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Taking baby steps: I set a goal to save $10 this month with coupons

Carla emailed in the following tip:

I am one of those people who cut out all kinds of coupons, only to let them expire and end up throwing them away. At other times, my piles of coupons look like clutter so I recycle them all. I just have never had the motivation to keep on top of my coupons, thus I have too often just given up my quest to save (at least with coupons) at the grocery store.

This morning I was thinking about the new month starting and of ways, once again, to try to cut my budget a little. My immediate thought was “no coupons” but I reconsidered. Now, my goal for the entire month is to save $10.00 on my groceries using coupons. I know that I could probably save more, but I think I will have better success with baby steps!

This will not include any discounts I get with my shoppers card, just coupons. It will also not include any money I may save using coupons at restaurants. I am hoping to see this work, and if so, next month I will try to up my amount of savings by using more coupons. For this next month, I will be keeping good track of my saving and will be thrilled to reach my goal of $10.00.

I thought I would share this idea with you all, in case you are a beginner at trying to save with coupons, or you are like me, discouraged due to my lack of having a previous method that worked. I think it will all come down to baby steps! -Carla

Note from Crystal: If you’re brand-new to using coupons, be sure to check out my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series. Also, find your store deals listed in the Store Deals section of our site. And finally, don’t forget to use the Coupon Database to print coupons for items you’re already planning on buying.

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  • Luba says:

    What a great idea! $10 a month for a year is $120. That’s quite a bit of money. 🙂

  • It’s a great idea to start small with coupons so you can see your progress and meet your goals!

  • Jennifer Draper says:

    Since implementing this idea (see below) for a coupon binder, I’m now actually using my coupons rather than losing track of them! It has been a huge help.

      • Angie says:

        I just watched this video and this is a great idea. I have a friend who uses an old photo album (the kind with the clear sleeves) and her system is almost exactly like this one.

        I finally took the plunge and got a coupon binder. My binder is bigger than the mini-binder used in this video. I resisted the binder for so long because it looked awkward. But with my old coupon wallet method I wasn’t able to fit all of my multiple copies of coupons, and I ended up getting two coupon wallets which was more awkward than just getting a binder. Plus I couldn’t see what I had in front of me, and found retrieving coupons difficult.

        I’m between an extreme couponer and casual couponer. I save on average $115 a month with coupons, but sometimes I use coupons to buy high end items at store brand price, which means I may not always save as much as if I just got the cheapest things possible. That $115 a month is only 25% of my monthly grocery bill, but I’m pleased with it .

  • Brenda says:

    I think goals definitely helps move us to our money saving goals. For myself, i’ve found small steps & taking on one money saving task at a time really helps. After i feel comfortable with that one small step & it’s a habit, i can move on to tackle another step. If it’s a gradual change that becomes a part of my lifestyle, i can keep it up.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I think it is a great idea t take baby steps! I know a lot of people who I have suggested couponing to not for an extreme deal but if you are going to buy the product anyway then why not save a few cents. I’ve ran into a few problems other people have had. First they find it daunting to look up coupons and have them all together and to walk into a store needing a list. It really sounds worse than it is in my opinion and I personally can’t stress enough how walking in with a list even without coupons will help you save and cut down on impulse buying. Second they don’t want to be that lady holding up the line checking out or have heard horror stories about fighting with a store. Ways I’ve found to avoid this is search online for the store policies about coupons most stores have this online but if you can’t find it then talk to customer service before doing your shopping. Also, I like to use self-check-outs so I don’t get a large line behind me or irritate the clerk. I try to shop on the same day around the same time and try and use a regular clerk that will get to know me and my coupon habits. Third, if you are stuck on name brands coupons can help but there are many times when a coupon will not offset the cost compared to store brand. Keep a calculator on you and figure up the difference. You may not see a pretty ‘saved with coupons’ amount at the bottom of your receipt but your pocket book will notice the difference. And finally, if there is a really good deal on something but you don’t need it and don’t see when you can use it then either don’t get it or don’t stock up on it because you will still be using money (unless it is free then go for it) and you will clutter up your home. — Just some suggestions from my point of view. Happy shopping!

  • Liz says:

    What a wonderful idea to start out with “baby steps” since sometimes couponing can be overwhelming. This year I started writing my daily/weekly coupon savings on a calender and at the end of every month I transfer that amount of money into a savings account. I am a visual thinker/learner so seeing the savings written down help me to stay on track and remember that even a $1.00 or $2.00 savings adds up and is more money in my pocket.

  • Jessica says:

    What a great idea! I have been the same way the past few months. I used to be on top of the couponing game, but then my time grew scarce and all I did was print them out, but I ended up not using them. With your idea, I will definitely set a goal for myself month by month. Thanks!

  • Michelle says:

    I agree with the binder idea. I have been using one for years now. Any 3 ring binder and baseball card holders will do. I have mine organized according to the isles of the grocery store I shop at the most and a separate spot for Target’s store coupons. This has been the best for me, otherwise I would spend so much time searching for my coupons in one of those small coupon organizers. I have been stopped many times in stores and people will comment on what a great idea it is. All the best with your goal this month!

    • Andrea says:

      If you’re only planning to save $10 per month with coupons, a binder is a waste of time/money. An envelope will work or paperclip them to your list.

      • Jennifer Draper says:

        I guess that depends on if you’re in it for the long haul (ie, plan on saving $10/mth every month for the rest of your life). If you use items you have around the house, a small inexpensive binder can help you save quite a bit in the long run. Especially if you up your goal in future. For those of us who are visual, it can be a lifesaver. I’m sorry you feel it would be a waste of time and money. I disagree.

  • bridget says:

    I work full time so i know what you mean. they become clutter, they become lost, i clip them but never make it to the store (the MOST frustrating thing that happens quite a lot) I’m always happy with whatever i save and call it a day.

  • Christine says:

    I don’t mean to be contrary, but it seems to me, if you made a goal to save $10 a month on groceries using coupons, you would be trying to “use up” coupons and end up buying things you don’t need in the first place, actually spending more on groceries per month ??

    • Andrea says:

      Not necessarily. I printed to $3 coupons for diapers yesterday. We need to buy them anyway, so I’m saving $6. I assume the poster will be doing something similar–finding and using coupons for things she buys anyway.

  • Suzanne H says:

    Ideas for you:
    1. Only print coupons for items you were planning to buy anyhow. Don’t worry about anything else. That way, you will only have a few coupons and won’t worry about “match-ups” which can be a lengthy process.
    2. Trim your budget by buying on sale only (as much as possible). Favorite spaghetti sauce @ the cheapest price you’ve seen? Buy as much as you can afford/think your family will use before that price rolls around again. If you are motivated, you can use a price tracking system (or find someone who has published a price sheet for your area) and just aim to buy things when they are cheapest; forget coupons.
    3. Focus on getting your toiletries cheap/free and forego grocery coupons. Personally, I think the drug store game has been fine tuned and published so much that it’s become pretty simple even for the beginner. This way, you would only focus on 1 store.
    4. Put the date on your coupon inserts and file them in a box/file drawer. This requires little effort – literally pulling the inserts out of the paper, marking them with a date and throwing them in a file. Then, check out match-ups for your store online and pull/clip only the coupons you need for that 1 shopping trip @ that one store. Then you won’t end up with piles of coupons laying around or waste your time clipping coupons you don’t need.
    Couponing really is worth the effort but I also firmly believe that it has to be something that appeals to your personality. If not, it’s too much like a chore! Good luck.

    • These are all great points. I also will check on a coupon blog for the best deals at my local store, then set aside $5-10 each week to stock up on one or two items that are rock-bottom priced, whether it’s things we use all the time, or treats. Slow stockpiling, not breaking my bank each week to save money in the long run.

  • Love this idea! Even I got inspired and I gave up on coupons a long time ago! 🙂

  • Sandra says:

    I am totally in the same boat. I often just give up because I get so overwhelmed.! I like the idea of baby steps. Thanks.

  • Snackmeister says:

    I think this is an awesome attitude and great way to set goals. Good for you!

  • Vee says:

    An easy “baby step” is to save the envelopes from bills that have a plain reverse side. When going through the week’s grocery ads write down, by store, the items that you may buy that week. You can then collect any coupons that apply (from store ads, inserts and printables) and put them in the envelope. At the same time you will see who has the best advertised price on a specific item. Tuck the envelope into your purse. Next week repeat.

  • Libby says:

    I too only clip coupons for things I already buy. I’m a one store shopper. No time for multiple store trips. So my grocer sends coupons in the mail based upon what I purchase instore (haven’t decided yet if this is creepy or not…how well they know my shopping habits….but savings is awesome so whatever!) I have a small index card box that I keep my coupons in–alphabetized as best I can. Every Friday, I make my meal plan for the next week. And then a grocery list based upon that. Check my small coupon box, check Swagbucks coupons…and off I go. I have a 14 mo and one on the way so if it’s a busy week and I really just need to get to the store, then I skip the coupons and forgive myself later. 🙂 I saved almost $10 in one trip today. Not much compared to those who do match-ups…but that’s still $10 in my wallet. 🙂

  • Charity says:

    I love this! I’m definitely a baby- steper. I find that I achieve much more this way and avoid becoming discouraged.

    I think your goal is tremendous! 🙂

  • Susan says:

    Great post!

    I started couponing in earnest a number of years ago when it was much easier to get tons of food and household items very cheaply or even free if you knew how to work the system and were willing to invest the time. I ended up with way too much that we didn’t consume fast enough, or even at all. I ended up donating some and tossing most of it. Very wasteful. Sales come around often enough that there is no need to stockpile massive amounts of anything.

    I’m much better at it now. I only print or clip coupons for items my family regularly consumes, and they all fit in a pocket of my purse. No need for a huge 3-ring binder.

    I think it’s great advice for anyone who is looking to start couponing to start small. As other commenters have said, just clip or print coupons for a few items you regularly buy, and get into the habit of always having them with you when you go to the store, and get into the habit of remembing to actually redeem them when you go to the store.

    Here’s an example of how I “save” $10 a month on just a few things:

    Thing #1 – coffee. We go through a 12-oz bag of coffee a week, on average. I do like certain brands: Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Gevalia for the most part. Coupons for these brands circulate often enough that hardly ever buy coffee without a coupon. $1 coupons are plentiful, sometimes $1.50/bag, and every once in a while $2/bag. Coffee is $6/bag at Winco or Walmart, so the most I ever pay for coffee is $5/bag.

    So, coffee coupons at a minimum of $1/bag, one bag a week, so that’s $52/year.

    Thing #2 – yogurt. We like Yoplait and eat it regularly, 1 cup a day for the two of us, which is 14 cups/week. Yoplait cups are regularly $.50 at Walmart or Winco. Coupons for $.40/6 or $.50/8 come out regularly.

    So, yogurt coupons save me $.90/week on averge, or $46.80/year.

    Thing #3 – cheese. It’s hard to do the math because cheese coupons vary so much, but cheese coupons are so plentiful that I rarely buy cheese without a coupon.

    So, that’s $100 in coupon savings on three items alone.

    I know there are some of you thinking I could save a lot more if I bought store-brand coffee (or didn’t drink it at all) and made my own yogurt, but that’s not for me. My advice to anyone is to start with the items your family likes. For us it’s coffee and yogurt; for others it may be something else, like cereal. I’ll pay $4 for a box of cereal — I know many MSM readers are cringing at — but we go through maybe one box of cereal a month, if that. I don’t bother with cereal coupons because we’re just not cereal eaters. If we were, I’d clip cereal coupons, but we’re not, so I don’t.

    All this said … coupons aside, I save a lot more money simply by paying attention to sales, and buying a few extras when the price is really good. For example, the 2-lb blocks of Tillamook cheese comes on sale a Fred Meyer (my local Korger affiliate) for as low as $3.99 every few months or so, so I’ll buy 4 or 5 at that price, which will easily last us until the next good sale. Cheese lasts a long time in the fridge if it is unopened.

  • If you are getting the newspaper that has coupons already clip the ones for products that you already buy and the ones that intrigue you. I would put them in an envelope along with the coupons the grocer sends you that way you have them when you run in to pick up that one thing on the way home.

    If you don’t get the newspaper see if your grocer does the electronic coupons (e-coupons) that you load to your grocery and drug store cards. P&G is one manufacturer that you can load coupons directly to your store card.

    SavingStar is another “coupon” site which is a bit different instead of getting the money off at the register it goes into your “savings” account at SavingStar until you request a check. The bonus is you can still use a manufacturer coupon at the register.

    When you are making out your grocery list you can check to see if there are coupons out there at several search sites and if you haven’t clipped that coupon go back and pull out the saved flyers. The search site I use will also tell me if there is a printable coupon too.

    Don’t forget to ask for rainchecks if the sale item you wanted is out of stock. This will give you several weeks to look for coupons to match to the rainchecked sale price.

  • Laurie says:

    I used to use coupons. But my coupon inserts now do not have coupons on things I use and the coupon values are so small it is not worth it. I do most of my shopping at Aldi’s. For personal care items and household items I go to SAMs to stock up for a year. We also do not have double coupons where I live.

  • That’s great start off slow. I use a coupon binder and lists to help.

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