Day thirty-one

I made it to the end of Extreme Couponing month!  Thirty-one days of only buying things using a coupon.  There were two exceptions to that rule.  #1 The dentist – I had to go to the dentist and any dentist that offers coupons is probably not one I want to go to!  #2 Transportation – I don’t think coupons exist for transit and cabs.  I used tokens instead of spending full price on the streetcar, so it was a discount, but I didn’t have an actual coupon.  Besides these two exceptions I didn’t buy one thing without using a coupon for it.  Thank you to everyone who supported and helped me through it!

Recap of the month

It’s been quite the journey.  I learned how to find coupons online (see Links for all the websites I used) and in some cases have coupons mailed to me.  I figured out how to organize my coupons (twice, as I had to change my organizing system half way through to make it easier).  I bought an Entertainment Book for restaurant coupons and I learned how to better use loyalty cards.  I wrote about the history of coupons, interesting facts, stockpiling, getting things for free, coupon clipping services, coupon marketing, group-buying coupon marketing, price matching, and coupon trains and trades.  I looked into the differences between Canadian and American coupon shopping (two different days) and how we have a harder time finding great deals in Canada.  I interviewed a couple of people, including Mrs. January and a representative of General Mills.  I learned to overcome the urge to quit when things got bad, get over the embarrassment of using coupons (see here and here for two of my most embarrassing moments), and eventually started to use them as a means to save money, not just because of the experiment.  My Top Ten Reasons Extreme Couponing is an Extreme Sport was mentioned in the Time.com money blog and was featured on Treasure’s Stockpile (Treasure will be on TLC’s Extreme Couponing show in the upcoming season).  I managed to eat healthy and find pretty much everything I needed to buy with a coupon (if I didn’t have a coupon, I figured I didn’t need it that badly).  There were many ups and downs, but I made it through!

What did I learn?

The thing I’ll take away from this experience the most is an awareness of my own personal shopping habits and ways that I can change those to save money.  I started as an unorganized spontaneous shopper and I’m leaving this month planning my grocery shops with lists and price-comparing from online and paper flyers to find the best way to save money.  I’ve also learned a lot of useless facts about couponing that have made for very interesting conversations!

The extreme couponing community is very strong.  Sometimes, though, I think it’s as much about getting the deal as it is about saving money.  It’s a challenge, with the reward of extra money left over at the end.  There are a lot of extremely extreme couponers online who give the other ones a bad name.  There are ways to coupon without having to buy 150 chocolate bars.  I have so much respect for women (and sometimes men) who spend time to save their family money, but still keep healthy and aware of the environment.

I’ve also learned that although it is hard to use coupons for smaller brand or organic companies, it is possible.  I know not to buy things just because I get a deal (this is especially hard on the group-buying sites where everything looks like such a huge discount), but to use coupons for things I really want or need.

Where will I go from here with Extreme Couponing?

I am still receiving coupons in the mail, so I will keep using them until they’ve run out – or I will give them away to people who will use them.  I will check out the online coupon sites every once and awhile to see if there are any good deals.  I still love Mrs.January.com and will continue to visit her website.

Will I become a hard-core extreme couponer?  Probably not.  But I will continue to use coupons and look out for ways to use those coupons with sale-price items for a real bargain.

Tomorrow I start 30 Days of Art to examine how being creative and artistic influences the way I live my life.  Stay tuned…

Day thirty

I’ve almost made it to the end of Extreme Couponing month.  Tomorrow I will recap my month, talk about all the things I learned, the lessons I will keep with me and those I am glad to be done with.  Today, though, I will give you my finally tally of what I saved over the month.  I’ve tried my best to keep my receipts for all my grocery shops and basically everything I spent money on.  I was not as good at this as I would have liked, so the final tallies below for restaurant visits are estimates, and I also figure I lost a couple receipts along the way for other things (I was doing so well at keeping my coupons organized, I would sometimes forget to keep the receipts just as neat).  Therefore, keep in mind that these aren’t completely scientific figures, but they do represent the kind of money I did save by buying everything with a coupon:

Groceries: Before Coupons $194.61 – Spent $125.47 = Saved $69.14!

Household and beauty supplies: Before Coupons $66.45 – Spent $31.67 = Saved $34.78! (I saved more than I spent!)

Restaurants and Entertainment: Before Coupons $235 – Spent $200 = Saved $35! (these are estimates as after a glass of wine and a good chat with a friend I sometimes lost track of the goal to keep the receipt)

Total Before Coupons: $496.06
Total Spent: $357.14
Total Saved: $138.92!!!!
(This doesn’t include the fact that I used coupons on top of  items already on sale, so I saved money that way as well)

I didn’t buy very many things that I wouldn’t have bought already – I mostly stayed with my organics and healthier food.  I actually bought much less than I normally would and I always had plenty of food to eat (good lesson for future grocery shops).  I still went out and sometimes would treat friends to dinner with my coupons in exchange for them buying theatre tickets, or helping me with the blog.  I must admit, though, that a lot of friends did buy me a beer, etc. or agree to come over to my house for me to cook for them instead of going out, so I thank them for being so supportive.  I couldn’t of done it without you guys!

Day twenty-nine

Lots of exciting things have happened today in my Extreme Couponing world that I’m going to share!  It is both great and a little scary that after a month of couponing I now get really excited when I find a good deal or learn something new about coupons…

Price matching

Today I price matched for the first time.  Many of the larger grocery and superstores (ie. Walmart, Zellers, Canadian Tire) will price match products with other stores, so you can buy the product from their store at the same price as elsewhere.  It was super easy too!  I went into Walmart today on purpose to test out price matching.  They have Raisin Bran for $4.95, but No Frills has a sale for the same box for $2.  I brought the No Frills flyer and the cereal to the checkout, showed them both to the cashier and I got the cereal for $2 – saving myself $2.95!  It’s a great way to get all your groceries in one spot, but get the savings from all the different stores.

Smart Source

Another first – my grandmother gave me my first Smart Source today!  Smart Source is a coupon insert you can find in many newspapers across Canada once or twice a month (in Toronto they are in the National Post, the Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star).  They have great coupons.  Included in this month’s insert: a mail-in rebate for a free Lysol No-Touch hand soap system and buy-one-get-one-free Mars chocolate bar, among other high value coupons!  The next one to come out is April 16, so look out for it.

General Mills

When I wrote about coupon marketing a couple of days ago, I mentioned how most companies keep their coupon strategies to themselves.  Well today I got a phone call from Catherine Jackson from General Mills Canada Corporation who kindly told me a little about how their company uses coupons.  From a marketing perspective, General Mills’ primary goal in issuing coupons is an opportunity for customers to be able to try their new products for a reduced price.  New products are an unknown and a coupon will reduce this risk of testing out new items.  Most often General Mills issues coupons online through the mail-order coupon website save.ca.  According to Ms. Jackson, coupons are a very important program for General Mills.

Although this is not new information, it is nice that someone from one of the larger companies in Canada could comment on their reasons for issuing coupons.

My New Site Design!

Thank you to Regan Neudorf who designed the header/logo and to Will O’Hare for the headshot photography (willoharephotography.carbonmade.com).  You are the best!

Welcome to threehundredsixtysixdays.com

Three hundred sixty six days (3 hundred 66 days) is a year of my life I am devoting to month-long social experiments.  Check out “About threehundredsixtysixdays” above for more details.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Update: I have finished my year of month-long social experiments (read my 366th post here for a recap of what I went through and what I learned), but I am still blogging every Wednesday about the process of writing the book, my life and other fun facts about the topics I covered.  

Day twenty-eight

A couple of things that I missed this month:

There are a couple of topics that I missed (or I have talked a little bit on comments in other posts but haven’t mentioned in the blogs themselves) that I’d like to touch on for my fourth last day of Extreme Couponing.

  1. Loblaws coupon wall. As suggested by a couple of friends, there is a wall when you enter Loblaws (and some other groceries stores) that has all the tearpad coupons for the store on it.  If you’re shopping in Loblaws, it’s worth stopping by there first to see if there is a coupon for anything you want to buy.  It will save you a little money for hardly any effort.
  2. International couponing.  Although coupons exist in other countries, I can’t find anywhere else that is as coupon crazy as the United States.  As my friend in Australia said “Coupons (as a lifestyle or a sport) are not common in Australia. There is a little bit of couponing, and a few “cash back” offers after you purchase an item, but it is fairly uncommon here.” (I’m sure there is a social significance, but that’s a bigger issue than I have time for here…)
  3. Coupon trains. “A coupon train is a large envelope(envie) full of coupons, and a list of addresses – that shows the order (or who to send the train to next). Each person in turn receives the envelope and removes the coupons they want (and those that have expired) and then adds more coupons. And then the train goes around again.” (frugalshopper.ca) I didn’t have the chance to join a coupon train this month, but they are an important part of couponing culture and needed to be mentioned.
  4. Coupon trading. There are also online lists (like this one at frugalshopper.ca) where you can either post your wish list of coupons you want, or post coupons you have to trade.
  5. Online coupon community. Couponing and saving money have an extensive online community of people who support each other. If you’ve been inspired to become an extreme couponer yourself, they are always happy to have more people join their community of super savers.  Two such sites in Canada are smartcanucks.ca and frugalshopper.ca.
  6. Requesting coupons by mail. Some companies will mail you coupons if you request them by e-mail.  Click here for Mrs January’s list of Canadian companies that will mail you free coupons.  I have tried this with one company, but haven’t received the coupon yet.