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A few weeks ago when I finalized my goals for this year, I set some goals for our money. I wrote down that I wanted us to build up our emergency fund and to pay off debt.
But the thing is, it’s not like we have a whole bunch of extra money floating around. Sure, we do our share of “wasteful spending,” but even if we only spent money on necessities and bills, we still wouldn’t have enough to reach our financial goals overnight.
I’m going to have to be creative and willing to do a little work if I have any hope of reaching our goals.
One of the ways that I can control how much money we’re spending – and how much we’re able to save – during the month is through our grocery budget. I have lots of control over how much is spent at the store each week.
Unfortunately, this is also an area where I’ve grown lazy. Extremely lazy.
I kept telling myself that “next week” I’d be more careful about managing our food and the amount of money I spent at the grocery store. I was sure that “next week” I would make a careful menu plan and grocery list. I decided that “next week” I would spend time clipping out coupons and buying according to the sales.
Well, “next week” didn’t come. Instead, I kept doing the same old thing and wasted a lot of money in the process. I bought whatever came to mind, and I ignored the piles of coupon fliers for months.
Something needs to change!
If I’m really serious about meeting our financial goals, then I have to get our food budget under control. I know from experience that using coupons and a careful list is one of the best ways to do that.
But those coupons…oh, the piles of coupons! It was overwhelming to even think about catching up with so many months of unclipped coupons.
I didn’t want to toss them all those coupons into the trash can and miss out on the savings, but I also didn’t want to spend hours upon hours clipping and filing all of them.
So, I came up with a simple solution using my coupon binder system (that’s worked well for me for so long) that allowed me to save the coupons I might actually use, without having to either trash the ones I might decide I wanted in the future or cut out dozens of coupons I’d never end up needing.
And in the first week after I caught up on my coupons, I saved seven dollars on a relatively small shopping list! That might not seem like a lot of money, but after being wasteful for so long, it felt like a pretty big deal!
Here’s how to catch up on your coupons when you’re hopelessly behind:
1. Clean out expired coupons and fliers that are more than three months old.
Whatever method of coupon storage you use, clean out any expired or soon-to-expire coupons. And if you use a system for saving the fliers, you should clean that out, too.
2. Get rid of any fliers that are older than three months.
Once the old coupons have been tossed into the recycle bin, it’s time to gather up the unclipped coupon fliers that have been piling up. If you look at the “binding” on the flier, you’ll see the date they were released. Throw away any fliers that are more than three months old.
3. Write the date on the front of any fliers that are more than one month old. Save the fliers, but don’t clip them.
Now that you’ve narrowed down coupon fliers to only those that were collected over the past three months, it’s time to sort them even further. Set aside any fliers from the past month for clipping, and then take all the rest (that are more than a month old) and write the date on the front of the fliers.
Either save the two to three month old fliers in a binder like I do, or find some place to put them in case you find a good sale and need a coupon from one of them. But don’t bother clipping them out. It will take too much time (trust me!).
4. Cut out coupons from the previous four weeks.
Now comes the fun part. Clip out the coupons from the past four weeks. If that still seems like too many, then only do the last week or two, and save the rest the same way you did the other fliers.
Regardless of how many weeks you decide to clip, I would highly encourage you to only clip out the coupons you think you might actually use. Don’t waste your time clipping out every single coupon from every single flier. That will just make the whole process feel overwhelming.
5. File the coupons and fliers.
Finish up by filing the clipped coupons in your coupon binder, box, or folder. I speed up this filing process by separating the coupons into piles of “food items” and “non-food items” as I’m cutting them out. It helps me stay in the same section of my notebook as I’m filing them away.
And since you didn’t cut out all the coupons, you might want to write the date on the front of the fliers you just clipped from and save those, too. That way you don’t have to worry if you overlooked a cutting out a coupon that might come in handy a couple weeks from now.
Bonus: Do the happy dance and continue to clip and file your coupons each week so you never get behind again!
If you clip and file your coupons when they arrive on your doorstep, it will only take a few minutes to keep up with them each week. Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of the week to sit down and just get the job done.
You could even turn it into “me time” with a special cup of something hot to drink and some music or a podcast playing.
And just think of all the money you’ll save on your next trip to the grocery store. Your investment of a few minutes and a little effort will be worth it!