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Clean, Coupon, Organize to Save Money

by Shawanda Greene

What’s happening to me? Lately, I’ve been experiencing an unnatural urge to clean, coupon, and organize. Looks like meal planning was just the beginning of The Domestication of Shawanda Greene.

Wait. Aren’t cats and dogs domesticated?

*Shrugs shoulders*

What I’m trying to say is I feel like I’m undergoing some sort of transformation that’s eluded me for years.

As for Cleaning

It’s possible I want to clean more consistently because a mouse has been squatting in my apartment since mid-December. This place isn’t big enough for the both of us. Now that it’s warmed up a bit, perhaps I’ll get myself one of those no-kill mouse traps and send my little friend on his way. He’s made it clear to me his departure won’t be voluntary.

As for Couponing

I blame one and only one group of people: mommy bloggers. They make it look like such a glamorous and easy way to save. Couponing was something I did for a short period of time when I was trying to get out of debt. I didn’t do it for long because it was hard to keep track of all the coupons, but it did save me money. I just didn’t have a workable system in place.

As for Organizing

My apartment is conveniently located near my office and the rent is very affordable. However, it’s only about 650 square feet. I’m not about to do something as ridiculous as lease a larger place and lock myself into paying more rent. That would be silly. But, I gotta get to a point where I feel completely at ease when I enter my domicile. Stuff has to be where I can find it.

So why am I telling you this?

I hope talking to you about these activities will force me to do them consistently for at least a month. Then, document how they were done so that I can actually help, yea even inspire, others to do the same.

Although cleaning doesn’t automatically bring to mind money management, I find being a good steward over what you already have leads you to appreciate it more. Thereby, decreasing the desire to waste – yes, waste – money on garbage you don’t need.

If you’re disorganized or know someone who is, I don’t have to tell you it’s an expensive habit.

With couponing, I just want to acquire stuff I was going to buy anyway for little or nothing. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Do you have any tips, resources, or tools that’ll help me get this done?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous D. January 22, 2010 at 9:39 AM

I've started couponing again and it does take some time and patience to get the full use of the coupons. Most of those mommy bloggers talk about stock-piling cans of food, bags of diapers and buying an extra freezer for meat. Well, I don't have all that space for that so this is how I coupon for my situation (married with no kids).

1. If your grocery store has a savings card, sign up and then use Shortcuts.com to have coupons automatically loaded onto the card.

2. Buy a coupon organizer. Clip the coupons and group them by dates. I prefer to group all of the coupons expiring in March in one slot, for example. Red Plum, SmartSource and PGSaver all have websites for you to get your weekly Sunday newspaper inserts. I have no interest in the Los Angeles Times beyond the coupons so I download them directly and save on the subscription.

3. Go online and check out your stores' weekly ad before you shop and make a list of the items you need. Cross check with your coupon organizer to make sure you don't have a coupon you can use.

4. For meat (if not a vegetarian), consider shopping at a warehouse. You can get more meat for less per ounce. Also check out the manager's special section for meats that are marked down but the store wants to sell before they go bad. (I made a slab of pork baby back ribs for $5.00 for dinner last night from a managers special).

5. Marinade and freeze meat to have ready to pop in the oven or microwave.

6. For drug stores, CVS and Walgreens have Extra Bucks or Easy Saver coupons. Add those to your coupon organizer as well. If they have a big coupon for say, $10 off $25, see if you can't group your purchases together. Also CVS usually accepts manafacturer's coupons as does Target (esp. on food, cleaning and beauty supplies).

7. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite clothing stores. I get the weekly Old Navy, New York and Company and Lane Bryant ads. I never ever shop these stores without a coupon.

8. Check the back of your coupons for local deals. Our local grocery store features coupons for Subway, a dry cleaners and a car wash.

Reply

Shawanda January 24, 2010 at 1:34 AM

Thank you so much for taking the time to help educate me! There are a lot of tips, tricks, and rules to couponing. I haven't really gotten much use out of Shortcuts.com yet. Safeway is the only grocery store in my area that I can use the program with. Harris Teeter and Giant tend to have more deals, so I end up shopping at either one or both of them over Safeway. I'll still keep a look out just in case.

I've printed coupons from Red Plum and Smart Source. Somehow, I overlooked the fact that P&G has printable coupon despite signing up for their mailing list. What an oversight! I'm glad you pointed that out.

I'm currently using the binder method to keep my coupons organized. So far, this method is working out pretty well. I feel a little embarrassed flipping through a huge binder of coupons in the store, so I've been keeping it in a large tote bag I haven't been able to find any other use for. If I come across a really good deal, I won't have any reservations about whipping that binder out of its carrying case.

I've been looking for ways to reduce food prep time so tip number 5 is especially helpful. I rarely use marinades so it hadn't occurred to me to use them before freezing meats. But I already see how doing so could make my life so much easier. I'm going to start watching for sales and coupons for marinades now.

In regards to tip number 7, when I clipped coupons over a year ago, I noticed coupons seemed to pop up everywhere. They showed up on canned goods. They were in magazines. They were attached to products. They were in my inbox. Once I learned this, I never stopped looking or using high value coupons. Particularly, for non-grocery items like prescription drugs.

Fresh meat and produce are two things I foresee having trouble finding coupons for. I believe the trick here is to take your advice and buy in bulk. I've been reading up on how to properly freeze and store foods.

It's a learning process, but I feel so empowered. Perhaps there's a case for reintroducing home economics to the schools.

Reply

Venus January 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Hey Shawanda,

I've been following your posts for months. I finally wanted to let you know how much I appreciate and enjoy them.

This one cracked me up ("Aren't cats and dogs domesticated?"), and had me bobbing my head saying, "Um-hm." I totally relate to those periods where a desire to purge and organize just rises up out of nowhere. It's so great to just go with it when it happens.

My husband and I believe in living debt-free and within our means…so much simpler and less stressful than the alternative. So I, personally, am super-psyched that you've created this blog to inspire (me and) others to be penny-wise, and pound-wise.

Looking forward to directing my readers to your site. It rocks!

Reply

La Terra January 22, 2010 at 12:29 PM

If I cut the coupons but proceed to drop them into the depths of my huge unorganized purse then it's a waste because they get lost and torn. Not used and not saving me money. Spending more washing clothes that aren't dirty but were left in a pile at the foot of my bed- just is not savvy. Fortunately, cleaning and organizing bring me joy so my home and wallet don't suffer long. Like saving, there is satisfaction at the end of the task.

Reply

Shawanda January 24, 2010 at 1:52 AM

I can totally relate to washing "clean" clothes because I've let them spend too long on the floor or get mixed in with the dirty clothes. Lately, I've been trying to fold my laundry shortly after taking it out the dryer. I get so disgusted with myself if I have to take even an extra 5 minutes ironing because I let my clothes get ridiculously wrinkled. Taking care of such things ultimately saves time in the long run.

Reply

Money Funk January 22, 2010 at 9:12 PM

I don't have any mice except for the couple of mice that my cat keeps wanting to give us (more little meesies).

Have you tried ApartmentTherapy.com for great organizational ideas for small spaces? I have seen some tres chic abodes.

As for the couponing, I find it is too much work for the amount I save. Willing to do without. But, I wish you luck with all the above. :)

Reply

Shawanda January 24, 2010 at 2:41 AM

I've heard of ApartmentTherapy.com, but haven't really given it a close look. I'm heading over there right now to check it out.

Okay, I've spent way too much time browsing that site. There's even a section for us DC folks. I also found a cutting board for tall cooks. I'm a little less than 5' 10" so a raised cutting board would certainly reduce some of the pressure on my back.

Thanks for reminding me of the web site. Besides showing up in an internet search, I'd never really taken the time to familiarize myself with it.

Reply

FinEngr January 23, 2010 at 5:25 AM

Not much to add on organizing – but look to boats for inspiration. A 650sf area start breaking into "yacht" range (40×15). In that context, you're living pretty baller! :) Actually, seriously boaters find unique ways of maximizing their small storage spaces.

As for couponing, refocus your efforts. Look for big wins, and only in things you already want. Think more about the ratio (discount/premium). Benchmark your efforts with some minimum – "if its not at least 25% savings not going to waste my time".

@ Money Funk. I just finished a post on a similar theme about not paying full price. I understand the context in which your referring, but hopefully you still look for deals elsewhere. I've been buying a lot of vitamins and when they go on B1G1 (buy 1 get 1) adding two $5 off coupons can knock a $50 regular purchase down to $15.

Reply

Shawanda January 24, 2010 at 1:41 AM

I'm touched. Sometimes I ask myself, "Is anyone paying attention to what I have to say?" So, really, thank you for commenting and letting me know.

Reply

Shawanda January 24, 2010 at 2:52 AM

I used to turn my nose up at the $0.35 off and $0.50 off coupons. After last night, I have a different opinion of them. I knew Harris Teeter doubled coupons up to $0.99. I recently learned Giant does too. Combined with a buy 1 get 1 free deal, $0.99 is nothing to sneeze it. I just bought two bags of Bird's Eyes steamers for $0.25 a piece after a store special and a coupon. Well, I used a coupon that was $1.50 off for that deal. I've never tried the Green Giant ones, but at less than a $1.00 a bag after coupons, I'll give them a try.

As mentioned in a previous comment, I always look for coupons on prescription drugs. Sometimes, you can get a $20 coupon (the cost of a copay) from your doctor or from signing up for a drug manufacturer's mailing list. I once found a $10 off coupon on a sample. That's real money.

Reply

Deb February 6, 2010 at 2:59 AM

Couponing really drove me nuts, until I figured out how to simplify it a bit. When I make my grocery/shopping list, I pull out the coupons that I can use and as I add that item to my list, I mark a C next to it to remind me that I have a coupon at check out. I reuse envelopes (saves $$), and write my list on the back of the envelope, then tuck my applicable coupons inside the envelope. That little method has helped me keep somewhat sane at the store, though I am not a coupon lunatic – I tend to buy bulk or whatever is on sale, or store brands vs. name brands.

Being disorganized is hugely expensive. Americans spend an avg of $17 million a year replacing items they have lost or misplaced due to disorganization. I recently organized all of my hair care products and was shocked to see that I have at least a year's worth of every kind of product imaginable.

Now if I could just get my paperwork more organized – that's really a pain for me! I'm working on it, but it's a long, slow project.

Great post again, my friend!

Reply

Shawanda February 7, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Thanks, Deb. Since using the binder method, I find it much easier to locate coupons when I see something on sale at the store. I'm thinking of giving the Grocery Game a try. I hear it does save quite a bit of time with grocery shopping. I believe the envelope system would work pretty well with that.

Last week, I pulled everything out of my pantry so that I could organize it. I found an extra bottle of paprika and an extra bottle of chili powder. As if spices weren't already expensive enough.

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