Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Boot Camp: Wrapping It Up

Image courtesy of Lumaxart

You are now an official graduate of Coupon Boot Camp at The Frugal Muse! Pat yourself on the back; you have ingested a lot of information over the past week! Just look at the list of Boot Camp articles in the left-hand side bar of the blog: we've come a long way together in just over a week! 

Based on the many e-mails, facebook messages and comments I've received during the course of our Boot Camp, it sounds like many of you are well on your way to pro-couponing and saving your families lots of money. Way to go!

But before we say farewell to our Boot Camp series at The Frugal Muse, there are a few parting tips that I wanted to pass along to you. These are general thoughts about frugal shopping and couponing that didn't fit nicely into any of our other segments, but which I thought were still important to mention.

•If you have kids, shop without them. The Drugstore Game takes mental energy and concentration. Those are not two commodities that really go hand-in-hand with hauling your young kids in and out of a store. You will often be calculating out of pocket expenses, figuring out order transactions, and other brain-intensive work. I have found that it is nearly impossible to do this if my kids are with me. I make mistakes every time, because I am distracted by taking care of their needs. 

So at our house, I do my drugstore trips at night after the kids are asleep when Lucas is home from work. If I weren't able to do this, I would hire a sitter for one or two hours a week while I hit my drugstores. If I lived near any of their grandparents, you'd better believe I'd call in a grandma for reinforcements! Even if I had to pay a sitter, I know that the money I saved/made at The Drugstore Game using my full mental concentration would more than make up for it. 

• Be organized and plan your shopping trips. Every time I go shopping, I make a list of everything I am planning to buy. I list the name of the item, how many I need to buy, and exactly which coupons I need to use for those items. If it is a special deal where I need to do multiple transactions, I plan out my ideal transaction order at home before I go. This saves me so much time and hassle in the stores! You will need to be flexible, though, and realize that your ideal plans for transactions and purchases won't always work out. If a store is out of stock on a particular item, you may have to rework your transactions and deal scenarios in the store (hence the importance of shopping without kids). 

I alway carry my calculator, my coupon box, my shopping/transaction list, and a pen with me. I use all of these items on a regular basis while I'm in the store. This type of organization helps prevent you from making a mistake in your transactions. You'll be kicking yourself in the parking lot if your realize that you only used the manufacturer's coupon instead of combining it with the store coupon. Yes, you can return the item and get your money back, but you cannot get your manufacturer's coupon back to do the deal the way you had planned.

• Pay attention as your items are ringing up. Cash registers often ring items up at the wrong price. I don't know why this is, but it seems to be a fact of life. This is particularly true if an item has just gone on sale or has just been marked down with a clearance price– often times the cash register has not yet been programmed with the new price, even if the price is marked on the product.  

If you've done your homework and your planning, you should know exactly what price each item should ring up at, and about what your total cost will be at the end of any transaction. If the numbers don't add up to what you were expecting, take a minute to find out why. I cannot tell you how many times my Walgreens order does not ring up exactly the way it should. I recommend that you pay very close attention to the register as the cashier rings up your order. (Hence the suggestion about shopping without your kids. Noticing a trend?)

• Be Kind. It's easy to get frustrated with cashiers who can't or won't ring up your order in the way they should for whatever reason. It stinks when the register doesn't charge you the correct price. You've worked hard to figure out the best deals and to do it in an ethical way, but store employees will not always see it that way. Sometimes they will make you feel like a burden for using so many coupons. People behind you in line might get huffy that your transaction is taking so long. But if you know that you have done nothing wrong, you can be confident in that and still treat everyone around you with kindness and grace. I believe it is extremely important to keep this priority at the forefront of our minds as we walk through every scenario of life, including frugal shopping.

• Share the Love. Here's a parting thought– one that I've alluded to several times over the past week, but one I want to reiterate. God has really blessed my family through couponing. We have closets full of blessings. A pantry overflowing with blessings. Grocery sack after grocery sack of blessings. I think it really pleases God when we look at all that He has given us, are truly grateful, and then express that genuine gratitude through a desire to give to others.

The next time you score a really fantastic deal– you know, the kind that keeps you smiling all the way home and the whole time you're unloading the trunk– give some away. Let your gratitude overflow into generosity.  Leave a sack of groceries on the doorstep of a family in need at your church. Give a generous gift of several packs of diapers and wipes in addition to whatever else you were planning to give at the next baby shower you attend. Take a box of personal hygiene items to your local rescue mission or shelter. This is really our response to the Gospel playing itself out in our day-to-day lives: gratitude overflowing into giving.

I have a very real sense that The Frugal Muse is an endeavor upon which God is smiling. I know for a fact that this blog is helping some families in direct answer to their specific prayers. That is incredibly fulfilling to me! I am so glad that He is allowing me to be a part of something that is helping so many people– and I want that impact to continue as a ripple effect as each of us takes the blessing that God gives us through couponing and use that to not only help provide for our own families, but to also give generously to others.

Congratulations, Boot Camp Graduates! Now get out there and save more to give more! 

P.S. In case you were wondering, I decided to postpone the Frequently Asked Questions segment until next week and not include it in Boot Camp after all. So if you have questions you'd like to see included in that post, leave a comment or email me at cherissa (at) roebuckmedia (dot) com.


  1. Speaking of giving away, if I carry a coupon with me to the store and find that I can't use it, I leave it by that item for the next person to come along. I have found one or two coupons this way, and it is a welcome surprise! :)

  2. Cherissa - Thank you.

    I've added up coupon and store savings from Walgreens, Target, and Wal-mart over the past week and a half. I've saved over $250 and spent under $100 and already have a small stockpile of things (like good on toothpaste and now mouthwash for a year) -- and already making a mental list of people to pass things onto -- like the diabetic cereal...

    In the summer, our church asks for hygiene donations to take to a poor community in rural southern Arkansas and am planning on the things that we will be able to donate there. I like being able to give a tangible good, rather than money sometimes -- so that I know where it went! This will literally save our family a lot of money -- and enable us to be generous. Thank you.

  3. Good idea, Erin. I've seen others who have done that, and I always think it's nice.

    Thanks, Kristin! So glad to see this blog helping you guys and others!

  4. I went to Wal-Mart last night to do some shopping, and found more surprise coupons left on the shelves. I was able to use 2 of them and passed up the ones I couldn't use.

    Thanks, Frugal Muse readers! :)

    One request for coupon ettiquette, please leave the coupon by the item it applies to! I found a Tide stain marker coupon by the Air Wick scents.