Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two For A Nickel, Three For A Dime

Laura's Toiletry Party: Always a hit!
I have a very smart daughter (she’s from my husband’s previous marriage; she got her mother’s brains) who is quite accomplished at saving money via couponing and savvy shopping. Whenever our family gets together Laura stages the toiletry party, where she dumps onto the floor a satchel of helpful items like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, aspirin, muscle salves, razors, shaving cream, deodorants and all manner of drugstore stuff, from which we get to choose, and keep, whatever item catches our fancy. It’s big fun. It doesn’t always go smoothly, of course, as occasionally more than one person is interested in a product. Sometimes you have to fight for your favorite dental floss. And sometimes Laura gets stuck taking back less desirable items like, say, four tubes of Bengay.        
There's something for everybody in the toiletry pile
    We all know we don’t need to pack toiletries when visiting Laura’s house. She’s got it all there, somewhere, in her impressive stash of products, purchased for pennies. Sometimes she gets stuff for free, or in her words “they paid me to take this out of the store.”
    Lately there is a new reality show on TV about over-the-top couponers who head into the grocery store armed with looseleaf notebooks full of clipped coupons, stuff six or seven carts full of groceries, and then nervously head to the check-out line where they describe to the camera the terrible, stomach churning agony of hoping and praying their calculations are correct and they really will get $1400 worth of groceries for only $2.49, which, of course, they do. The bargains are stunning, and they maintain tremendous stashes of food in their homes.  Nonetheless, I have to wonder how those women plan to use 108 jars of mustard in this lifetime.
    How do they do it? Laura says the first thing to do is to join the store savings clubs. Get the card. Use it. At CVS, for example, you get extra bucks. And those extra bucks add up, until eventually you’re barely paying for anything. Of course you’ve got to work your way up to the major leagues. You don’t become a super saver over night.
    There are many coupons to be had on line. Laura gets a bunch of hers there. But when I tried to hook up with some of the online coupon sites they wanted information I am unwilling to give. I don’t like junk mail, which you get a lot of when you let people know you’re interested in saving. I asked Laura if she’d found a away around that.
    “No,” she admitted. “It comes with the territory.”
Uh oh . . . No cream or deodorant in the hot tub?
    Laura, who is thin and only mildly interested in food, does not coupon for groceries. She has nothing to teach me about that.  From local smart shoppers I have learned that to save on food you’ve got to go to every store, and make bargain buys at each of them. Last week I really did cut my shopping bill just about in half. But I spent many hours in the stores, and often found that the real bargains were shopped out—like canned black beans. They went on sale at Winn-Dixie on Wednesday and were gone by the time I got there on Thursday. Sometimes I discovered that the coupon deal was actually not as economical as simply buying the store brand. I also found some subtle trickery. In a colorful circular, for example, you might see three quarts of orange juice, tantalizingly posing for an ad which reads: “Orange juice! Buy one, get one free.” Or, in the store, a sign that says “50% OFF - the second item when you buy 2.” Or, “10 for $10” which used to make me think I had to buy ten of the thing to get each one for $1.
    Clearly there is a learning curve to this. It’s hard work, and often frustrating, but it’s fun, too. The old rules about grocery shopping still apply: Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Take a list to the store or you’ll overspend. My rule: don’t take your husband shopping. Men shop with their stomachs, not their brains or their wallets. 
    Publix is where I see people I haven’t seen in months or years. My favorite checkout guy works at Albertson's. Winn-Dixie is near Ross, and I can’t go within a block of Ross without stopping in for a peruse. At Fausto’s you see tourists with sunburns and cameras around their necks, with that crazy, happy vacationer’s sparkle in their eyes.
    Nowhere in Key West do you find double couponing. I’ve checked.
    As for those super shoppers on TV, wherever they are, I’m impressed with their dedication. I’m envious of their huge closets that resemble the bomb shelter stashes of the ‘60’s. But I gotta wonder where in hell they’re gonna find a recipe for mustard soup.

1 comment:

  1. Haa! Rocky will always be everyone's favorite guest at any toiletry party!