What Does $10 Look Like?

A double quarter pounder with cheese, a large drink, a large french fry, and an apple pie will run you close to $10 (after tax).

$10 will buy you one movie ticket at AMC theatres.

 

I’m going to come right out and admit it: I’m a hardcore coupon freak. Maybe not quite as crazy as the women from TLC’s Extreme Couponing, but I’m still out there.  I have a baseball card binder with my coupons organized by type and expiration date.  I purchase numerous papers each week (for the inserts), and I have no problem picking up abandoned papers from recycling bins (for the coupons).  I went shopping for groceries this week, and I paid $0.54 a box for General Mills cereal and $0.25 a box for Toaster Strudels.  I bought ten boxes each.

Perhaps part of the reason why I use coupons has to do with my mother.  She taught me how to shop smart from a young age, showing me how to figure out the cost per ounce and decide with brand and size would garnish me the best deal.  But the reason that I continue to use them, obsessively use them, goes far deeper.

The pasta seen on this shelf was purchased with coupons for $10 (after tax).

I tell my story to people all the time.  My husband and I met in college and married when I was half-way through my Master’s program.  We lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains for several years.  Through a series of events, all revolving around the dying economy, I found myself without a full-time job.  My husband worked around 40 hours a week at a gas station for minimum wage, and I managed to patch together a few part-time jobs, but we still found ourselves in a financial bind.

All of our money came in one hand and went out with the other. It wasn’t that we were overspending; we just didn’t make enough. Between the two of us, we brought home an average of $800 – $900 a month.  We spent $525 a month on rent, another $80 on electricity, $120 a month on car insurance, and $120 for phone / cable / internet service.  I don’t know where the money for gas came from.  (If I didn’t have the bank statements to prove the numbers, I wouldn’t believe it.)

Before long, we started pulling from our savings just to get by, and by November of 2009, we could count the number of months left before we would run out of money.  We did the unthinkable: we both quit our jobs, packed everything we owned in a U-haul, and on Christmas Eve, moved two hundred miles across the state to stay with my family.  While the act was nothing but insane at the time, I can see God’s hand in it now.  Less than a month later, both my husband and I found full-time jobs (good full-time jobs), and in late February, I found out I was pregnant.

$10 can buy you a box of size 3 Huggies diapers (156 count).

Throughout the entire situation, I again learned the value of coupons and of saving.  As Christians, we are called to be wise with the wealth and talents God gives us. Recall one of the lessons Jesus gave us in the Parable of the Talents: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in change of many things.”  While living on little, our family sought to be faithful with the little that we had.  I learned to balance a budget with as little as $25 or $30 a month for food.  I found ways to earn money by buying health and beauty products.  I learned to give thanks to God, regardless of the circumstances.  Nichole Nordeman’s song Gratitude became the hymn of my life.

Now that God has put me in charge of many things, I still continue to use coupons and stockpiling as a way of being faithful with the blessings God has given me. I routinely purchase toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, mouthwash, bodywash, soap, sanitary pads, and pain medicine for nothing except the sales tax.  Last month, I purchased large quantities of pasta at no cost.  While I do maintain a large stockpile of these items, I give an equally large number of items to local parishes and charities. (Extreme Couponing‘s Nathan Engels gave this as a reason for his couponing, as he recently donated over 1,100 boxes of cereal to a local food bank.)

This selection of toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, bodywash, and shampoo all cost less than $10.

Regardless of your situation in life, consider using coupons as a way to be a good servant. You don’t need to become a hardcore shopper.  Even a thirty minute trip to the drugstore with five or six coupons can lead to free or nearly free items. With very little time and effort on your part, you can use coupons to better your life or the lives of those less fortunate.

If you don’t want to use coupons yourself but you receive a Sunday paper, consider donating your coupons to a local Coupon Mom or Dad (watch for them in your local grocery store).  Donating coupons can be used as a ministry tool within itself, especially when you donate them to people outside of your parish.

Some good websites for couponing:
Faithful Provisions
For the Mommas
Hip2Save
My Frugal Adventures
Totally Target

Feel free to comment and add your favorite couponing sites!

 

Melissa is writing this post from beneath her stockpiled diapers, collected for both her seven month old daughter and her future (unconceived) children. You can follow her life and shopping adventures at And Baby Makes Three.

Comments

  1. says

    I have never watched Extreme Coupon, and I never actually bought the story that people could do what you’re describing. This is the first time I’ve ever actually “met” someone who could, and I’m impressed. Very impressed. But I still don’t understand *how*. We go through coupons in our paper and pull out the few that apply to something we actually use, but $1 off three General Mills cereals still is not nearly as good a deal as buying the generic. I know there must be a way to figure out how this works, but my plate’s already stacked so high, it makes me tired contemplating the time required! Do you mind sharing how exactly you get down to $.54 a box for cereal?

    • says

      Well…I posted a response, and the internet ate it!

      First, you always need to measure time. If you are spending more time with coupons than you are with your family, your priorities need to be adjusted. (One of the major problems I have with that bloody show, right there.) In my situation, my mother and husband both coupon with me, and we are already teaching Baby J how to coupon. (Right now, it’s just “don’t eat Mommy’s coupons,” but still.)

      Second, I always match my coupons with store sales. For the cereal, Farm Fresh runs a good GM cereal deal every four months or so. Typically, it’s $1.25 – $1.75 a box WYB 5 boxes. Also, my Farm Fresh doubles $1 coupons on Wednesdays. Last Wednesday, I bought 10 boxes for $9.50 total or $0.95 a box (after those $1 coupons you were talking about). Additionally, they gave me two vouchers for free milk ($3.79 a gallon at my store). I was willing to pay a bit more for the cereal knowing that they were giving me free milk that I needed anyways. I also watch online for coupons. GM publishes coupons for $0.55 – $0.75 off one box of cereal all the time.

      Third, I never throw out coupons. You never know which coupons may result in free items, and I have no brand loyalties. (There are items that you *think* you will never use, but that’s because your brain is telling you that those items always cost too much.)

      Lastly, when something goes on sale, I buy a lot. It’s called stockpiling (not hoarding), and it really does drive the cost of items down. Pasta was free last month…so I bought 40 boxes. Why? Because I know it will be another three or four months before it will be free again, and we eat a lot of pasta.

      I spend very little time couponing…but I have decades of experience and a large amount of family support. It takes practice. It is worth it.

  2. says

    What a great post! I coupon as well and try donate to our local community ministry food pantry or Ronald McDonald House. Taking my children with me when we donate is passing along to them the lesson of giving to others. :)

    • says

      Yay!

      I remember my mother doing this with us as children, and it had a large impression on my life. Wonderful to hear that others (still) do that as well!

  3. Sharon says

    This post is coming at a great time for me! I am just getting started couponing because our economy is not keeping up with our large family’s needs. None of the stores in our small town area double coupon, so I won’t be getting the super deals that some can, but I have already cut my grocery spending by being more aware of the amounts I spend and the products I buy. I can’t wait to see the comments with other site suggestions! Thanks for addressing this…

    • says

      I look back at our life growing up, and I think that the reason we were able to manage a food budget with the number of children we had was through couponing. We had the same issue…one grocery store in a small town.

      Be sure to look at the chain drug stores (if you have any in the area). You can purchase many staples there on sale for little to nothing.