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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Coupon Newbies... Don't Give Up!

I have some friends who are just getting their feet wet with the whole couponing thing. They have asked some excellent questions, and they're well on their way to saving a ton of money. They've made me think back and remember what it was like to be a couponing newbie. I was so frustrated sometimes that I wanted to just throw in the towel and call it quits.

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

Read on!

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers when it comes to this whole couponing and saving money thing. That's why it's great to be part of the frugal blogging community. The bloggers who share deals and the blog readers who jump in to share more ideas keep each other motivated to keep saving.

So let me offer some encouragement to those of you who are fairly new to couponing. Here are some of the major obstacles I faced when I was starting out and how I've learned to deal with them.

  • I didn't have the coupons that the blog sites were mentioning. When I first started, I only had the last few weeks' worth of coupons. That meant that I couldn't do the deals that were posted online. If this is you, take heart! Just do the deals that you have coupons for. The rest will come. It does take a bit of time, but before you know it, you'll be digging out all of the coupons that you hear about online!

  • I felt like I had to build a complete stockpile RIGHT NOW. Once I saw that others were able to simply walk to their cupboards and pull out a new bottle of shampoo at will, I wanted to be able to do that. And I wanted it NOW. What I didn't realize was that it took those people a great deal of time to wait for the great deals and stock up. Those stockpiles didn't appear overnight. And mine didn't either. Slowly but surely I stocked up on different items. I had to be very careful when I started out. Because I wanted my stockpile NOW, I was tempted to pay more for stock-up items. Now I realize that I can wait for rock bottom prices to build that stash. My stockpile was kind of lopsided for quite a while, and it still gets that way now. Sometimes I have a ton of shampoo but run out of dishwasher soap. Not to worry... The sales are cyclical. They'll all come around again, giving you another chance to snag great deals and add to your stockpile.

  • I thought I was going to have to devote every spare moment to finding the best deals. Then I realized that it was all about balance. Sure, there are some weeks when I spend more time deal-hunting than others. But I try to keep perspective. Deals will always be around, but special moments with my family may not be. I have to remind myself to focus on what's important and not spend all my time reading up on the latest deals. Reading frugal blogs is very entertaining. Don't let it consume you! I know some people who set a time limit for themselves. Others (like me) try to not be using the computer while their kids are awake. They only deal-hunt during nap times and after the kids go to bed at night. That automatically limits the amount of time spent.

  • I almost gave up too soon! Give it time. Like any skill, frugal shopping takes time to learn and fine-tune. Pro basketball players didn't just walk onto the court one day and wow the coaches. They put YEARS of hard work into honing their skills. I'm not saying that it's going to take years for you to figure it all out. I'm just asking you to give yourself some time to learn the ropes. Read when you can. Practice your skills. And don't get frustrated when a deal doesn't quite turn out as great as you had anticipated.

  • I tried to pull off really complex deal scenarios. Start small. I remember reading blog posts by people who had gotten MANY dollars worth of personal care items at CVS for just pennies. When I ended up spending $10 out-of-pocket at CVS, I got frustrated. Why couldn't I get my total down to pennies? That's where practice and knowledge-building came into play. I just had to learn how to do it, and I had to practice. Once I stopped trying to do huge, fancy deals at CVS, I started spending less and getting more. Keeping it simple was the key for me. If I had it to do over again, I would limit myself to $5 or so out-of-pocket each week at CVS. I would have focused on just the best deals, especially things that my family would definitely use. That way, I would have been forced to start slowly and build. It's too easy to overspend, even when you're trying to be frugal!

  • I thought I had to read every frugal blog out there. My advice... Choose a few blogs and stick with them. There are SO many great frugal blogs out there! In fact, if you're reading this, I'm honored that you took the time to stop by. I realize how many choices you have for reading! I've taken advantage of the reader feature of Google's Blogger. If you're a registered user and you go to your Dashboard, you'll notice that the bottom half contains a blog reader. You can add blogs to your reading list, and you'll be notified when there are new posts on those blogs. When I started out, I kept finding great new sites! So I kept adding them to my reader.... until I couldn't keep up. There was just too much information, and much of it was being repeated from blog to blog. I decided to streamline and delete some of the blogs from my list. I kept the ones I felt gave me the best return on my time investment, and those remain in my reader.

If you're new to frugal coupon shopping, I hope that you'll stick with it and give it a chance. I can't begin to tell you how much money my family has saved because we've changed the way that we shop. It's amazing!

If you're a veteran frugal coupon shopper, feel free to leave any additional advice or encouragement in the comments section. We've all been there and have tales to tell!

For more great ideas that work, stop by Works for Me Wednesday hosted by We Are THAT Family.


cksknitter said...

Thanks for the great advice. I've been couponing for over 20 years, but was doing it myself until this past spring when I discovered frugal blogs. I'm at the point where I need to edit the blogs I read so that it doesn't take me hours everyday to learn about the best deals out there.

Kaye said...

Great post. I have people ask me these same questions now...and I had to learn the hard way, like you. =) Great advice for those getting started!