Every Wednesday and Friday night, courtesy of my free bi-weekly local newspaper, I get a huge wad of junk mail dropped on my doorstep – KAAaaadunk!! I’m talking local newspapers, flyers, direct mail.
That’s probably a sound that makes most cringe. But it’s a sound I’ve learned to love. A 3-lb. newspaper (yes I’ve even weighed them), jam-packed with pizza flyers, electronics flyers and every kind of flyer announcing new deals for the upcoming week, newspaper coupons, home-mailers and other goodies. Now, why would anyone want to throw all this away?
I remember delivering pizza flyers as a kid when I worked at the local pizzeria and seeing those NO JUNK MAIL signs scribbled on people’s mailboxes. No, I didn’t stuff their mailboxes and no, I wasn’t mad at them. In fact, quite the opposite – I felt guilty handing them out to everyone else. Did everyone hate it that much?
I get the environmental reasons and that it’s visual clutter, but beyond that, I think most just couldn’t be bothered sifting through seemingly endless amounts of paper to find the hidden treasures amongst their junk mail and end up throwing it all out.
But they’re missing out
What they don’t realize, is if you know where to start, there’s money to be saved – from grocery deals and baby deals to manufacturer and dining coupons. Just take a few minutes, once a week, to organize the goods.
Here’s what I do. Try this:
Divide and conquer. Before you even look at them, separate them. Separate the flyers from the newspaper. If you don’t read the newspaper, recycle it.
Separate your flyers. Make two piles – stores that you frequent and occasionally go to and stores you never go to. Grab the pile from the stores you never go to and throw them out. Don’t think about it. Just do it.
Start with groceries. Armed with your Sharpie, quickly scan the grocery store flyer of the stores you frequent most often, circling all the deals on food items you usually buy. This shouldn’t take you more than 2 minutes per flyer but will help you in developing your meal plan.
Deal with your less frequent flyers. Now take the grocery flyers of the grocery stores you frequent less often. Usually, the front and back pages are all you need. Armed with your Sharpie again, circle all the items that you buy, that are priced cheaper than your top grocery store. This is the flyer you can take to your favourite grocery store to get them to price match.
Deal with the deals. If your paper came with a coupon insert or you found grocery coupons along the way, cut out the ones you use and put them in your wallet, right now. If you don’t carry them with you, how are you expected to remember to bring them along?
Deal with the rest. If you don’t need anything from Home Depot, don’t tempt yourself by looking through a Home Depot flyer! If you have nothing that you’re planning to gift or buy for yourself, toss the rest. Or use them to entertain …
Junk mail’s added benefit
Now I must admit, most of what I do get IS junk – deals that I would never use, and flyers to places I never shop. But let me tell you, as a father of a 1-year old, it’s got me through a lot of dinners. Sometimes my daughter won’t eat. It’s not that she’s not hungry, because if you offer her any treats, she’ll be all over it. But she sometimes gets bored sitting in a chair eating. Who could blame her? Sometimes, she just needs a little distraction. So instead of plopping her in front of the TV or in front of a pile of junk food, I opt for the junk mail instead, and as soon as I fork the flyer over or any piece of direct mail for that matter, she’s got her mouth wide open. Well, not always, IT DOES have to be interesting material. For anyone who’s a parent of a 1 or 2-year old, remember to save ones with balloons, bubbles, apples and puppies – those always seem to be a hit.
We’ve also used junk mail to temporarily contain our fruit/veggie scraps when slicing and dicing them, in place of paper towels; also useful when painting, so it’s not dripping on your floors or door handles; useful for wrapping up shipments and a host of other thrifty uses I’m sure you can think of, or find on the web. But if you’re serious about saving, you’ll take the few minutes to sift through your “junk” mail. You never know what treasures are lurking in your “trash”.
Happy Saving! And if you enjoyed this post or others, subscribe to Thrifty Dad by email, and I’ll make sure not to send you any junk.