In addition to discovering the wonder of personal finance and frugal shopping blogs, Year of the Deal has also introduced me to something else that I had never considered blogging about: organization. And yet, organization blogs are probably on par with personal finance blogs in terms of popularity.
Although I considered becoming a personal organization at one point during my pre-layoff career crisis last summer, it's beyond me why anyone would want to read about anyone else's organization methods.
That is, until I got this question in an email:
"How do you transport your coupons? I always find myself going to Shopper's or Metro spontaneously and discovering all the stuff on sale and wishing I had my coupons with me."
A lot of friends have also been asking me how much time couponing takes me. The answer is next to none. Here's how I've been maximizing time and savings, not to mention ensuring that I never leave the house without my coupons:
The Expandable Folder
I use an expandable folder to carry my coupons. It fits neatly into my tote bag, so there's no excuse not to have it on hand. Added bonus: it's marginally less embarrassing than carrying a binder. (You can read more about different methods of organizing coupons here.)
Coupon as You Go
Much like everything else I do in life, I search for and file coupons using my "clean as you go" life philosophy. So basically, I coupon as I go.
I order coupons online every couple of weeks and file them as soon as they arrive in the mail. (My mom also sent me a HUGE package of coupons a couple of weeks ago, which was amazing.) Most coupons are perforated, so "clipping" doesn't even involve using scissors. Time spent per week: Maybe two minutes.
Coupon What You Need
Since I just shop for two, I've been focusing on stockpiling pharmacy items. What this means is that my coupons are organized into really straight-forward categories in my coupon folder. They are organized by the aisles you find each item in. (For instance, deodorant and razors are typically in the same or nearby aisles.) Here are the categories I'm currently using:
-Cleaning Supplies & Toilet Paper
-Deodorant & Razors
-Other Pharmacy & Tampons
Shop By Aisle
As I walk down each aisle, I quickly review the coupons I have available in that category. Then, I review the shelves for sales. If I have a coupon for Colgate and it's on sale, I'll do the math to determine if it's a good deal. (And I'm getting a much better idea of the "good deals" by tracking everything in my spreadsheet.)
If it goes into my basket, I'll pull the coupon out of its category and put it into the very back of the folder. At the till, I'll simply pull out all the coupons at the very back of the folder and hand them to the cashier. Easy.
And if it's not on sale, I don't buy it. Basically, I'm not learning how to coupon--I'm learning how to buy things on sale.
Read the Blogs
Most bargain blogs like MrsJanuary or SmartCanucks will look through the flyers and find the best deals of the week for you, complete with links to the appropriate online coupons. I check them quickly at least once a day to see if there's any new coupons available or good deals for the taking. (You could go overboard checking frugal shopping blogs because there's tons out there. Most have similar information and posts so one or two is enough.)
Find the Lowest Common Denominator
As previously mentioned, I've been tracking all my purchases in a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet (with the exception of food). This is what takes the most time per week. Part of the problem is that I shop primarily at Shoppers and their receipts don't itemize the "regular" prices. What this means is that as I shop I have to write down each "regular" price systematically as I go. It's annoying. And it takes me twice as long to buy stuff. But I'm getting quicker.
Filling out my spreadsheet takes probably about 30 minutes per week, but if you become a couponer, it's an optional activity.
Basically, if you want to start couponing, prepare to spend a bit more time shopping, but also to save a lot of money.
Year of the Deal: First Month in Review
Pharmacy Spent $222.72
Grocery Spent $393.26
Total Spent $615.98
(I spent a lot of money this month. But now have about three to four months' supplies of dish soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent and toilet paper. March will likely be similarly expensive, but I expect to spend considerably less from May onwards.)
Total Value of Coupons Used: $46.25
Total Saved by Shopping Sales & Using Coupons: $155.36
Lowest Prices to Date (aka Why I Will Never Pay Full Price Again)
Colgate Toothpaste: 0.99 (I know you can get toothpaste for free, though)
Aussie Shampoo: $2.24 (I'm sure I can get it for cheaper)
Tide Laundry Detergent (26 loads): $2.50
Sunlight Dish Soap: FREE
Dove Deodorant: $2.50 (I'm confident I can get it for cheaper)
Kotex Tampons (18): $2.99 (ugh, so much wasteful packaging)
Royale Toilet Paper: $2.99
Colgate Toothbrush: FREE