Saturday, July 16, 2011

What They Might Not Tell You in Your Couponing Class

A few weeks ago, I went to a TrueCouponing class at a Methodist church somewhere over in St. Pete.  Apparently, some churches will not allow TrueCouponing classes to be held in their churches and my guess is that it's because you can buy newspaper subscriptions and boxes like this there:

For those of you unfamiliar with the small differences in denominations (and before you lose heart, this is NOT the thing that your coupon class may not tell you -- I mean, they certainly don't tell you all this, but I also do not know why they would -- I'm just saying, what you are about to read in this paragraph has nothing to do with the title of this post), allow me this brief aside to explain to you the difference in beliefs among the denominations regarding selling things inside a church -- I call it the "Moneychanger Schism."  Do you remember in the New Testament when Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple?  You can find the story in Matthew 21:12-13.  These two verses of the Bible form the basis for many denominations' prohibition on never selling things inside church.  My study Bible's explanation of those verses says that the merchants in the temple were selling sacrificial animals at exorbitant prices and were preventing anyone from using that part of the temple for prayer.  So Jesus was angry and drove them out of the temple.  Methodists clearly don't hold to a strict reading of those verses -- the Methodists nowadays charge $35 for kids to attend Vacation Bible School.  And they welcome TrueCouponing with open arms.

If you would allow me just one more teensy weensy aside --  if your church feels a need to charge for kids to attend VBS, your church cannot afford to hold VBS and needs to skip it.  If your church takes the approach that VBS has become free daycare for parents and does nothing to grow their church, then by all means, please skip VBS.  But VBS is a church's opportunity to teach churched and unchurched children about Jesus.  It is a ministry -- not an opportunity to increase revenue or even "break even".  The church where Mace attends preschool was charging $35 for VBS this year.  If VBS is so expensive for that church that they feel they cannot do it for free, then they shouldn't do it at all.  Because at the point you are charging for VBS, it has ceased to be a ministry.

But I digress (as usual) -- I ran across these TrueCouponing people at the homeschool convention in May.  I came out of a class (I think it was "How to Restrain Yourself from Choking Your Four Year Old") and there was a line of people outside waiting for the next class, which was a TrueCouponing class.  There were probably 100 people in line and they were all carrying big filing bins like the one above.

Then a month and half ago, I saw a Facebook post advertising the TrueCouponing class in St. Pete and decided to round up some people to go with me.  So Dez, Shelya, and I went.  TrueCouponing is not your mama's coupon system (I think I may have stolen that catchy saying from someone at the class, so consider credit given).  No more sitting down with the Sunday paper and clipping and filing individual coupons.  I can give you the system in a nutshell (you can take the free class if you want, but with my Cliff's Notes version, you can probably get on fine all by yourself):

1)   Start buying several Sunday newspapers each week.  The rule of thumb is to buy one newspaper for each member of your family.  If you have an odd number of people in your house, round up to the nearest number.  From the get-go, I broke this rule.  We have 5 people in our house, but I only buy 4 newspapers every week.  So far, that's worked out okay.

2) Pull the coupon booklets and flyers out of the newspapers and file them in a bin (like the one pictured above) in hanging file folders by week.  Make sure you label each hanging folder with that week's date.  For example, tomorrow, July 17th, I will buy 4 newspapers and file the coupons I pull out of them in a hanging folder on which I will put a sticker that says "7/17/11".

3) Get yourself online and sign up on the website.  It's free and you will want to start getting their twice daily emails so that you will know when the "sneak peeks" for the grocery stores and drug stores come out.  At the class, Dez, Shelya and I were trying to figure out how the people make money because aside from selling you the getting started boxes (each box already has 4 weeks' worth of coupons in it), they don't really charge for anything.  I decided they make their money on the ads on their website.  They probably get thousands of hits on their site everyday and they likely generate lots of money from people clicking on their ads.

4) When you get your Tuesday email from TrueCouponing that tells you that the Publix sneak peek list is up, go to the website and look at the list.  Publix has great buy one, get one deals and your goal each week is to buy as many items as you can (that you actually use) that are on sale and that you can use both a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon on (that's called "stacking").  The great thing about using the TrueCouponing site is that they do pretty much all the work for you by listing all the coupons that you could use with whatever item is on sale.  On their list, pick a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon that you happen to have and cut (or print) those coupons out of each of the inserts you filed for that week (the list tells you which week inserts you are looking for).

5) Go to the store and save a bunch of money.

Here's the underlying principle behind this system -- buy enough of the stuff you need (when it is on sale and you have coupons for it) to last you for 12 weeks, which is the sale cycle on most of the items people regularly buy.

So, you'll need a bigger pantry to store all your fruit snacks.

And you may want to buy a full-sized freezer.

Luckily, at our house we have two refrigerators and a full-sized freezer.  But we already running out of pantry space.  This is the floor of the closet right outside our pantry cabinet:

Because this is what the inside of the closet pantry cabinet currently looks like:

See those salad dressings? I got each of those for .67 a piece.

You do have to be careful not to get too caught up in buying cereal, though.  It seems like cereal has been on sale since I started couponing three weeks ago and it's very easy to get carried away buying Apple Jacks for less than $1ish a box.  There are actually 12 boxes of cereal on top of our kitchen pantry cabinet -- they are stacked two deep up there:

It's also easy to get caught up in the deal you really want and lose sight of your pride's ability to handle the practical steps of getting the deal done.  For example, the first week I was couponing I needed to buy some, shall we say, feminine protection items.  I had coupons that would save me a $1 or so on each and they were on sale at Walgreen's.  They tell you at the TrueCouponing class not to be a slave to brand and these particular items were not a brand I customarily use -- prior to couponing, in matters of feminine protection (hereafter, "FP"), I tended towards the cheapest items on the shelf which were typically the store brand.  I was going to say that after having two children, the difference between a plastic and cardboard applicator is a subtlety that no longer troubles me, but then I remembered I had C-Sections with both of mine.

I have only one requirement when it comes to FP -- whatever the item is, it absolutely, positively, for reasons that cannot be disclosed in a family blog, cannot be scented.

Anyway, back to my shopping trip.  My intention was to swoop into Walgreens, pick up 8 packages of FP and sashay back to my car, coupon victorious.  But as I was walking into the store, the young gentleman behind the checkout counter, gave me a friendly greeting and I realized that I was going to have to take 8 packages of FP to the counter where that young man was going to take care of my transaction.  Hmmm.  My enthusiasm diminished slightly, but I gave myself a pep talk that went something like this, "What do you care if he thinks you are having the worst menstrual cycle EVER in the history of the world, you are saving sooo much money!! Go!! Go coupon diva!!"

So I found the appropriate aisle and the items and was disappointed when I realized there were only 6 packages left on the shelf.  I didn't want to buy them out of FP, that would be breaking a TrueCouponing rule (leave some for the next person), so I decided to just buy 4 packages (my coupons were save $2 on 2 packages or something similar so I wanted to leave 2 in case someone else had the same coupon).  As I was pulling the four packages off the shelf, I realized how bulky and large they were, though their size could have been temporarily exaggerated in my mind as I was envisioning piling them on the checkout counter.  As I was turning away from the shelf, I started praying, "Oh Lord, please let the lady return to the cosmetics counter, please please please."  God answers prayer, children.  She appeared at that moment at the end of the aisle and said she could check me out.

So I piled my FP on the counter, gave the lady my coupons, and paid.  She pulled out an ENORMOUS bag -- honestly, I did not know you could get a bag that large at Walgreens -- and put my FP into it.  As I was leaving my face was shade darker than normal, I admit, carrying this giant bag of FP, but I was victorious.  I had carried out my mission.

There was just one problem.

I forgot to sniff the packages.

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