Couponing Basics



I got hooked on coupons about two years ago and have been using them ever since.  To me coupons are cash in a different form.  If the coupon is for a dollar off an item, I see it as a dollar bill.  


People tend not to use coupons because they can get a little tricky and are a bit time consuming.  I have to agree, but the little time getting to know the process will PAY off in the long term.  Just give it a try.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Start small and see how it goes.  What will you lose? For the people that have never tried couponing, these are the very basics.  More specifics to come.  


Manufacture Coupons vs. Store Coupons: There are two different types of coupons.  The first are manufacture coupons, which are coupons from the company of the product.  These can be used at any store that accepts coupons and sells that specific product.  Then there are store coupons, which are only redeemable at the store that is selling the product. It will be clearly marked on the coupon which one it is.  The best way to save is “stacking”  the manufacture coupon with a store coupon for double the savings.  Lets use the purchase of Colgate toothpaste from CVS as an example.  If you have a manufacture coupon from Colgate for $1, and a CVS store coupon for $1 off any toothpaste from the coupon print center, you could use both for a total of $2 off one tube of toothpaste. 


Read The Fine Print: All coupons have rules and restrictions.  They will also have an expiration date that is non-negotiable.  A requirement could be how many items to buy per coupon.  Some coupons require multiple items. For example, you might have a coupon for $2 off 2 bottles of All Laundry detergent.   Also, size of the item might be specified like a coupon for Dawn Dish Soap 16oz size bottle or larger.  


Always Check Your Receipt: I cannot tell you how many errors I have caught.  After checking out, I find a spot out of the way before I leave the store to skim my receipt.  If I see something that doesn’t look right I go to customer service with my cart of groceries and talk to them politely about the discrepancy. Most people do not know that Kroger has a policy that if an item scans for different than listed on the shelf, you get the item free!   


In my eyes, coupons are only a benefit if you are saving money on items you were already planning on buying AND the coupon is making the item cheaper than the generic alternative.  I know everyone has their brand loyalty to certain items.  Our family is very biased to Cottenelle toilet paper.  When it comes to toilet paper, my husband has made it clear that this is something he wasn’t willing to sacrifice.  I just so happen to agree.  In this case, I specifically search for Cottenelle Manufacture coupons and wait for them to go on sale. Then I pair the coupon with the deal for extra savings.  For most things I don’t even notice the difference between name brand and generic.  Take a few extra minutes and compare the two item prices.  This is where a small calculator may come in handy.  You also want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.  For example, if you are buying diapers and you are comparing generic to name brand, but the amount of diapers in the box is different, make sure you calculate price per diaper to accurately compare.


The REAL key to couponing is pairing a coupon with a store sale.  If you have a brand name coupon and the item is full price, chances are the generic will be a better deal.  Even when compared to the brand name item with a coupon.  But, if you catch a name brand item on sale and pair it with a coupon, you will probably get it for less than the generic alternative.  


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If you were on a deserted island would you complain about drinking water?

Drink more water!  It saves our family hundreds a year.  I challenge you to resist buying any sodas, alcoholic drinks, sugary juices at the grocery store for the entire month of February.  Your grocery bill will not drop dramatically, but you will see a difference.  If you are like me and go to the grocery store once a week and buy one 12 pack of soda you will be spending a average of $2.75 a week.  That might not seem like a lot, but times that by 52 weeks and you are spending $143 a year just on soda.  See how fast it adds up.  Most people say they do not like drinking water.  To them i say, “Try eliminating every beverage in your home and when you get thirsty see how water taste.” After enough time you will train your body to love water.  If you are one of those people that has to ease into an idea try buying a water enhancer, like Aquafina FlavorSplash, and slowly transition.  Some people out there have funny tasting tap water so I would invest in a Brita Filter; it will be well worth the investment.  This blog is about saving money by drinking TAP water and if you went out and spent a lot of money on bottled water it would be counterproductive.

I could list all the benefits of water but I am sure you have already heard how good it is for your body and mind.   I will just skip the nutritional lecture and say water is very cost effective.

That also goes with anything else you buy on a consistent basis, that is not necessary.  Look at your most recent grocery store receipt and add up how much you spent on sugary and unhealthy treats.  I am not saying to never splurge on chips, cookies, and soda.  But making it less accessible is the key.  Skip the splurge at the grocery store and let your hubby take you and the kids out for an ice cream two times a month (we like Mc Donald’s ice cream for $1) .  When you go out to dinner to gorge yourself on chips and salsa at your favorite mexican restaurant, order a soda.  Make sure to get free refills and a cup of soda to go 🙂 If you go to a party at a friends house or a family get together and they offer you a soda, say yes!  The key is understanding what at the grocery store is a necessity and what is a luxury.  When I go to the store I have two separate grocery lists. The first list is all the ingredients I need to make a week of meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The second list includes 6 items: two different types on fruit (whatever is in season or on sale), a few “as in two” snacks for the baby, and a few snacks for Mom and Dad.  For example the second list could included: bananas, clementines, graham crackers, avocado, almonds, and trail mix.

I do want to add that I always have milk for my daughter.  Calcium is very important for her growing body.  This is something I do not skimp on.  I buy hormone free local milk from The Homestead Creamery.  She always has two drink options that are milk and water, no juice in this house.  Some parents say that there child doesn’t like water.  To them I would say, “start small and mix half juice with half water”.  Then eventually offer less juice and increase the water until you eventually offer only water. If you have already introduced juice your child can transition to water.  Be strong and only offer as a special treat every once in a while.  Our bodies are made to consume water.  It is very natural and definitely possible.

I can promise you these new habits will not only help your wallet they will help your waist line.

I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and if this helps at all!

eBay, my NEW Best friend

OK, so I officially have the job title of Stay At Home Mom and the first thing I do is sign up for eBay and Paypal.  After I sold my first item, I was hooked.  The rest was history.  I was making money and clearing clutter, my two favorite things all while at home.  Most people do not sell on eBay because it is time consuming and that is something that was not an issue for me.  It was also convenient because I live in walking distance to the post office and it was an excuse to get me out of the house.  The fresh air was great for me and baby.  For those of you that do not live near the post office or do not have a reason to leave the house, the post office website offers free scheduled pickup so there is no excuse. I made in the last year about $3,000 from things we already had.  I know you can too.

How it works?

Take a picture, describe the item,  choose shipping method and price, then decided starting bid.  It really is that easy!

Take a picture- The picture is the first thing the buyer will see.  You want to make sure you are capturing the essence of the item and making the item look desirable.  The eBay audience has a lot to choose from so you want to make sure you stand out.  I always use a white table cloth as the background to make sure there are no distractions. You get 12 free pictures so use them.

Describe The Item- This one is easy; I search for a similar object and can almost always find someone selling the exact same thing.  Then I copy there description and tweak it if need be.  Make sure everything is 100% accurate. Believe me if something is not, you will hear about it.

Choose a shipping method and price- This one was the hardest for me to get the hang of.  USPS I found was the most economical and universally used among eBay.  They have flat rate boxes that you can get free and if it fits it ships.  I am sure you have seen the commercials.  I started using these at first and charged the seller the flat rate fee.  Then I started to understand a little more about the standard pricing and was able to charge the seller less.  The less you charge for shipping the more the person will bid on the item.   If you have any questions ask the post office workers.  I asked a different question every time I dropped off a package and got to know them and they were super helpful.

Starting Bid-  This one is easy too; I almost always start the bid at 99 cents.  The lower the starting bid the more watchers you get and the more people get a notification when your item is about to end which is great for bidding wars and your item will almost always sell at market value.  Sometimes, when the item is unusual and I do not think I will get a lot of interest, I will start at the minimum that I am willing to accept.

Tip: Complete and save a few items everyday then at the end of the week preferably Thursday (when most everyone gets paid) list all the items at once.  This way all the items will end together and you can hopefully make one trip to the post office.  Also, keep in mind that the item will end the same time it is published so I try to publish after dinner around  7 or 8pm.

eBay Rules: Before you start using eBay I recommend you read the disclosures and fine print. eBay gives you 50 free listings a month and after that you will have to pay a listing fee.  I timed it where I would list my 50 free then wait until next month to list more.  They charge a percentage based on the overall price of the object and shipping 9%.  Paypal also charges a percentage based on the amount that is paid to you.  Even though it does cost a little, you end up with more than you had to begin with.

What to sell?

I started room by room and eventually went through the entire house.  Look for brand names and anything that is commonly searched.  Don’t forget the closet.  This is where I found a lot of clothes that I wore in college and did not see myself ever wearing again as a mom.  My Lilly Pulitzer dresses were cute for a frat party, but not really anywhere else.  If I didn’t see myself wearing it in the next two years, I listed it.  I also downsized my purses.  I knew I was going to be carrying a diaper bag around for the next three or four years, and my coach bags could only hold my wallet and one diaper.  Not very practical.  So, I listed them too.

What do people buy on eBay?

Answer is everything.  I even made some money on the formula coupons I received in the mail.  You can pretty much count on a profit of half the face value of any coupon.  For gift cards you get a little more.  I sold a few gift cards that I had laying around the house that I never planned on using.  One had a face value of $50 and the highest bid was $46.  I didn’t even have to ship I just e-mailed the code on the back of the card.  Electronics are some best sellers too.  Any old chargers or flash drives for those lost cameras sell too.

Be selective of what you have in your home and hold on to.  You could consider me anti-clutter.  I am very practical.  Everything in my home has a daily purpose or sentimental value.  If not, it goes.  To me, a simple home is comfortable and easy to clean. When I became a mom, my priorities changed dramatically.  If it is the difference between my Ann Taylor Cashmere sweater or staying home with my daughter, the sweater goes.  Try letting go of objects that you do not use on a regular basis and see if you ever miss them?

My Story

Hi!  My name is Heather Branin and I am a 26 year wife and stay at home mom.   I live in Roanoke, Virginia.  I graduated from Roanoke College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and worked at a credit union for 4 years as a loan processor.   I wanted to mention I was not an english major and grammar and spelling are not my greatest attribute so please excuse any errors.  I will try my best.

During my entire pregnancy I had no intentions of staying home with my daughter.  I honestly did not even think it was an option.  I crunched the numbers.  Being able to function on one income was iffy.  I am not one of those people who is comfortable living paycheck to paycheck.  I always like to have a safety net savings account and have never lived outside my means.  Some people would probably categorize me as cheap but I would prefer to phase it as Money Conscious.

Fast forward 3 months and I have a newborn baby.  My maternity leave is over and I am back to work.  It was a struggle to leave her everyday.  After two months, I made up my mind.  I didn’t care how difficult it was going to be, I was going to quit my job and be a stay at home mom.

It has been a year since that day and it has been much easier than I anticipated.  I know a lot of mom’s out there struggle with the decision to quit there job.  Most of the time the decision is based on financials.  Well, I am here to say you can do it!  It is a decision you will never regret.  The way me and my husband do things are a little different but it is well worth the sacrifice.  I would like to share through this blog, what I do to help make my husband’s income work for the entire family.  If you have any topics you would like me to talk about please do not hesitate to ask.  Otherwise, I will randomly discuss different topics that relate to helping our family save.