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The Pretty Pink Box

I learned this weekend at the Homeschool convention, that we homeschoolers in Florida are quite spoiled.  We spoke with a number of vendors that echoed that sentiment.  It seems that many homeschooling conventions in other parts of the United States do not conduct their conventions in a hoopty ploopty hotel, replete with a SPA.

And I think that’s just a shame.  After a year in the trenches, every mother needs a little homeschool convention that makes her feel a bit pampered.  I did not have any sort of spa treatment, mind you.  And I did not even make it down to the jacuzzi.  But Trish and I were snug in our p.j.’s nearly every night by 8:00, hunkered down watching HGTV, while sipping wine.  WITH NARY A CHILD IN SIGHT.

THAT’S THE KIND OF PAMPERING I’M TALKING ABOUT.

On Friday morning, we hit the ground running.  Our first class was  at 9:00, and truth be told, it was the one class that I was looking forward to the very most.  It was a class on couponing, given by True Couponing.com.  What does couponing have to do with a homeschool convention, you ask?  Well.  This seminar was given by a company, founded by homeschoolers, who want to give back to harried moms that are just trying to hold their purse strings together.

This class was not about extreme couponing, but rather about how to make the very most of your money, while keeping your pantry stocked, and taking care of your family.  They also stressed then being in a position to be able to GIVE to those in need.  This type of couponing is not about hoarding.  I loved their message, and it was dotted with scripture.  AND SOME REALLY GOOD SHOPPING TIPS.

The premise of what they teach is to have an organized system for keeping your coupons.  Now, I’ve been an avid coupon clipper for going on 25 years now.  I once found a coupon that stated “no expiration” but had a date of 1987 on the back.

THAT IS SOME COUPONING DEDICATION.  I finally threw it away, because I figured that if I hadn’t purchased the product in 20 years, I likely never would.

But this type of system is different, in that you don’t clip the coupons until you are going to use them.  Instead, you remove them from the Sunday paper, and file the whole pull out section in dated hanging files.  Weekly, you would then go to the website to see what was on sale for that week, and they would tell you what date to pull the coupon from.  This company is local to Florida, so they have the lowdown on Publix shopping, plus the national chains Walgreens and CVS.

They offered a pink translucent file box, which contained pre-made dated file folders, a coupon cutter, and FOUR weeks of FOUR COPIES EACH of all the coupons put out over the last month.  To the tune of $40.  It generally takes about 12 weeks to get a nice supply of coupons so that you can really take advantage of BYGO (buy one, get one) offers, and that really fun activity called COUPON STACKING.  Where you can use a manufacturers coupon AND a store coupon to add to the savings.

I sat through this seminar with my two partners in crime (who also happen to be Fiddledaddy’s sisters) Trish and Cathy.  As the (packed) seminar was winding down, Cathy whispered, “Let’s go back to the exhibit hall and buy the pink box.”

What?  We can’t just get up and leave!

Yes we can, we have to avoid the rush.

When I realized I was outnumbered, I got up and sneaked out with my cohorts.  Cathy bought the box back in the exhibit hall, while Trish and I hemmed and hawed and finally decided that we could put together our own box.

At lunch time, we told Cathy we would take her box up to our room, since her room wasn’t ready yet.  We then ate in our sandwiches.  And stared at the pretty pink box sitting on the bed.  Taunting us.

“It’s so pink.  And so very pretty.”

“Look at the pretty pink box.”

“Let’s open it.”

“OOOOHHHHH.  Look at all the coupons in the pretty pink box.”

“I like the pretty pink box.”

Silence.

Crickets.

LET’S GO GET A PINK BOX BEFORE THEY ARE ALL SOLD OUT.

And so we both succumbed to temptation and became the owners of our own pink boxes.

I also ordered 13 weeks worth of 4 newspapers each week to be delivered to my driveway each Sunday.  To the tune of less than 50 cents each paper.

I wondered how I was going to explain that to Fiddledaddy.  Who is not a fan of the paper.  And I wondered how I was going to get the bright pink box passed him without a whole lot of back peddling.

After attending two additional couponing classes (including one advanced class that made me a little cross-eyed) I was able to explain the whole thing to him and he’s completely on board.

Especially since I told him that I think I can get our grocery bill down to $500 a month. Including toiletries and everything.  This is my goal.

I spent a good chunk of time getting familiar with the website, and laying out my shopping list.  I’ll keep you apprised of my progress.  Cathy called me this afternoon all aglow about saving over $100 at Publix today.  The gauntlet has been thrown down.

So, are you a coupon clipper?  And if so, what sage advice can you give someone starting out?


23 Responses to The Pretty Pink Box

  • Couponing is far less popular here with UK retailers. It usually states on the coupon (participating retailers ) which gives a lot of shops a get out clause as they can just claim they aren’t going to participate. Often it makes you feel quite criminal to have expected the discount that is promised.

    I think you must have to be quite a bold person to go ‘extreme’. Wearing an MP3 and appearing quite distant would seem a good strategy. 😛

  • Don’t coupon, but do know most homeschool fairs here are in gyms and cafeterias. You hit the Homeschool Lottery in Florida, apparently!

  • Denise at BlogHer has a whole series about couponing. Her approach isn’t very extreme either and she has some really good tips. Denise also does a weekly challenge on BlogHer too.

    I’ve started couponing but haven’t done really well. I haven’t been making the time to sit and do it properly. I have made a nice small stockpile though.

  • I used to coupon all the time, but got out of the habit when we moved and “upgraded” our income. I really should get back to it!

    Good sites to help you continue:

    MoneySavingMom.com
    ForTheMommas.com
    http://www.iheartpublix.com/

    Good luck!

  • I think serious couponing is a full time job. And considering I already HAVE a full time job, I haven’t been able to find the time to coupon as I would like.

    Did you subscribe to your own local paper or was it some special deal through the website you mentioned?

  • Ah…being pampered at homeschool conventions. When we lived in Colorado that was my favorite time of year, to just get away either with hubby or by myself. Don’t hit the conventions as much anymore as I am one year away from the final kid finishing up…sigh!

    No coupon advice, I’ve started doing a bit of couponing, I get excited when I save $10!!! I live in a small Iowa town with one grocery store, so no double coupons for me, but I try and look for sales, but that’s hard when you need something now. I figure as I continue to work on a system I will get better at it. Thanks for the tips!

  • I’m a couponer and almost always save 50%, that doesn’t feel special anymore. I’m happier at 60-70%. If I get above 70% it makes me feel sort of creeped out, like I went shopping just for a coupon high. I think it is much too easy to get caught up in the deals, almost being egged on by a sort of peer pressure to save more.

    I don’t like the ‘save the coupons in sets’ method, you are relying on others to point out the coupons. If they are using a coupon list that doesn’t match what you have, you may miss deals or otherwise get frustrated when a coupon is listed that you don’t have. I clip/sort/file all my coupons while watching tv or a movie. It takes no concentration and no extra time that way. When I want to pull a coupon, I just pull out the envelope with that type product and grab the ones I need. Plus, if I need a product that isn’t on sale right now I can check to see if I have a coupon on my own, easily.

    I used to visit truecouponing but was overwhelmed with the posts for stores that don’t have locations near me. I’m a loyal Publix shopper so I use iheartpublix.com they only do Publix lists, much less to go through to get just what I need. Also, printablecouponsanddeals.com links to printable coupons other store list sites miss. I’d suggest if you haven’t already that you set up a new email address for registering for printable coupons, you can save a lot of money with printable coupons but you get a lot of email from the manufacturers as a result.

  • Sorry, I never mean for my responses to be so long, but they always seem to end up that way.

  • I too live in a small town and only have a few shops near me. Also, no doubeling allowed up here and no Publix around me at all, none in the entire state!!!So I’m left with either shopping on line or the few stores that we have. So the motoviation to use coupons is thin! So glad you can take advantage of so much.

  • I was a huge coupon shopper for several years. You are going to have a lot of fun with the savings, DeeDee!!

  • Oh, I am coveting that pink box. Very nice.

    I have done all the methods of clipping coupons. LOL Clip/file in boxes/envelopes; binder; file box with whole inserts. And my favorite is the file box with whole inserts–especially since I have been buying inserts more and more. I am not going to sit and cut out coupons from 10+ inserts each week. LOL

    I second iheartpublix.com…Love that site!

    I really wish I was better at couponing. My desire to do it ebbs and flows. Some weeks are better than others but I know that the weeks I do well, I feel better about myself. I just get lazy.

  • I don’t coupon, because it always ends up costing me more. Instead I shop almost exclusively at seconds stores. Then I just go to the regular grocery store for what was unavailable at the seconds store. I buy a lot of dented cans, or bent boxes and a lot of stuff that is about to expire. (Quick, get it in the freezer before it goes bad!) I end up spending about $100 a week to feed and clean a family of five, including toiletries, vitamins and cleaning supplies.

  • We have our convention this weekend! Hubby and I go and enjoy the time together. It used to be held about an hour and a half away and I heard the graduation was in a barn. When we started homeschooling it was moved to our nearest city, 1/2 hour away, at the convention center. It’s connected to 2 hotels, a very nice yet budget friendly place (that’s where we stay) and a hoity-toity fancy place.

    Yes, I do coupon, just not extremely. BJ’s is great about stacking coupons and I just started CVS this year. Our local privately owned grocery store does not offer store coupons but they do double manufacturer’s coupons.
    We don’t have Publix way up here 🙁 but my sister-in-law is in central Florida and she swears by them. She has had seminars like the one you went to and she has a great money saving website if you want to check it out
    http://www.mysweetsavings.com

  • I do use coupons, and they help a lot. But, living in the small town that I do I can’t do “extreme couponing” like y’all. We have a Wal Mart (and not a very good one) and a Brookshire Brothers. Period. Those are the choices.

    I have some friends who live in Houston and Dallas and they do the coupons like you and save HUNDREDS. I’m so jealous. Love the pink box by the way. 😉

    I also want to go to your Homeschool convention!! Our Convention is held in a the convention hall by Six Flags and Ranger Stadium. No hotel with spa; no pampering. Maybe next year I’ll come to Florida. 😉

  • I am not as big a couponer as I once was, but Kati and I have talked about getting back into it. I found that, by organizing a shopping / meal list for 14 days at a time and then doing two shopping runs a month (my list is organized by area of the store to get in/out faster) I was able to knock our food bill down to $100/trip. That is 14 dinners, misc lunch food (the kids eat at school or use their own $$ to eat out if the want) and breakfast food.

    Since I have not had it in me to coupon, it was my way of savings us money.

    I did come across a really great site that helps me find some great deals here and there (I do not use it as much as I should) –

    http://www.groceryserver.com/groceryserver/gs/

    Just pop in your zip code and enter your list. It pulls all the sales for any of those items, by store- it tells you what the sale price is, expiration, etc. Even fruits and veggies.

    When I remember to use it, it helps me organize trips to more than one store by list, if the deals are enough to make the extra trip.

  • Teach me Obi-One Kenobi!! You inspired me to have a spread sheet of all the aisles so I never leave an aisle without what I need from it and saved us a lot of time from having to scan the list or circle back around. So walk me through it please! I have teenagers – I need all the help I can get.

  • I wish I could but I don’t usually find coupons for most brands I buy. Or I spend an hour looking through the paper, cut a bunch out, stick them in my black hole of a purse and find them in there after I check out. Or, I look online, print them and leave them at home, haha! I’m pretty hopeless.

  • Also, I am embarrassed to admit that when I read the end of your first paragraph I thought to myself, “What the heck is an S.P.A???” Like it was a secret society or something – duh!! 🙂

  • I’ve been using coupons for about 8 years and they do save me tons of money. When I started out, I read Shop, Save, and Share by Ellie Kay. I regularly read different forums, print the “hot” coupons, and but 10 sets of inserts (from FL by the way) every week. I also use the hanging file folder method and clip when there’s a sale.

    Btw, the Extreme Couponing show is hated by most of us long time couponers-totally unrealistic view of what shopping should be like. Plus it encourages greed-they regularly empty shelves. My area has been hit hard by others using coupons-I’m fairly rural.

    My best piece of advice is don’t worry if you miss a deal-there’s always another down the road. And take breaks-After you do it for a while, you need to step away from the little pieces of paper once in a while.

  • I want to learn couponing; I really do. But I don’t want to be one of those extreme couponers with a pantry full of convenience food, purchasing excess food that spoils or clearing the shelves so there is nothing left for other shoppers. But I really, really want to save money. Keep sharing with your readers as you learn. Maybe I will be inspired to give it a go =D