Lessons from my Couponing for Good trip – How I achieved a 50% savings & donated twice as much

by on March 26, 2012 in Personal Experiences

My focus for this month has been on Couponing for Good. I’m encouraging you to learn how you can help give back to your community without going broke. By using your coupons and sales, you can actually give items away without having to spend very much money!

I was on a mission earlier this month to spend $25 at Walmart and see how much I could buy to donate to Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall. I did an excellent job in my opinion, and thought I should share how I did it so that you all can start learning how to do the same thing.

Before I share some lessons, you might want to read my post about the shopping trip. I completed my mission in 2 separate trips to make sure I got the most bang for my buck so to speak. In that post I detailed what I bought, how much I spent, and what coupons I used.

You can also click here to see my Google+ photo album of the whole trip.

I bought $51.93 worth of items for only $26.20 after coupons. Basically, I was able to donate twice as much because I used coupons!

Here are some of the Lessons that emerged from my shopping trip:

  1. Always make a shopping list. I know I’ve mentioned this many times in the past, but if I had not done a little research ahead of time, made my list, laid out my coupons, and had a game plan ahead of time…I would NOT have been so successful. I had a list of items I wanted to check prices on, as well as back-up items I wanted to get if the original goal items were not available or not for the price I wanted. Without my list, I would have wandered aimlessly and not known what to get!
  2. Check the current sales before you get there. Stores put their items on sale and take them off of sale all the time. I go to the store about once a week, and I see the prices on items changing every time I am in there. I made sure to double check what Walmart had on sale before I got there, so there would be fewer surprises.
  3. Stockpile your coupons, not just your food! Part of being successful with your coupons is having the coupons on hand when you need them. The coupon I used to get the Libby’s vegetables in my trip came from a November 2011 newspaper insert! I clip, print and save all sorts of coupons…just in case. You never know when something will go on sale or a need will arise, so having as many coupons to choose from is key. If you clip only the coupons you think you will use at your next trip and throw the rest away, then two months from now when an amazing sale happens, you won’t be able to save as much because the coupon to match with the sale is lost in the dump somewhere! Don’t be afraid of saving coupons and having them expire before you use them, because you can always send the expired ones on to military families overseas.
  4. Pull from many sources of coupons. If you look at the descriptions of the coupons I used in my trip, you will see that I used a variety of coupons. I started by scanning my current issue of All You Magazine, then my newspaper inserts, and then I visited the main printable coupon websites. I also double checked the Walmart site (here and here), because they have coupons there, too. Last but not least, I also used peelie coupons I found on product packages (Hamburger Helper) during my shopping trip, and hang-tag coupons (pickle relishes) from previous trips. Once you start looking for coupons, you will realize they are everywhere – in all different forms!
  5. Match your coupons to the sales. This is the number one way to save the most money possible. Shopping sales is good. Using coupons is good. Using coupons during the sale is ideal. I used the website I Heart the Mart to check out what deals under $1.00 Walmart had, and the site also told me what coupons to try and find. One of the reasons I don’t do coupon match-ups here on my site is time. It takes time to do those match ups, but there are tons of other websites that can do it for you! To save the most money, the is an important step in your strategy. Don’t skip it!
  6. Check out clearance when you get there. You can usually use coupons on clearance items, but even without coupons clearance items can make wonderful donations! I found stocking hats for boys and girls for 25 cents each, plus fun Valentine craft kits for $1.00 each and “splurged” on those items. Walmart usually has clearance in multiple places throughout the store, so keep your eyes open and watch for reduced prices!
  7. Price Match if you can. Walmart is one of the only stores in my town that I know of that price matches. This means that if you bring in a sales ad from a competing store, they will match the price of the item you’re buying, as long as it is the exact same item. Dollar General happened to have Hamburger and Tuna Helper on sale for $1.00 a box and Walmart’s price was $1.50 a box, so I price matched and then used the peelie coupon I found on the packages to get a great deal! You can click here to download the Walmart price match policy.
  8. Bigger is not always better. Most people think that when you buy the bigger package of something, you save more. Sometimes you do, but with coupons you can actually save more when you use the coupon on smaller items. Not every time, but sometimes. I was able to get several packages of feminine hygiene products totally FREE, because the coupon did not specify any size of package, so I used them on the smaller count they had. I would have still saved money if I had used them on the bigger packages, but I was trying to keep my budget at $25.00 and get as much as possible, so free was perfect for this trip.
  9. Compare the Unit Price. I use unit prices to help me shop in two ways. First, I use it to determine what I just said: whether bigger is better or not. Calculate the unit price of the item by dividing the total price of the product by the units (ounces, pounds, etc). When you know the unit price then you can determine whether the smaller or larger item is a better value. The second way I use unit price is to help me determine whether to use a coupon with a name brand item, or skip the coupon and buy the store brand. In my Google+ photo album for this trip you will see a side by side shot of some pineapple. I had a coupon for some Dole pineapple. The small Dole cans were 78 cents each, and I had a $.50/2 coupon, but when I did the math on the unit size (cost per ounce) of 2 small cans, the store brand can of pineapple was larger, and sold for less money. I bought the store brand!
  10. Use Free item coupons. Part of how I got my out of pocket price so low on the second shopping trip was that I had a couple of coupons that entitled me to some free items. I got the free juice coupon from a contest I won online, but the Beech-Nut coupon came in the mail directly from the company. I had called them with a question about their Beech-Nut rewards program, and they sent me the coupon. Even though I could have used these coupons for my own family, these items are needed more elsewhere.

I know this month is coming to an end, but I’m still planning a series of additional tips for giving without going broke, so keep watch for those.

Also, don’t forget my giveaway! If you’ve done a Couponing for Good shopping trip and donation, please share it with me for a chance to win some prizes!

Want more info on Couponing for Good? Check my Couponing for Good post tag and also these links:

#CBias #AllYouCFK – I am thrilled to be able to participate in this campaign, and hope you will join me in my efforts to raise awareness of the Champions for Kids SIMPLE service projects! My post about my shopping trip will be compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. All other posts regarding “couponing for good” are NOT compensated unless otherwise noted.

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