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Ask DSM Readers: How Do You Make Your Virtual Savings Real?

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 10, 2009 · 59 comments

Save Your Pennies
Reader Candy recently emailed me with a very valid question:

Been reading your blog for a while, thank you for all the tips & advice. But can you tell me how to SAVE all those savings?

If you walk out of the grocery store having saved 60% off your total purchase, have you really saved 60%? If you use fuzzy logic you may be able to trick yourself into believing these virtual savings are concrete savinsg, but in reality they're not unless you're translating those savings into a tangible format.

I realize that some of us seek out these savings out of necessity. There just isn't any wiggle room in the budget without couponing -- and believe me, I get that.

But what about those of us that are living comfortably but still love a good deal? Are the savings that we enjoy from hunting down bargains and clipping coupons concrete or just an excuse to spend more? Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle, placing some money in savings but enjoying a few luxuries that you might not splurge on otherwise.

Either way, do you have a system in place to ensure that you're making at least a portion of your virtual savings each week into a tangible savings, and if so, what methods do you use?

Of course there's no right or wrong here, but perhaps we can share some tips with each other on how to instill some accountability for actually SAVING some of our savings each week!

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John DeFlumeri Jr November 10, 2009 at 7:42 am

Take what ever you might be saving, say twenty dollars a week, and pay down your credit cards an extra 80 to 100 dollars a month.

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2 Amy November 10, 2009 at 8:00 am

My husband and I operate on the cash system so that what we DON'T spend on groceries, etc. goes into debt payment/savings.

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3 Mary Beth November 10, 2009 at 8:02 am

I was wondering the same thing. I am new to online couponing (is that what you call this?).

I look at a lot of the offers and they seems so good but if I wouldn't normally buy that product, am I saving money when I spending just to save? Obviously, if it something you would use then certainly you realize the savings but otherwise spending just to save that you saved doesn't seem to make sense.

I am also concerned about the cost of printing all of these coupons. If they are just black, that isn't too bad but that is not always the case.

I look forward to what others are doing to make the most of this type of couponing.

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4 Liz Taylor November 10, 2009 at 8:03 am

I set up a separate savings account and deposit any checks I receive from rebates or reward programs. I typically save over 50% off my grocery bill, so I also have $40 direct deposited every month into this account. My initial goal was to save up to cover one month's mortgage. I've reached that goal and am working on a second month. Now that's a tangibile!

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5 Margie November 10, 2009 at 8:18 am

While this sitaution may not apply to all - I worked for a company that I took a major pay cut at for well over a year. (I do not make a lot as it is) But I went from 1000 every two weeks down to 535 every two weeks. That is net. Anyway I started couponing like crazy and looking up these deals. I take advantage of some of the deals like the current $4.00 toys r us deal for kids games even though my kids are grown. I do this to donate the items because I believe you always get back what you give and it just feels so good to do.
Sorry back on subject. I learned very well how to survive on the 535 every two weeks. Still fed my family of six and did it for way less that I ever had. During my pay cut I decided I need to go back to school (I will be in Nursing School in 1/11). My pay was recently taken back up to the original amount. So as soon as I get paid I move the $465 from each paycheck that I am not used to having into savings. If it is not available I will not spend it. I am saving massive amounts that I never was able to save before.

My savings goal is to not have to work while I am in school. Also I probably have enough soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste and razors to not have to buy those while I am in school.

I am so grateful for websites like this. I wish I had known about deals like this sooner I feel like I would be a gizillionaire by now if I had.

PS Any rebate checks I get go into my savings. And my upromise account is now growing also.

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6 Valerie November 10, 2009 at 8:32 am

Thank you for your valid point! My husband (an accountant) asked me the exact question. I could actual answer YES! I transfer my savings from my monthly budgeted amount into an interest bearing savings account and when we want to do or get something "FUN but not in the budget" we have the funds available. It has also been great for when we had two tires blow at the same time ;)

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7 Alice November 10, 2009 at 8:33 am

I think the simplest way to do this would be to keep track of how much you save each week and transfer that amount into your savings account at the end of the week. I plan to do this someday when I'm not spending all my coupon savings on bills. :)

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8 Michelle November 10, 2009 at 8:47 am

Now I am sure that due to tough economic times there are folks out there who use their savings to pay other bills. That is just a reality right now. However, if you are someone (like me thankfully) who just really loves to save and lives very well off those savings there are many things you can do to realize those savings.

(1) Invest in your child's college education. We regularly and automatically put money into our 4 kids 529 college savings plans. The money comes right out of our account each month and is part of our overall budget. You can start a 529 plan with as little as $25 per month.

(2) Invest. We put money into a money market mutual fund each month. Again, the money is automatically deposited from our account each month and is part of our budget.

(3) Ensure your financial security. Stash away at least 6 months (more if you can) worth of living expenses in an insured investment vehicle like a savings or money market account.

(2) Start a vacation fund.

(2) Start a Christmas Club fund.

These are just a few ideas. A household budget is an important part of an overall financial strategy. At one time we allotted about $800-$1,000 for groceries and household items. We've been able to cut that by more than half, and simply reallocated the money elsewhere - especially to savings, investments and vacations. We've done this for the 10 years we've been married and when the recession hit (and I got laid off from a very lucrative position) we were sitting pretty.

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9 Heather November 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

I love this question because I thought the same thing when I first started using coupons.

When I realized I could live on less in my Food and Health & Beauty Categories We rearranged our budget so that less was going to each of these places and the additional money went towards a big purchase we wanted to save for.

We were able to save up and buy a new car and pay cash because of the money we had saved each month. Seeing your savings for something you want or need grow is motivation enough for me to keep saving! Plus, I think once you start coupon shopping you never go back! I can't even imagine paying full price for somethings now.

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10 Lauren November 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

I have been wondering the same thing. My husband and I are going to set up a separate account for my couponing adventures, and see if we can use that to actually see more of the savings, etc. We're also going to try to set up a budget (and maybe stick to it for once) to get more of a handle of how under some of our purchases are. On Sunday, we saved $60 at Walgreens from in-store coupons, in-store sales, manufacture coupons, and RR. We spend $10. I need to figure out a way to showcase this! :)

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11 Bandit November 10, 2009 at 9:14 am

They money we save on couponing goes into the luxuries we want. Maybe I'm saving for a new pair of shoes that I dont really need but want, or we are planning a vacation. The money saved on things we would normally buy anyone goes into an envelope for short term purchases or into our savings account for long term ones. I keep a tally on the long term savings so I know how much is in there to withdraw when it comes time for the big splurge. Of course some weeks are tight and the money saved goes right to other things we need that week. Just depends.

Its amazing how fast good bargain hunting paired with coupons turned into a weekend trip to see my best friend (using southwest's ding fares to save on airfare too of course)

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12 Dawn November 10, 2009 at 9:19 am

I don't know if these count but...
1. I use credit cards for all my purchases. Couponing/ saving, lowers my total at the end of the month so I am paying less out of my savings account every month... the money just stays in the account.
2. Sometimes if know I am going to be saving a lot at the grocery store, I pick up a gift card for myself. The gift card would go towards something that would like to save for. Example a nice dinner out, a larger item say at Pottery Barn, or hotel stay. I am sure you all have seen the racks of gift cards at the grocery store. It is like rewarding yourself for saving while still saving for something...

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13 Emily November 10, 2009 at 9:43 am

As I have learned to coupon, we have reduced the amounts budgeted for household items and groceries, and increased our budgeted savings. We use automatic transfers to move savings from our checking account to a savings account, so "budgeted savings" really means what it says. :)

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14 Pami November 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

I am taking 1/2 of what I save and putting into my savings account and/or towards the balance on our CC. This way I can see something. I have heard other people taking their savings and applying it towards a family vacation or towards something large they've been looking forward to buying.

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15 Paula November 10, 2009 at 10:05 am

Wow what a great question. I was wondering this myself. My husband and I are frugal but we have never been very good at tracking and keeping to a budget. We have only been couponing for a couple of months but some of the shelves in my pantry are bulging. If it were only socially acceptable to serve Fruit Loops for Thanksgiving we could invite the whole neighborhood!

We recently decided that all the rebate checks we receive are going to be placed in a separate savings account. That way I can watch them pile up. I know this is only a portion of what we are saving but this is the easiest way I can think of to break those $ out from our normal accounts and force myself to sae them. Of course now the debate over how to use the savings account has begun.

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16 Lisa November 10, 2009 at 10:14 am

I am unemployed and looking for work. I look at saving as making my money go as far as it can possibly go. If I can go to the grocery store and save $40 using coupon, I consider it $40 less that I had to spend and I can use the money in other areas such as putting money in my gas tank. I use Deel Seeking Mom and several other web sites to find was to make my money go as possible. I have learned ways to get free items and how to match up my coupons to the store ads to get the best deals possible out there. Even when when I get employment I will always be a thrify shopper from now on because I now know how much money I was wasting before.

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17 Jan November 10, 2009 at 10:21 am

I agree with Margie--if only I'd known earlier, I'd be a gizillionaire, too! :-)

Couponing has let me cut our grocery/household items budget in half. I know I'm saving real money, because last year I didn't qualify for a free supermarket turkey for the first time in memory! But I have plenty to share with my extended family and to donate to the local food bank regularly. I use a rewards credit card at the supermarket if I'm spending more than $10, and the rewards (Amazon GCs) go towards birthday and holiday gifts, or other necessities (like a new printer earlier this year). Every month I transfer money into savings and have built up my account rather impressively. Checks and GCs from surveys and get-paid-to sites go towards gifts, little splurges, or stuff we need, like a new waffle iron.

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18 Wendy November 10, 2009 at 10:57 am

I'm a total numbers gal & was excited to see my savings on a spreadsheet, but also realized that they weren't "real" savings. So, like many others, I set up a (separate) savings account. I try to put money in that account when I save it...but sometimes I'm not as disciplined as I should be. So, the account has far less than my trusty spreadsheet says I've saved, but sticking money into that account for future "wants" is still a good feeling.

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19 Denise November 10, 2009 at 11:16 am

I have a set amount of money for my groceries every week, and right now, I still spend the same amount, but I bring home way more groceries than I used to. I will not be working for about 6 months when I have this baby and I'm trying hard to build up my stockpile to ease the budget a little then.
Also as far as the printing of coupons goes, I had my printer cartridges refilled at Costco. 7.99 each. I know some people do it themselves but I prefer not to mess with that. When I picked up my cartridges, they only charged me for one because my color cartridge didn't pass their print test. It was still filled with ink, and it works fine for printing out coupons. I don't mind a little streak here and there!

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20 AC November 10, 2009 at 11:27 am

I have a separate account just budgeted for grocery and necessities shopping. What I don't use because I save with coupons rolls over into the next month. But every month I still put in that initial budget so my savings builds up and I can see how the coupons and deal-hunting actually grows my account.

I also deposit any rebates into the account.

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21 Kaci November 10, 2009 at 11:28 am

I don’t actually save “real dollars.” I allocate the same amount of money each month for food as I always have. If I don’t spend it all, it still stays in that ‘account.’ Right now, that account looks pretty healthy, but a good sale on meat, might wipe it out as I restock my deep freeze. But what has grown is my pantry. I could eat from my stored food for three months easily without a trip to the store. I have basic baking supplies, so I could bake our bread with my bread machine, I have powdered milk, and lots of frozen egg beaters (bought on sale with coupons), and vegetables in the garden ( I live where it doesn’t snow so I can garden year round.) So there are very few perishables I would have to buy if I had to live out of my pantry, and in this economy, if I were unemployed long, I might have to. These are the accumulated assets from my coupon saving, and I supposed if I wanted to convert those assets to cash, say to pay for Christmas, I could eat only from my pantry and not purchase any new items for the pantry, and transfer the grocery account funds to the Christmas account.

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22 Amy November 10, 2009 at 11:31 am

What a great question! I have always been passionate about money and saving money. It's something I've been in ingrained with. Now, with coupons, I have been saving more than ever and am watching my account grow. I make very little and my husband's job is commission only, so we have to watch what we spend. We now spend about $60 per month on groveries for the 2 of us, and our cupboards are bursting. A few ideas I practice (they may not work for everyone):

1. I only use my credit card at the grocery store. I am able to keep my money in my checking account longing which earns more interest. I don't take out cash. That way I don't take out more than I need. I might be tempted to spend more if I had a great saving adventure to splurge on the money I had leftover. Also, the credit card I use gives me 2% cash back on grovery purchases. It is not as much now that coupons are slashing my bill, but it sure adds up. I also pay off my card at the end of the month. I don't pay interest, and there is no annual fee to have it. They are basically paying ME to use their card!

2. Automatic transfers: when I first started my job, I was the only breadwinner. My salary was/is pathetic, so every dollar counts. I was trying to pay off schools loans, my mortgage, and budget for food and bills. Everything I made went to our school loans and mortgage. I would rather payoff my school loan than be charged 4.25% interest when I only earned about .6% interest if I out it in the bank. I realized that although I was basically exhausting my resources on paying down my debts, I could still spare $25 per week. That could be saved in just one trip to the store. I set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings weekly. I have $25 go into a DO NOT TOUCH savings and another $25 foing into a travel fund. This helps to save without feeling like you are hurting.

3. Direct Deposit: I have my paycheck deposited directly to my account. It is there first thing in the morning payday. I don't have to go to the bank or wait in line. I am not tempted by "just cashing" it or getting back more than I need/should. It is never late and always available right away. A debit card can get you the cash you need quickly if need some.

4. 10%: I have the ability for my direct deposit to be split up into mutlitple accounts. I have 10% go directly into my DO NOT TOUCH savings. That also builds my stash faster. That way I can have a 6 month stash of money in my savings for a time of crisis.

There are lots of ways to save. Not all ways work for others. Hope these few help. You will never be more free-feeling when you are debt free.

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23 Ann November 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

I used to buy things because they were a good deal (with or without a coupon). We live comfortably, without a budget, so it was never a big deal. I started to see how wasteful it could be, so now I will only use coupons on things I would ordinarily buy anyhow (or can stock up on without the items spoiling). I used to place all coupon savings into a savings account. I think my husband got tired of all the individual transfers - ha ha! So I'll probably tally up coupon savings at the end of the week and transfer that over to a "vacation fund". Or when we have kids, their college fund.

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24 Lisa Rahman November 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

This is a great post! I'm not sure what to do myself. I just know that I have a budget and I stay under it, however, I have noticed since couponing that I get way more for my $75 a week in grocery money.

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25 Amy November 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

I pay for my groceries each month with cash. At the beginning of the month, I take out $300 to feed our family of 5. I buy EVERYTHING grocery related out of that money. The cash stays in a little bank envelope in my purse. At the end of the month, any leftover cash goes in a bag. Every six months or so, I put the remainder in a savings account. The same savings account is where I deposit rebate checks as well.
Since I don't have Walgreens, CVS, Target or Walmart close by... I only have Rite Aid. I just started cashing the Rite Aid check and using those the same way for toiletries, etc.
I also shop alot with my discover card. The money that I get back is saved up throughout the year and cashed out before the holidays, either in the form of a check, or redeeming via gift cards to give as gifts!
I also do mypoints... I save those points up and redeem once or twice a year for gift cards. Since all my kids are in school, I like being able to redeem for a bunch of 5 and 10 dollar gift cards for their teachers at the same time - and have that checked off my list with no money out of pocket!
I love DSM! It has helped me stretch my budget and learn new ways of doing things to save money!

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26 Denise November 10, 2009 at 11:52 am

I don't know if anyone will get down to the 30th comment, but if that's you, congrats! I would have to say that in order for your savings to be concrete, you have to know what you were spending and what you are spending. If you don't know what you were spending before, it's impossible to know if you are actually saving anything. As for me, my grocery budget hasn't gone down, but my food storage is much bigger than it used to be. It a good feeling to know that if I was showed in for a week or, even worse, if my husband was laid off, we could survive without going to the grocery store for a month. (And that length of time is constantly growing!)

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27 Elaine November 10, 2009 at 11:56 am

I started using coupons as soon as my son was born 2 1/2 years ago. I decided to go part time and we wanted to live off just my husband's income. Before I went pt, that was only a third of our income. Now, my income goes into savings/retirement/college savings/vacation fund. We are very fortunate that we can do this since we are a small family. Most of our groceries each week are bought through sales and coupons. I only buy clothes off the clearance rack or with a coupon (or sometimes both!). I was worried that our standard of living wouldn't be the same, but it has actually improved because we do a lot of the bargain hunting as a family. I also subscribe to 5 different blogs to get a variety of discounts, but this one is my favorite!

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28 Ruth Ann November 10, 2009 at 11:57 am

I don't really keep track of my savings. For me it would be difficult as I tend to buy things mostly when I can get a great deal and then use things based on what I have on hand.
So, to figure out the real savings I would have to be able to figure out what I would be using instead of whatever it is that I use that I got a great deal on. And, then, I would have to figure out the best price I would be willing to pay for the default items. For things like toothpaste, razors, hair care and the like, that would be very difficult for me, as I haven't actually paid for any of these items in years (thank you Walgreens). Similarly, for food items, if I didn't get a great deal on Wheat Thins, would I eat the generic or a different type of cracker or forgo crackers all together? It's hard for me to say.
While I've thought about this fairly regularly, trying to determine if I'm really saving money if I'm buying items I normally wouldn't buy without coupon/sales (usually the answer is yes. Free pizza rolls for an occasional weekend lunch are cheaper than a cheap can of soup or leftovers that can be eaten for dinner that night or even a sandwich.). But I haven't taken the time to actually figure out how much I'm saving. That said, it does make me smile when I look at the grocery store receipt and see a savings percentage greater than 65%. And anytime I can get over 90%, especially if a sales clerk comments on it, I have to refrain from doing a little dance on my way out the door.

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29 Dizzy Mommy November 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I noticed alot of people talking about how if its a good deal but they don't normally buy it question. For me its a simple one I live in what has been called the worst economy in the country in history (Detroit). Its had a huge effect on us.
I'm not brand loyal... thats number one on my book... My family eats lots of different things and I have the knack of creating a recipe on the spot. I can look at the carnation evaporated milk for free last week at Kroger and go... oh I can use that in my coffee instead of Coffemate. My kids thank god are not picky and will eat literally any cereal that comes into the house. My dog is the same way with her food... I haven't bought dog food in nearly 6 months... I also have no issues buying things I know I will need later early. For instance I had my 4th child in July... by May I was stocked up on diapers.... and formula... now I'm on to baby foods and baby cereals. I honestly besides the hospital bills, clothing, and major things... when it comes down to it haven't paid for diapers or food for my newest. I also have no issues saying well instead of cookies the kids can take yogurt this week to school...
Now that being said things are extremely tight for us... right now we are hanging onto our home like so many around us by threads. This site and others like it have become my saving grace... literally. My family doesn't get food stamps (partially because I look and go why help with food when I can get it dirt cheap, no offense to those that get them)... but also my eldest two are adopted... the way it works here in Michigan is because of the types of adoptions they where the state still can go after child support from there biological mother... and we cannot deal with that kind of stress around here (crazy women plain crazy). Anyhow... I do though put all the rebate checks... into an account for christmas... If its somepalce like RiteAid I put whatever was out of pocket back into regular checking... however anything extra (moneymakers) go straight into the savings account... same thing with Target giftcards after I'm done rolling them on a deal they go into my lock box till Christmas or a birthday....

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30 Dizzy Mommy November 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Also it makes me feel good to be able to get my teenage daughter something nice like Bath and Body Works or John Frieda, or Covergirl makeup, or this week herbal essences at Rite Aid. Her face when she comes home and sees her stuff on her bed is worth all the time I spend couponing... This is important stuff where we live... we are the odd family in the big neighborhood who are the only ones who didnt tear down the cottage to build a house so it helps her to fit in.

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31 Patty November 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm

My husband thinks my penny pinching ways are a little crazy, though sometimes I see him smile when he realizes I just saved us some money. As a newlywed, we have yet to formulate a monthly budget (a task we will do as soon as we unload his condo in this terrible market); but we try to watch how we spend. I wish I discovered this site years ago instead of months ago, as it would have helped me tremendously! I use a rewards credit card to make most purchases but I religiously pay my balance in full every month. My coupon savings is now going towards replenishing all the $$$ that was spent in our January wedding. (we got married at Disney World) Considering its only two of us, we don't shop on the same scale as most large families, but every little bit helps build back what we had saved up. A hobby of mine is sweepstakes, so that has helped too. I'm saving up my swagbucks, setting aside various wins of gift cards, rebate checks and my ebates check so we can use it on our holiday gift for ourselves this year...a Wii!

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32 Nancy November 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Hi Tara,
Great question, I'm asked that often at work and this is how I explain how I save:

I look at the receipt and see how much I saved and I transfer that into my savings account. I've selected a savings account that is not easily accessible to me and I do not have an ATM card to get to it.

It is not a savings if you do not put the money you would have spent in savings. The key is to put something back into savings that you saved even if it is $1.00 or $50.00 something is better than nothing.

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33 Chelle November 10, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I've been thinking about this a lot myself. My family is hoping to go to Disney World in Feb/Mar 2011 so I am thinking about helping us save for it by actually SAVING my savings. I can't do this with everything because if I buy the kids $500 worth of clothes on clearance for the next year for $75, it's because I don't actually HAVE the $500 to spend. But I am thinking that my New Year's Resolution is going to be to open a separate savings account and each time I go GROCERY SHOPPING, whatever that receipt says as far as "You saved" I am going to challenge myself to put that amount into the savings account. I don't think it will pay for our trip, that's for sure. But it just might cover our travel expenses back and forth, or our spending money while we are there, or the new camera I "need" before we go!

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34 Kris November 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I'm fortunate to be one of those who doesn't have to coupon, but does because it's a great way to save. My husband and in-laws kept making fun of me for couponing. So January of last year I start to keep track of everything I saved by using a coupon. I saved over $1000. I told my husband we should open up a savings account and put the money I save by using coupons into that, but he didn't want to. This year I have already saved a little over $1800. He still doesn't want to put it into a different savings accounts. So while I'm not one of those who is moving the extra money around, I have noticed an increase in what is left in our checking account each month after bills are paid. It's worked out well that recently I wrote a check for over $1000 for him to put into another account that we use for vacations and house stuff (it's with a different bank so I can't easily transfer the money to it or I would). When I handed him the check, he was confused. Didn't know where the extra money came from. I said "It's a large chunk of what I saved by using coupons and it was just sitting in our checking account". That felt good. Since he still isn't interested in me putting the money saved in a different account each month, I think what I'm going to start doing is just paying extra on our mortgage. Whatever I saved in coupons that month, if it's not needed for something else I'm going to add that amount to our mortgage payment. We are lucky that we don't have any debt other than a mortgage, so it makes sense to pay extra and work on paying it off sooner than 30 years.

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35 Bridget November 10, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I have been able to cut down my grocery bill drastically since I started using coupons. I usually scan all the ads at the beginning of the week and figure out what the good deals are.

We keep a grocery list on the fridge, so I also look at that and consult the coupon database to see if there is a coupon for that item. I always compare prices though when I shop, don't just buy the name brand because it has a coupon....I haven't moved the money I save into a separate account exactly, I just increased the amount of money that my hubby and I put into our savings automatically 2x a month.

Another way to save is that I have my printer set to ALWAYS print in grayscale vs color. If I have something that needs color, I change it for that one thing then put it back for everything else.

My oldest son (8yrs old) is very interested in what I save at the store. He always wants to know what the cost is before and after coupons!

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36 Katie November 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I would LOVE to set up a separate account just for all of my savings that I find through this website, but unfortunately thats just realistic for me. Honestly, I need every penny I can get so my 'savings' from products just goes right to other bills and necessities! Ugh!

But I do really appreciate your site and all of your hard work putting it together for us. I can't even tell you how much you've helped me w/ Chrismtas shopping and finding gifts for my daughter that I may not have splurged on otherwise! :)

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37 Melody November 10, 2009 at 1:18 pm

With my husband losing his job in January, and my own business suffering in this economy...couponing and bargain shopping is a NECESSITY to live. We were spending anywhere from $100.00 to $150.00 a week on groceries. NOW...I've learned to stockpile by shopping the sale ads and combining that with coupons so I NEVER pay full price for anything. Now...between my trips to Meijer, Walgreens, and Target I might spend anywhere from $40.00-70.00 a week depending on the sales and what we need. What we're not spending on groceries/household items now we are able to apply to other debt or put in savings for emergencies, Christmas, medical, etc.

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38 amy November 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I have rearranged my budget now that I know how much I typically spend each month since using coupons. Before coupons, my grocery budget was 420 a month (100 a week plus a few days) but since coupons, I spend no more than 180 dollars a month, and the rest of that budget goes now goes directly into our savings account so we really are saving up the money for when we need it.

Also, I count the money OUT OF POCKET each time I go as part of the 180. That way, when I receive a register reward at Walgreens or a rebate, that all goes direct into savings as well.

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39 sluggy November 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I have "saved" over $23K buying Food/Toiletries, using sales and coupons. I have actually banked over $18K of that $23K in a separate interest-baring account. What happened to the other $7+K?
It paid for the new roof on the house last month...in Cash!

I would suggest, especially if you have a spouse who doesn't believe the savings you can realize from shopping smarter, that you take the amount you saved and park it somewhere separate from your usual bank account or wherever you keep your usual money. Spending it on other necessities is fine too but being able to "see" a separate pile of money before spending it on needs is thrilling! ;-)

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40 Amy November 10, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I have to agree with what Sluggy said....
If your spouse is not "supportive" of another bank account that is seperate... open one for yourself! Rainy days occur far too often to even the best of people! At some point - you are either really going to wish that you set the money aside, or know that you CAN actually purchase that certain item that you REALLY need or as a much deserved treat!
I consider cutting the grocery budget as part of my job. I am a WAHM (work at home mom!)... and while I may only bring in a hundred dollars a month doing surveys, mystery shops, etc... I consider the money I saved as my part of the family income. Watching sales, budgeting, couponing, etc IS a job!

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41 katie b November 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Although I am a CPA, I strugle with sticking to a budget like everyone else. We have a tight grocery budget and I have to stick to a certain spending amount every week. I am a stay at home mom now with 2 babies in diapers and my husband's employer does not allow overtime this year.

What we save goes to paying regular bills. After that we use it for buying clothes, eating out, and other non-essientials. We do not have credit card debt or car loans, so I am thankful for that.

Reviewing your budget on a monthly basis and doing a budget/actual expense comparison with my husband keeps me accountable for what I am spendng.

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42 Celeste November 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Not that this is a useful answer to anyone, but I just coupon so that we get through each month. I am finishing a Ph.D., husband is finishing a Masters Degree and we have 2 kids and part time income and we're making it on that income based on coupons and our financial aid scholarships. I recently spoke to my classmates without kids--because they have big expenses coming up they are trying to budget only $300 for food for two people each month. I feed four on $100 and we have a stockpile of at least 1 month worth of food even if I quit shopping.

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43 christina m November 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm

right now, we coupon out of necessity to survive. we are on one income- i stay at home with the kids during the day and am in nursing school at night. once i am done with school, my plan is to keep couponing and take the money i saved at the end of the receipt and put it into 2 accounts for my kids college. i will also use that money for one awesome family vacation, because i want to make some great memories with them!!

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44 Ellie November 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for sharing, everybody.
We're currently at a point where we can't save, but I will always keep an eye out for Target gift cards and rebates to save for Christmas gifts. What a help!

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45 Amanda November 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

When I started couponing, I kept my food budget the same, but now I am able to buy so much more for that money! I can splurge on some organic products, wine once in a while, and hosting a meal for friends. Also, I am starting to purchase some products we don't use just to give to local charities.

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46 MommyPaine November 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm

i just started "couponing" recently and although I'm saving money on things I already buy...I actually think I've spent more the last 2 months. But on the other hand - I now I have a nice stash of less than 0.50 or free toothpaste/deodorant/shampoo/ soap/etc where as before I paid full price but only when I actually ran out. So I will save in the long run I guess. For me the bargain hunt is more of a game than a necessity. I am very blessed that way. Thank you Tara for your website and everyone else for sharing the deals.

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47 Maria Campbell November 10, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I pay for all my bills with a credit card that gives you points plus any out of pocket I have to pay while couponing. When the bill comes, I pay the whole thing off and bank the points. Several times a year, I use the points to get gift cards which I use to purchase my clothes when the company I like has a sale with free shipping. I save using coupons and make my bills pay for my clothes.

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48 Kat November 10, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Excellent question!
Basically, we have a budget for food/health and beauty. At the end of each month, anything left in that budget gets transferred over in to a savings account, which is our "rainy day" fund. We're nowhere near the recommended 6-8 months of emergency cash, but the growth has certainly been faster now that I'm couponing!
I've also noticed that it's easier for us to donate to charity. I may not be purchasing items for my pantry, but I know that I want to help the food bank and my church. Coupons have really helped to increase the amount of canned goods, non-perishable food items, and health and beauty items that I can donate this year! (I mean, it's hard to beat 20 cent cans of Campbell's chicken and noodle soup, or 30 cent cans of Hormel chili!)

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49 nida November 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm

we are pretty tight due to only having one income plus numerous debt payments (that actually equal hubbys 2 week paycheck yikes!) so we dont get to save anything, but thank god for couponing that we can afford to get so much food and other toiletries and items, on less then a $300 per month groceries budget for two of us, but this also provides for my mother in law, brother in law and occasionally the needy....

i track everything in an excel sheet so i can see how much we are spending and where... its all set up with formulas etc, so i just enter whatever i paid from receipt totals, and most of them have coupons tendered amount too.. just plug n play!

hopefully when i have a job, our plan is to stick to the same budget, and use my extra income to pay off the debt faster and save some money for rainy days....

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50 Mary Beth November 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm

To Bridget - Thanks for the idea of printing in grayscale!

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