Ask Madame Deals

I received this letter:

Hey my name is Rhonda i am a sahm of 4. My husband is the only one working in this family so we have a very tight budget. I have been trying to coupon for awhile now but just find i am wasting my time and money. i follow you and alot of others on facebook, twitter, youtube trying to learn how to do this. This is my problem we cant live off of house hold products, personnal care products, etc. We life in south louisiana and they dont have anywheres that double their coupons. Being I do most of my shopping with 4 kids i cant haul the kids to several different stores so i go to just walmart. I get walmart to pm everything that i find on sale at my other stores. I am having a really hard time with this. I get the things that are on sale and that i have coupons for but then i still have to get all the other items we need. So i end up spending more. I spend hours on the computer every week looking up deals, searching different stores for deals, getting a list together just to go to the store and cant get over half cuz walmart is either cheaper or the store brand is cheaper. So if i dont really need it i dont get it. I try to find coupons for everything we use but i cant always find them. i write the manufactor but they dont all send coupons. When i do find something cheaper and i have a  coupon i try to stock up. the problem is i buy this items and then i still have to get everything else we need for two weeks. We live like 30 min away from the nearest store and we dont have the money to just run to town everyday to get deals so i have to try an buy once a week or every two weeks. Ever month i give away or throw away tons of coupons cuz i cant use them. i stopped buy all the news papers cuz they seem to have the same ones over and over an they are things we dont use. I am hoping you can help me. I have tried writing to other couponing ladies and noone will write back. I know you are busy but if someone doesnt help me i am giving up on this. I spend anywheres from 250-300 a week on groceries and i need to learn to cut back. Please help.
I am a mom to three children. I understand your concerns and frustration. I am not an extreme couponer nor do I play one on the web. This is how I have cut my budget to $125 for our five person family.
1) Take Inventory. You need to write down what you have in the house. Then you need to write down what your family eats each week.
2) Make a MENU!!
I take out this cookbook with $5 meals.
MEAL plan

I use a lot of her recipes. The ones we love I highlight.  I cook ahead so make double and freeze half. If you plan your meals you can buy your meat in quantity and ingredients in quantity. That saves time and money. We do a lot of meal remakes.

3) Determine your 10 items. The ten items you buy each week and work on couponing for them.We buy a lot of yogurt and cereal.

a) That means determine what their “rock bottom” prices are. If you have to have soda then a 12 pack is usually around $2.25 at its lowest. When it is at this price buy 2 because the normal price is around $4.50

b) Buy items when they are in season

c) Stockpile. This is my formula if cheerios are $3.99 and you can buy boxes at $1.00 then buy 4. If your family will eat them. If not then buy what your family will eat.

4) Stick to your list. I give myself $10 of “fun” money so each person gets a $2 treat… The kids are so good they usually decide they are going to add their money together to get a bunch of stuff.

5) Do not buy three  or two or one of anything to save $.50 unless you need them.

6) If the store brand is cheaper than what you can buy with a coupon then buy the store brand. I buy a lot of store brands on things we do not care about. I mean oatmeal is oatmeal.

7) You need to bring a calculator to the store unless you are me and can do consumer math in your head. You need to figure out cost per ounce. If it is cheaper to buy the larger size do so. If using a coupon on two gets the same volume for less do that. READ packages box sizes are deceiving.

8) Get your healthcare items for free when possible that adds to the money you have to spend in your budget.

9) Organize a coupon swap box at a library or a coupon train where you share coupons.  I actually have just the inserts sent to me it is cheaper than buying the paper. We receive the wallstreet journal so I do not need the paper for anything other than coupons.

10) Know the coupon cycles and store cycles and watch to see when your ten items go one sale.

The final tip is relax. I always think it would be great if I could spend less but I have to factor in time. It takes time and money to run all over the place. It takes time to cut out 1 million coupons. I would rather spend my time with my family so I spend enough time to stay in budget and the rest of my time is spent enjoying my life.

I would also suggest you have a goal each week and stick to it. I have to coupon shop. I took all the extra money I was spending and I signed up for my kids prepaid college funds. The money leaves my account each month so I have to make sure it is in there.


If you have questions send them to [email protected] subject: Ask Madame Deals

I will answer them each week. I love learning with you and from you! Amee

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  1. says

    This is great advice! I have a hard time with the 10 items because we eat so many different things. I’m going to invest in the $5 dinners cookbook and maybe that will help. Best of luck to you Rhonda, and don’t give up, it takes time and a lot of patience. If I can save 50% on the things I need and use, I’m pretty happy.

  2. Kelly J Hubbard says

    Don’t give up. Couponing does save money, I can go shopping on 50 a week and get everything. The other thing I do is look for clearance meats..

  3. sharyn MacMahan says

    I feel like i have been on both ends of this. I have 50 tubes of toothpaste, that i paid minimal for but we dont have food. I also know this is great advice and if you hang in there you can really make a big difference for your family.

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