Friday, August 11, 2006
WOW: This IS "Cheaper Than Therapy!" (And Kinda Boring--You've Been Warned)
OK, so I'm no Attilla The Mom yet, but I have, as of today, been on my very first foray as an aggressive grocery-bargain advocate, and I'm wildly encouraged! Spurred by ATM's genius four-part series on SERIOUS grocery savings (and to a great extent by my current state of no-money-ness), her absolutely shockingly inspirational example receipts (seriously, check out that last one--!!!!), and even, bless her heart, her encouraging email replies to my confused and desperate questions about the process, I am no longer one of the shopping uninformed. I used to think, when I heard the cashier say, as I checked out, "You saved $6.72 with your Kroger card today," that that was pretty cool. WHAT A FOOL I WAS. A FOOL, I tell you!
So, for the last two weeks, I collected circulars and clipped coupons, and even ventured into the world of online coupon-clipping services (highly recommended--my favorite was The Coupon Master). I drove Alex a little batty, I think, poring obsessively over the papers every night, arranging and re-arranging my coupons in my little photo-album (another suggestion of ATM's) ...and on the Wednesday that my newspaper arrived SANS GROCERY CIRCULAR (!!), my dear husband even went out TO the store to pick up the current sales circular. Because the circular, you see, is CRITICAL to the Attilla The Mom grocery-stealing--er, savings, system. We even discovered that our tiny local city paper carries a different selection of coupons in its Saturday edition than our state daily does in its Sunday edition!
So how'd I do today? Well, I want to point out a couple of things before I reveal my Beginner's Results. First of all, Alex was with me, and we had separate carts, and his cart (the highly-desirable but tragically unweildy racecar model) contained Bella. So as I circled the store like a shark, list--written on an envelope which contained the pre-selected coupons--in hand, intensely goal-driven, he would check in with me every few minutes for an "assignment," then disappear. Unfortunately, along with his directive, he also unfailingly returned each time with something extra. Something NOT on the list, and something NOT on sale and also WITHOUT a coupon. Like fluorescent lightbulbs, giant basted marrow-bone dog treats, bleach tablets for toilet bowls (FIVE boxes of them, thank you), drain cleaner, Tide To-Go stain remover pens, etc. THIS REALLY THREW OFF MY PERCENTAGES. I almost made him check out separately, but I didn't, so just bear that in mind when you view my receipt.For my own part, I am proud to report that I did not buy one single thing that was not on my list. I also, coupon, sale, or no, did not put ANYTHING on my list that I do not regularly buy anyway. I did, however, in order to take the best advantage of the offered savings possible, buy many MORE of some items than I normally would have, but I didn't do that with anything that wasn't shelf-stable or freezable. For instance, I now have 60 individual servings of Bella's favorite Mott's Organic Apple Sauce, in various flavors, and 40 individual servings of Dole fruit cups, in her favorites, pineapples, peaches, and mandarin oranges. Yes, that's a lot of fruit. But with my coupons, combined with my Kroger card sale price, they were FREE. All 100 cups. And we eat them, too. Also free? Crest Toothpaste, priced with card at 10 for $10, combined with my fistful of $1 off Crest coupons. And Yoplait Yogurt smoothies, 20 for $10, plus my coupons =FREE. Let's see...oh--Red Baron frozen thin-crust pizzas, sale-priced, PLUS my clipped coupons, PLUS a "save $.75 NOW" sticker ON the box...not only were those free, but when we opened one at home, we found out that they have a $.75 off coupon on the inner packaging for your next purchase! I cannot BELIEVE that this is stuff I used to THROW AWAY.
I also cannot believe you're still reading this. But, if you're still with me, you're morbidly fascinated enough to want to see MY first "Cheaper Than Therapy" grocery receipt, and I won't disappoint:Again, without the "unexpected" items, I think the total spent would have been around $200, and my percentage saved would have been in the 50's. On my last trip to the grocery store, a week ago, I spent $211. And every bit of that food is now GONE. This trip FILLED my pantry, refrigerator, and freezers--especially freezers. I have so many wonderful things in my freezers now: milk, several varieties of cheeses (slices, bars, and shreds), my favorite Tropicana Pure Premium OJ, breads, chicken, vegetables, chicken, junky pizza and pizza-based entrees, chicken, more vegetables, and more chicken. We are ready for a SEIGE. Or the surgery I thought I was about to have, which I just found out will not be for at least another month. So we can eat until then. My goal for next time is to at least hit the 60% savings mark.
And thus ends my Great Grocery Initiation. I will do better next time, and hopefully each time after that. Next up(although it may have to wait until my next payday), I intend to run the same experiment at Wal-Mart, but with non-food items. My reason for this is that Kroger will double the value of coupons up to 60 cents, but almost all of the coupons for toiletries, cleaning products, paper goods, air-fresheners, medications, etc. are for at least $1, and often more. And besides that, grocery-store prices for those items tend to be higher than they are at Wal-Mart. (I must confess to having already broken this self-made "rule" today, because Kroger was offering 40% off all Cover-Girl makeup products with Kroger card, AND I had SIX $1 and $1.50-off coupons for "any Cover-Girl product." They make eye shadows that I like, as well as a lip-liner and lipstick, so it was easy for me to rack up six items that cost me, like, $4 altogether. And then I had a coupon for a "free CG nail polish with any six CG items," so I was even able to get Bella a free bubblegum-pink nail polish that made her day.)
Obviously, I am WAY, intensely, boringly, mind-numbingly invested in this, and I really apologize if reading this was worse than reading "what I had for lunch" several days in a row (thanks to Peebo for the reference).
But it's not going to stop me from reporting on my Wal-Mart couponing results. Because the RUSH I got when that checkout lady said, "You saved $142.19 on your order today?" All I could think of was, MAN, MY GRANDMOTHER IS GONNA BE CRAZY PROUD OF ME WHEN SHE READS THIS!
And I would feel remiss if I didn't add, in the spirit of my financial guru Dave Ramsey, that if you do undertake such a system of savings, and you suddenly find yourself spending much less on a fixed expense than you were before, that the difference (in my case shown here, $142.19) should be immediately, and without exception, plunked securely into a money-market account, because if you do not actually SAVE your "savings," you're just going to spend them on something else and never actually realize the benefits of shaping up your budget. Personal soap box put away for the moment. (Right now, what with the two-house saga, we're trying to dig ourselves out of a pretty deep hole. But rest assured that, once we're solvent again, we'll be right back on the Ramsey bandwagon.)