Editor's note: Since most of us resolved to spend less in 2011, this is the first in a three-part series about saving money.
"I've read articles about people like you in Good Housekeeping and Women's Day." This quote is from my mother, and the "people like you" she's referring to are coupon collectors.
As you may know, an EI-padded, maternity leave budget only goes so far. Though let me take a moment to say how utterly grateful I am to live in a country where I can take a year off with my babe. While I'm off work, our income is somewhat decreased, so I've made it a personal challenge to be as frugal as possible, and so far, so good — we've been fortunate to maintain our double-income lifestyle while I'm bringing home 50% less.
The first way I stretch my dollar is at the grocery store. Yes, that means my wallet is usually pretty beefy with coupons, but it's amazing how I've been able to curb our spending. And we don't go without. I buy all the things we have grown accustomed to having, including a few unnecessary treats. I just do it in a more economical way.
Here are a few of my favourite sites for living the frugal life:
Just by signing up, these sites allow you to select the coupons you want, and they mail them out to you free of charge.
Admittedly, collecting a few coupons that are rarely more than a $1 value isn't going to change your spending. Here are my best tricks and tips for getting the most bang for your buck:
1) Be organized. Check your local flyers for specials (if you don't like dealing with paper flyers, most stores have eFlyers you can subscribe to), and review coupon websites every couple weeks. You don't have to be on the hunt for deals 24/7 if you're organized. Cut your coupons out and keep them in your wallet or purse — they won't do you much good if you forget them on the kitchen counter.
2) Only use coupons for products you normally buy. If you can try something new for dirt cheap, fill your boots, but if you're buying a more expensive variety of laundry detergent just because you have a $0.50 coupon, you'll end up actually spending more.
3) Double up. If you have a coupon for something you don't need right away, wait until it goes on sale. You can save a lot more by timing your purchases and combining discounts. For this to work, see No. 1.
4) Ask for a rain check. If something is on sale for a great price, but the store is sold out, you don't need to make another trip to the store that week, just get a rain check for next time. Keep an eye on the expiry date; most only last 30 days.
5) Watch the register. You'd be amazed how often something rings up at the wrong price. If you just check your receipt at home afterward, and discover something that was a $1 more than it should've been, you're not going to go all the way back to the store to claim that buck, so keep an eye on it while you're checking out. Also, I bet you didn't know that some stores, like Canadian Tire, will actually give you the item for free (up to a $10 value) if it rings up wrong at the cash and you catch the error.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Frugal New Year: Budgeting.