Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frugal Kung Fu Part 1

Many of us live paycheck to paycheck, but even if we get a raise or a promotion, it's all too often that as we make more money, our living styles and expenses seem to increase at the same rate.  Let's call it life inflation.  Unfortunately, sometimes things go the other way, and these days that's the case for most average people.  That the middle class is shrinking is really just another way of saying that most people are either making less money or haven't increased their earnings fast enough to keep up with the inflation of goods, services, food and energy, and are thus experiencing a decline in their standard of living.
            If you find yourself in either of these situations, either you're earning more but seem to still be barely getting by, or the cost of living is out-pacing your income, you've come to the right place.  Today we're going to share with you quite a bit of information that will provide you so many ways to cut costs you're bound to take up at least a few of them.  Let me say first that there is a plethora of "10 ways to save money" type of articles out there.  We've read more of them than we can count, and what we've found in nearly every case is that either the tips aren't relevant (diversify your portfolio and check the yield on your bonds, lol!) or it's something we're already doing.  What we've also found is that the things we do every day to save money that have a real, noticeable impact are entirely missing from these articles.  If you want to start reducing the cost of your daily subsistence in substantial ways, prepare to be amazed (ok fine, mildly impressed) at the things you could be doing that you're probably not.
            In this new series, we’ll show you frugal ways to save money without significantly changing your lifestyle.  These aren’t just fanciful ideas, these are things we actually do here in our home every day that keep the wheel spinning for us.  

Frugal Kung-Fu Tip #1:  Couponing

Maybe you’ve seen these ‘extreme couponing’ shows that have come out lately.  We’ve actually never seen any of them (you’ll learn why later).  Maybe you clip the occasional coupon now and again.  However, if you’re not an extreme couponer, you should be.  We regularly go to the grocery store, fill out basket with $150 worth of food, and walk out having paid less than $30.  Sometimes we pop in for a little haul and walk out with $50 or $60 worth of items and pay only $9 for everything.  It’s nice to get 25% off here and there, but when you start being able to get things you need in large quantities and approach an average discount of 80% or more, that’s when it gets good and you’re really start getting ahead.  

An actual receipt from a recent trip to Publix

 Most people imagine that to do this you have to spend hours and hours cutting coupons and figuring out deals and such.  This is absolutely not true.  Melissa spends no more than one hour a week dealing with her coupons, many times it’s more like 30 minutes.

Well here’s how it’s done:  start by visiting websites specializing in extreme couponing.  They have an entire team of people who stay abreast of every sale and every deal going on at every major grocery store.  They also figure out and organize how to put the deals together so they build on each other.  They'll show you exactly what items are on sale and exactly how much each item is going to cost you.  They'll also tell you exactly where to find the coupons necessary to put a given deal together.  If you tried to do all that yourself it certainly would take hours and hours.  These sites do nearly all the work for you.  All you have to do is review their listings, decide which items you want to purchase, and gather the coupons you need for those items.  All the coupons come either from the Sunday paper or are printed from the internet.  Gathering them will be the only time you’ll spend, which is why it will take an hour or less once you know what you’re doing.

Now, let me say, there is a slight learning curve in as much as different stores have different coupon policies.  All you do about that is go to each store's website and you’ll be able to review their corporate coupon policy.  Sometimes it's worth it to have the policy printed out and with you when you hit places like Walgreens and CVS.  You’ll understand the reason for this pretty quickly.  You see, when you walk up to the counter at some of these drug stores and they ring everything up and the total comes to say, $50 or so, then you run all your coupons and it ends up being discounted to $4 the cashier is going to be confused and figure something must not be right.  More than once they’ve called the manager over to review the transaction and believe it or not, the cashiers and managers will sometimes actually resent you for getting so much for so little.  They may even act like they earn on commission or something and try to tell you you’re not allowed to do what you’re doing.  That’s when you show them their corporate coupon policy and make them understand that yes, you are allowed to do exactly what you’re doing.  On the few occasions this has happened to us this has cleared everything up and to this day we’ve never been refused or denied our purchase. 

          By extreme couponing, not only will you save huge amounts of money, you'll end up with large numbers of things you have to have.  We have a large container with probably 50 name brand razors that in most cases were free or close to it.  We have 20-30 each of toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, etc., and all of it was either free or cost something like 50 cents each.  This is stuff everyone uses that’s not going to ‘go bad’ because it sits there for a couple months before you get around to using it because you have so much of it.  Stockpiling is a Good Thing!  If you’re not extreme couponing, you’re missing out.  Period.

Sidenote:  If you want all your questions answered and receive a more thorough step-by-step walkthrough of exactly how things are done, we have a class scheduled for this Saturday, November 12, but only one person has registered to attend.  If you're interested and want to learn from a pro, either leave a comment or send Melissa an email.  If we can gauge people's interest we may schedule another class in the future.


  1. Wish we had couponing here :( We do have weekly specials and I try to make the most of them but it's nothing compared to couponing.

  2. Well, to ease your pain a bit, realize that the vast majority of the items are processed style foods we're doing our best to stay away from anyway. We focus mostly on personal hygiene items and things like cooking oils, etc. We do pick up things that are super, super cheap as backups and such though. A couple weeks ago we were able to get boxes of Duncan Hines brownies and cake mixes for .14 cents each so we picked up like 10 boxes just to have around. Stuff like that. But a lot of it we stay away from whether it's cheap or not.


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