Thursday, July 25, 2013

Christi the Coupon Coach: Couponing Made Simple Review

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Who doesn't want need to save money these days? When we go to the store we see how prices are increasing or the amount we receive for our money is slowly decreasing. What can be done to get the best value for our money? This became an important question to us recently as our food budget went down significantly. It seemed like the perfect timing to try out couponing and I was given that opportunity by being able to review Couponing Made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach as a member of the TOS Review Crew.

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Christi is a mom of four children, so she understands the need to use her money wisely, but more importantly, she wants to make sure she is being a good steward of God's money. As we had also done, she had thought that buying generic brands would save her money. However, since using her couponing system, she has saved so much more. I mean, we are talking saving 70%, 80%, even 99% when going shopping and she is buying name brand products!  I think it is great that she wanted to share her knowledge with us in the form of this book (which can be purchased as an eBook or as a paperback copy, which I received to review).

Have you ever tried couponing? Does it seem to confusing or time consuming to even bother? In the past I have clipped coupons here and there, but never to the extent where I would really save anything major. In fact, I was notorious for having coupons hanging on my fridge and having them expire. Hello trashcan! But when I read her success stories and testimonies of others who have learned her system, it seemed like something worth taking the time to learn.

Here let me share a little about what you will find in Couponing Made Simple.

Christi starts by sharing some of her success stories. She shares that when they first started couponing they purchased $124.01 worth of groceries for only $41.11! You would think that saving 67% was a wonderful accomplishment, I sure do. However, she goes on to share how they purchased $99.78 worth of groceries for only $10.05 (a savings of 90%) and better yet, $54.40 worth of products for 55 cents (this included a Store Loyalty Reward of $1.00, making it a 99% savings). Okay, I have got to tell you, reading this sure had me excited to learn more.

The next chapter is titled "A New Way to Shop" and here you will find her 2 Rules of Couponing:

  1. Buy on Sale
  2. Stack Coupons
It makes sense that the more coupons you can use, the more you will save. This isn't about, "Ooo, I have a coupon, let me go out to the store and use it so I can save some money." I'm sure there are times I have used a coupon to just...well, use a coupon. If it is not a product I would usually buy, am I really saving money? Another thing I had never thought of was to wait for the product to be on sale so I could save more money. Christi shares more about how to save the most money you can in a later chapter. 

But first she shares "The Language of Couponing" in chapter 3.  Here are some of the key terms of couponing she explains: Blinkies, BOGO, Clipping Services, Coupon Inserts, Coupon Kiosk, Customer Loyalty Card, O.O.P., Peelies, Rebates, Receipts, Rock Bottom Pricing, Stacking, Stockpiling, and Store Loyalty Rewards. 

In Chapter 4 she goes on to share her "Organization System," which consists of a hanging file coupon box, a shopping coupon box, an accordion coupon file, computers and a printer. 

And with all the preliminaries taken care of, she now gets into the nitty gritty of her plan, or her "Step-by-Step Process" in chapter 5. Obviously I am not going to give away all the information here in this review. Christi shares 8 steps, starting with buying newspapers, yes, that is plural, she purchases a specific amount of newspapers and in the chapter explains how many and why, plus some other tips. After sharing how many newspapers to buy she shares her process of sorting the newspapers and coupons, though she is aware that others may have different methods. Remember her rules about buying on sale and stacking coupons? Well, the next step involves learning how to find the deals. She teaches how to search for matchups, plan your shopping trip and make those matches to make sure you are saving the best amount possible. You can also find Christi's favorite resource websites here. She didn't include specifics in the book because things change, so the most up to date information can be found on her site. She then talks about organizing your coupon run, doing the actual shopping, wrapping up at home and celebrating and sharing.

That's not all though. In Chapter 6, Christi shares 15 pages of Tips and Tools, things you might not think of, but can really save you money. For example, we never thought about the fact that a bag of apples labeled 5 pounds wouldn't be exactly 5 pounds. Usually, when I shop for produce I am looking for the quality of said produce. Now I will weigh the produce that is pre-bagged or produce that is priced per item. As Christi shared, "The products must weigh at least [the stated weight] by law, but the overage will vary." In addition to this tip there are many more that you won't want to miss.

Chapter 7 may be short, just 2 pages, but it is extremely important. It is titled, "Couponing Ethics." Chapter 8 focuses on Networking and Communicating and chapter 9 is a bonus section. She concludes the book with chapter 10, "Beyond Couponing" and some pages for notes.

Since receiving Couponing Made Simple my husband and I have paid a lot more attention to what we are paying for our groceries. We have also become more aware of prices on receipts and making sure we are getting the savings we are supposed to.

I have to say, we have not been able to purchase the recommended amount of newspapers. It seems that there are places where the Sunday paper can be purchased for $1 or even 50 cents. Our newspaper costs $3.00, making it really difficult to purchase more than one, especially when 1/2 of the coupon inserts do not contain anything we will use. This obviously is personal preference. Someone else may be able to use more of the coupons than we do. If my husband works Saturday night, he can pick up the Sunday paper at the Tops store in the town where he works. Still, the lowest price we have found is $2.50. So far, we have not found any deals great enough to require us to buy more than 1 newspaper. I am seriously thinking of looking into the coupon clipping websites where I can get only the coupons I need.

As this was about saving money, I didn't go out and purchase special files or boxes to help me organize. We have made do with what we have. If we start saving a significant amount I can see going out to purchase some things to organize better. As of right now we purchase the paper and I separate out the coupons I know we will use, or think we may use. I am still finding that I have a huge stack of coupons we definitely won't use. I then organize them in envelopes by category (for example: breakfast, frozen, personal care, and household are several I chose to use). We look through the store sales circulars for sales that will match up with our coupons. Unfortunately, we have discovered that our primary store does not allow us to stack quite the way the Christi is able to do. However, on our first week using coupons we found some great deals.

(Unfortunately we couldn't use this deal as it was for selected varieties of Colgate, and I had been so excited. See, the coupon could be used for the Colgate Total, but the store sale did not include this variety. We would have bought 2 and saved a dollar, plus gotten a 3rd tube free.)

(Here we got 4 boxes of these select cereals for $10 and got to use the coupons to save 2 more dollars. We just had to make sure the cereals we were purchasing for the 4 for $10 were the ones allowed on the coupon. I have to tell you, any money we can save on cereal is great as we go through a lot with 4 children.)

(Now this was a treat. The ingredients to make S'mores were on sale and we got to use coupons.)

(And here we got to save an extra dollar on bread that was already on sale. Yes, we also go through tons of bread in a week. Any savings is great!)

So, while we haven't been able to implement everything the way Christi has written about in Couponing Made Simple, we have sure been more aware of sales and are working on saving as much as we can. 

Christi mentions store loyalty cards in her book. We have had a Tops membership card for years (I think I originally got it to be able to cash checks). There are many savings throughout the store that we can get with our card. We also get 10 cents off a gallon of gas for every 100 points we get. Hubby just informed me that we get 10 points for every coupon we use!! With the price of gas going up, this is sure a blessing. 

I was a little shocked to find out that our store no longer has blinkies. I am not sure when they got rid of them, but I was a little disappointed when I went in planning on grabbing some up after reading the book. Hubby has let me know that we are now able to go online and clip coupons right to our Tops card instead. So, you definitely need to find out what kind of benefits are available to you in your area. You may be pleasantly surprised. 

All in all, we have been saving a bit of money since discovering Christi the Coupon Couch and Couponing Made Simple. I'm hoping to start seeing some of the savings that are mentioned in the book. I know we haven't been using her methods exactly, but we are trying to follow her rule of buying on sale. It is a little harder to stack coupons as there are just some things that are not allowed in our area. 

I would definitely recommend her book to get you started on a journey of saving money. There are some great ideas in this book and if you are able to follow it exactly you may find you are saving quite a bit of money. Don't forget to check out the reviews of other members of the crew to see how they have been utilizing the information in Couponing Made Simple. You can purchase it for $18.00 for the paperback and $4.99 for the Kindle version from Amazon. 

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