by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy

Yes, this post is actually about coupon clipping.

No, I am not some poverty-stricken rundown woman with curlers in my hair dangling a cigarette. Neither am I an extremist who’s going to hoard supplies that I’ll never use. While the thought of selling to my neighbors in times of dire need sort of thrills me (especially since my neighbors CHOOSE to not be prepared), I guess I’m not really an I-told-you-so kinda gal.

But I am a storyteller, so here’s today’s story.

I’ve clipped coupons before, saved a few bucks here and there. But this weekend I watched a handful of “Extreme Couponing” on one of those cable home improvement networks. Which I found ironic, because last week I joined a local Facebook group, “Bargain Babes”, started by my friend Genny. She’s a great couponer, and now she shares her wisdom and experience with the group. It’s very interactive. Since we all live in the same area, we each post the different sales and rewards that we know of so others can find the same great deals. It’s a sisterhood of scissoring.

Suffering from a ridiculous allergy attack or severe summer cold (still not sure yet which it is, but that’s a different story…), I didn’t do much of anything yesterday but rest a lot and clip a little. I reviewed the current ads, my current coupons, and I made my list. I called the local market to make sure I knew their coupon policy. Yes, they double the value but only up to $1.00 total savings per item. Yes, they take internet coupons. No, they do not take expired coupons.

Armed with a two-page list of what coupons I wanted to use, and only six other items on my grocery list, I made my way to several stops.

First, I know a lot of people will take whatever they can get for free or near-free. Brand names don’t matter to them. Unfortunately, because my daughter and I both suffer from chemical allergies, I am cautious to switch once I find a brand name product that really works for us. Having said that, I’m not above trying new things as long as I know they won’t hurt me.

Second, stack ’em high! The store I went to today doubles the coupon value. Score! If I have a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon, each for $0.50 for the same item, I can use them both. That means, each coupon is doubled to a dollar, and since I have two coupons, I’ve just saved $2.00 on one item! Some coupons require you to buy two or more of the item to get the savings. Guess what? Stack ’em again! Same scenario as above, same two coupons, PLUS a third coupon good for $0.50 off one item. Doubled again. I just saved three bucks. Which makes my on-sale granola bars, FREE. How awesome is that?

Third, get a rain check. If a store advertises a sale, but that product isn’t on the shelf, go to Customer Service with the ad, and have them issue you a rain check. This worked for me the week before Easter when I was in search of a head of cabbage. Vons had a ridiculously great price in their ad. But when I showed up in the produce section, I was told “someone” forgot to order the cabbage. They didn’t have any. But I got a rain check for the sale price, good for 90 days. No, it didn’t help my Easter dinner. I bought cabbage elsewhere for that. But I was able to later get more cabbage for $0.33 when everyone else was paying close to $1.00. Nifty, huh?

Fourth, don’t have a coupon for a favorite item? Go online. Most companies offer printable coupons on their websites. If not, you can call and praise them and they’ll usually send some to you. The drawback of this, is that they only send you a few, and you have to wait for snail-mail time, which is usually several weeks to over a month. When my daughter was born, I called her formula maker and they sent me new coupons every month. Not just the cheap-o “buy ten, save $0.30” kind either. They were awesome coupons. “Buy two get one free.” Who doesn’t love free?

Fifth. Don’t go all over town for a $2.00 savings. You’ll spend more than that in gas. Every stop I made today was within one mile of each other. It made it a lot easier to hit one side of the street, then head back in the other direction. Piece of pie!

So.There I am this morning with my lists and my budget and my daughter. First up: CVS Drugstore. I figured I’d dip my toe in the water before I dive on it. I had two coupons for the same item: Advil. The first coupon was Buy 3/Save $5. The second was Save $2. For the first coupon, I picked up three travel size Advil. You know, the mini bottles that only hold ten tablets. They were supposed to be $3.29 each. With tax, it was over $10. I used my CVS Saver card and Green Tag. This is a leaf-shaped tag with a bar code they scan once a day. If you use the Green Tag, they don’t bag your items. I either bring my own bag or put the items in my purse. Four every four swipes, you get a $1.00 Register Reward. So my first purchase with the three Advils cost me only $5 and change, plus I got my $1 RR. The second Advil was $4.49 plus tax. Minus my $2 coupon, minus my $1 RR, I paid only $1.76 for a $5 bottle of pain reliever. I’m pretty happy about that! And now I’m hooked.

I saved 15% on a box of Cafe Mocha k-cups at Bed, Bath & Beyond with their coupon.

Then I headed to Vons. My total rang up to $169. With my Vons rewards card, I saved $35. Then I handed the clerk my coupons. All my coupons. Pretty much one (or more) for almost every item I bought. And item by item, I watched the total go down. The end result? $107 and change.

And you know what? It was fun. Can’t wait to do it again.

There are many more lessons I’m learning. By no means, am I an expert. But for my first real couponing attempt today, I feel pretty successful. Especially when I treated my daughter to lunch at McDonald’s and for less than the price of one combo meal, we used our free drink coupons, ordered cheap sandwiches and had lunch together. No fatty fries. Good savings. Great day.

And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!

Clipping Coupons, Part II
Writing Prompt: Bending the Rules
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