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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Christi - The Coupon Coach

This is a review.

With a family of 8 to feed, I was thrilled to be able to get a chance to read the book by, Christi the Coupon Coach called Couponing Made Simple.

See, in Minnesota, we lived very close to an Aldi, so that was our main grocery store.  We supplemented with Costco and our local grocery store.  They were all located within a mile of each other, so there wasn't extra driving or planning that needed to happen for a grocery trip.

Fast forward to Georgia:  We are not anywhere near an Aldi.  They have them down here, but both of them are out of the way and about a 20-25 minute drive for me.  So, we became Kroger shoppers, with the occassional supplemental trip to Costco.  Which, again, down here is not conveniently located for me.  Rainman actually makes the Costco trips because they are near his work (so we have to time the trips to coincide with the right work shift for him)

Anyway, our grocery bill since we moved has been significantly higher.  Partly because my pesky kids keep on growing and D-man and L-girl seem to be bottomless pits lately.  Can you say growth spurt?

So, I anxiously read this book hoping for magic.

I sort of got it. 

Christi is very good at explaining things in a detailed but not over my head way on what to do to save money.  She explains the secrete language of couponing (like what BOGO and OOP mean) and truly gives step by step instructions....

And, when you do what she says, it works.

The problem was, I didn't always have the time or mental energy to do exactly as she said.

That being said, even Rainman got into some of the excitement when stuff worked out for us.  When we would combine sales and coupons to get stupendous deals, it was fabulous. 

Be honest now.  Have you watched any of the "Extreme Couponer" shows?  I have (that is actually where I saw Honey Boo Boo's family for the first time).  Anyway, I was fascinated and scared at the same time.  Those people put a lot of time and energy into their couponing...then there was the totally stressful time at the check out....shutting down the cash registers.....people staring.    Having to have a whole room of your house dedicated to your extreme shopping. Yuck! I did not want that.

I just want to be able to have food for my family.  Since we have moved to Georgia, there are things that I miss.  My family for one, but, I also miss our second income.  That was our fun money and our we can get all the ingredients for those recipes and not have to worry about it money.  You know?  Now that we are living on Rainman's income.  We have enough money for essentials.  What I miss is being able to have on hand ingredients for baking or making special sentimental recipes every now and then.  Does that make any sense?

Groceries are expensive.

Which was why I was excited to try this out.  Even though I didn't completely throw myself into it because of the timing (selling this darn house) worked.  We saved money.  We learned a few things like how and where to search for coupons for your store.

Getting things set up and organized for you is sort of time consuming, but Christi encourages you that it doesn't have to be perfect, and your system may change over time.

She really lays out how to coupon in a simple way that is easy to follow.  That being said, I/we didn't always follow it to the letter.  My only excuse is how crazy it has been in our house the last few months.  Plus, we have been trying not to shop as much and just eat the stuff hiding in our freezer and pantry.

But, I did love this book.  I have tried to learn how to really be a "couponer" before and it never made complete sense....or, honestly, just seemed like it took too much time for the savings you ended up with.  But, this book,  made saving money, without spending 60 hours a week working on it, with a family my size, seem possible. 

One of my favorite parts of the book was Chapter 6 where she has general tips and tools.  She warns you to take into consideration the weight of a product and water content, for example.  Sounds obvious, right?  Well, for example, 5 pound bags of fruit can way anything over 5 pounds....they just have to weigh "at least" 5, now, instead of just telling my kids to stop playing with the weight that is hanging there is produce, I am going to actually use it to squeeze a little more more out of our budget, and get the bag of fruit that weighs 5.28 pounds.

The water example really made me think.  She gave examples of dollar store body wash and a different brand body wash that she got with a coupon at a grocery store, that smelled awesome and lasted much longer.....because it had less water.  I really hadn't thought about that when I would price check things.

She cracked me up when she talked about freezing milk that she had gotten as a great deal.  She said that freezing milk does change its consistency a bit and that she doesn't mind the change.  Her kids, however, do, but she basically tells them to suck it up and not be spoiled....and follows that up with "it's not like we are foraging through the forest for food!"

One of the best tips wasn't even in that tips and tools section, but earlier about picking the right cashier.  You want the one who seems happy, pleasant and seems to enjoy her job...not the one with the shortest line!

We are training ourselves so we can get to the 80% savings finish line (although, I think I would be okay with 50% too!)  We always check our store's website now before we head out to see what is on sale and compare it with coupons that we have.  We can also load on-line coupons straight to our card before we go, something we never took the time to do before.

Overall, I loved Christi's approachable and honest way of teaching and sharing her experiences.  One of the other favorite parts of the book was her whole chapter on Ethics.  When I used to watch Extreme Couponing, I would sometimes cringe at the people doing things that just didn't seem right just in the name of getting a year's worth of toilet paper for $0.30, you know?  She addresses how to be a real life couponer that is Christian and that the point is not to cheat companies or your store out of product for the sake of a great deal. 

I used her advice at Kroger, but not at the drug stores, yet.  We seldom go to CVS or Rite that will take a total shift in my thought process.  I am not there yet, even if there are great deals to be found. 

There are little success story boxes scattered through the book utilitizing real life examples of deals she has gotten.  I also have a real life success story in my friend Sherri (who has tried to teach me couponing in the past). She is a great real life couponer and uses the savings she gets to bless people with food.  She has the gift of hospitality and opens her home freely to people.  And, if you enter her home, she has to feed is in her DNA.  I want to be able to do that.  Yes, I certainly want to bring our budget down for just feeding our family, but, if I could afford to have snacks and stuff so I can bake again and my kids can have their friends come hang out and I don't have to worry if they are there over a mealtime because I don't have anything to feed will be a win/win situation.

Christi has been such an encouragement throughout this review process.  I want to share a portion of a recent e-mail she sent that shows that this is the kind of couponing I can and should do.  I know it will take a while to really train me and Rainman , so it becomes second nature, but when we get will be awesome and Real Life couponing:

As an encouragement to you, I want you to know that because I use this system of couponing, I only devote a couple of hours every two weeks to shopping and couponing. I am just like you - so busy that I don’t have a lot of time to devote to couponing. I shop at Publix about every two weeks (except for produce and milk) and CVS about once every 4-6 weeks. I know that every week I am missing out on great deals at 4-5 other grocery and pharmacy stores in our area, but I am O.K. with that. I don't have the time nor the desire to chase deals all over town!

I definitely am not one of the “Extreme Couponers” who spend 40-60 hours a week to get 100% savings. We save right around 80%, invest only a couple of hours every two weeks and we have a life - Real Couponing for Real People! My pantry looks like a real pantry - not an extreme pantry.
I really don't have the time or energy to be an extreme couponer.....but, I think, maybe, with Christi's coaching, I may just be able to pull off being a successful real couponer.  I also found that e-mail encouraging because our new house is close to a Publix and I was scared to death to shop there instead of my Kroger.

(we saved 38% on this bill with our coupons)

I have to be honest here, I think Rainman has more of a head for this stuff than I do. He is better at tracking prices and the in-store deals. I think I am better at the behind the scenes stuff....researching the sales papers, cutting and finding coupons. So, I think we are going to work towards our strengths and I will do the background work while he does the actual shopping.

You can get a copy of Couponing Made Comple for $18.00 right now.

See how much money the other TOS Reviewers were able to save with the help of Christi and Couponing Made Simple.