Welcome back to Club Thrifty! Today’s article is a repost of an article that we published just a few weeks after we started this blog. Enjoy!
By the time my youngest daughter was born, I had a full year’s worth of Similac formula stockpiled. I also had almost 100 packs of various brands and sizes of diapers. Sure, I had no idea if my baby would be allergic to Similac or not, and I didn’t know if she wouldn’t be able to use a particular diaper brand. I also didn’t care. I had been sucked into the world of extreme couponing.
The Lure of Extreme Couponing
I had been a casual coupon user over the years but had really become possessed while pregnant with my second daughter. While most women “nest” during pregnancy, I truly became a woman possessed. I became obsessed with having anything and everything that I could possibly need for my baby. I wanted mass quantities. I even bought shelving units. I enjoyed stacking things up and lining my items up in neat rows. My husband would often find me organizing and reorganizing baby supplies for hours on end.
I did a lot of coupon trading during this pregnancy. I traded at a few different internet sites, which is how I got over 300 coupons for Similac formula. Each $5 coupon would almost pay for a quart of Similac at most stores. We spent our evenings and weekends going to Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and Target. These stores only allowed us to buy small quantities at a time, so we had to spread our purchases out over days and weeks. My husband played along because – well - he was scared not to. I had a mission in mind and he was wise not to interfere. Who could blame him? What man would be brave enough to get between a pregnant hoarder’s diapers and formula? No man that I know.
I also amassed large quantities of other items during this time - body wash, soap, cereal, razors, shampoo, and toilet paper. At the time, it didn’t seem excessive at all. Each coupon purchase became a chance to spend as little as possible for as many items as possible. It didn’t seem to matter what I was getting – or how many I was getting - as long as they were free or nearly free. Hours were spent cutting and organizing the coupons. I even got one of those coupon binders to organize them all.
Once my second daughter was born, things began to change. Luckily, she was able to drink Similac and use any brand of diapers. But, I began to notice that I didn’t have time to cut, organize, and plan these intricate coupon purchases. I began to lose interest and got back to my casual coupon roots.
Now, when I look back at that time, I feel horrified and proud at the same time. I am proud that I paid approximately $75 for a year’s worth of formula for my baby. I am also proud that I haven’t bought diapers since she was born over a year ago. At the same time, I am horrified at the excessive hours I spent planning my coupon binges, relentlessly scouring blogs for upcoming sale tips.
These days, I typically use a few coupons on each shopping trip. Sometimes I forget to cut them out or bring them with me, but I no longer lose sleep over it. There are still plenty of ways to save money on groceries and personal care items that don’t involve cutting and using coupons. Here is my list of easy and universal ways to save:
Buy What is On Sale
If chicken is on sale and you eat it often, buy a few extra packs for meals in between sales cycles. If certain kinds of produce are on sale, buy them and incorporate them into your meals. If what you want is not on sale, don’t buy it. Wait until it goes on sale to indulge.
Go Meatless, at Least Part of the Time
Vegetarian spaghetti is a cheap and easy meal that most families enjoy. Salads and pizzas taste great without meat. If you insist on eating meat, eat smaller portions and you will save money.
When you have time to cook, make enough leftovers to make at least another dinner at home. Then make sure to eat them! Throwing good food away is wasteful and is definitely not frugal.
Eat Breakfast for Dinner
My kids love scrambled eggs, toast, and pancakes. Not only are these things easy to make, but they are also cheap.
Leftover chicken from last night would go great on a salad for tomorrow’s dinner. Use your leftover pot roast to make beef vegetable soup the next day. There are websites all over the internet with helpful advice on how to use leftovers. Use them! One of my favorites is Allrecipes.com.
Keep it Simple
Sometimes it can be impractical to make a fancy dinner if you have worked all day. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple, especially with little kids. Have peanut butter and jelly with fruit, crackers and cheese, or macaroni for dinner.
I am still benefitting from my days of extreme couponing. I haven’t bought toilet paper in a year. I still have approximately 50 containers of laundry detergent. I have enough razors and soap to last a lifetime and probably enough floss to span the entire United States. I have so many air fresheners that my house will surely smell like lavender for the rest of my life. But one day, I will have to start buying some of these things again. When that day comes, I plan on shopping in moderation. What I have learned is that you can save plenty of money just by buying things when they are on sale…and avoiding them when they are not. Using coupons is still fun, but I’ve learned that the time spent is worth more to me than the money I saved. I’m no longer the girl with the stocked shelving units, but I’m still a girl who loves to save.