Coupon Mom Olympics

I started couponing about eight years ago. My first job out of college paid practically nothing and using coupons provided a way to stretch my budget. Almost everything I learned about coupons back then came from, so I was excited to have the opportunity to shop in her Coupon Mom Olympics last week.

Six shoppers were given $50 to buy as many groceries as possible for a local charity in less than 30 minutes. I’m by no means an extreme couponer, but I was hoping years of coupon knowledge would help me take home the gold, silver or bronze ($500, $250, $100 Kroger gift cards respectively). My training consisted of asking friends and co-workers for coupons and creating a spreadsheet with my shopping strategy. I was feeling confident until I saw two of my competitors come in with bags and binders full of more coupons than I have used in the past calendar year. And became completely intimidated when they said they got them from going dumpster diving each week.

Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a coupon champion, but it was fun to pretend that I was on an episode of Supermarket Sweep. After realizing that we could do more than one transaction at the register (something I ordinarily have no patience for), I figured out a last minute deal and only spent about $37. I should have thrown more items into my cart to use up the $50 budget – oh well. While waiting for the rest of the contestants to check out, I sat with another shopper and my shopping assistant (by the way, having a shopping assistant was fantastic) in rocking chairs that were for sale in the middle of the paper goods aisle of the Kroger. They have surprisingly comfortable chairs for a grocery store.

About an hour later the results were announced. I came in 5th place with under $200 in groceries. The gold medal shopper, Ashley, stretched her $50 budget to $700 in groceries for North Fulton Community Charities. Together, all of the shoppers purchased nearly $2,000 in groceries to provide hunger relief in our community. A reporter was there to capture the action for the local news, if you want to see the Coupon Olympics for yourself.


Thanksgiving and Black Friday are almost here, so it’s time to start thinking about ways to make it through the holidays without overspending.  Here are six things I do to maintain my budget during the most wonderful (and expensive) time of the year:

Make a Reasonable Budget
I’ve been making a Christmas shopping budget each year since I was ten.  It started with a list of family members I wanted to buy gifts for, but has now expanded to include all of the events that surround the holidays.  Presents for gift exchanges, hostess gifts, dinners with friends, holiday light tours and the list goes on.  Determine a realistic amount for your holiday spending and begin to make a budget.

Prioritize Your Money and Time
Once you have a number in mind, think about the people who you would like to buy gifts for and the events you would like to attend.  Sometimes saying “no” to an invitation or restraining yourself from spending on the perfect (but way out of your budget) gift can feel painful, but your sanity and finances will thank you for prioritizing what’s important to you.  After you have settled on whom you will buy for and the social events you will go to, set a dollar amount to spend for each gift and party.

Pay with Cash
While I don’t normally use the “envelope system,” I find it a really helpful tool during the holidays.  With your budget as a guide, take out the amount of cash you’ll need for gifts and use that predetermined amount instead of a credit card.  Using an envelope of cash labeled “mom,” for instance, makes me more focused on buying her gift and helps me avoid impulse buys. [click to continue…]


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Kroger Cart Buster Game

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