Here are ten practical ways to make couponing work with small children. Not all these suggestions will work for every family, but I am hoping they will at least get your imagination going!
Bundle your errands. Katy at The Non Consumer Advocate talks a lot about this. Instead of making a special shopping trip, just add a deal stop to the beginning or end of your regularly scheduled errands. If you’re organized it will only add about 15 minutes to your trip.
Stop by the store while your spouse is in the car with the kids. The thing I hate about doing deals with kids is all the in and out of the car. If you’re rollin’ with the family, have your spouse stay in the car with the kids and you run in to do a deal. I can usually complete my transaction in the time it takes my husband to fill up the gas tank.
Make a family trip out of it. If you’re planning to do multiple transactions at one store, have the family chill in the deli/concessions area while you do your deals. My husband sits with the kids in the Fred Meyer food court thingy while I fill the cart then we take turns doing transactions. This is ideal for Catalina trips where you need to roll the cats from one transaction to another.
Errand share with a friend. One morning a week, watch your friend’s kids while she shops and then trade. You can probably do 4-5 deal transactions each without kids and without paying for a babysitter plus your kids will have a blast!
Pay a friend to babysit from your stockpile. Some of you don’t yet have couponing friends. How about “paying” a friend 6 boxes of cereal to watch your kids while you do two hours worth of deals? She doesn’t have to pay $30 to buy 6 boxes of full-priced cereal and you’re only out about $4 plus about 15 minutes of time. It’s a win-win!
Shop while your kids are the happiest. If you must shop with your kids, do it while they are the most perky and obedient. For most kids, this is first thing in the morning. Plan your trip the night before, change everyone’s diapers immediately, hand them a non-sticky breakfast, and get in the car. You can bang out 2-3 stops and still catch the end of Sesame Street.
Take one night a week and shop while your kids are in bed and your husband is watching the Blazers (or the Ducks or the Beavers or UFC). Just make sure he doesn’t feel like you bail the moment the kid’s lights go out. Limit your deals to one night a week and make him feel special the other six. The man wants to hang with you. Ya know what I’m sayin’?
Give your spouse a deal to do en route to work. I often hand my husband a Ziploc with one transaction’s worth of coupons and he will stop by the grocery store while he’s driving for work. The baggie will contain a very clear list of what to buy (sometimes with that portion of the weekly ad attached so he knows what to look for), the coupons and doubles to use, and the exact cash needed to complete the transaction. I have never asked him to do a Walgreens or Rite Aid transaction as there are too many variables. He never asks me to do a special order at Home Depot, so I won’t ask him to do something that requires couponing expertise. But anyone can do a simple grocery store transaction.
Do a McDonald’s deal. This is one of my favorites. Meet a couponing girlfriend at a centrally located PlayLand McDonald’s (like the one next to Albertsons in Happy Valley, Oregon). One of you watches the kids while the other shops at the closest grocery store. Be back in 30 minutes and switch. You can get tons accomplished in a short period of time, all for the price of a $1 sundae. You can also do this at a park during the warmer months.
Consider hiring a babysitter for a few hours every week. I consider it money well spent when I am able to shop kid-free on Thursday mornings. I can do tons of deals in three hours and I enjoy the experience so much more without my darling children! I have three girls from a homeschooling family down the street who rotate through our house. I pay them between $5 and $10 an hour, depending on which girl is here.
Make sure you also check out how I make deal shopping work.
New to couponing? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Couponing here.
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