31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Everyone Should Use Coupons

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

I’m going to make a bold statement: I believe everyone should use coupons.

There. I said it.

Wait. I take my statement back. If you are one of the .0002 people in America who have never touched food unless it was grown in your own yard, you make toothpaste out of tree bark and use cloth toilet paper, then I’ll exempt you.

But the rest of you? You’re non-exempt.

And I know some of you are making excuses right now and explaining why you’re the exception to my rule. Well, give me a chance to address your excuses and see if I can’t change your mind just a tiny little bit.

Excuse #1: I Don’t Eat Processed Food

Newsflash: Coupons are not just for junk food.

In fact, there are often coupons available for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, flour, baking soda, toothbrushes, razors, toilet paper, and light bulbs.

Like I said earlier, unless you literally grow all your own food, make all your household products from scratch, and you use cloth instead of disposable for all paper products, there are likely at least 10-15 items you routinely buy which you could get for much less if you used coupons.

In addition, once you become adept at using coupons, you will usually regularly happen upon deals which give you overage. Even if your family doesn’t use the item which gives overage, you could buy it to donate and then use the overage to purchase items your family does use.

Excuse #2: I Tried Using Coupons and Didn’t Save Any Money

If you buy your Sunday paper, clip all the coupons and then use them all on your next shopping trip, you’re not going to save any money. Instead, you’d probably end up buying  a lot of over-priced items you won’t use or wouldn’t normally buy and end up spending a considerable amount more than you save.

That’s not how to use coupons.

Using coupons wisely requires strategy and patience. In most cases, it involves waiting until an item is at its rock-bottom price and then pairing it with a coupon (and perhaps even a catalina deal!) so that you get it for pennies on the dollar–or even more than free!

Excuse #3: I Don’t Have Time to Use Coupons

Life is busy and there are constantly a hundred demands pulling us in different directions. The thought of adding in something extra like clipping coupons might be overwhelming–but it doesn’t have to be.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

One of my favorite ways to evaluate whether a money-saving idea or technique is worth my time is to evaluate it in terms of an hourly wage. For instance, if it saves our family $30-$50 and requires an hour’s worth of work, it is totally worth my time.

Coupons are worth my time because when I put in an hour’s worth of time, I’m usually saving $40-$75 for doing so. That sounds like a pretty good hourly wage to me!

Yes, it takes a bit of time to learn the ropes. Don’t expect that you’ll go out tomorrow and save 90% off your grocery bill if you’ve never used a coupon in your life.

However, it doesn’t have to take hours of your week. In fact, I think that you can see significant savings by committing to spend an extra hour each week to checking the sales fliers, making a menu plan and grocery list, clipping coupons, and mapping out your shopping route.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing tips and techniques for obtaining, organizing and using coupons effectively to make the most of your time and maximize your savings. Slowly implement the ideas I share, find out what works best for you and reap the rewards of money saved!

Do you think everyone should use coupons in some way, shape or form? Why or why not?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

FOR MORE COUPONS, search our comprehensive Coupon Database for manufacturer coupons, printable coupons, eCoupons, and more!

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. Rhonda says

    Yes! Use coupons–NO MATTER WHAT! I used all the reasons (excuses) above until I took a class in January. I can’t believe I didn’t use coupons before. I could have done so much with the extra money I am saving. I have two young kids that require a lot of my time but I still take time to clip coupons and view GREAT blogs like this one.

    Thank you for all the valuable information you provide.

    USE COUPONS!!!!!!

  2. says

    Those who can be disciplined to use coupons only for things they need should use them. For example, if you don’t use air fresheners then an air freshener for a quarter is NOT a wise use of a coupon for your family. You just wasted a quarter and cluttered your cabinet (unless you are going to donate the air freshener and bought it with that purpose in mind.)

    • says

      @Reesa, I couldn’t agree more! I have found myself on occasion buying items I would never have bought before I was couponing just because it was a good deal. That isn’t saving me money! It’s costing me money! I’m really working on that. Sometimes I just caught up in all the hype. However, I can still save lots of money on things that I actually do use. It takes a lot more self-discipline than people think.

  3. Rachael says

    I printed a lot of coupons off of coupons.com, and all the stores around here dont take online coupons anymore. They told me the companies were not paying for the coupon:( , but non to fear, I get to have all my mother-in-laws coupons without buying a paper now! I do use things like cloth diapers, and cloth napkins, and I do grow my own veggies and cook from scratch……In 5 month I have saved over $700.00 alone by using cloth diapers!!

  4. Joyce says

    I have only be using coupons for about two months now. I’ve used them off and on before, but never used them in the ways I’ve recently learned. For every dollar I’ve spent, I’ve saved a dollar. And, I know there’s more out there. We share our items with my mother and have been able to buy our grandchildren items I wouldn’t have purchased before. Anything I’ve received for free, that we don’t need, will go to either a woman’s shelter or a food bank. The local economy is helped by us using these coupons as the stores get paid back from the manufacturers. Lot of work – yes – but worth it!

  5. Paige says

    I actually don’t think everyone should use coupons. I’m not saying that they aren’t great, but they really don’t work for us. I do use coupons that I come across for things we would actually use. We don’t get a newspaper at all and we don’t have a printer. We wouldn’t read the newspaper and don’t want to add the cost to our budget. We shop at Walmart and have found that many times, the Walmart brand, which we really like, is cheaper than using a coupon on a name brand. I live in a small town without many grocery options.

    • amy says

      @Paige, I completely agree with you. I have found the same thing to be true. I only clip coupons from online sources when that is the actual product that I use. But most of what I have in my pantry is generic walmart brand. I haven’t bought lightbulbs in 2 years (switched to the new ones and still have 5 from our electric coop giveaway). I use coupons for toilet paper, paper towels, diapers and wipes. We don’t eat a lot of processed foods, so its hard to see a lot of savings.

      • Melissa says

        @amy, I think this was exactly what Crystal said– use coupons for items you are going to buy anyway. If you buy food at a co-op, then use coupons for toothpaste or shampoo or dog food or whatever else your family needs. Oh, and I recently got lots of free flour for my scratch cooking by using a Gold Medal coupon– it does happen!

      • says

        @amy, You might want to read this post about “processed foods” and how you can use coupons to lower other areas of your budget.

    • Bethany says

      @Paige,
      I only shop at Walmart as well. Yes, for the most part, Walmart’s prices are cheaper than other stores even after a coupon, but that’s all the more reason to use a coupon at Walmart!
      I don’t get the paper or have a printer, either. But I use the printer at my husband’s work once a week or so to print coupons. Plus, I get TONS of coupons in the mail for signing for things here and there on the internet, and that’s helped a lot.
      P.S. I don’t know if all Walmarts are doing this now, but mine price-matches. I just have to bring in a flyer for another store. Walmart is usually more expensive on milk and cheese than the other stores in town. So, I love this. :)

      • Andrea says

        @Bethany,
        Walmart’s corporate policy, across the board, is to price match, and accept printable coupons. No matter what. The price matching gets a bit sketchy as to what they will and won’t match, but they do match 75% of what you see in a grocery ad.

        I do have to agree with Crystal though – even in a small town (we have one grocery store in town here, and the next town over, there’s a Super Walmart, and two grocery stores), the grocery store is a much better deal with coupons. And their quality surpasses that of Walmart’s – I absolutely HATE Walmart’s produce. Blech.

    • says

      @Paige, Paige, I agree with you. I think coupons are great for the people who choose to use them, but my husband thinks its rarely worth it and so we dont coupon.

      I hate having newspapers lie around my house and I avoid all grocery stores like the plague. We are very Anti Wal-Mart, so we only shop at Costco and the farmers market, where we split produce with our friends. our FM in Raleigh has a bulk produce warehouse, so we go and get all of our produce for between 40 and 50 cents a pound for things we LOVE and eat a ton of. When you can get strawberries at 50 cents a pound, I don’t know why I would go elsewhere.

      Costco (has its own coupons that come in the mail- the only ones I use if i choose to use them) has the best price on milk and cheeses which we use a lot of, and I only cook from scratch. The only things in my pantry are Rice, Dried beans, potatoes, spices, chicken bullion and pasta. We don’t eat a ton of meat, and with menu planning, simple recipes, and buying whats on our menu for the week we easily come in under our budget of 100 dollars** a month, and quite regularly. We also eat at my parents house a couple of times a month.

      **Toothpaste and laundry detergent and the like go in a household items budget which is separate from food.

  6. says

    Yes and no. If you shop at traditional grocery stores, then definitely. I don’t buy much processed food, but I frequently come across coupons for toiletries, dairy, produce (Kroger is really good about issuing produce coupons for their store), pet food, OTC medications…but that said, our local farmers’ market (where we buy all of our meat, poultry, eggs, honey, and in-season produce) doesn’t take coupons, and I’m sure there are people who shop primarily at farmers’ markets and stores where coupons aren’t accepted (for example, there are no coupons for the organic bulk bins at our local health food store!).

    But overall, I think coupons are a great way to save, even if it’s just a few bucks off each grocery trip.

  7. Leigh Ann says

    When you write about people not having time to use coupons, please please please include the option to save the dated inserts instead of clipping every single coupon. I just love the dated insert method! I keep my printed coupons with me, in a canceled check organizer. I only clip coupons ahead of time for items that I think I might find on clearance like toiletries, make-up, etc. You hardly ever find frozen veggies on clearance, so I don’t see the need to carry those coupons around. It is just so much easier to clip only what I need to pair with the sales each week. I am a full time working mother and I still find the time to use coupons! If I can do it, I dare someone else to tell me they don’t have the time :)

    • says

      @Leigh Ann, I use the whole insert method, too, for the most part. It’s really helped me a lot. It literally takes me two minutes to file the inserts when they come in the mail or paper. So I feel like I’m always caught up, and it’s so easy to find what I need.

    • Emily says

      @Leigh Ann, I too am a full time working mother of 2 young kids, and I have the time to coupon too. I use a combination of clipping and the whole insert filing system (which I am SO thankful I discovered from great blogs like this since I never would have thought of it on my own). I briefly go through each insert before I file it in my file folder, and if there is anything I see that I KNOW I’ll use if I find a great sale or if it is a product we use all the time (diapers, yogurt, etc), I’ll clip it and put it in my small coupon folder that I keep in my purse. Otherwise, I wait until the coupon matchups come out on my favorite blogs, and I clip as I need. It works out great for me, cause I hate to miss a good deal if I see one and I know I have a coupon for it – at home. So I clip the ones I absolutely know I’d use, and leave the others for a great deal that I might see posted. I totally agree with you, it can be done, even for busy work outside of the home moms with small children, if one wants it to be a priority.

  8. says

    Thank you for this post! I was talking to a friend the other day who is currently a stay at home wife expecting her first child. Her husband was trying to encourage her to use coupons, but she just didn’t want to make the effort. I was totally blown away! I feel like my job in my one income family is to save as much money as I can on the things we do buy. If someone handed me $30 (which is what I saved on my last shopping trip using coupons), I would never turn it down, so why would I not be willing to spend a TINY bit of time to get the same amount back!? Makes no sense to me!

    • Jen says

      @Just Add Lauren, Thanks for the insert idea. I am what equals a single working mother of two (husband is out of town M-F. Time is off the essence. I think this will work better for me

  9. says

    I’ve saved thousands in the last year+ with coupons. However I’ve also wasted quite a bit on things we probably didn’t need and things that then went to waste. It was a learning experience for me in part. I’ve pulled back a bit and really try hard to only use the coupons for things we need, we will use, or that I can donate or sell at a garage sale (if they’re free). I was also able to donate a LOT of things to our women’s shelter at Christmas, which was wonderful.

    The last three or four trips to Walmart, I’ve saved at least $40-$50 using coupons and price matches, without spending more than an hour getting my coupons/ads together. Definitely worth it!

  10. Lele says

    Even people who are particular about what they eat can still use them on drug store items. One thing I love about major couponing is that I am able to get so many items for our church’s food pantry/shelter for pennies. toothpaste, hair color, shampoo, razors etc.

  11. says

    You mentioned the hourly wage of using coupons. Keep in mind that the hourly wage you make is equivalent to a job’s hourly rate after taxes. So if you do coupons for an hour and save $30, that is like working at a job making $40-$45 per hour. It is definitely worth it!

  12. Karen says

    The ‘what is my time worth’ question is valid and inspiring. Once I started using coupons I cut my grocery bill by about 40% in about 3 months. Now I am cutting it down by about 60% of what I used to spend. I started meal planning about a month ago (which I.DID.NOT.WANT.TO.DO) and holding myself accountable with a cash budget; my family and I have realized and amazing time and money saver.

    But back to the what is my time worth question… with the money I am saving in groceries and mindless spending at the grocery store I now splurge on a cleaning lady once a month. For $50 someone else scrubs my cooktop, toilets and kids bathroom sink (I have 4 kids, trust me, it gets gross).
    I would rather sit on my couch, watch baseball and clip and sort coupons for an hour a week and earn that trade off! I don’t know what Dave Ramsey would say about the $50, but it’s budgeted and I figure I earn it! :)
    Plus the thrill at the cash register and walking out with a cart full of groceries for pennies on the dollar is a total rush!

    • WilliamB says

      @Karen, sounds like a win all around. You don’t have to do something you really don’t like, you have more time to do things you prefer, and someone else earns a living.

    • Emily says

      @Karen, I’ve been toying with the same idea, especially now that I returned to work after having my second child. I learned to coupon when I was home full time after he was born, but since returning to work, I have continued with my bargain shopping even though I really don’t NEED to. I just can’t and won’t ever go back to paying full price for groceries, with the exception of a FEW select items. I figure with my extra income, we probably could afford to get help with the cleaning.

  13. Ann B says

    If you use toothpaste, you might as well get it for free. Most of my toothpaste I have gotten for free this past year thanks to coupons and ECB match ups at CVS.
    So, yes I think everyone should use coupons. As long as you have access to coupons and stores that accept them, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t.
    And I don’t buy things just because I have the coupon. For example: If I have a coupon for canned veggies, I compare what is cheaper. The name brand with the coupon or the store brand. If you wait for the right sale, the name brand will likely be less expensive and then you stockpile while it is cheap.

    • Julie says

      @Ann B, I would love to save money on toothpaste but choose to use a more natural one, like Toms of Maine or the Trader Joe’s brand. Neither of which I ever see coupons for. And really, our dentist recommend my husband and I use Toms of Maine, as it’s one of the few without silica, which was ruining the enamel on our teeth. I would love to be able to save money on toothpaste and wish the main brands with coupons would quit putting so many chemicals into their products. Same goes with makeup and lotions. I choose to use ones without certain ingredients and that are cruelty free. It’s very hard to find these at a bargain price. I still try, but have had minimal success.

      Would love to hear if anyone else has found success with that.

      • says

        Tom of Maines has coupons out all. the time. Check your local health food store, if you have one. I see piles of them sitting around at ours.

    • anoo says

      @Ann B,

      I totally agree with you. Most name brands work out cheaper with coupons than in-store brands. Tracking sales, buying what one needs, using coupons when the product is at the lowest price, stockpiling(mine is a small one), meal planning and monthly budgeting go together. We don’t eat too many processed foods and most grocery stores like Meijer and Kroger have reduced rates on produce that is getting close to the expiry. I end up getting healthy foods for cheap. At the end of the day, i don’t see how much i save. I ONLY see how much i spent. That helps me stay within my budget. ‘Saving money’ is just a by-product of Couponing! It happens on its own.

  14. says

    My 14 yr old son is always amazed at how much I save with coupons that he has said on more than one occasion “Mom, you will have to teach my future wife how you do it!” I hope she can save us money like you do!

    With the internet is easier than ever to truly save with coupons!

      • Katy says

        @amy, I agree, it’s good for us to teach the “future men” how to utilize coupons and sales, too! I’m so tired of hearing my guy friends say, “Wow, I wish you’d teach my wife to do that.” I always tell them, “Uh, buddy, you’re smart enough to figure this out…It’s not just a woman thing!” There’s still a stigma, though, so it’s high time we taught our sons to do this!

    • Kim T says

      @Donna, I have been couponing for several years now and have watched, but grandson since he has been 8 months old. He is now 5 yearsold and helps me cut out coupons. We shop all the time together and he helps me find the deals and remembers the coupons we clipped. I am trying to teach him the value of a dollar. He gets it and I hope it stays with him forever.

  15. Kathi says

    I started couponing many years ago because I WANTED a daily newspaper and thought it was a bit of an extravagance for a single person. I justified it by getting at least the cost of that month’s newspaper in coupons. I have become a better couponer and get a newspaper from a larger city now + we are now a family of 4 and we get MUCH more than the cost of the newspaper back in coupons.

    I think the poster who said she gets better prices at Walmart may be right IF she lives in area where they a) have only a small newspaper, b) won’t take internet coupons c) have no store that doubles at least up to .50 off coupons AND d) none of the good drug stores!

    Otherwise couponing is worthwhile.

    • Bethany says

      @Kathi, In my town, there are two stores: Walmart and VG’s. VG’s is an awesome grocery store, but their prices are very inflated. They double coupons up to a dollar, and it’s still cheaper to shop at Walmart. So, I think couponing really does have a lot to do with where you live. I’m just grateful that Walmart accepts manufacturer’s coupons on the name brand stuff, cause they definitely are cheaper than most stores.

  16. says

    I shop at Meijer and Kroger which double coupons up to 99 cents, and I do the “drugstore game” at CVS and Walgreens. Using coupons equals “money makers” on many things I”d need anyway. For items we don’t use, I give them to my parents or donate them to a domestic violence shelter.

    Last week was a big “money maker” week at Walgreens- I made a profit getting Dulcolax, Dove hair care products and dental floss- all things that we use. I then used those profits on items this week that I needed and to fill in a baby shower gift.

    I don’t spend much time on it- I have a 3yo, I’m 6 1/2 months pregnant and I work full time outside the home. But I still save a TON of money!

    True many coupons are for stuff that I don’t use, but I find enough for things that I do use that make it worthwile for me.

  17. Heather says

    I will use a coupon if it’s REALLY huge, but, for the most part, I don’t shop in stores that take coupons. Between Trader Joes, Costco (I do use their coupons) a bulk foods co-op, a salvage grocery store, and things that I buy either from the farmer’s market or farm-direct, the coupons in the Sunday inserts are not worth the price of the paper. I cook from scratch, and just don’t buy any of the brand-name, packaged, stuff that coupons are for. That said, restaurant.com is a heck of a deal, and I do use the coupons JoAnn fabrics & Hobby Lobby send out. So I guess I do use coupons. Just not the junky ones the paper tends to have.

  18. says

    I do think so, we don’t use a lot of coupons but we do use some. We save a lot of money each week just by using the sales flier and planning our menu. While we don’t use the vast majority of items that coupons are given for, it is worth our while to use the coupons available. We routinely save forty dollars a week. When I was on bed rest for three months ( and THEN had a c-section so I am still couch bound) finding the best grocery deal and making the list and planning our menus was one of the few ways I could contribute and help my husband. It really helped us, since while we were planning for me to stay home- we were also planning for me to work another three months.

  19. Mary Catherine says

    My darling sister Michele turned me on to couponing and your site! At first I was a non believer but now I have to say coupons are worth the time and effort! I live in New York where we do not see nearly as many good deals on food as those of you in the south :( my stores won’t double anything let alone triple. With that said I save A LOT of money on non-food items. My husband is amazed that I have not paid more than 25 cents for razors, shampoo, his “can’t live with out hair product” tooth brushes, tooth paste, etc. in the past two years. I think the hardest part is making sure that I need or will be donating the item that I am buying even if it is free or close to it. At times I get so excited about the “thrill of the find” that I scoop it up without thinking do I really need this? I am getting better!

  20. Helen says

    I do wonder at what point is all of the driving around (gas, mileage, and time) costing more than what you are saving? Especially if you live in a area where stores aren’t close together. It might cost a few pennies more at one store but you don’t have to drive 4 miles to get to another store.

  21. Ana Maria says

    Yes I believe everyone should use coupons. I really wish I knew what I know now back when we first got married almost 7 years ago; we could’ve saved so much money! I am able to get everything we need and even gifts for family that I would normally not be able to afford all thanks to coupons/deals/matchups, you name it, from your site and others that I follow (and this is on one income)! I know for a fact we have already saved close to $1,000 so far this year on all our groceries, toiletries, household items, gifts, even other expenses like restaurants and airline tickets (flying to FL for a wedding and to see family). I shop not only at regular chain grocery stores and drug stores, but also Earth Fare (healthy & organic market & cafe) they accept coupons and even have their own so I like to spread the word any time I can that it’s not just “junk” that you get with coupons! If I can do this while maintaining my house and running after three kids 5 and under on our limited budget anyone can! Thanks for all you do and for the inspiration to not only live better by saving more and giving more but also for being a fellow mom and child of God who also posts about normal everyday stuff like getting rid of the clutter, and wonderful time saving recipes, and working hard to raise our kids during these hard economic times.

  22. Heather says

    I shop mostly like Cate. Even for toiletries, though, coupons are seldom available for the brands we use (we are picky about what ingredients are in such things), and, when they are, it would mean buying at Whole Foods (or similar), rather than the co-op. Totally NOT a savings of money.

  23. says

    Question:

    Does anyone know how to get ahold of newspapers without purchasing them? I was getting a good deal on the Washington Post while living in MD but now that we live in WV I’d have to pay $90/year for a subscription.

    The local paper isn’t much better, unless I buy single papers from the gas station. Is $1.25/paper too much to pay for a set of coupons? I usually purchase 2 newspapers to have 2 copies of the inserts.

    Aside from someone donating their inserts to me (which, good luck finding someone in this economy to release their coupons!!), how else can you get copies of newspapers/coupon inserts? I realize the paper isn’t the only source for coupons, but the enclosed inserts are fairly essential to many of the weekly deals.

    Anyone have any ideas?

      • says

        @Crystal, Looking forward to it!

        This reminds me, when we lived in MD we lived just down the road from the recycle center and I would frequently dig through the piles of papers in the bins to look for inserts! I am a dork. :) Although the bees started keeping me away after a while. I freak out at bees!

        • Andrea says

          @Tara,

          There are people who sell whole inserts on clipping sites. But honestly, 1.25 for a local paper is not horrible at all – I pay $1 a week for our Sunday paper, and that’s a great deal…Sometimes, you can check your local subway, or ask at the library if they just throw the inserts out, they might give them to you!

    • sarah says

      @Tara, I’m on a very strict budget, and I don’t get the newspaper. Once every two weeks, I got to the recycle center and dig through the old newspapers. Tons of people throw away the inserts without even opening them.

    • Carrie says

      @Tara, I’m still fairly new at couponing (about 8 months). At the beginnin of this year, I’m keeping track how much it costs me to coupon (Sunday paper, copy paper and ink – I’m not keeping track of hours), to see whether or not the cost is worth the savings. So far, I’ve spent about $70 and I usually save more than that each week at the grocery store (not even including weekly savings from CVS and WAGS).

  24. says

    YES!! I feel bad for people that are in line in front of me and I see what they buy and then there total bill – WOW!!! I have had comments when I hand over my coupons like “wow, I don’t think I have the time or it is not worth it”, then they see my total drop by $20-$30 and they are in shock!!! I am often mad at myself if I have to pay too much for an item when I know I can get it a lot cheaper!! Yes you have the time, I work full-time and have 2 boys ages 1 & 4 and I make the time!

  25. Angie says

    One more excuse (can’t use it now, but used to be able to) – we live in a town of 500 people…the nearest store that takes coupons is 50 miles away and we rarely go there. I know, there’s still some online coups to use. But it IS very tough when you live in a remote, very rural area. (like kansas, nebraska, south dakota… :) ) I LOVE those states, personally!

    • Alex says

      @Angie,

      I have a similar problem. Although it’s not 50 miles away, our nearest “good” grocery store and drug stores are at least 20 miles away. I try to combine trips to make it work it. For example, my son has a doctor’s appointment on Monday in town, so I’ll make sure to hit the grocery store and CVS or Walgreens while we’re there. I’ll also go to the consignment shop that I like to drop off some items and see if I have anything in my account there. We’ll also probably hit Target, Goodwill etc. If I don’t have a reason to go to town, I just get milk, bread and things like that at our local grocery store. I could do better at Kroger but if that’s the only place I’m going it’s not worth it.

  26. Kim M says

    No I don’t think everyone should use coupons……keep them excuses rolling!!! If everyone used coupons then there’d be less deals/bargins for people that do.

    Those 10 bottles of snuggle that I just sold on craigslist for $3.00 each……..well………..I used coupons and got them all for free……$30 profit plus 10¢ off a gallon of gas.

    Those 10 vials of mascara that I just sold on ebay for $19.99…….well I used coupons and riteaid paid me $15 to take them out of the store. $34.99 profit….(well say $30 after paypal & ebay fees).

  27. Kellie says

    I’ve been actively using coupons for 2 years. Honestly, I rarely use more than $5 in coupons for food a week. I have trimmed about $50/week off our food spending, but that is mostly due to setting a limit ($100/week), strict menu planning and utilizing sales. I have saved on things like toothpase and laundry detergent, but I can’t seem to go to a store and have a pre-coupon total of $52 and only spend $2.93 oop like I see many of you do.

    • says

      @Kellie, That’s still $25o/year in coupon savings (plus what you save for meal planning)!! I can’t seem to get my savings percentage above 15 percent, either. :)

  28. brookeb says

    If you’re like me and you’re not able to use a lot of the coupons that regularly come in the paper (b/c you want organic, or fresh stuff, or just like specific brands), or if you have no interest in spending the time to clip coupons or get a paper, you might want to consider purchasing your coupons. I do this, generally from ebay, and I only buy them for the brands I want. This way I can get 20 detergent coupons, or 10 coupons for the organic milk I use, etc. It seems silly to pay for something that’s intended to save you money, but if you consider that you can get the 20 coupons for $1-2, which can then end up saving you $20-40, it still works out.

    • Alice says

      @brookeb,

      What a great idea! I was just able to get 6 $2 off any 2 Organic Valley coupons which dont expire until the end of July, and I’ll save over $8.50!

  29. says

    Has anyone figured out how to use coupons with just a Albertsons grocery store? Staters? Gluten free here and although I only use coupons on our toiletries and cleaners I would love to know how to cut our grocery bill.

    • says

      @Challice, Watch the sales flyer and stock up on the things you use when they go on sale. Albertsons has great sales sometimes. Try keeping a price book so you know what the rock bottom prices are.

  30. Ida says

    I agree totally with this post. That couponing is so worth it. I used to coupon on and off never fully diving into it, I would by alot of store brands which is ok but now I only buy store brands if it is something I need right away and I don’t have a coupon or with the coupon it isn’t any cheaper.
    We are a family of 7 on one income. I feel so good about couponing because I can afford to get the good stuff. Before we would go with out or use store brands or the cheapest, now I am getting the best for cents or free. I match sales and coupons and stock up on things we use when it is at its cheapest. Right now I need to work on menu planning, I think that will help us further save.

    I have had several cashiers tell me I should shop for them, Wow what a compliment. The one down side I have with couponing I see is making people behind me in line wait, I hate to inconvenience people, I worn them when they get in line behind me that it might take longer, that I have a lot of coupons. Some people have such attitudes towards coupons, they should be happy that I am not on welfare or even if I was on welfare I would be using the money wisely.

    I love the comment about helping our local economy. I can see how this is so very true. I buy things for cents or get things for free that I would not have bought other wise and the stores still get paid keeping local stores open and local jobs. Everyone should do their part, clip a coupon today for something you need or don’t, get it for free or cheap and save a local job.

  31. says

    Like others, I don’t have a printer or get the paper. We don’t want to add the expense (although we could,) yet I still scrounge up coupons wherever/however/whenever I can, and we still make it on a $50/week grocery budget. In theory, I think “everyone” should test it out. That being said, there is an expansive group of impoverished and hungry Americans who for whatever reason simply don’t have the resources that the better majority of us do. How do you account for the underprivileged when you say “everyone” should coupon?

    • says

      @Lisette, Pay it forward and share your knowledge! I recently convinced my mother to spend more time planning her meals based on the flyers and to not use her coupons the same week they are published. She has already seen real savings, which means a lot on her very limited income.

    • says

      Most people have access to the library (to check blogs/sign up for free mailed coupons), scissors (to cut coupons), and access to extra newspapers (I’ll be sharing more ideas there in my next post). So I think pretty much everyone can find a way to use coupons. :)

      • says

        @Crystal, I think “most” is an overstatement. Many rural towns do not have libraries; some libraries still do not have computers. There’s even a large community in Colorado (outside of Denver) whose citizens voted against a tax increase which lead to the closure of their libraries.

        • says

          Some may disagree, but I think most people can find access to the internet–even if it’s not through their local library.

          Nit-picking aside, this article was written to people who read blogs, so I was assuming that they also have access to the internet on a regular basis. :)

      • Catherine says

        @Crystal, How can you get printable coupons when you don’t have a Windows computer? Since my husband switched us to LINUX, I can’t get anymore printable coupons because the coupon printers don’t support LINUX. :(

        • Jessica says

          @Catherine, Convince him to add you a dual boot for this. It would be extremely easy to have a Windows account that you can restart your computer, load windows for a few minutes to print coupons.

          I understand the Linux love, believe me. But if he knows enough to install and maintain Linux, then he can still get your coupon printer functioning.

      • says

        @Crystal,

        I see your point. I am, of course, playing devil’s advocate. “Resources” aren’t always so literal. What about the illiterate? Those who don’t purchase their own groceries due to handicap, illness, age, etc.? Someone who doesn’t have a $.10 to pay for a print out at the library? I wish groceries coupons could end national hunger, but it just isn’t happening!

        • says

          Hmm, I failed to see where I said coupons would end national hunger.

          I don’t think they will, but I think they can sure help a tight budget. :)

        • says

          @Lisette, No, I don’t think they will end national hunger, “The poor you will always have with you …” But those of us who have it in our hearts to share what we have are better able to do so with couponing. I don’t have the time to take a second job, but I can donate $200-$300 in merchandise a month to charity while spending $15 out of pocket, and cut my grocery budget. And no, I’m not donating Chef Boyardee or kiddie cereal.

        • Patti says

          @Lisette, I have been able to use coupons to help end world hunger… I often donate to our local food bank ministry when I find a good deal or free items I won’t need. I also cook for the homeless families (15 people our church sponsors 4 times a year)and guess where the food comes from? You guessed it! I stockpile in my cabinets and freezer until the week I cook and I have food for them without breaking our household budget. I also was able to send $400 to Haiti when the earthquake hit. So believe it or not… couponing does help end hunger.

        • says

          @Lisette,

          Crystal, I know you didn’t say that. : )

          Chris and Patti, I donate tons of stuff that I get for great deals too. I am always glad when I hear others are doing the same. Many of us are people with great resources — a car, a job, a roof over our heads, right? We are blessed in that. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

  32. Whitney says

    Good question. I think in most cases, you should use coupons. Most people have the time and the ability to.

    We’ve recently started buying food from Trader Joe’s and food coops pretty exclusively, for health reasons. That being said, I save a HUGE amount of money on toiletries, gifts, clothing, and just about anything else with coupons. My bathrooms are stocked, my gift closet is full, and my son’s dresser is full thanks to sites like this. I’d say it’s worth it!

  33. Sarah in Alaska says

    #3 has been my problem the last couple months. I seem to be spinning my wheels at the office, and in my church and home responsbilities.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still grabbing those loss leaders and matching the occasional manu coupon, but I rarely could get 80% savings anyway so the extra effort got lost in the time crunch. I’ve also had to revamp my menu to accomodate a wheat free (gluten light) diet, which has totally thrown me for a loop.

    • says

      I definitely think there are times to pull back and just focus on the best deals. I seem to find I coupon in ebbs and flows. Sometimes I hit it really hard because I have extra time; other times, life is really busy so I lay low and just focus on the best deals. We seem to be able to keep a pretty good stock of items on hand and rarely ever pay full price by doing so.

  34. Nicole S says

    Question-what are catalinas? I see them referenced all the time…but the stores in our area don’t do anything with that name….Looking forward to being enlightened :-) From what I’ve read they sound like some kind of register rewards program like at Walgreens.

    • says

      Yes, pretty much the same thing as Register Rewards. I have a post planned with pictures and more details which is going up in the next few weeks since people keep asking this question. :)

  35. says

    I do all my cooking from scratch, so I use very few food coupons. However, I wouldn’t go anywhere without my coupons for meat and dairy, toiletries, and especially diapers. I leave a ton of coupons behind and uncut. I think it is important to find the balance that works for you. But, no matter how you shop/cook, I think that coupons can always make a difference.

  36. says

    Im a huge believer in coupons. After slashing our food budget in half we are eating better than we ever did! It’s all about planning I guess. Luckily I have time while my 2 kids sleep :)

  37. Alex says

    With 2 kids in diapers, using coupons on diapers and wipes alone saves me about $20 a month.

    I think everyone can use some kind of coupons. I know from Kroger they send me coupons for items I buy all the time. I get free Cheerios coupons all the time. I’ve gotten money off of frozen veggies, the produce department, cheese, free cheese and lots of things that aren’t processed. Even if you’re brand loyal, like my husband is about most toilettries, you can check for coupons on those items before you buy them. I can almost always find some for the products he likes by looking around a little.

  38. rachel says

    I use coupons because this week I spent $8.57 for shampoo, detergent, paper towels and many other little things we need. It would have cost $40 retail. I am now stocked for the rest of the year on shampoo, body wash, deodorant, razors etc. Any other good deals that come along can go to charity and my money is free to buy grocery items that I can’t find coupons for. Oh and I too cook all our meals at home and last week I got 25 lbs of Gold Medal flour for $2!! By shopping smart we are on our way to being debt free :)

  39. Christie says

    We live on the East Coast, where groceries tend to be a bit pricier than in the middle of the country. Even so, I was never one for using coupons (I think I used ALL of Crystal’s excuses listed above!) But then a friend shared that she was able to feed her family of 5 for $60 a week- I was floored and took the challenge….we were spending more than double that for the 4 of us! So I started using coupons (our store doubles up to $1) and shopping at CVS- I totally see this as a giant game and I try to improve my score each week…Last week, I was able to purchase $119 in groceries for $51, with coupons printed at the register for 3 free gallons of milk! This completely stocked the pantry and freezer, and doesn’t include the CVS free- with ECB deals… My husband pointed out that already this year, I am more than $1000 under what we had spent last year at this time! If I can do it, so can you!

  40. Catherine says

    Last night I did a kmart-cvs-riteaid couponing trip and spent about $10 for about $70 worth of items. I will admit up front, some of the items I do not plan on using! However, I do have in my budget about $20 a month to spend on items to donate to the local food pantry and our ministry to the stable-hands at a local racetrack. The further I can stretch those $20 the better for those in need in our area. I am considering starting a couponing ministry at our church using your blog and other coupon-matching blogs as a place to start!

    • Carrie says

      @Catherine, I also budget money each week on charity ($5 OOP) and try to stretch it as far as possible. I started keeping track of it at the beginning of February of this year and so far, I’ve donated $480 worth of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and OTC medications while only spending about $50 OOP. I’ve also told the lady at my church who volunteers at the local food pantry and whom takes my donations for me, that we should set up a couponing ministry.

  41. says

    I agree. It gives me great pain to shop without my coupons. Although as a mother of two small ones who works full-time and manages a couple of other family businesses, I do NOT have time to clip all my inserts. I keep my inserts filed by date in a plastic file box (like this: http://bit.ly/9aG637 ) and just clip what I need before I head to the store. I have a separate envelope for coupons printed from the internet, received in the mail, etc. but I find that I browse through that envelope often enough to purge expireds, I *usually* don’t forget what I have.

  42. FlyLadyFan says

    Yes AND No! (It’s fickle Friday.) It really is worth the money when done properly; I tell folks, “IT PAYS LIKE A PART-TIME JOB where I can be totally self-employed.” That’s strong incentive IMO. PLUS it appeals to the now-retired business woman side of me; kind of like crossword puzzles are supposed to keep our minds sharp.

    BUT (and ya’ll knew that was coming), as I try really hard to simplify life (with 4 kids & 3 dogs & 1 hubby). . . couponing can stress me out as (A) I dedicate time clipping, listing, filing, driving, shopping, OR (B) I have gotten behind in (A) but stubbornly refuse to pay retail knowing I can get it for 60% off and eventually the cupboards get “bare’ (a relative term).

    I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES because I need a refresher course on where I can ‘cut the fat’ in both money and time on this Home Economics Inc. venture and gain ‘relaxed efficieny’. Don’t ask for much, do I?

    Crystal, your blog is THE BEST.

    FLF

  43. Maureen says

    There are people out there that could make more money per hour than they could save by using coupons. There are many who have lots of money and little free time, and what little time they have they’d rather do something else. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think that EVERYONE should use coupons.

    I find that most couponers exaggerate their savings. Maybe they do clip a coupon that says “save” $1.00 on 4 cans of soup — maybe they even matched a coupon and a sale, and got a great deal. But maybe store brand is just as good, and only $0.10 more per can than the name-brand, on sale with a coupon. Their savings is really $0.40 instead of $1.00.

    I don’t save anywhere near $40-$60/hour with grocery coupons. I think it might be $10 if I’m lucky. I’ve also found it’s not worth it for me to drive around trying to cherry pick the good deals. More than half the time, the stores are out of stock by the time I get there. Also, while there are coupons for milk, meat and produce, cheese, eggs, etc. they are few and far between. And with frozen veggies, I can usually get the store-brand cheaper than name brand on sale with a coupon.

    I use coupons most frequently for cereal, diapers, paper products and bath items.

    I also use them at clothing stores, office stores, electronic stores, etc. These are the coupons that really are worth my time.

    • says

      I had originally had a section in this post that talked about if you made $500k per year, your time was probably spent better doing something other than clipping coupons. I very much agree with you on that! :) And you’re absolutely right that it is easy to exaggerate savings. Most of us wouldn’t pay the regular price for stuff so it’s hard to say what our *real* savings is. However, I think we’d all agree that a free can of namebrand soup is always cheaper than storebought!

  44. says

    I live in NYC, and a Sunday paper is $4! I’ve tried buying the Times to get coupons, but sometimes it doesn’t have enough to recover my initial investment. Most of the grocery stores here are small and don’t accept printable coupons. I love using coupons when I can get ahold of some that I’d use. Any advice?

  45. Ln says

    Where I live, shopping at Publix (the highest priced store) turns out the be the cheapest every single time when I use coupons on their sales. So I would never say that Wal-Mart is cheaper even when comparing their store brand to the name brand + coupon. However, where I grew up, the town has only one tiny family owned grocery store and the next closest is about 45 minutes away. It does not double coupons at all. Also, there is only one family owned drugstore…no CVS or anything. In a situation like this you’re pretty much stuck. My friends and family will only shop Wal-Mart if they happen to be going there anyway for something else that can’t be found in their small town because it is cheaper than their hometown grocery store even compared to their store’s sales. (whew…that sentence was WAAAAY too long! I probably broke about a 1000 grammar rules) My point is that it really does depend on where you live on whether or not coupons are worth your time. My parents’ grocery store is so overpriced (no competition to keep prices down) and even when they used to use coupons on the lowest prices of the items the savings was not enough for them to justify the time put into it. Thank God I live where I can take advantage of such wonderful deals.

  46. Susan says

    I agree that everyone should use coupons, or at least ATTEMPT to use them – I know it’s not possible to be plan ahead 100% of the time. I have co-workers that turn their nose up to coupons but yet they complain about not having money – I just don’t get it. I have a good friend that won’t use them because she says she is not brand loyal and just buys the store brand…but I am trying to convince her that matching up the coupons with sales is almost always a better deal!

  47. Rae says

    LOL I love this article and how it was written :) . And I agree everyone should use coupons. I realize that not everyone has the time to put hours in for the mind blowing savings but even putting in one hour per week could get you a good deal of savings that would be well worth it.

  48. Cyrisse says

    I agree that using coupons is a great way to save. I would love to do it every time I go to the store but… So many things that I clip coupons for (just in case) we just don’t use. We go to Walmart a lot as well and the Walmart brand is our main money saving way to shop. Rarely I see something that’s on sale and will be cheaper to buy with a coupon than a generic brand.

    Sometimes I’ve bought an item just because I had the coupon and had wanted to try it but it hasn’t been worth it. I personally am yet to see coupons for chicken, ground beef, fruit, vegetables (fresh ones) etc. I love it when I can use coupons and am pleased when I have already “covered” the price of the paper I got the coupon from. I still clip even those “potential candidates” and carry them around but most of the times they just expire and I’ve had to throw those away.

    I admire those who are able to adjust their menus accordingly and actually eat (use) things they have coupons for. I am absolutely amazed and am looking forward to your further tips – perhaps I just don’t know how to eat “coupon wise” :-). I love your site!

    • says

      @Cyrisse, I just printed two Earthbound Farm organic coupons from their site and an Olivia’s Organics (salad) coupon from coupons.com. Veggie coupons are definitely out there.

      Keep reading this blog and you’ll find tips on how to match the sales with coupons to get things a lot cheaper than the generic brands.

  49. jan says

    To use coupons correctly you have to plan your grocery list accordingly and stick to it. Otherwise you’re wasting your time.

    P.S. Cyrisse- I have seen coupons for beef, chicken and salad in my newspaper inserts for a local store.