Monday, February 17, 2014

Expiring Coupon Syndrome

I had to make an "emergency run" to Walmart yesterday, not because we desperately needed anything, but because when I pulled out my coupon binder to do some much-needed organizing I'd noticed that my stash of Mitchum $2 coupons were expiring that very day!  Now, I have often said I am not brand loyal to anything but Scott tissue, but I do admit to having a preference in brands of deodorant, and Mitchum is my favorite.  When I spotted the Mitchum $2 coupon a few weeks ago I collected as many as I could and was holding onto them for a sale. That sale never materialized. Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you want to look at it, I suffer from "Expiring Coupon Syndrome," a common, but little-understood malady that causes the most well-adjusted among us to rush out the door in our yoga pants and no make-up in pursuit of inexpensive health and beauty products. This is a real syndrome, people, and not something I just made up to explain my bizarre behavior.

Once inside the store, I was pleased to see a few Mitchum marked down to $2 in the clearance aisle, but I had to pay a whopping 97-cents for the others. I filled my cart with as many purchases as I had coupons for, and then made a beeline to the Valentine's Day clearance aisle where I picked up half-price window clings to decorate my library next year. At the checkout, the cashier totaled up my deodorant while the person behind me looked on: in disgust or awe, I wasn't sure which. When I handed the cashier my coupons, she put on her glasses and scrutinized them carefully, before handing them back.
        "These are expired," she said. I gasped and clutched my chest.
         I checked the date on them again. How could I have gotten the date wrong?: 2-16-2014.
        "Isn't it the 16th?"
         She checked her register for the date, and then reached out her hand to take them back."You're right. I'm so sorry."  We both smiled as I breathed an audible sigh of relief. The woman behind me craned her neck to see as the coupons were taken off, snorting at the final tally, whether in derision or laughter, I will never know.
        What I did know was that a potential crisis had been averted, and my girls and I wouldn't have to worry about underarm "wetness or odor" for a very long time....


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Look Ma! No Coupons!

I recently began a new job as a director of a small-town library. Every Monday we host an after-school program that includes a half hour craft project. On Wednesdays there is a story time for the younger set, which also includes craft time.  So when I stopped in a Michaels craft store this afternoon with my girls and spotted large bags of Christmas stuff for just $2, and I could see craft kits through some of the bags, you would have thought I was a kid in a candy store. My teens rolled their eyes when I asked for help carting ten bags up to the checkout.  We'd just watched several episodes of "Hoarders" on television last night, and I know what they were thinking: Mom's turning into one of those hoarders.

contents of one bag

Abby and I had a blast going through the bags together. Some of the items in the bags had originally been priced at $9.99 each, and there was even a few things priced at $19.99, including Christmas baskets I will use for gift baskets.  Four tall kitchen garbage bags were set aside for my sister's consignment store late this year. I'll store those on the attic steps.  What was left was a huge pile of craft kits and materials I will donate to my library, slated for craft time in December. Not everything was holiday merchandise, either. I found some journals, mouse pads, rubber stamps, and decorated lunch bags in amongst the Christmas items.  It just goes to show; you don't always need coupons to net some super savings. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time~


Friday, December 27, 2013

Post-Christmas Coupon Savings

Like the good little couponer I am, I headed to our local Walmart yesterday morning to see what kind of damage I could do with my coupons that are about to expire the end of this month. Sure enough, there were three Axe gift sets sitting on the shelves waiting for me to purchase with my $2 off Axe gift set coupons. Just as I was adding the last one to my cart, I felt a light tapping on my shoulder, and there stood one of my three sons.

"Don't look! I'm doing Christmas shopping for next year!" Twenty-year-old Matt smiled broadly. Working the night shift at Walmart, he knew exactly what kind of gift sets had been placed in that aisle a few days previous, and he loves AXE products.

What got me even more excited than the brush sets and Caress gift sets I purchased (without coupons) for our own cupboards was the selection of Febreeze products marked down. Normally $2.97 each, the sprays were marked down to $1.48 and the candles and car scents were 75-cents. I knew I had some Febreeze product coupons in my binder. Sure enough, I had $1.50 off two Febreeze product coupons and 50-cents off any Febreeze product coupons. I made two trips through the register so I could use four of each (P&G coupons now limited to four like coupons per transaction) and came home with these:

I was happy to find some cheap (and free!) products to fill baskets for the coupon workshops I am starting to schedule for 2014 (one in February, one in April and one in July, thus far)  I love beginning my workshops with a fun game where attendees are to guess how much I paid for everything in the basket. The one who guesses the closest wins the basket at the end of the presentation. These products will make a nice addition to those baskets. The car scents might also end up in my adult children's stockings next year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Hairy Good Deal

My fall has been busy conducting couponing workshops and not doing a lot of couponing. When the workshops slowed down, as they inevitably do in the winter, I worked on restocking and organizing my binder. One coupon I was intrigued by was the $5 off two TRESemme product coupon. Surely I could net some inexpensive hair products, I thought when I saw that one in our inserts, so I collected as many as I could and waited for a sale. Unfortunately, I wasn't seeing the smaller cans of hair spray that others were finding for $2.48, but I did pick up a few cans at $2.98, figuring 48-cents for a can of hair spray was a pretty good deal.

That couldn't beat the deal Target had on TRESemme this week. Through Saturday, November 30th, select TRESemme products are on sale for $3.99 and $4.99. Not only that, but the purchase of four of those select products will prompt a $5 gift card. Yesterday the girls and I were shopping for Christmas deals in Cedar Rapids so we stopped at a Target for pumpkin pie ingredients, and to stock up on TRESemme products. The shelves were well-stocked with the $3.99 products so I concentrated on those. My first trip through the line I bought four bottles of shampoo ($3.99 each X 4=$15.96), used two $5 off coupons (minus $10)=$5.96, and got my first $5 gift card. The girls watched my cart while I did it again, only this time I used that $5 gift card to pay just 96-cents (plus tax) for the next transaction, and I got another $5 gift card. I did this several times, until both the girls and I were tired of the game, but this is what I came home with:

Those shampoos will fill our stockpile cupboard and will be added to the Christmas baskets I make up for my adult children. There will likely be TRESemme products added to the baskets I bring to the coupon workshops in the spring, as well. I always bring a basket full of products I purchased with coupons and ask attendees at the beginning of the workshop to guess how much I paid for everything in the basket. The person who guesses closest to the actual price I paid wins the basket of goodies.

This couponing trip reminded me of why I love this hobby and reiterated the importance of keeping my coupons organized. Besides the TRESemme deal, I saved nearly $100 on other products in my shopping cart, including some gift sets that I used both Target and manufacturer coupons on. I did notice that many of the current gift card deals were not labeled on the shelf, so although the two gift sets I purchased did trigger a $5 gift card at the register, there wasn't any indication on the shelf that this would happen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Couponing Comforts

It has been a long, rough road for our family. My husband passed away last year and my eight-year-old grandson lost his battle with cancer last week. You can read his story (and how we plan to do acts of kindness in his name here)  Sunday afternoon, I was feeling overwhelmed with sadness.

So I went "coupon shopping."

You would have to understand just how important couponing has been in my life to know why that sentence makes sense. If you read my newly released Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession, (Familius, August 2013) you will know what I mean.
My children grew up with a mother who saved every label, clipped every coupon and didn't hesitate to dip her hand in a dumpster for stray coupon inserts or labels she would flatten and file in a room filled with empty boxes. My husband and I shared many a "date" that consisted of visiting a local recycling center or an afternoon of shopping strategically using coupons. Since his death, I've visited a Walgreens store only once or twice, and he and I used to hit one every week. I've bolted out of a Hy-Vee more than once after spotting a man drinking coffee and reading the newspaper in the deli. I can barely stand to navigate the peanut butter aisle. Suffice it to say, sans my favorite shopping partner, I don't do nearly as much couponing as I used to.

That said, time does heal and with my stockpile cupboards nearly bare, I'm doing more deal-shopping. While the majority of my "free spree" shopping has gone into baskets for drawings at my couponing workshops and book-signings, I'm beginning to look ahead to making some baskets up for my adult children this Christmas. 

Because of new stipulations on some coupons (Procter & Gamble and the Bic) I was only able to use four like coupons for each trip. The Gillette coupon was good for $6 off three razors or shaving prep (shaving cream!). Four coupons meant 12 cans of Gillette that retailed for $1.98 each (so free) and women's Bic razors, priced at $2.96, minus the $3 coupons (also free) My girls hate these so they will go in drawing baskets. The Bic pens, priced at 97-cents each, were free with my $1 coupons good on any Bic stationery items. The Lunchables were ringing up for $1 each and had $1 off 2 coupons right on them, so they were only 50-cents a box.One box is missing from the photo since I had a hungry child shopping with me. With tax, my total was less than $8 for all this.

And yes, I was smiling when I left the store.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Clearance Shelf Shopping

I'm updating my couponing workshop power point presentation so I'm back to taking pictures of shopping trips. One of the things I talk about in my workshops is the strategy of shopping from clearance shelves. I was in Dyersville, Iowa the other day for a doctor's appointment so thought I would check out the new Shopko store there. When the kids spotted the clearance shelves in the health and beauty section, they asked if they could go to the library for half an hour and come back to pick me up. Ahhh, those girls know me well.

These were some of my best deals;
Colgate toothpaste on clearance for $1.39, minus $1 coupons=39-cents a tube
Oral-B toothbrushes $1.74, minus $1 coupon= 74-cents
Listerine mouthwash $2.74, minus $1 coupon=$1.49
Covergirl makeup sponges, 29-cents, minus $1 coupon,=71-cents credit toward other purchases

Always check the clearance shelves. I don't even like Colgate Total, but for 39-cents, these boxes will be added to my workshop prize baskets. When I stopped at our local Walmart for Abby's prescription, I found Febreeze stand-up room deodorizers on a clearance shelf for $1.50. I had $1 coupons, so those deals will also be added to my baskets. If you are attending one of my upcoming workshops at the Decorah, Marion, Dyersville, Readlyn or Monticello, Iowa libraries, or the Janesville Gazette workshops in Janesville, Wisconsin, you now know the prices of two of the products that are being included in my prize basket.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

I admitted in my last post that I had picked up a few Poise hot flash cooling cloths for my coupon workshop prize baskets, against my better judgment. The product didn't make a lot of sense to me. I just couldn't imagine a "poised" nicely-dressed woman pulling out a packet of these out in public and wiping down her face (and wiping off her makeup!). Nor could I readily imagine a woman doing so in her home, even sans make-up. Would you keep this product next to your bed, to cool off in the middle of the night when a hot flash hits? Perhaps, if they were free with a coupon. Otherwise, that seems kind of a pricey way to cool off, when a cold washcloth from the bathroom would work just as well.

But the product I picked up with the remaining coupons? I admit I was in a hurry, adding Poise products priced at $2.97 to my cart, knowing they would be free. I thought I was picking up panty liners, which would just be borderline offensive to the lucky workshop attendee who won my basket. Instead, they turned out to be panty fresheners. I had to read the directions twice, and then I laughed out loud. Panty fresheners are round thin pads; about the size of a fifty-cent piece, with a peel-off backing. Apparently, they have a fresh scent that lasts approximately four hours. You put them on the outside of your panty. (the directions weren't clear exactly where on the outside of the panty, and maybe I don't really want to know) They come in a small, round container, perfect for carrying in your purse. Now, I don't know about you, but I resent the implications of this innovative product. My guess is that it will go over about as well as the Dove Pro-Age deodorants did. The Pro-Age lotion marketed to women over age 40 made sense to me; our skin changes as we age. Even the Pro-Age shampoo seemed a good idea, since a woman's hair also changes with age. But Pro-Age deodorant? Really? There's not too much that would embarrass me more than going through a check-out line with a deodorant that practically screams "I have OLD underarms!" Except, perhaps, a product that informs the cashier that my underwear needs freshening. Ever hear of a washing machine? Dryer sheets? Regular changing of the panties, perhaps? By the way, I don't see Pro-Age deodorant on the shelves anymore. I wonder why?

My daughter Elizabeth informed me about the bright pink peelie coupons that were attached to some of the General Mills cereals at our local Fareway. The coupons are good for a free box of General Mills granola bars. I've seen similar coupons and have often taken advantage of the good deal. This time, however, the coupons don't specify that anything at all must be purchased in order to use the coupon. In other words (and don't get any ideas, please) someone could come along and peel off half a dozen of the coupons, walk over to the granola bar aisle, pick up six boxes of granola bars and get them totally free! Without buying cereal!This omission doesn't make any sense to me. Surely the intention of the coupon was that the customer is to purchase  a box of cereal in order to get the free box of granola bars, but no where on the coupon is that stated. My guess is that the coupon might be coded in some way that it won't scan unless a box of cereal is also purchased during the transaction, but this is the first time I've seen a on-package coupon that doesn't specify a purchase requirement!