Sunday, 11 March 2012

Call me Coupon Crazy

I mentioned briefly last month that in the new year a friend and I decided to take up couponing to save a few dollars on our grocery bills.  It all started innocently enough, as we had visions of saving a couple of bucks here and there and maybe stretching our grocery budgets to a few more cartons of ice cream, or choice cuts of meat. 

Then we got sucked in. 

 My girlfriend and I are now avid couponers.  We prowl the Internet for reports of coupons to print or request by mail, and scour local flyers for great sale prices to match up with our coupons.  We take our coupon binders (coupons placed in baseball card holders, and organised into a few categories) with us anytime we shop.  We have also branched out into price matching in order to get even greater savings. (Some stores in the area will match any competitor's advertised sales price ... this means you don't have to hop around to multiple stores to get the best sales in a week ... plus the product is usually in stock at the store that doesn't have it on sale!) Finding a good deal that can save me money has become ridiculously addictive.  It's like a weekly scavenger hunt through grocery store flyers and clearance sections, and the rewards are the savings you find on your grocery receipts.

A page from my coupon binder.

On average, I'm saving between $30 and $40 per week in coupons alone.  Paired with the price matched sale prices, I'm paying about 1/3 what someone would if they were to pay full price for most items on my shopping list.  My overall expenditure per month hasn't yet gone down, as I've been stocking up on products we will use in future.  But over the past 2 months I've stayed within our regular monthly grocery budgets but bought a lot of extra food and household items now stored in our pantry. For instance, I have enough paper towels to last a year or two, and about 2 or 3 months worth of breakfast cereal.  I expect my monthly bills to begin dropping by next month, as I now have several categories of items which we don't need to buy for a few months to a year. 

Some of my best deals so far have included:
  • free 2L tubs of President's Choice ice cream
  • Free scrubbing bubbles shower cleaner
  • family-sized boxes of Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies cereal for 99 cents each
  • Fibre Plus cereal for $1.99  ... and there were $5 worth of coupons printed inside the box
  • 2 free yoga mats from Kellogg's

    My receipt from a recent shopping trip.
    In blue, the total I paid for my shop:  $65.07
    In red, the total savings from coupons:  $40.04
    Many items were price matched, for further savings
    not reflected on the savings calculated on the recipt.

    Couponing in Canada is not quite as extreme as it can be in the US (you may have seen the TLC show Extreme Couponing), but a little bit of effort can still get you some free products, and great deals on many grocery items by matching up coupons and sale prices.

    If you're interested in knowing more about couponing and price matching,  I recommend you visit and check out the "How to coupon" button or and look for the "start here" tab.  These sites explain all the basics of couponing in Canada, post links to new coupons and deals daily, and also offer weekly lists of the best sale prices and coupon match ups for the major Canadian grocery chains, saving you a lot of work.

    If you want to see a serious couponer in action, keep your eyes open next time you're at Walmart or the grocery store:  you'll recognise us by the binders perched in our carts and the sale flyers clutched in our fists.

    Friday, 9 March 2012

    Florida Vacation

    We celebrated Family Day last month by heading south to Orlando, Florida for 10 days. My parents came with us on the vacation, and we rented a 4 bedroom house in the community of Davenport, just Southwest of Orlando.  The house was bright and airy, and featured a heated outdoor pool (which we had requested) and a games room with pool table, Foosball and air hockey (a pleasant surprise). 

    We did not visit any of the Disney attractions on this trip.  Instead, we purchased a package that gave us unlimited entries during our stay to Seaworld, Aquatica (Seaworld's waterpark) and Busch Gardens.  I had expected our visits to the parks would be short-ish, as the kids would wear out and we'd need to return home, but as it turned out both kids had amazing lasting power, especially Chloe -- on the days we were out she made do with short naps in the Ergo, and sometimes also in the car on the way to or from our destination. 

    Jeff talked me into going on my very first adult-sized roller coaster on this trip, complete with an upside-down loop.  I was pretty apprehensive, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and will probably try some others in future.  He did also talk onto another ride a few days later that was actually far more terrifying.  The photo that the ride automatically snaps was hilarious ... Jeff is laughing his head off, enjoying the ride and right next to him my expression is absolutely horrified ... you'd think someone was torturing me to death!  I think our only regret from the trip is that we didn't pay the $20 extortion fee to bring home a copy of the picture.

    Other highlights of the trip included:

    • Touching the sting rays at SeaWorld
    • My dad's eyes sparkling as he played with my girls
    • Walking through the nature reserve at Circle B Bar Ranch and seeing many birds really close up, as well as two small alligators. 
    • My Mom's whoops of laughter as she rode down the kiddy water slide with Maya
    • The soft coo of delight Chloe made on the Merry go Round every time her horse started it's downward motion
    • Maya's delight at rescuing a lizard that was caught between the screen and the windowpane of her bedroom window (this was her favourite part of the trip)

    We enjoyed Orlando, and will likely return again in future, but we did notice that beyond the theme park attractions (of which there are many) and the outlet malls, there was not a lot else to do.  Another time we'd consider splitting our stay between a week in Orlando to visit theme parks, and a week in another part of Florida, maybe on the ocean, or close to some historic attractions such as the fort in St. Augustine.

    Before we'd even landed back in Ottawa (where, alas, we arrived to an icy winter snowstorm) Maya was already scheming ways to convince us to return next winter.  I have to admit, I may not need much convincing. 

    A few photos from our trip ...

    Chloe and Maya playing at the "beach" at Aquatica

    Grandpa and Chloe

    Maya and Daddy pausing in their search for
    alligators at Circle B Bar Ranch Preserve

    Jeff and Maya visited the Space Centre at Cape Canaveral

    Grandma pointing out alligator footprints to Maya

    Mommy and Chloe watch the dolphins at SeaWorld