A couple weeks ago I wrote about the fact that I’m giving up on couponing. Basically, the benefits of coupons didn’t outweigh the costs and so I stopped using them (mostly).
Let’s face it, if you’re a working mom there’s only so much you can do to save money and still have any time and energy left for your family. Just like coupons, I don’t have time to go to a million different stores every week to get the absolutely lowest price on avocado either.
So what’s a frugal working mom to do?
I’m going to be totally honest here. You are never going to see the kind of savings that people on those couponing reality shows get. (Side note: Can you believe we’ve gotten to a point where we watch people shop on tv?) Those people spend hours preparing to shop, then shopping and strategically arranging their carts… it’s a job for them. Unless you’re looking to make couponing another job, then you’re going to have to adjust your expectations.
Here are ways to save without going coupon crazy:
Choose your store(s) wisely. I joined Costco a few years ago, but never went because I hate large crowds and the warehouse layout just makes me sad. I realized that low prices aren’t the only important thing to me. I also want a clean store, helpful employees, and someplace that doesn’t remind me of Orange is the New Black.
Now I shop at one local grocery chain and Target. They are my happy places and I save a lot of money at both because I’ve become familiar with their sale cycles.
Get a loyalty card. My mother refuses to get one because she doesn’t want people tracking what she buys. I, quite frankly, don’t care if Big Brother knows I bought 30 cans of soup in November. It’s where most of my savings come from when I go couponless.
Tip: I saw a news report once that said if you’re out of town and at a store you don’t have a card for you can try 867-5309 with the local area code. Apparently people who don’t want to give their real phone number steal Jenny’s!
Plan your shop. If you plan your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meals out, good for you. I have never been able to do it (and stick with it). But I do go shopping with a list and I stick with it… mostly.
My process is this:
1. Make a list of what we need – and by need I mean are out or almost out of and can’t live without – then review the weekly grocery circular for those items. I make a note of the prices on my list.
2. I go back through the circular for things that are on sale that we want, add them to the list, write down the price.
3. I go through the Target circular and look for anything on my list and compare prices. If it’s cheaper at Target I write the new price down and mark that item with a T.
4. I’ll usually take a final scan of the Target flyer for other good deals, too.
The whole process takes me 20 minutes or less.
Go alone. Miss O is still young and we never buy her things when we shop, so she hasn’t learned to ask for stuff yet (parenting win!). But Mr. O is a horrible shopping partner. He wants everything. I swear food marketers have a direct line into the impulse center of his brain. And everything he adds to the cart is junk. He’s now been banned from the grocery store.
Stock up on sales. But only what you’ll use before it goes bad. $.50 is a good deal for 5 lbs of flour, but not if you can’t use it. We go through a lot of cereal, but we’re not brand loyalists, so whenever I see any reasonably healthy cereals for less than $2 a box, I buy a few. For those items I am particular about – peanut butter, certain crackers, waffles – I buy a ton of them. People stare. The cashier makes jokes. It’s slightly awkward.
Plan a grocery swap. Do you have a local friend or neighbor who shops at a different store than you do? Make a deal that you’ll buy stuff for her when your store has a great deal if she’ll do the same. Meet up and swap groceries! It’s sort of like you’re very own mini co-op.
Remember that just because you’re not using coupons doesn’t mean you have to pay full price. Stores offer lots of ways to save if you pay attention and shop thoughtfully.
How do you save money without using coupons? Share your tips in the comments!