Before you start matching up your coupons with this weeks sales and heading out the door, I would like to make one more recommendation: Be sure to set a budget. This may seem silly since you are getting such great deals, but it is an essential part of couponing. Here is what will happen if you don’t set a budget:
- You will have a stockpile that is so large, your husband and kids will have to move out of the house to make room for toothpaste.
- You will have oodles of shampoo, but find that you can’t seem to pay the mortgage.
- You will wonder why couponers think they are saving so much, because you are going broke.
- You will give up on couponing because you have so much stuff you never use.
So, how do you set a budget for shopping. Crystal at Money Saving Mom recommends an eventual goal of $2 per person in your family, per day. In other words, there are 5 people in my family, if we spend $2/day on each person, that’s a goal of $70 per week for my family of 5. That budget includes food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and baby care items (diapers, wipes, etc…).
You think I’ve gone off the deep end, don’t you? It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Notice that I highlighted the word eventually. Start by figuring up your current expenditures and then set a goal for yourself. When I started, I set the goal at $3 per person, per week for food only. That was 12% less than we had been spending on food. It only took a few weeks for me to realize I could do much better than that. I dropped to $2.50. My pantry and freezer were so full, I decided to drop it to $2 (still food only). Eventually, I found that I was buying more and more of my cleaning supplies, toiletries, and paper supplies for little to nothing and it was easy to reach my $2 for everything goal. I would say it took me about 8 months to go from being a coupon hater to this current budget.
Please note that this is fun for me. It’s fun for my husband too (I’ll write a post someday about how I got him on board). As long as your family is meeting it’s financial obligations, I don’t think you should feel bound to a certain budget. Do what works for you, if it’s too restrictive, back off. And of course, if you hit a difficult season (morning sickness, illness, family emergency), cut yourself some slack.
Having a budget in place will help you answer one of the trickiest questions in couponing–how much do you buy? And it will ensure that you are truly saving as much as possible. So be sure to set a budget, and don’t leave home without it.
I stockpile within my budget and almost never find a deal that justifies breaking it (.75/lb cheese week, I went over about $2, but we also had a family birthday that week).
Here’s how it works: Each week, I set out to find the very rock bottom prices available. I look over my coupon stash to determine how many of each item I can purchase based on my coupons. Then I estimate the cost of items that I don’t have coupons for, but need (like milk and eggs). Finally, I adjust my coupon and sale purchase quantities based on my budget. I’m careful to prioritize purchases based on how often they come on sale and how desperately we need them. I also try to prioritize high nutritional value (fish) over fun foods (cookie dough). Using this method, I usually know the cost of my shopping before I ever hit the store. (It just takes a little practice). If I get to the store and run across a must have purchase, I simply adjust by scratching something else off the list.
There are weeks, like this one, where I will choose to buy less than my full budget. I have plenty of food in my stockpile (I suspect we could go a month without shopping). I will put the extra money in an envelope and save it for a week when the deals are too good to miss.