couponing, part 2

I got a few comments asking where I got my coupons and thought I'd answer it in a post, in case other people were curious as well! And for the record, I'm not that uncluttered or organized — I'm just embarrassed to put the cluttered and unorganized photos up... which is why you haven't seen our bedroom yet!

In Manhattan, I got a lot of coupons for non-grocery items in the campus coupon books at the beginning of the school year — if you live near a university this might be a good option for getting nearby restaurant and business coupons. Dillons also mailed me coupons after I registered my Dillons card online. We shopped at Dillons a lot and the bounty of coupons they mailed were for the food we bought often. You can also view a selection of coupons online and load them onto your plus card (saving paper!). Unfortunately I don't have that luxury here — we don't have Dillons.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get coupons since we've moved to Boston — my coupon book is pretty empty right now. We get a free newspaper mailer once a week with weekly store flyers and a few (I mean few) coupons. I've read you can subscribe to the weekend newspaper if it isn't too expensive. I haven't done this yet, but I might look into it. Money Saving Mom posts LOTS of deals and coupon book offers. This can be overwhelming, but you can view just the post titles if you subscribe in Google Reader, and ignore the ones for products/stores you aren't interested in. Her other posts have good tips on living frugally. She's lived on a tight budget putting her husband through law school, not always knowing how they'd pay the bills: she's an expert! I know there are lots of other sites that update the frugal on coupons, free samples and good deals. A full cup is one I've heard about.

But coupons aren't always the cheapest option — sometimes a brand name product with a coupon is still more expensive than the store brand. Buying prepared food, even with coupons, is often still more expensive than if you did the work yourself (bagged salad vs. a head of lettuce, baby carrots vs. a bunch of carrots, frozen dinners, etc.). Since we've started cooking more from scratch for the health and savings benefits, I realized I don't find as many coupons for basics like flour, sugar, butter, lettuce, tomatoes... So I pay more attention on how to save money even without coupons.
  • Make a price list. My friend Vanessa maintains a price list for each of their local stores. Before her trip, she uses them to figure out which store is cheapest based on their current shopping list. Ian has an iPod touch app (Shopper) that works similarly — you input prices for multiple stores and when you create a shopping list it shows you your "cart total."
  • Using a price list along with weekly flyers can help you save money and stock up on freezable/non-perishable items when they are on sale. Ex. I got $22 worth of roast for only $11.
  • Produce is always cheaper in-season, so try to buy fruits and veggies accordingly.
  • Compare the per-unit price, but don't buy the big one just because it's cheapest unless you know you'll use it all.
  • Look above and below eye level for cheaper options.
  • If you do nothing else, go in with a list and stick to it — impulse buys add up and can blow a budget.
Our budget is tight until I find a job, and these tips have helped me — I hope they help you! And I keep reminding myself, God is faithful when we do our best to be good stewards of what He has given us. Saving money can turn you into a grinch if you don't remember we are called to be responsible, but also to GIVE GENEROUSLY. Being responsible with finances will give you the freedom to be generous, and that's the fun part!