to begin couponing again. I had such an amazing money-saving week that I just had to share it with you today.

My first (and only) couponing stop: CVS.

I had been very close to earning $5 in Extra Bucks from the CVS Beauty Club (for every $50 you spend you earn $5 back in EB) for most of the summer, but since I wasn’t buying, I wasn’t earning. Last week after I’d cut all my coupons I was ready to save. I desperately needed a particular make up item from L’Oreal. It was a $10 item but I had a $2 off coupon and I’d get my $5 Beauty Club EB for the purchase as well. However, when I saw the circular for CVS I saw that if you spent $10 on any L’Oreal items you’d earn $3 in EB this week.

Even better.

I also noticed when I cut my coupons that I had several copies of a particular coupon that was Buy One Get One Free for Gillette razors for men and also for Venus razors for women. In addition to the BOGO coupons I also had four $1 off coupons for the Gillette razors and two $3 off coupons for the Venus razors and I had a CVS store coupon for 75 cents off the Venus razors too. You can combine CVS store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons and you can also use $$ off coupons with BOGO coupons.

When I saw the CVS flier however, I realized that if you spent $30 on Gillette products you got $10 back in EB. So I was going to be buying four packs of men’s razors and two packs of women’s and using all my coupons to get almost all of them for free, but I’d earn $10 in EB to boot.

I was out of Zyrtec. I had a $5 off coupon and I’d earn $4 back in EB.

It was a banner week, to say the least.

Here’s how it worked out:

1) Four packs of Gillette Razors $7.99 each, ($32) two packs free with BOGO coupons ($16 off), $4 more off in manufacturer’s coupons (down to $12 for four packs of four razors) and an additional $10 back in EB at the register.

2) Two packs of Venus Razors $8.50 each ($17) one pack free with the BOGO coupon ($8.50 off), $6 more off in manufacturer’s coupons (down to $2.50) and another 75 cents off with my CVS coupon (down to $1.75 for two packs of four razors).

3) Zyrtec $18.99 for 30 pills, with $5 off from my manufacturer’s coupon (down to $13.99) and an additional $4 back in EB at the register.

4) L’Oreal makeup $10.99 with $2.00 off from my manufacturer’s coupon (down to $8.99) and an additional $3 back in EB at the register. By the end of the week I’d earned another $5 back in Beauty Club EB because those Beauty Club bucks take a few days to process.

All this plus a case of water, a bottle of vitamins and a canister of wipes, all for free with my $22 in EB earned at CVS this week. You can’t go wrong with Extra Bucks!

TOTAL SPENT: $36.73 (for makeup, six packs of razors and Zyrtec)
TOTAL SAVED: $37.75

TOTAL EB EARNED: $22.00

What I got with my EB:
One case of water
Four packs of Nature Valley Granola Bar and Granola Thins snacks (on sale 2 for $5 plus I had $1 off three)
One can of CVS brand “Lysol” wipes
Four bottles of laundry detergent
One bottle of vitamins (on sale B1G1 1/2 off and I had a coupon $1 off one).

During the week I also utilized coupons for other non-grocery/household items.

For example, I took advantage of the Payless Shoestore BOGO Half Off sale plus the $4 coupon per pair of shoes they give you when the store you’re at doesn’t have the size you need to get two pairs of dance shoes for my daughter for $31 instead of paying $47.

We also ate out at the Olive Garden restaurant over the weekend, using a “Kids Eat Free” coupon for two of our kids’ meals and a $25 gift card from my father-in-law for my birthday, to get the rest of our meal for just a a fraction of the cost of what it would’ve been for five of us to eat out.

A great week, don’t you think?

Couponing Update: Happy National Couponing Month!

10 Sep

I had dozens of coupons booklets to go through this past week, coupons that had accumulated throughout the summer months.

I spent my summer not couponing, living off my coupon purchases that I’d stockpiled from January to June. I absolutely loved having everything here, not having to make any purchases of those stockpiled items all summer. There are some items I still don’t need to buy yet. But, it’s time to get back on the money-saving wagon.

In case you’re curious though, I had more than enough of the following items to get me through the summer:

Laundry detergent
Lysol Wipes
Toilet Paper
Sunscreen
Lipstick
Cover Girl Foundation
Zyrtec
Bug Spray
Shampoo
Conditioner
Shaving Cream
Toothpaste
Toothbrushes
Frozen Waffles (I still have waffles in the freezer, we use them once a week in the school year but not as often over the summer)
Frozen Toaster Strudels
Deodorant

I was thrilled with how my stockpiling plan worked out and I plan to do the same thing for next summer too. In the meantime, I will continue to live off of the things that are left before buying more of them. There were also things I ran out of, like body wash for example, that I’d be more conscious of buying more of next time.

Five new beach chairs this summer…purchased with a combination of coupons and CVS Extra Bucks!

I also wanted to pass along a few different couponing tips for you, it being National Couponing Month and all.

First, remember that coupons are not just for food and grocery items. For example, see my five new beach chairs in this photo? Here’s the story behind them: we desperately needed new beach chairs this summer. We hemmed and hawed about spending upwards of $10 per chair for five new chairs, and we had seen some on sale for $8.99 that we were considering buying.

However, one Wednesday morning I went to CVS to buy my newspaper and lo and behold, they had a box of beach chairs right by the register on sale for $5 each, which was great. They’d cost us $25. But, it doesn’t end there. I swiped my card at the machine and out popped a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase. I couldn’t believe it. Even better, I had $3 in Extra Bucks to add to my deal. So in the end, I got five chairs for $17. Much better than the $45 (plus tax) I’d been prepared to spend.

See the skirt? Two coupons made it completely free this past August. Every time I wear it, I think to myself, “This skirt was completely free.” Every time.

Here’s another great couponing example: My skirt in the photo to the left. It’s my new favorite skirt, you know why? Because it was free. Completely free. I walked out of the store with one skirt and never even opened my wallet.

And no, I didn’t steal it.

Bob’s Store near us sends out a $10 coupon each year for your birthday if you’re in their rewards program, which I am. At the same time that I had my birthday coupon, they also sent out a 25% off coupon in their flier. I put the two together, headed for the clearance rack and saw this cute little skirt in my size for $12.

Or free.

I had so many emails for free restaurant items for my birthday–appetizers, desserts, ice cream, etc., that I couldn’t even use them all. But, if I had, they would’ve all been free.

I have one last couponing tip for you before I end this post.

My super-easy way of sorting my coupons quickly as I cut them.

Several people have asked about the organizational part of couponing. I thought I’d share what it looks like when I’m cutting my coupons because of course, I have a system. After I’d labeled the tabs in my coupon holders alphabetically with my categories, I took a stack of index cards and put those same categories on the cards and put them in the same alphabetical order. Each time I cut my coupons I take out the cards and lay them on the table in front of me.

As I cut each coupon, I place it on top of the card of the correct category. This way, as I’m cutting, I am also sorting at the same time. Previously, before I thought of this system, I’d just cut and make a big pile of coupons and then one coupon at a time, I’d place them into my coupon holders. It took forever and I dreaded doing it. It didn’t take me long to figure out this simple system and it works well for me. Everyone has their own way of organizing their coupons so it may not work as well for you, but I’m passing it along anyway, in case it helps you.

Now that school is in session, I’m able to start keeping an eye out for sales and coupons on those items I’ve run out of so that I can start shopping and stockpiling again. I can’t wait! If I get any other great deals throughout the year, I’ll continue to keep you updated.

This photo goes with the one at the top of the page. The one at the top was my Still To Cut photo (hence the scissors) and this one was the Already Cut pile on the floor next to me. I was about halfway through. That shows you how many coupons I’d piled up over the summer. It only took me two hours to do what I had not done all summer, and I could quickly scan for expiration dates and items I was out of.

Couponing Update: My Summer Stockpile

2 Jul

I had to break my own rule and make an overflow spot for all the shampoo and conditioner I’ve stockpiled.

It’s official.

I’ve saved $1053 at CVS since January 31.

I’d never couponed a day before that.

I’m completely blown away by how much you can save when you coupon. I still can’t help but kick myself for not doing it sooner.

Today for example, I went in to CVS just to buy my newspaper. I went to their red coupon machine in the store though, to check and see what store coupons came out.

Tons of coupons came out. And $5 Extra Bucks from a previous Beauty Club purchase. Since I was there and since I wasn’t planning on coming back for a while, I decided to see how I could best spend those $5 Extra Bucks and combine them with the coupons that came out of the machine.

I bought:

1 Cranston Herald 50 cents

1 Hershey Simple Pleasures (on sale $3 but normally $4.59)
2 VO5 Shampoo
2 VO5 Conditioner (on sale 79 cents each for all four)
2 CVS body wash (on sale buy one get one 1/2 off)
I had $3 in coupons for the chocolate ($1 from the CVS machine  and one for $2 from the mail that I’d stuck in my pocketbook the day I got it.)
I had no other manufacturer’s coupons with me but the machine had given me $1 off the body wash and $2 off shampoo or conditioner.
I saved $14,  I spent 74 cents out of pocket.
I’d saved so much that at the register my balance was negative and they can’t give me back money so I had to send my kids back to the aisle to get more stuff. Twice. We finally got it up to the 74 cents, so I could leave.
Anyway…..
About six weeks ago or so, I set a goal for myself. Knowing that my couponing was going so well, and knowing that my paycheck can be significantly less over the summer when school is out (less hours I’m available to work and less school news to cover), I decided that while my pay was consistent and while my kids were in school–I could shop alone, and concentrate, I’d start stockpiling as many non-grocery items as I could for summer. I’d use my Extra Bucks at CVS as wisely as possible between then and now. I’d use my coupons and my Target Red Card as wisely as I could also. I’d get us set up so that other than fresh fruits and veggies, and meats, I’d have as much as possible on hand so that we spent less over the summer and used up what we had.
(I still shop mainly at CVS and Target because they allow the stacking of their store coupons together with manufacturer’s coupons and they have great sales. CVS is my top favorite spot because of the added Extra Bucks.)

I won’t need toilet paper or Lysol wipes all summer long.

I tried to utilize the sales to my advantage when I could, especially the ones at CVS where I had coupons, a sale, their own store coupons, and received Extra Bucks back on top of it. I got three cases of water for free, six tubs of laundry detergent for free, four cases of toilet paper for free, shaving cream, cereal, body wash, allergy medicine, and lots and lots of shampoo and conditioner, all for free. I had four tubs of Lysol Wipes until just before I took this picture.

I was stocking up, for sure.

And meanwhile, my regular grocery spending has been shrinking every month.
Did you know that Suave deodorant is just $1.37 at CVS before coupons? Get a $1 off and you’re paying 37 cents. That happens all the time.

One of my favorite days I saved $99 at CVS. I got 32 items:  23 bottles of shampoo and/or conditioner, two bottles of laundry detergent, two toothbrushes, one toothpaste, and four deodorants, all for $36 (including tax). I had utilized the manufacturer’s buy one get one free coupons, plus CVS coupons and sales, and Extra Bucks. I was so excited when I left that my hands were shaking.
Not to mention that for every $50 you spend at CVS on beauty items (which includes all the shampoo and conditioner) you get $5 back in Extra Bucks on one of your next trips. So I knew I’d have more money to spend.
At the end of each quarter you get 2% of your spending back (including prescriptions, which we have quite a few of during the year) and I earned $16.50 to spend after July 1. Of course, I’ll find the best way to stretch that with sales, coupons (both CVS and manufacturer’s) and see if I can earn any additional Extra Bucks back.
Last week, I spent $24 ($20 before tax) and got a men’s razor that came with two refill blades, a pack of 5 refill blades, two bottles of vitamins, four mascaras, and two 12 packs of wet Swiffer cloths. I saved $59. I’d gone in specifically because I needed the razor and Swiffers, and I had coupons for them all; both CVS coupons and manufacturer’s coupons. But, when I got there, there were sales, and Extra Bucks were earned on the razor (which ended up being free with all my coupons), which paid for one of the packs of Swiffers, and I earned $5 more Beauty Club Extra Bucks with the mascaras. (The mascaras were buy one get one free with my two BOGO manufacturer’s coupons plus I had four $1 off coupons too, that I was able to use.)
And so it goes and goes and goes.
I don’t want to spend my summer scanning sales, cutting coupons or shopping with my kids. I want to be outdoors, with my family, having fun. So now, we dip into the stockpile and see how long it lasts us.
And you know I’ll keep you posted!

With a family of five, three of them being long-haired girls, we go through a lot of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and shaving cream, in particular.

In total, I’d stockpiled eight containers of shaving cream!

To Coupon or Not to Coupon: The Update

29 Feb
Coupon holder

I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be.... Remember when I said that??

It’s been exactly one month since my post where I announced that I had decided to try couponing. If you remember, my friend Karen had recommended that I try it out and I decided that even though my grocery stores didn’t accept coupons, I did enough shopping at stores like Walmart, Target and CVS, all of whom did accept manufacturer’s coupons, that I’d try it out and see how I did.

Holy Cow.

It’s addicting. It’s exhilarating.

I love it.

I’m very good at it, or at least I think I am.

And, best of all, I actually have been saving us tons of money, while getting us tons of free stuff we need too, for one month now. Because of our tight budget, having coupons on name brand items has allowed us some treats that we normally couldn’t afford, along the way as well, and that’s been fun. I’ve never seen my kids so excited for yogurt as they were the night I brought home all the Yoplait Crunch yogurts and the Yoplait flavored yogurts. They took turns calling out who was getting to eat which flavor and Alex took over loading them all into a special spot in the fridge. Yogurt. Really.

Here’s my recap of the last month; how it’s gone and what I’ve learned.

First, before I begin, I can’t thank my friends Karen and Pam enough. Both of them provided me with lots of couponing advice and Pam is local, so she was even nice enough to come with me a couple of times and was very patient as I shopped. Both of them were also extremely patient all month long as I would shop and then send them photos, texts and instant messages of what I’d just scored for free. Very patient, very good friends.

So here’s what I learned:

Free pens at Target

I found that I got the best deals once I'd gathered lots of coupons. These three packs of pens were at Target for 97 cents but I had three one dollar off coupons so all three packs were free!

1) To actually be a couponer, you actually have to *have* coupons. That may sound basic and obvious, but it’s actually more important than I knew. For example, if you can find multiple coupons for the same item, you can buy lots of it when it’s on sale and that’s what helps you get your items for free. The very first time I really went shopping with my coupons I spent more than I had to out of pocket because my coupon stash wasn’t up to snuff yet. I still got free stuff, but I knew that if I had multiple coupons, I’d have done much better than I did that first time.  To that end, I began following several different coupon sites on Facebook and on various websites (Coupon Hauls, Dreamzncolor, Coupon Mom, Simply CVS and Coupon Divas are just a few of the ones I’ve found and used.) I know that on TV they show people “dumpster diving” for multiple sets of coupons, but I have found that getting them online has been helpful and one week my friend Pam gave me A TON of coupon booklets that she was done with, and after three hours of cutting them and filing them, I was in business for real (at least until all of those expire!)

Coupon files

My first purchase: a way to organize and store my coupons. Organization is key.

2) To actually be a couponer, you need to have an organized way of storing your coupons. People use binders, expandable files, bins and more. I chose to buy two expandable files, each one has 13 spots plus extra spots in the front. I got them at Target. I chose to organize them in alphabetical order so the first one is A-D and the last one is D-Z.  So far, I haven’t had any problems with this method.

3) It’s important to go in with a list. Know what you’re looking for, what you have coupons for, what you’re getting for free, and what you need to put into separate transactions, if applicable. Being organized is key. Several of the sites I mentioned above do this organizing for you. They tell you what’s on sale at a store, what manufacturer’s coupons are out there and even give you a link to print them from if available. They also often tell you the best way to get the most for free, as in which coupons to use and how to organize your transactions. There’s lots of information and help out there.

My first coupon haul

This was my January 30 haul of free stuff from CVS-every item seen here was free- but this was not my best one. I put out more out of pocket money then I like to now. But, I'd just started. What did I know?

When I wrote my original post in January, one of the things I said was that I didn’t want to go to more than the stores I normally would go to, that I just wanted to save on what I already bought, where I already bought it. I’m pleased to say I’ve stuck to that, but I can tell you it’s SO tempting to look at other circulars and see what else is out there, where else I could go. For now though, I’m sticking to my guns. I normally shopped at Target, Walmart and CVS for my non-food items and that’s where I’ve focused my couponing efforts.

I also had two other goals in mind when I decided to start.

The first was that I didn’t want to spend hours and hours doing this. I didn’t want it to take a whole lot longer than making a normal shopping list would take. I will say the very first time I did it, it took me a little bit of time to organize myself, but overall, I don’t spend a ton of time on getting ready. I am not one who wants to make this my full time job. I don’t want to spend 40 hours a week couponing and shopping. Maybe some day I will change my mind, but at this point, I’m not feeling it. I like going on my way to or from work or when I have a few minutes before I need to pick up my kids at school, but I don’t spend 13 hours in a store, or 40 hours a week making lists, the way I’ve seen on TV.

Health and beauty shelf

Here's where I store all body wash, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, deoderant and toothpaste. Once it's full, it's full. There's no more space now, and this photos doesn't even show it completely full.

The second goal was that I would never buy more than I could store. It’s only been a month, but I can already see why these extreme couponers end up storing 200 rolls of toilet paper under their kids’ beds and in their living rooms. I can see how it can get out of hand.

The first thing I had to do very quickly was figure out where I was going to store the things I was getting for free; or what everyone calls their “stockpiles.” Since I was mostly shopping for health and beauty items, I went into my downstairs bathroom and completely cleared off one shelf in there. I decided that was my space for stockpiling and once that space was full, I’d not buy those particular items again until I had more space to put them on the shelf.

My shelf was full in two and a half weeks. Full.

Medicine and makeup basket

Here's where I currently store any medications and makeup items that I get for free, as well as anything that won't stand up on a shelf, like toothbrushes.

I took a big basket for any medication type stuff I was getting for free as well as makeup items. That basket was pretty big and many of those makeup items are pretty small, so that basket isn’t filling up as quickly as my shelf.

My pantry shelves in the garage are still for food items, but since I buy most of my food items at stores that don’t take coupons, that hasn’t been much of an issue, except for the week when I got ten free boxes of Cheerios at CVS. That created kind of a storage issue. However, we go through a lot of cereal so it was only a temporary storage issue.

At Target on Saturday night I got all this for just $20 because I had so many coupons. I didn't have coupons for the eggs, sausage and tortilla wrappers (wrappers not shown) but everything else I did. For example, the vitamins which are normally $6 I paid $2.16 for.

My most favorite and most successful shopping trips have been at CVS, with Target being a close second. The reason being that they both provide sales and their own store coupons that can be combined with manufacturer’s coupons too. I never knew that. So for example, if you see something on sale at CVS, and they have their own coupon for it, and you have manufacturer’s coupons too, and if by chance you get their Extra Bucks as a result of purchasing said items, you’re golden. CVS also recently changed their coupon policy too, where you can not only use coupons on the items you buy, but if you have a buy one get one free sale, you can use coupons on the item you buy as well as the item you get free. That’s how I ended up with so many boxes of cereal. CVS also has a coupon machine when you walk in the door where you can scan your CVS card every single day, several times in one trip, and get coupons and sometimes even Extra Bucks too. I spent a lot of time in February getting reacquainted with my local CVS stores.

On the list of things I never knew was:

Getting better...at CVS on February 13 I spent $20 out of pocket for items not pictured here, and then got all this totally free with coupons and Extra Bucks I'd earned. Pam was there, I did a little dance when we left the store. I couldn't believe how well I'd done.

1) How often CVS has sales where you earn Extra Bucks just by making a purchase. “Buy this item and get $4 Extra Bucks at the register.” You then can turn around and use those extra bucks to purchase more items, totally free. On one of my trips I earned $42 in Extra Bucks. I spent them on items that earned me more Extra Bucks and earned $12 more Extra Bucks. Additionally, all quarter long you’re earning an additional percentage your spending back in the form of Extra Bucks that you’ll get at the end of each quarter. CVS also has a Beauty Club and every time you spend $50 you get $5 Extra Bucks, even if the $50 you “spent” was on things you “bought” for free. On your one year anniversary with their Beauty Club you get a 10% off your next Beauty Purchase coupon and it’s off your entire purchase plus what you purchase earns you more extra bucks. It’s never-ending.

2) Target’s Red Card can be a debit card OR a credit card and every time you use it you get 5% off your purchase plus your school of choice earns points. I always thought it was a credit card only and we don’t do credit cards, so I never applied for one. Now I have one and use it every time I shop.

Free stuff from CVS

Another CVS haul. I spent $27.10 out of pocket for items not pictured here, and got all of this for free, earning more Extra Bucks from this purchase as well.

Another goal I had was not purchasing anything I wouldn’t normally use or need at my house, just because it’s free, and so far I’ve been good at that. But I will say, I’m an easy-to-please shopper because in general we are not brand-specific unless there’s something we totally hate and won’t use. So for example if Crest Toothpaste is free one week, I’ll get it. If Colgate Toothpaste is free another week, I’ll get it. If Dove Body Wash is free, I buy it, and if the next week it’s Softsoap body wash, I get that too. Until I find something I hate, any brand is good. And I can tell you, I won’t need to buy body wash or deoderant or shaving cream or shampoo and conditioner for a long…long….time. Although on the flip side, with four women in the house, we go through one bottle of shampoo and one bottle of conditioner every single week on average. So although it looks like a lot on hand, it goes fast.

My month’s end total for spending and saving is as follows:

What I would have spent on Health and Beauty at Target, Walmart and CVS this month before coupons and Extra Bucks:  $588.31

What I actually spent: $317.50 (and sometimes what I spent out of pocket was just paying tax, 91 cents here, 42 cents there….)

That’s a savings of $270.81 of items I got for free.

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100% free at Staples if you mail in the rebates. That to me, is worth it for the 42 cent stamp

What I got back additionally in rebates (another new-found joy I’ve discovered in this experience): $31.96

Total out of pocket this month after the rebates: $285.54 ($71 per week)

The biggest difference I see is that normally each month in between the grocery shopping at Price Rite or Aldi’s I’d be spending at least $100 or more every pay period at Walmart or Target or CVS on needed health and beauty items, over the counter medicine, paper goods and cleaning items and I’d only buy what I needed because I was paying full price for them. For example, in my basket photo, notice the Align? It’s normally more than $30 a box for a month’s worth of pills, which I’d pay out of pocket for every month because my daughter has to take it every day. Of the three in the basket, two were free, and one I got down to $14.

This month I noticed already that my usual “big” shopping at Price Rite two weeks ago was also less than normal, under $200 for two weeks’ worth of items and I know that it’s partly due to the fact that many of the items I automatically bought there, I now had on hand for free because of my couponing (like cereal, lunchbox snacks like granola bars, and Kleenex for example). Now that it’s time to shop again, there’s very little that I need because of my new “stockpile,” so I expect my next trip’s total to be way down as well.

I also noticed that I didn’t need to make not even one single Walmart run this month for health and beauty items or cleaning items. I got them all using my coupons at Target or CVS and earned a large portion of them for free. That’s the kind of thing I was just automatically buying as needed before, and paying full price. Now, not only did I buy what was on my list for right now, in some cases, I also have it on hand for later too, saving me money down the line as well.

Because my first shopping trip on January 30th was the one where I spent more out of pocket than I wanted to, I am curious to see how month two goes, now that I know what I’m doing and now that I have more coupons. After that first trip, my next trips had shockingly less out of pocket than that first one, so I know I’m already doing better.

VO5 Free Shampoo and Conditioner

This was one of my favorite CVS hauls because it was a total shock. I ran in for conditioner one night, we were totally out and the kids were IN the shower at home. I quickly scanned my CVS card, and to my surprise I found that I had $5 in Extra Bucks. I went to get my favorite shampoo and conditioner, the VO5, which is normally 99 cents a bottle. It was on sale for 77 cents a bottle. I came home with seven bottles and paid 42 cents out of pocket.

So there you have it. My one month update on couponing. I love it, I now see a huge value in it, both in the money I’m saving and the fact that I have things on hand now that I don’t have to buy just when I’m out of them, in turn paying full price instead of having gotten it on sale with coupons and stockpiling it.

I shudder to think of all the coupons I’ve tossed in the past, all the money I could’ve saved, but my friend Pam is good about telling me not to look back, to only look forward.

And then, she gives me more coupons.