1. Courtney says

    I needed this post this week! I am doing well with the drug store game, but struggling to get my food stock pile. We have also let our budget get away from us the past few months & I feel like after taking several big steps forward we have taken 3 back. We are trying to stay positive and get everything back on track. This post helped me to continue to do that!!!

  2. says

    Thank you for this series! I have been couponing for many years now and have been faithfully reading your blog from the beginning and even before MSM. You have been a blessing and an inspiration!

    This series is for the newbie & seasoned couponer alike. Thanks for the continued inspiration!:)

  3. Naomi says

    Crystal, if I may, can I add a little bit to what you’ve said about the drug store game?

    I know that sometimes people want to save a ton of money doing this (the frustrating part), and purchase a whole bunch of stuff for their stockpile, etc, but you can play it small too.

    For example, I don’t really see the need to purchase all kinds of products that I won’t use in the next 3-6 months, which is something I could be doing if I did several transactions at once (I ‘play’ at CVS).

    Normally, I just do 1 or 2 deals on things that I need, and I try to make sure I am rolling over and/or growing my ECB. I don’t shop CVS every single week, but I am making progress and saving money. I have had several transactions where I spent only a fraction of the total (or just paid tax), and I grew my ECB stash.

    I guess what I’m saying is that playing the drugstore game can be what you want it to be, and still be successful. I feel like the general message out there is that you have to do a whole bunch of deals all the time to keep things rolling and keep it successful to be worth it. However, I don’t think you have to spend a ton of time and do it in a big way to make it work for you, because I don’t (spend a lot of time) but I do make it work (and I’m still seeing big savings).

    • RuthS says

      I agree. This week I “only” got 5 candy bars at Walgreens for .47. Not saving $25, but also only took me 10 min or less to plan that trip and 5 to execute it, on my way to the regular grocery store. :) Now if I can just find a CVS with the free razors in stock before my ECBs expire!

    • says

      I definitely agree with you that you should focus on doing what works for you — and that will look different for everyone. I’m so glad you’ve found a happy medium for what works best for you.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. says

    I took your advice to heart about the “3-month trial” a couple of years ago, Crystal, and you are right-on! It does take awhile to learn how to play the game, and sometimes I still get frustrated with mistakes I make. However, over time I’ve had way more successes than failures, and the successes are so much fun! I’ve also learned to relax and only go to the store when the deals are really great or I have a fantastic $ off coupon (or my ECB/RR’s are expiring!). At first I was a bit manic about the whole thing. ;)

    • Laura says

      I second that. I tried the “3-month trial” a couple years ago when my husband lost his job. It was stressful because the mistakes were sometimes expensive (to us, when every penny counted!) but now that I have it down, it is fun to do. Now that I have the hang of it I spend only a couple hours a week couponing/shopping and save about $300/month. I am so thankful I took your challenge!

  5. says

    I agree this post was much needed this week. Crystal you should add mind reader onto your resume because you certainly know your readers. This past weekend I tried so hard with coupons and sales and still feel like I spent way too much money. It was funny because when I was shopping I thought to myself I wish I could just bring you along to show me what I am doing wrong :)

    I know I need to keep trying and I think one of my issues is not setting a block of time to plan. I work full-time and barely have any extra time but just like everything that is important I need to find the time and make it a priority.

    Thanks again!

  6. Mag says

    Hi Crystal,

    I saw this video last night and pretty much stayed up ’til about 3am watching the whole lot and reading some of your blog posts. I’ve been visiting the site mostly for the deal/coupon alerts. (and I read one other blog that posts deals in my area)

    I’ve started couponing at the end of last month just to save a little more each month. My grocery receipts already had about 20% of “savings” on them each week, simply by using the store card and I thought I was doing pretty good. But after I viewed your budget video I was shocked at my spending compared to your budget. On average I spend anywhere between $80 and $100 PER WEEK just for me and my cat. I live in Chicago so the cost of living might be higher (9.75% sales tax), and I mostly buy fresh fruits and veggies plus whatever meat is on sale. This includes household items and personal care but not makeup or face care or eating out. Just what I pay at Jewel/Walgreens/CVS.
    Is it possible to lower the bills and not buy frozen veggies? I would be ecstatic if my weekly grocery spending gets down to $50.

    • says

      Are you buying organic or just fresh? Are you buying primarily what is on sale or just whatever sounds good? Have you looked into other local options (, Farmer’s Markets, bartering with friends who garden, etc.?

      In most cases, there are always ways to save money and lower your grocery bill. I’d suggest starting with my series here and slowly working through it and applying what works in your situation from it:

      By the way, our sales tax is not quite 9.75, but it’s 7.3, so I definitely know what it’s like to have to pay higher sales tax!

      • Mag says

        Just fresh unless the organic is at the same price as the non-organic.
        Mostly what is on sale.
        I’ll give you an example. Here is what I bought this week — and this is while using coupons =(
        Spent a total of ~ $80. Which is usually on the lower end of weekly spending.
        @Jewel Paid 23.95 (plus tax), Preferred Savings were $14.04, and coupon savings were additional $2.5. (All good on meats as they have been on sale 2 for $8 past few weeks so the freezer is stocked up. This can vary from $50-$80 if I buy meats & cat food)
        2 Yellow Squash on sale .99lb, paid .59
        2 Tribe Hummus 3.99 ea, was BOGO, had a $1cpn for each paid 1.99
        10 Betty Crocker Mini Delights 1.99 each, minus $5/10 paid 14.90
        1 pack of Raspberries 3.99 each was on sale for 1.99
        1 pack of Strawberries 3.99 was on sale for $1.99, minus .50 cpn paid $1.49
        1 pack Baby Carrots 1.99, minus .50 preferred saving
        1 Cucumber 1.95 minus .45 preferred sale, paid 1.50
        The mini delights were the big purchase this time, but this lot will last me for probably a month, as I won’t eat more than 2 a week. But on average $10 goes toward some sort of dessert. Usually Weight Watchers Ice Cream.

        >>HOUSEHOLD: (this week I used coupons matched up with ads, so this is unusually very low for me and normally I’d pay a lot more for this number of items. I bought 2 of those items that were 2/$x to save more, and the cleaning products will probably last me for a couple of months (small apt). Most of the time, I buy what I need, when I need it. (I know VERY BAD)
        @CVS paid $17.42 (including tax)
        Schick Hydro Razor – came out free with cpn and ECBs
        Schick Refill – $2.79 after ECB and cpn
        Tuna $3.85 for 5 at .77 ea
        2 Softsrcub for $2 after 2 1.50 cpns
        2 Fiber One Cereal $4.50 after two .75 cpns
        2 Palmolive $1.76, they were only .88 each, but I’ve gotten bigger bottles for .90 before.

        @Walgreens paid 36.53 (including tax) (Used $20.33 in cpns, $11 in RRs( 4RRs are left over, and got $3 cash for a non-printed RR)
        2 auto air freshners came out to 99c each after cpn and RR (one was for my mom)
        2 air refills + Free Warmer $2.51 (warmer came out to -1.49 as I used a BOGO cpn, during a BOGO store deal)
        2 Butterfingers $.39 ea (on sale)
        2 Colgate $.24ea (had 2 cpns for .75 and got 2 RR)
        1 Dial Body Wash $.99 (after $1cpn)
        2 Lysol Toilet $1.99 (after $1cpn)
        3 Nestle Crunch Bars $.78 (after B2GO and .35cpn)
        8 boxes of Puffs tissue $1 ea after RR
        2 Schick shave gels $.99ea after in ad deal and cpns
        2 Scrubbing bubbles on sale $2/$7, paid $5.50 after two .75 coupons
        I was rolling the RRs so the two butterfingers were used as fillers as I couldn’t find anything cheaper, otherwise used Puffs as fillers where I could.

        What am I missing here?

        • Kate says

          Hi Mag,

          I’m single as well and have been working on getting my grocery budget under control too – there are a few things I’ve figured out that work for me, and a few things that jumped out at me reviewing your grocery list. I live in a suburb of NYC so the prices I see are probably not too different than what you pay.

          First, this wasn’t really an average week of shopping for you, this was a stock-up-on-household-supplies week. You spent more than $20 on cleaning supplies and tissues. That stuff should last for months and months in a small apartment, not just a couple weeks. Speaking of cleaning supplies, do you need Softscrub and Lysol, and Scrubbing Bubbles? Could you make do with a bottle of Lysol and a sponge? I used to do a big stock-up shopping trip every few months but found that it is much more budget-friendly to get one or two things at a time. This week I’ll get trash bags, next week I’ll get the laundry detergent, etc. It helps to plan ahead a little but since it’s just me and I don’t go thru that stuff as quickly as a family would, I don’t go crazy.

          Secondly, I think you are overpaying for dessert. I totally understand wanting something sweet every night, but instead of the Mini-Delights, which work out to $1.49 per dessert even on sale, buy a box of brownie mix for $1, which should be easy enough to find on sale and you could do better with a coupon, and make a batch yourself. If you get 8 servings out of that box, it works out to maybe $.025 per dessert when you include the eggs and oil. Same with ice cream. Weight Watchers products are very expensive, but you can probably get 2 half-gallons of a different namebrand for $5. If you go thru one half-gallon a week, that’s $.36 per serving. You can have a gigantic, yummy brownie sundae every night for half of what you’re paying for those four bites of Warm Delight.

          Speaking for myself, I do much better with the grocery shopping when I have a menu for the week – nothing crazy, just an idea of what I want to cook and when. I like to cook a full family-sized recipe of something or other maybe twice a week, and then I have leftovers for lunches and/or dinners, and supplement it with a meal or two of grilled meat and veggies or whatever.

          Don’t knock frozen veggies either – I prefer fresh from a local farm stand in the summer, but most other times of the year I go with frozen, and I always have a good stockpile in my freezer. Nutritionally they’re nearly as good as fresh (and I think moreso in the winter, since they were frozen when they were fresh, as opposed to “fresh” veggies out of season, which were likely picked 2 weeks ago and shipped here from the far side of the world), and it’s easier for a single person to have a good variety of frozen on hand.

          Hope that helps a bit.

          • Mag says

            Thank you both Kate and Crystal for your responses.

            It’s funny because every single item I purchased was on sale, so I thought it was a good price =/. I started a spreadsheet with often bought items to figure out the low price points. At this moment I’m completely clueless as to what the bottom price is, and I’ve already searched all over the web trying to find some pricing lists with no luck. The blogs said these were good sales and I had coupons, so I went for it, lol
            I have a couple of store choices in my area, Jewel, Dominicks, Target, Walgreens and CVS. Costco is a little bit of a drive, and I used to go with my mom to split stuff, but a lot of food always gets spoiled since I can’t eat it fast enough. Walmart is pretty far from me and inconvenient to get to, I’ve never been to one my whole life. At $4/gallon for gas not even sure if it would be worth it. =)

        • says

          I think you acknowledged what your biggest downfall is: buying what you need when you need it instead of buying ahead when the items are on their lowest sale prices. Many of the items you listed can easily be gotten for half that price or less when they are at their rock-bottom price. Wait for the sale, make-do with what you have (or can get on sale) and then stock up when the sale comes on enough to last you until the next sale (3-6 months’ worth, if possible).

          For instance, instead of paying $4.50 for Fiber One cereal, I’d buy a canister of oatmeal and make oatmeal or until I could get a good deal on cereal ($1 per box or less is my target price. If you have CVS and Walgreens, you should definitely be able to hit that at least every few months). Yes, it might not be as yummy and it takes a little bit more time, but it will save you quite a bit of money. You could also make up a batch of pancakes or waffles on the weekends and then freeze them to use in the mornings. Or, there are a dozen other possibilities.

          The same is true for cleaners. You can get an all-purpose cleaner (Spic & Span was $0.47 with the coupons from at Walmart just recently) and use it for everything in your bathroom. So long as it’s disinfecting, you can pretty much use it on everything and it saves a lot of money plus it’s so much easier to only have to have one cleaner versus five different kinds.

          Start thinking outside the box, be creative and then stock up when you find a rock-bottom sale and you’ll likely see your budget lowering by at least $15-$20 or more per week.

        • Heather says

          Don’t feel too bad. I was spending almost that much when I was single 10 + years ago in the pricey D.C. area (and food was cheaper then). I didn’t do much couponing then, but I was very sale conscious. The prices you listed don’t look too terrible to me, considering where you live.
          It seems to cost more to feed one person by herself than it would to feed that one person if she were part of a large family. Anyway, the other comments have some good advice. I would add that I did not notice much in the way of grains or legumes on your list – maybe you already had plenty on hand, or you have dietary restrictions? If not, consider adding potatoes, dried beans, bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, lentils, etc. to your shopping list. They are filling, cheap, and can replace some of the more expensive meat. Also, Puffs for $1 is a good price, but it is still a lot cheaper to use t.p.! Unless, of course, one is having a blow-your-nose-every-two-minutes cold/allergy episode, in which case Puffs with Lotion are a must! I love them!

          • Mag says

            Thanks Heather.

            I do have a mini stockpile of pasta already. That was my very first buy-ahead purchase. At the beginning of the month Jewel had a variety of Ronzoni pasta attached to a buy 10 get $5off deal, and I printed coupons per suggestion of the blogs for all of them, I think I ended up paying something like a quarter per box. 10 seemed like A LOT to me. I was very anxious buying this many boxes of pasta at once. As you see this week I’m already over that. =)
            I always have potatoes and I buy crackers for when I make tuna salad. But I try not to eat potatoes more than once or twice a week. Most of the time it’s just a piece of meat/fish and salad/veggies for dinner. Although occasionally I like to eat hot dogs or sandwiches for dinner and if it’s a hell day with clients it’s just a container of ice cream, lol

            Usually 1 box of tissues stands next to my bed for more than a month (unless I have a cold of course) so it’s not a big month-to-month expense. I probably have enough for the rest of the year. I’d rather swap the cereal or ice cream than the tissues!

          • Jessica says

            I don’t think you should give yourself too hard of a time, it looks more like you spent about $30 on food. That’s really good. The cleaning supplies, toothpaste, kleenex, will last a single person (without messy kids) a LONG time, so I’m guessing in a few weeks, you will have all the cleaning stuff you could possibly need, and your bill will drop significantly. At that point, you can only pick up things if they are REALLY cheap. Also, use some free drugstore candy for your dessert and save a big chunk to put towards produce. Also, I always like to think of the total value. The raspberries cost more than the strawberries, but I bet the package wasn’t as big. Buy the better value and get 2 strawberries.

  7. Monica says

    So I played the drugstore game twice (Saturday and Monday). Yesterday, my total was $21.23 before coupons. My total after coupons and register rewards was only $3.01!!! Thank you so much Crystal for all your hard work and dedication to sharing all the great deals with us gals! =)

  8. grace says

    thanks for this post. when i watched it last night, my first thought was I definately havent gotten any better at it (I only go to CVS; Riteaid and Walgreens generally arent worth the time and gas, any good prices without the rr I price match at Target). But today I was going through my receipts (I separate them into envelopes my month about every 3 months…this time it was when I started the drug store game) and I am easily spending less than half every week than I was doing 2 months ago (my best was only buying a jumbo pack of huggies diapers and paying 0.00 out of pocket) Im so excited to see improvement. The same goes actually for the grocery store too but its definatley more noticeable at CVS. :)

  9. erickajen says

    yeah i wont even try this game; according to your goal i would have to save 60-75$ a trip since i have to drive nearly an hour to and another hour from the nearest walgreens (and thats it, no other options around here)….. so its just impractical to even try. id almost pay someone to do it for me lol. but that wouldnt be practical either.

  10. says

    I agree that it takes a few months to truly see savings and reduction in spending. It did for me. Sometimes when money is tight it feels counterproductive to buy something I don’t need right away… but if I can buy it now for 50%-75% off I can avoid paying full price later. I have a laughably large stockpile of tampons and pads (at least a years worth, or more), but I have a teen daughter and know that it will definitely be useful eventually. And that’s what I stockpile for… things that I will need eventually.