Let me introduce you to Kathryn. She’s a young mom who has turned into a coupon ninja. I asked her to share her young mom thoughts. She’s one funny little whippersnapper. And she’s saving money. Lots and lots and lots of money.

And now, for your reading pleasure…

So, I’m Kathryn and I just spent the last month, with Julie’s help, becoming a “Coupon Lady.” I had to work a little at it, but I am now officially consistently saving 40-60% on all my grocery shopping bills… that’s HUGE!! The thing is that I never thought I could do this. I thought that maybe a lot of you who read this blog might feel the same way, so I want to encourage you… it IS possible. Here is how I did it:

1. I accepted this would take some time and work. Honestly, these words – time and work – scared me at first because I don’t have time and I already do a lot of work. I don’t know what kind of busy life you lead, but I have a 2 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old, and I am 16 weeks pregnant. Translation to non-parents: I don’t have “free time” to spend time collecting coupons and researching sales. Period. But I want to save money, so I decided I would find time. Important realization: Try thinking about it this way: “If I work an hour or two total to plan out my coupons and I save between $30-$60 (depending on how much I buy), that means I am earning $15-$30 an hour. This is nice.

2. I started small. I started buying Sunday newspapers. Then I started taking out the coupon inserts and piling them on my dining room chairs. Then my kids got into them and they lived on the floor for a week. Then I sat on the floor and cut them up with fancy scrapbook border scissors because I couldn’t find regular ones. Then I lost all my crinkle-bordered coupons because I left them on the couch and it ate them. Then I was frustrated and gave up. Then one day I checked out a website Julie gave me, onefrugalchick.com, and my life changed. It had links to four coupons that could be combined with a sale to give me four free things. So, I printed them out, went to the store, nervously handed over my prints and BAM. FREE!!! I ran (yes, ran, pregnant, through the 90 degree Florida parking lot) to show my husband who was in the car with sleeping babies… $13 worth of groceries for free!

3. Confidence boosted, I took control and got organized. Julie wrote a blog about organizing your coupons… read it. The next Sunday, I cut all my coupons out and put them in a basket. Then I found them the next day hiding in a trash sack because my daughter “didn’t want anyone to get them and take them.” Interesting, but I had saved $13, so I pressed on, opened the trash bag and stuck all the coupons in labeled envelopes. This took a week, but I am officially DONE. Organization, complete.

4. So I had my coupons, now what? Now it was time to recognize the big picture, the goal of coupon abuse (yes abuse… I am way past simply “using”…): You save the most when you can layer a manufacturer coupon, with a store coupon, with a store sale. I had the manufacturer coupons from the newspaper, so it was time to focus on the other two layers. You have to cross reference your coupons with store sales. The easiest way to this is to copy whatever Julie posts. If you don’t have all the stores she shops at where you live (like me) then here is what I do: I go online and open two windows, one with a store’s weekly ad, and another with the store’s coupons. Then I read each page of the ad and check to see if there are coupons online and/or in my envelopes for the product on sale. Then I click and print. This sounds like a lot of work, but it really only is at first. Soon, you remember what coupons you have and when stores tend to have sales.

5. My final step is going to the store with ALL my coupons, but especially with the ones I know I’m using. I put them in a special envelope, so I can easily pull them out and grab the right item. If a coupon turns out to be a dud, I remove it immediately from my “today” envelope, lest it taint my “pure” coupons and causes a scene at the register…

Coupons require stockpiling. Resist the urge to spend the money you save for the first month. Instead, keep it and use it as a buffer, so you can buy a lot of something if you find a great deal.

Watch out if you are not good at self moderation. One week I found an awesome deal on two boxes of cookies, ice cream, three bags of chips, and free pop. I bought all of it and thought I could keep it in the cupboard for “treats.” Two days of an exclusive Oreo and Coke diet later, as I lay sick on the couch, I realized I am not one of those self moderation people. Now, I skip junk deals, even if they are completely awesome. Sigh.

Ladies, get your husbands involved! My amazing husband now gives me an hour or two in front of the computer every week, so I can look up sales and print coupons in peace.

CHECK THE PRINTER before you leave. Bad things might happen if you don’t.

Pay attention to when sales run. For example, Target seems to be Sunday-Saturday, while Publix (the Southern version of Safeway or King Soopers) run Tues-Wed. It stinks if you arrive in your coupon glory and discover you’re a day late.

If you see an awesome coupon online, print it immediately! They tend to disappear fast!!

Coupons are dorky. Embrace it. It’s more fun that way. Julie can help you with this. 🙂

My final thoughts: Overall, I feel as though coupons are like working out. It is hard to get started, but after a few lows, you find your rhythm and things get easier, so you “coupon” more and get even better results. (And to all you anti-workout people (like me), don’t forget this important detail: the end result of a coupon workout is saved cash and food… that you get to eat!!)

Thanks, Kathryn.

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