- "Staying consistent with my couponing and other saving strategies have allowed me to regularly put money towards my retirement accounts and paying off my remaining debt," writes Shaquana Watson-Harkness.
- "Being able to comparison shop those deals before I get to the stores helps me figure out how to best apply my budget to maximize my overall savings."
- "Every week, I sit down and analyze my expenses to see where I might be over or under-spending in a given category."
The last couple of years have been financially complex for so many of us. But despite this period of uncertainty, I didn't want to put my major money goals — like growing my net worth, and working toward achieving financial independence in 2022, which to me means becoming debt-free for the first time as an adult — on the back burner.
Thanks to a combination of good fortune and good choices, I haven't had to delay my goals. I am on track to eliminate my car loan in the next month, and I am looking at starting the home buying process in the last quarter of 2022.
One of the ways I have been able to prioritize these objectives is by being creative with my budget when it comes to essentials like groceries. In 2017, I set a monthly grocery budget of $500 a month, which I was able to maintain thanks to a combination of digital and print coupons, store rewards, specials, and other deal hacks.
With the pandemic and amid rising costs and inflation, I've had to make some adjustments, including upping that grocery budget from $500 to $700 a month.
Still, staying consistent with my couponing and other saving strategies have allowed me to regularly put money towards my retirement accounts and paying off my remaining debt. These tips have helped me keep costs down on my essentials and prioritize my biggest long-term goals.
A couple of resources that have been invaluable over the last few years are two websites, The Krazy Coupon Lady and For the Mommas. I'm a fan of the For the Mommas site because you can find circulars for most grocery chains and local stores, as well as upcoming coupons from major coupon distributors like Red Plum and Smart Source.
The site has a coupon database where you can find current coupons on a variety of items.
I'm also able to see sales and deals coming up at major retailers like Target. Being able to comparison shop those deals before I get to the stores helps me figure out how to best apply my budget to maximize my overall savings.
I recommend downloading the apps for stores that you frequent, because they will often have digital coupons and rewards for loyal customers.
On a recent trip to CVS, before I started shopping, I hit up the rewards kiosk and downloaded all the coupons available that day.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
I just needed Tylenol and toothpaste, but thanks to a combination of a $6 off a $30 purchase coupon, a $2 off a $10 purchase of my toothpaste coupon, $1 off Tylenol, and an additional $10 reward, I only paid $10, when the total retail value of my purchases was $61.93.
This was an 84% savings, and now I have a small stockpile of toothpaste and pain reliever that will last three to four months. That's $50 I can put toward a bigger goal that I wouldn't have had otherwise.
I'm a frequent user of Target's app and its Target Circle Offers, which provides their customer digital coupons and rewards from the store. These can include specific manufacturer coupons from companies like Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive or Kellogg's, which can be another layer of savings.
You can often find manufacturer coupons in your Sunday newspaper if you subscribe to one, or websites like the aptly named Sunday Coupon, which lets you subscribe and purchase coupons on a weekly basis. That's something that I do when I sit down and plan my shopping for the week.
We all have our favorite items and products that we use every day and are always running out of. Inevitably, at the point I need to replenish my supply, it is very often marked up.
So what I do instead is time it so I can buy in bulk, but do it strategically so I am always getting the lowest price.
Video by Tala Hadavi
I am also not buying so much that I have no room to put anything else.
For example, recently, my local grocery store had a sale that reduced my favorite Nivea lotion from $6.99 to $2.99. They also had a digital coupon for $2.00 up to four items per transaction. So I purchased four lotions on a particular day, and then went back two additional times to purchase eight more. I got 76% percent savings, and I won't need to restock for another six months.
During this time, I found that in order to keep up with inflation, I had to increase my grocery and essentials budget by $200. In order to do that, I found that I could take the needed additional $200 out of my dining out and auto maintenance budget.
Every week, I sit down and analyze my expenses to see where I might be over or under-spending in a given category, and then allocate any needed funds elsewhere, whether it's my grocery budget, or my retirement savings.
Ultimately, these strategies have helped me keep a few more dollars in my bank account and helped me make sure that my longer term financial goals are still my top priority.
Shaquana Watson-Harkness is a wealth literacy expert and personal finance contributor who has been featured within Grow, CNBC Make It, KYW News Radio, TheGrio and Black Enterprise. She is the founder of Dollars Makes Cents and her goal is to help professional millennial women achieve financial independence by shifting their mindset towards wealth building. Stay connected with her on her personal finance blog, Instagram, or Facebook for more personal finance tips and resources.
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