Habit # 4 – Only Buy What You Will Use
Part of The 5 Highly Effective Habits of Practical Couponers Series
Keep an open mind about new products and brands
Habit # 4 – Only buy what you will use or donate. It’s really important to understand that you should be willing to try new brands and products because it makes good couponing sense. But trying to convince yourself to love a product you hate is an entirely different story. Remember my mishap with Pantene haircare products? Click here to read it again.
When I first started out learning to coupon my family used Purex laundry detergent. I found that it was the cheapest of all brands that would do the job of cleaning my clothes, not irritate my skin and was budget friendly. I later learned that there were so many more Tide, Gain, ALL and Snuggle coupons that regularly came out in the papers. I started to notice a regular pattern in the monthly P&G inserts.
I realized that using coupons to buy Tide made it the same price as Purex. After using a coupon to get it for $1.94, I saw that it lasted twice as long as the larger bottle of Purex because it was ultra concentrated. My clothes were cleaner and smelled better longer with the Tide detergent.
If I hadn’t been willing to try a new brand then I would have been paying as much or more for a sub-par brand of detergent. The same is true for many products so I highly recommend you try them out and do some comparisons of your own. You will find that you may be able to purchase name brand products you never thought to use before because they will cheaper than your store brands after coupons and sales.
This will occur more in your first year of couponing than in the subsequent years that follow. The reason is because most of us start out needing to still continue to buy this month’s supplies and enough to stockpile for a few months.
Once your stockpile is established you will most likely email products and brands for samples rather than buying whatever is on sale or cheaper with coupons.
Write to your favorite companies and brands to request samples and coupons
Companies and brands are interested in what you have to say about their products. They also reward you for your time and try their best to fulfill your requests for samples.
I use spreadsheets and lists to request coupons and products from my favorite companies and brands because I want an endless stream of coupons, freebies and samples to flood my mailbox every week.
The coupons you receive from the manufacturer will usually not expire for at least 4 months or longer You also might notice that they will be at a much higher value than most coupons we find in our newspaper inserts or internet printables. This will usually make for free items when you use the coupon for the product or in some cases, a really nice moneymaker.
I recently requested coupons from Tena brand products and they sent me two high value coupons for incontinence pads and underwear. The coupon value exceeded the store purchase price.
The store I shopped at allows for overage towards your final total but no cashback. So I used the overage to purchase generic store brand Acetaminophen that I needed. I could have easily used this overage on anything in my cart with a few exceptions.
You cannot use overage on coupons for prescription medications, alcohol, tobacco and gas purchases or store credit. Carefully read your store’s coupon policy and double check with a manager in case there are other exceptions not mentioned.
I will donate the Tena brand products to a local charitable organization when my husband does his regular “freshness rotation.” I talk about the “freshness rotation” in a bit so don’t worry, it will make sense!
To read my post on the Tena products so you can request your free samples and coupons then click here.
I wrote an entire post about using my spreadsheets and lists to write to companies and brands. To read the post, click here. I also included a few killer deals I did with the coupons they sent me so be sure and check out the diapers and wipes deals in the post.
To help with those deals, I used my sales cycles spreadsheets. Click here to read all about it and click here to read even more if you just can’t get enough! Trust me, you should read it all and see how much I really do overshare and help you save money!
Buying items you won’t use is a waste of good resources
It will take up precious room in your stockpile and it will cause you to hesitate every time you use the product. What do I mean? Every single time I had to use that damn Pantene shampoo and conditioner meant another moment of wishing it was Suave instead. It’s kind of like eating vegetables and fruits and wishing it was chocolate cake or a crispy chicken wing. It just isn’t the same!
It also meant that I didn’t have any room for Suave unless I was willing to get rid of the Pantene first. And since I actually paid for the Pantene, it made it hard for me to let it go. I wanted to really give it a good try and see if I could get myself to like it. Or at the very least, use it all up as fast as possible so I could get the Suave I wanted. Oh the struggle that ensued in my mind for months about this silly little product!
If you think this sounds crazy, just wait until you find yourself doing the same thing. Couponers get into a sort of “frugal mentality” especially when first starting out. They want to save money on everything, in every way and they justify their purchases, like I did with the Pantene. It was a super painful lesson to learn, so be wise and learn from my own experience.
There is an old saying that is considered wisdom to learn from the mistakes of others rather than learning from your own same experience! Be wise and take my advice!
The only way I can truly describe the feeling I had when I finally caved in and donated my Pantene is to compare it to being constipated for months. Just imagine it, everything is backed up, stopped up and clogged up. The one day, flood gates open and it cannot be held back and there is total relief with the purge!
I was never so happy to load up all 30+ bottles of that stuff and give it away to a local shelter. I am sure those women loved every bit of that good smelling clean Pantene!
Holding on to that wrong mindset cost me my peace of mind and made me miserable for months on end. Yes, yes, I do realize that this sounds overly dramatic but since I am a writer, I have to keep you engaged and interested, right?
It was such an awesome feeling of relief to know that I could finally fill up my own shelves with the free-with-coupons Suave haircare that I truly love and move on from that old Pantene that was a pain my A**!!
You will usually always use the products you love before you use the products you hate. You think you won’t care when it comes down to it, after all, it was all cheap or free and you’re just so glad you saved some big money. But you will find over time, especially when you have a nice stockpile going, that you will always choose your favorite products before you use the stuff you aren’t crazy about.
I bought numerous disposable razors that were free or nearly free from various drug stores so I have an ample supply stocked up now. But I HATE these razors because they only have the 3 blades instead of 4 or 5. They also don’t have the bendable swivel head that will get around my knees and ankles without cutting me to pieces. So I always use up my favorite Venus or Schick Hydro replaceable razors up first.
Maybe you aren’t quite as picky as I am about razors, haircare or laundry detergent but you will inevitably find something that you will not want to give up for the sake of frugality. Maybe it’s make-up brands, clothing, purses, whatever it is, you will want your preferred brand every single time.
Donate items you won’t use at least every six months to make room in your stockpile
I will openly admit that I am the world’s worst packrat. It drives my poor husband crazy and when I am not looking, he will no doubt toss out something that I’ve forgotten about months ago. He’s also really good at helping me not “hold on” to everything and moving product off my stockpile shelves.
He cleans out our garage and donates our gently used household items to Goodwill. Our coupon stockpile also happens to be housed in the garage so he happily “rearranges” and does what he calls a “freshness rotation.” He works at our local H-E-B grocery chain, which is a huge perk for me, and he applies some of his same work habits at home.
He will go through each and every item and check all of the expiration dates, push the products that will expire the soonest to the front of the pile and will toss out anything out of date. He will also rearrange items to maximize shelf space and check to be sure nothing is damaged or ruined.
He keeps one dedicated box for donation and will ask me to place items in the box that I won’t use or have not used in the past six months to donate. I will always donate my moneymaker items first. These are items that I do not regularly use but I did purchase them because they paid for my grocery items.
This year so far, I have purchased Bayer Aspirin and TENA brand incontinence products because they were moneymakers. So those will get donated on his next “freshness rotation.”
Please keep in mind that I am not a shelf clearing couponer. I pre-order items that I purchase in multiples if they are available and if they are not available then I only purchase a few and leave some for people who really do need the items.
I will also donate feminine products, razors, any OTC medications that I won’t be using and canned proteins like tuna or chicken. These are items that don’t come through the local shelters often so I try to donate those as much as possible.
I recommend that you rotate your stock every three to six months. Be sure and check your expiration dates when purchasing items to stockpile.
My rule is to check dates every time I shop. I didn’t do this when I first began to stockpile and I had to throw out so many OTC medication items because I wasn’t diligent in checking the dates when pulling the products off the shelves.
I try really hard now to avoid buying products just because it’s free after coupons if it’s a product I won’t use or need. Yeah, yeah, I realize this doesn’t make much sense, but hear me out. I bought a blood glucose monitor from CVS once because it was free after ExtraCare bucks promotions.
Now I am not diabetic, I don’t know of anyone who is and I have no need for blood glucose monitors. But I could get one for free because it was $9.99 and I would get $9.99 in ExtraCare bucks back if I bought it. So I did the deal, got my $9.99 in ECBs and I now have a blood glucose monitor I won’t use. Yes – I know – donate those items in your “freshness rotation!”
That stupid thing sat on my stockpile shelf for six months and I felt bad every time I saw it. I kept imagining that maybe some needy person out there didn’t get their free monitor because the store ran out of stock and I had a perfectly good one, sitting right here, collecting dust and being useless instead of helping that particular someone read their blood sugar levels.
And I think perhaps that $9.99 in ECBs that they would have received would have been enough to buy some test strips so they could save money. But that won’t happen now since I thought it was a good idea to get it “just because it was free.” They now have to pay full retail value and fork over some serious cash to buy supplies they NEED while I have absolutely no use for it at all. Do you see the guilt this freebie induced all over me???
So again, I prefer my own peace of mind, so I leave those free items alone and let people who really do need them purchase them. Yes – I do realize that there will be couponers that will still buy it, but at least I know that I won’t be imagining that same scenario in my mind over and over again!
It is illegal to sell your stockpile items or any items you purchased with coupons
I want to touch on this point because this is THE #1 question that I get asked ALL-THE-TIME! YES – It is illegal to sell your stockpile items or any items you purchased with coupons. I wrote an entire post about this subject.
Find your system that works for you. Use good judgment and don’t be hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Learn from them, be better next time and enjoy the process.
Just keep in mind, that overall, the goal is to save your family money using coupons while improving your processes over time. The longer you coupon, the more you save in the end.
This is Habit # 4 of The 5 Highly Effective Habits of Practical Couponers. Next week’s post will be Habit # 5 – Learn to Rely on Yourself More. See why you should not blindly follow coupon blogs and learn to spot your own money saving deals. It’s easy to rely on blogs entirely but you end up missing so many deals when you do.
Don’t want to miss the upcoming habits and hacks of my Practical Couponing for Busy People Methods Series? Want to see the latest Money Saving Coupon Recipes?
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