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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?

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174 Comments

  • 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!!!!!!

  • Reesa 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.)

    • Laura Jane 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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!

  • 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!

      • Candi 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.

    • Charity S. 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.

  • Cate 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.

  • 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 🙂

    • Laura Jane 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.

  • 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!

  • megscole64 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Spendwisemom says:

      @Karen, I think it is great that you have found a way to use the money you saved and put it to good use by saving yourself time in another area. Good point.

    • Laura Jane says:

      @Karen, Great idea!!! I would so much rather clip coupons and research deals for an hour than scrub my bathroom for an hour!

    • 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.

  • 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.

      • Crystal 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.

  • Donna 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!

    • amy says:

      @Donna, I hope you are teaching your son how to do that too …

      • Heather says:

        @amy, No kidding.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • celia 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tara 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?

    • Crystal says:

      @Tara, I have a post on that very subject planned for next week!

      • Tara 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).

  • Kelly 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!

  • 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!

    • Kim M says:

      @Angie,

      Yikes!!! I would move!

      Yeah I think thats a legitimate excuse for not using coupons.

    • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Challice 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.

    • Andrea Q 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.

  • 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.

  • Lisette 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?

    • Andrea Q 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.

    • Crystal 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. 🙂

      • Andrea Q 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.

        • Crystal 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.

      • Lisette 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!

        • Crystal 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. 🙂

        • Chris 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.

        • Lisette 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.”

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Crystal 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.

  • 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.

    • Crystal 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. 🙂

  • Kimberly 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Rachel V. 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.

  • 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

  • Jennifer says:

    Could not AGREE more!! Last week I spent $100.00 at the grocery store and saved $83.00!!!

  • 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.

    • Crystal 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • Andrea Q 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.

  • 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.

  • Spendwisemom says:

    I think that people should choose to do what is best for them in their situation. Most of us have learned the value of coupons which in many cases provides the opportunity to stay at home with kids. On the other hand, there is no right or wrong way to do things. We live with the consequences of our decisions, so it works out well for everyone. People who coupon and donate are as good as people who work and donate. Everyone has different budgets to work within and different talents, etc. It is good to share ideas and respect each other for the decisions we make. I do use coupons and am careful about buying what is on sale in the weekly fliers, because it allows me to be a homemaker instead of work outside of the home. That is a value to me. Every dollar we save can be used somewhere else we want rather than what we need. It takes some time, but I would rather spend the time than work outside the home. I think it is important to find a good balance between time and money and be happy about your decisions regardless of what others think. Some save money cooking from scratch, some sew, some coupon. We don’t have to be wonder woman and do everything. Pick what is good for you and do what is best for you and your family.

  • Heather says:

    If you’re quite wealthy, and don’t like couponing, then don’t. Save the deals for the rest of us.

    I know some people might use coupons to get free/cheap junk food, and plan to donate it. Please don’t! If it’s too unhealthy to eat it yourself, then don’t tempt someone else!

  • ksenia says:

    Eh… I do not think everyone needs to use coupons. People who are really well off and can use their time wisely do not need to put in the effort and time to shave off $30 a month.

    I use cloth diapers/napkins/towels and home made cleaning supplies like baking soda and vinegar (rarely bleach). We get most of our fresh food from local farmers. MOST things that have coupons available (cereal, granola bars, even detergents) are filled with chemicals and junk. Yes you can find coupons for healthy basics but they are very rare and I am getting much less enthusiastic about coupons because in the last 5 months that I have been using them I have noticed that my family has been eating much more junk (though my definition of junk is probably not like other people’s).

  • Rachel says:

    I would like to make the point that not “everyone” can use coupons. You do need some people paying the regular price for items so that those who “need” to use coupons can. It would be like saying everyone should buy a used vehicle. Obviously, this would be impossible because someone has to buy the vehicle new before another can buy it used.

    I think using coupons can be very helpful (especially for a family on a very tight budget). Moderation is the key. I have noticed that my local stores are really cracking down on excessive couponing. It is not good business for them just to have a few individuals deplete the store’s entire stock of “coupon items”, leaving nothing for other customers to buy. If this happens enough, the store knows they will lose customers, possibly to a store that has stricter coupon policies.

    To everything there is a season and I feel the more people that “abuse” couponing, the less deals we will find available.

  • Absolutely, everyone should use coupons. My parents, who used to feel that coupons were too complicated, recently joined in on the coupon craze. They love saving money at the store. I appreciate Crystal writing the bold statement “I don’t eat processed food” and Newsflash: Coupons are not just for junk food. I can’t even tell you how many friends and family members make that statement to me. Several of my family members eat entirely organic and they always say to me that using coupons is so unhealthy for my family. We eat healthy all of the time from homemade food, farmer’s markets, my own garden, etc. I am glad that Crystal is trying to change this silly myth about coupons. Go Money Saving Mom!

  • dawnmf says:

    I don’t get the Sunday paper anymore since it got too expensive but I did discover that the local Starbucks has the inserts with the Sunday papers that people leave behind and I scoop them up from there.
    I have also gotten good coupons off Amy’s hormone free beef and steaks by signing up at her website, earthfarms for free salad and kashi cereal by signing up at their web site. All these coupons are also accepted at Trader Joes including the cents off milk coupons.

    Personally I have found Stater bros is less expensive than safeway/vons and according to the Ralph’s butcher aka Kroger down here the meat @ (Stater bros) is same quality as theirs but at less of a price.

    Thanks for the great series. I’d love one on how to reduce summer costs for school age kids as well.

  • Jennie says:

    I look at the prices on certain items–like shampoo and razors–and just can’t believe that I used to PAY that. With real money! I use coupons for almost every household good and for lots of different types of food. I think it is totally worth it. Even if sometimes I don’t feel like clipping and organizing, I know I’ll be glad I did when I come out of Rite Aid having paid $2.50 for $55 worth of merchandise or when the checker at Kroger gets excited that I saved over 50%.
    I only wish I had figured out all the secrets earlier–meaning started reading Money Saving Mom on the very first day Crystal debuted the site. I regret the days I paid full price or used a few coupons and thought I was saving. I tell everyone about this website.

  • Kansas Mom says:

    We use coupons sparingly. My husband does the grocery shopping (since he works in town near a store and I’m home 30 minutes away with three kids), but I put together the list and the coupons. I use afullcup.com and match up coupons with advertised sales on items I know we’ll use. I save the inserts from our paper, but we don’t get the good ones so I rarely have to clip anything out. Mainly I use online coupons (which our grocery store accepts) and we buy the store brand a lot.

    We still manage to save about 20-30% on our groceries every week by using coupons and shopping the sales, so it’s definitely worth the hour I spend putting together our list (only some of which is devoted exclusively to coupons as we’d make a list anyway).

  • Julie says:

    I think couponing is like so many other beneficial ideas. With some people, you can tell them and show them over and over again, and they still refuse to give it a real try. Finally, something clicks and they “get it.”
    Real couponing does take some time to get started, and once you have a system that works for you it takes some effort and some discipline, but it is so worth the effort.

  • Charity says:

    I think everyone should try to use coupons. Yes, it depends on your situation how much you can save, but I have a hard time believing that you couldn’t save anything by using them. I try to encourage other family members to try, but they are like lighting wet firewood…Ain’t gonna happen!! 😉

  • Amber says:

    It really depends on your situation and what you view as important and what you view as healthy vs junk. We are college students on one income. We eat organic produce and I am allergic to dairy and wheat, so the husband does not eat dairy or wheat either. What a guy! I make my own laundry soap and we refill our shampoo, conditioner, body wash, dish soap and dishwasher soap at the natural foods store. Sure, I could get these items for near free but I choose not to use up more resources by purchasing items that come in plastic containers. Yes, I recycle, but I feel that it is better to reduce/reuse first. Buying our shampoo, soap, etc this way allows us to reuse the same bottle over and over. Some things are more important to me than saving a few dollars. Some people may not have that option. I could get cheap or free food (campbells “cooking” soups come to mind) but they contain partially hydrogenated oils which we do not eat. In addition, many canned items contain wheat as a filler and therefore I could not eat them anyhow. I’d rather buy beans and rice in bulk and base my meals around them, rather than purchasing canned beans, boxed rice, etc. It might cost a little bit more, but it’s worth it to me. Now if I could get coupons for brown rice flour, tahini, or bulk beans and rice I would be very happy! I do use the rare coupons that come from earthbound organics and almond milk coupons, and have become a toilet paper snob ever since I used coupons to get Cottonelle for cheap!

  • While I agree that using coupons can be a great money-saving strategy, I don’t believe they are great for everyone. For example, I think about Amy Dacyczyn in The Tightwad Gazette. She bought most things in bulk, grew produce, used cloth diapers, etc. so she didn’t use coupons. Yet her grocery bill was very low. While not everyone is not that extreme, more and more people don’t buy processed food, regular brand household products, and only buy fruit and veggies from farmers markets. That lessens the effectiveness of coupons.

    I do use coupons but only for a few items that we would normally buy anyway. For example, we only use Toms of Maine toothpaste – no artifical sweeteners like regular toothpaste and their deoderant – no aluminum. Coupons for Toms products are rare so instead I try to buy a lot when they go on sale. I buy organic sugar and bulk flour that is usually cheaper than those in stores with coupons. Once in a great while I can get a better deal in the grocery store with coupons. I also shop at Trader Joe’s a lot which doesn’t have that many products that have coupons. I cloth diaper so no coupons for those.

    I am not an extreme organic or “no processed food” type of person so I do use coupons for things I am flexible about, like Cheerios and toilet paper. Or I use them to buy things I wouldn’t normally buy if its really cheap on sale and with a coupon for special treats for the kids.

    I can see where it wouldn’t make sense for people who live in large cities or very rural areas with only mom and pop grocery stores. Many of those don’t take coupons. It wouldn’t make sense for someone who can make more money billing a client for work they are doing than spend time searching out and clipping coupons. It wouldn’t make sense for someone who eats a raw diet or very unprocessed diet and uses mostly homemade household items.

    I do think coupons are a great tool, but I don’t think they are for everyone.

  • Jessica says:

    I certainly use coupons, but my savings are nowhere near what you get because none of our stores double. Which is where I see the biggest savings, when combined with sales.

  • Christy says:

    Yesterday, I took my first trip to the grocery store after clipping some coupons and printing some online coupons. Before, I would clip a couple from the newspaper every now and then, and when I went to use them, I found that the generic brand was always cheaper. But at the time, I wasn’t aware that stores doubled coupons, nor did I pay attention to the ads….so I never could figure out what the fuss was about with coupons, and I gave up.

    Until this week, I’ve never put this much thought and planning into a trip to the grocery store, but now that I’ve saved 61% from coupons and my Kroger card….oh yes, I am definitely on the coupon bandwagon!

  • Nancy says:

    I was a “non-believer” and really thought generics at Wal-Mart were the way to go. I have to laugh now at how much I didn’t know then. I didn’t get the stock pile concept. Sure a name brand AT FULL PRICE minus coupon often isn’t cheaper than regular price generic. But now that I know only to buy rock bottom sale price (loss leader plus coupon and maybe catalina as well) the savings are HUGE.

    The best part is that the savings continue to escalate, because as you get a stockpile you can be EVEN PICKIER. I used to buy toothpaste when it was free, now I wait to make money on it.

    Between menu planning and coupon use we went from a $250/week grocery and household budget to $35/week for both. $215 a week saved. That $11,000 is going toward a European cruise for our family this year. And we don’t eat as well as we used to…we eat better! Plus now we can give to area shelters and also bless others. Sure it takes work, but what other job could I do for an hour a week and get a 10 day vacation out of the deal?

    • Spendwisemom says:

      @Nancy, How many people are in your family and what ages? Do you live in a big city and have access to a lot of coupons?

      • Nancy says:

        @Spendwisemom, No we live in a rural/suburban town with a walmart and a publix and that’s it. No double coupons. Our Sunday paper is wimpy and often doesn’t have the “high dollar” coupons that other people talk about. I have a spouse and 2 daughters, one teenage one pre-teen. Also we home-school so we eat all 3 meals here, no school lunches.

        That just means you have to get more creative when the coupons don’t come easy.

    • Carrie says:

      @Nancy, Our stockpile on shampoo, lotion and body washes is such that I’ve also started contemplating only purchasing when I can make money off them. I can’t decide between that and going ahead and getting these items for free (except sales tax, of course) and then donating the items.

  • Stacy C says:

    We love our coupon use and so does our food pantry!
    I do live in an area where one local chain does double coupons up to .99 cents.
    I take advantage and check a few blogs that post about stores in my area but also read the cicrular and match up my coupons before each weekly visit. I also scan the other local stores papers to see what they have on special and the best that I can make my dollars and budget stretch.
    Occasionally the local chain that doubles runs teriffic catalina deals that include frozen veggies. My kids love the cereal and I can even save on meats, dairy and household cleaning supplies.
    I do write to vendors and compliment their products and in return have been rewarded with coupons in postal mail.
    I stock up when items are on sale and apply my best coupon. I apply this to everything in the circulars. Also keep your eye out for mail in rebates, if you actually mail them in you will get your money back. Coupons are not for the lazy, they do require extra work and planning but in 2010 so far i have saved $1600 in savings for my son’s college education just by using coupons and mail in rebates!

    Does $1600 sound good to you? Then use coupons!

  • Sheri says:

    Well, I recently started using coupons. I think it started with going to rite aid, and getting a killer deal on dipes. I’ve used all of the excuses above, and in some ways they are valid. I don’t buy much of the stuff that coupons are for, but of course, there are the other items that we do buy, and coupons are great.

    I’d LOVE to know more about coupons for produce and meat. Where on earth do we find these? Looking forward to learn how you ladies rock the coupons – I’m a newbie!!

  • Pamela says:

    I started trying to use coupons in January of this year and was somewhat discouraged as I didn’t see a huge savings at first. Even now, most of my savings is coming from simply being more proactive about planning meals and shopping sales. That said, I have been able to improve the quality of many of the products we use. No more generic toothpaste, no more generic feminine products, etc. My husband is thrilled that our quality of life is improving even though the coupon savings may be minimal and he’s convinced that we’re saving a lot more than I think we are (but I guess that’s because I hate spending money and our expenses in some areas have increased overall due to factors like having additional people in our house). With four adults and one baby, we’re on about the same grocery/household items budget we had for just the two of us when we first got married (2007)…and mostly with a lot better stuff. So somehow I guess we’re coming out ahead.

    • Carrie says:

      @Pamela, You’ll probaby start really seeing a savings when you have a good stockpile going. It took me awhile to go from about 30% weekly savings to about 50% (between our store not doubling and some of our weekly purchases that my family is picky about, I don’t think I can get much higher than that), but stockpiling is helping. For example, I was able to purchase 10 bottles of syrup (used daily in our house) when they were at their bottom price matched with a high value coupon and now I can just sit back and wait for that same kind of deal again.

      • Pamela says:

        @Carrie, Yeah, I’m sure stockpiling will help…I’m terrible at it as I have a tendency to try to buy only as much as I need for a month, but getting more in that mode has definitely freed me (mentally) to invest more in excellent deals.

  • Catherine R. says:

    Haven’t read all the comment but…

    I go back and forth about whether or not coupons are worth it. I will say I think you are onto something about there being a *technique* to using them and not just ending up paying more for a product you wouldn’t buy anyway just because you have a coupon when you’d normally buy the generic equivalent.

    I am interested to see what you have to say about the hows and how-to’s of couponing because it *is* a skill and I don’t know what to do to get those skills.

    One thing that is frustrating for some of us is living in an area of the country where the cost-of-living is way above average (never gonna find that 25 cent mac and cheese here, no way) and also have a complete lack of stores that will do double coupons AND live 30 miles from the nearest Walmart (I pass about 8 Target’s on the way to Walmart).

    Everyone’s in a different place but I am open to learning how to be a savvy couponer, even though it feels pointless sometimes the way I’m doing it.

    • Carrie says:

      @Catherine R., We have a Wal-Mart but no Target. I wish we did have a Target because 1. I frequently see good deals that Target is offering but I can’t get and 2. if we had one then my local Publix would probably consider them a competitor and I could use their coupons at Publix.

  • Rochelle says:

    I agree! I have figured out how to consistently save 70% or more on my grocery purchases. Often times I have done 90% or more. I used to spend 400-500 a month (yikes!!!!). Now I only spend 200 or less. I eat healthy. I buy great meat in bulk when it goes on sale. I don’t even buy all the sugary cereal…I eat hard boiled eggs, healthy english muffin with peanut butter etc. Fresh great produce at Aldi’s each week.
    I love CVS and Walgreens when I can catch beauty/household items for free or cheap. I get embarrassed to even think I used to spend that much on groceries.

  • As a writer who lives in a feast or famine financial reality, reading this blog and using what I’ve learned has helped me tremendously. I’ve walked out of a grocery store with $30 worth of products for which I paid $9. So, yeah, coupons are so worth the little time it takes to find and clip them.

    I have two doggies I adore. Dog treats are some of the most expensive items I buy, but luckily they also have some of the most abundant coupons. I had a buy-one-get-one Kroger coupon for Pupperoni treats, which also happened to be on sale this week. I also printed a $1 off coupon from the Pupperoni website. In addition, because Pupperoni is a Delmonte product, I got a $1 catalina. By the time I was done, I paid .49 cents for two packages of Pupperoni treats that would normally cost me almost $7! Woot!

  • Candi says:

    I totally agree with you Crystal. Everyone can use coupons. I have a guest post on my blog today from a friend who lives by a “whole foods” diet and she wrote about being a “former coupon snob”…

  • Eric says:

    I work with a guy who states that he has never used a coupon in his entire life. That’s crazy to me!
    I was at the grocery store one time and watched a lady grab two boxes of cereal. There was a blinkie coupon thing there for a dollar off two boxes. I told her to grab one to save a dollar and she just told me she doesn’t do coupons. I should have asked her for a dollar.

  • Katie says:

    I started couponing in November, and I love seeing my savings. If I’ve saved a bunch, I post it as my status on Facebook. 🙂 I have a question though. Any opinions on how I can get the best deals when I can’t go shopping until evening or weekends? I run a daycare from my home, so I can’t take and will not take 6 kids shopping with me. By the time I get there, I find that the stores have run out of the best deals that week by the time I get there. When I went to Kmart Monday night, they were out of almost everything I had a coupon for. I get frustrated with couponing when others buy 12 of something, and the shelf is empty.

    • Pamela says:

      @Katie, For stuff that’s really important to me, I tend to go to the store Sunday after church, as it’s conveniently located near my parents’ house (where we usually are on Sunday afternoons) and I can take my 15 y.o. brother, who helps my mom get stocked up on the good deals.

    • Carrie says:

      @Katie, Get rainchecks if your store gives them. Sometimes getting rainchecks is better than if the store was still stocked with the product. For example, when my store had powdered sugur donuts (for those of you who only eat healthy, don’t pay attention) BOGO free and were out, I got a raincheck. Now I’m holding that raincheck until the donuts go on a regular sale and then I’ll use the raincheck. In other words, instead of getting them BOGO when the regular price is $2, I’ll get them BOGO (with raincheck) when they go on sale for $1. Definitely get rainchecks if you store does them.

  • Ruth says:

    I’m doing my best with coupons and sales, and desperately trying to help my sister with her grocery shopping as well. She lives in Virginia, in a podunk town where they do not get coupons in the Sunday paper (and I called around over there and confirmed that)…so sad! The only way she could do it is to order the Washington Post to her door, which would be very expensive. For the time being, I’m snail-mailing her some of my coupons (which means I sacrifice those deals for myself, which is fine, as I adore my sister more than life itself) according to her CVS deals, but obviously as I’m in WA state, I don’t get the same coupons as that area of the country. It’s a frustrating situation. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I’m open!! We WANT to use coupons but…how? I didnt’ see “No coupons in our paper” as an excuse…hoping for some good ideas….Thanks!

    • Carrie says:

      @Ruth, Even though I’ve never done this, I’ve read where many people order their coupons online. I know that “the coupon clippers (dot) com” is a coupon clipping service where you can order the coupons you want. I’ve also read that you receive your coupons in a timely manner. I’m sure there must be others out there as well. Another option for your sister would be the internet coupons (if her store accept them). Each week at least half of my coupons that I use come from the internet.

  • Heidi says:

    Yes! I believe everyone should use coupons. I used excuse #1 and 2 for years until just a few months ago a friend shared the real secrets of couponing with me. I think that is the key – having someone you can follow that will show you the ropes and someone you can go to if you get stuck. You internet helpers are great too!

  • Jana says:

    If I lived in the US, I would agree with you about coupons. However, I live in Canada, and here (at least in Western Canada), there really are not coupons for things like milk and the others you mentioned in your post. The coupon system in Canada is very different for some reason I am unaware of. There is no such thing as double coupon days. No such thing as being able to use a coupon on a sale item. If the store is having a sale on an item, that’s as low as you’re going to get that item. Period. In fact, almost every single time, if there is a sale item, there is a limit as to how much of that item you can buy at the sale price. Sometimes it’s worth it to go into the store several times to get the maximum at the sale price. So, I don’t disagree with you. I just don’t think it’s really do-able where I live. (That said, VERY RARELY – as in, maybe a couple of time a year – we get junk mail that has brand name coupons for things like soap or toothpaste. I DO clip and save these, but those are the only coupons I’ve found or used for the last several years.)

    • Tara says:

      Yes! I totally agree with this. Coupon clipping in America is the smartest thing you can do. But here in Canada we don’t get things for free very often. Those crazy coupon ladies you see on the realty show with the stockpiles of free stuff is just impossible in Canada. Which is a shame since we have to pay more money than the States on everything anyway. You’d think companies would give us a break and give us better value coupons!

  • Courtney says:

    I agree that just about everyone can benefit from using coupons, as long as they are willing to do the work.

    Just clipping coupons out of the Sunday paper and going to the store without doing any prior research probably won’t lead to great savings.

    You have to take the time to compare prices, follow the sales, find coupons on the internet and sign up with places like Vocalpoint, Kraft First Taste, Tropicana Juicy Rewards, etc. That’s when the benefits of couponing are enormous! The work is very much worth it, in my opinion 🙂

  • Gretchen says:

    I do agree that if you are on a very tight budget coupons do help. But I am trying to get away from shopping at traditional grocery stores. I do buy in bulk and do garden and can and buy my meat locally and am also trying to buy my milk and eggs from a local farm. But I probably won’t be making my own toilet paper anytime soon so I will concede that you could use coupons for toilet paper. I will agree there are coupons for some organic items as well. I am not completely anti-coupon, but I don’t care if I ever see them again either. I do appreciate the post though because there are people out there who don’t have access to local resources and also have a very tight budget.

  • Kelly says:

    Now that I have been at this for awhile, I have built a stockpile, meal-planned and began freezer cooking, I have been saving 50-60% per month. This means instead of paying $500 per month, I am paying less than $250. It is so freeing to not have to worry about this aspect of our budget. I try to convince everyone I know to use coupons. I work full-time, have a family and am very active. It really doesn’t take much time and saves so much money!
    I must say, I am extremely lucky. I live in a very small town but work in a larger town about 25 minutes away. Every main store (Meijer, Kroger, target, marsh, cvs and walgreens, is on my way home. So shopping at multiple stores is so convenient. I have really saved a bundle.
    Thanks so much, Crystal, for all you do and the information provide for us.

  • Denise says:

    I don’t think everyone should use coupons–only those who want to save money. Oh wait, isn’t that everyone??!!

  • Sam says:

    Didn’t know you could make toothpaste from tree bark. Loved the article. Keepin’ it real, Money Saving Mom! Love your site. Don’t you worry one iota bit about someone taking offense; keep the ideas coming. Woot woot!

  • Yes! There are coupons available for virtually everything. Like you said, most people could at least use coupons for household and hygiene products. Do you eat only organic? There are coupons for that too!

    Even saving a small percentage is better than not saving anything.

  • I recently blogged on this exact topic! Printing online coupons is like printing your own money! Who can’t find a little time for that?! http://thrivingmama.charityscrafts.com/?p=1284

  • Princess says:

    I am on my sixth month of couponing…a friend and I thought we would give it a try, and we both can’t believe we ever shopped without using coupons! I never shop Walmart anymore, except in a blue moon….its so expensive to me now! My cuboards are always full, and with name brand items, unlike before I started couponing. I live in a area where I have five to six different grocery store options, so that really helps with getting the lowest deal with coupons…I understand those who don’t have that option and get frustrated trying to get the best deal…Honestly if everyone used coupons, and used them at rock bottom prices, no stores would except coupons anymore…but until that happens I’m not keeping my love of coupons a secret:)

  • Marlana says:

    I’m going to be bold and suggest another group you should exempt. The time one works to save money could be used instead to invest money. I told my mom that she and I should have a contest. I won’t use any coupon, but I’ll call at least 10 rental properties a week, and make a point to spend my time trying to make money through investing. She can coupon (and she’s ever bit as proficient at coupon as you, always saving 60% on her bill).

    At the end of the year I’m much more likely to have tripled and quadruped my money, making way, way more than she’s saved. Both of us would have worked primarily from home.

    Now her money would be tax free. However, I can also buy and sell property tax free. So same same.

    (And yes, I do coupon some.)

    • Marlana says:

      @Marlana, I’d like to add that I have high respect for those who coupon. By all means I believe in using God’s money wisely…more people should do them. But it may not be the approach everyone will use.

    • Crystal says:

      What about doing both? That’s what I’d suggest. Seeking to find multiple streams of income and savings without neglecting your most important priorities is what a being a true home economist is all about.

  • Lisette says:

    I had to come back and add a second point…

    When I was a mother with only one child, I worked M-F, and I was gone from 7 AM – 5:30 PM every day. I didn’t coupon. I was exhausted. It was all I could do to hold our little family together. I was employed in order to provide my little family with health insurance. I worked through my lunch every day to bring home a few extra dollars every month. The amount of time I spent away from home working was a huge time commitment, but it covered our financial needs. I didn’t NEED to coupon, and I wasn’t ABOUT to take time at home away from my little girl to do so.

    Now that I have two children, I have a less stressful and less demanding job. I’m able to take the time to do coupons over my lunch break, and I am very thankful for that. Now I know that there is a great need to stretch the dollar that I am earning. Even still, I don’t think I made the “wrong” choice when I wasn’t couponing a few years ago. I was doing what was best for our family at the time.

  • Amy F says:

    I had to make a consious choice to learn about using coupons better adn make it part of my “job” like you described- counting my hourly wage before couponing finally stuck. And now, I HATE buying anything without a Q! lol and I use cloth TP, but I buy my toothpaste:)

  • theladybug catherine says:

    i noticed in your excuse #2 you said:

    …” and then pairing it with a coupon (and perhaps even a catalina deal!)…”

    Does that mean places like Harris Teeter take a manufacture’s coupon PLUS the catalina???

  • THanks for this. I needed a reminder, because although I love using coupons, I”ve been getting behind lately.

  • nanasewn says:

    In trying to be a good cyber reader/responder, always wonder what happens to my posts. I often return to see if anything has been replied to etc and most often than not my posts/questions have disappeared regardless of subject. Wondering if I am missing something about posting? I use nice girl words and stay on topic, are there other things I need to know to be accepted in the conversation? thank you

  • Megan says:

    I was wondering if anyone knows where to go to learn the process (from the beginning) I’d like to get started doing this, but would like to get going soon!!! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Angelyn says:

      @Megan,
      Megan, I got started just a few months ago, but I already feel like a pro. I go to a blog called Southern Savers (www.southernsavers.com). She makes weekly shopping lists of sale items that you can customize for most grocery stores in the south. For example, I click the Kroger tab at the top, click the boxes next to the items I’m interested in, and print only those items. The best part is, under each item she lists which coupons you can use for it and if it’s an online coupon she has a link. I literally don’t have to think about it. Most places take one manufacturer’s coupon or both a man. coupon and a store coupon for each item.
      I started out using only the printable coupons posted on Southern Savers, but now I’ve started collecting inserts from leftover Sunday papers at the hospital where I work. I’ve found that newspaper coupons usually have higher values and later expiration dates.
      To keep everything organized, I have a binder filled with currency holders I bought on Ebay. The pages are perfect because they’re the size of a dollar bill — perfect for coupons. I put divider tabs on the pages to separate them in basic categories (Baking and Spices, Cereal and Grains, etc.). As I shop, I pull the coupon for each item and put it in the front pocket of my binder.
      I live equally close to Kroger and Publix, so I go to both stores most weeks. I buy most of my items at Kroger because I find they have better everyday prices. I go to Publix to get buy-one-get-one-free deals and special offers.
      I hope this is helpful! Blogs like this one and Southern Savers have informed me about so many deals I would have otherwise missed. Like double coupon days, etc.

  • Kimberley says:

    I would love a to try a custom made skirt from the Modest Mom
    Thanks1

  • CJ says:

    Even if you only use a few coupons every once in a while you are doing yourself good. A lady in front of me at Walgreens the other day paid $8 for body wash. I wanted to tell her I had probably 20 of them at home I got for free. Why pay $8 for something when for a little time and effort you can get it for free? Then put that $8 into savings, or treat yourself to lunch, or buy a gift for someone. Coupon savings really do add up.

  • Steph says:

    Great post, Crystal – I loved the bold statement, “I believe everyone should use coupons”! Way to go. And *thank you* for teaching us how….

  • Tania says:

    I would coupon but there are no stores in my local area that accept printables: not my Kroger or Target or Meijer or Wal*Mart or Walgreens or CVS. I don’t get the paper really ever because I read my news online and only get it if there is a phenomenal coupon.

    I wish I was lucky enough to live some place where stores wanted business.

  • DeAnna says:

    I started using coupons last year. I have learned to be patient and stock up my home. I have a ton of toothpaste, toilet tissue, dishwashing liquid, facial tissue, lotion, soap, fabric softener and detergent. I have also signed up for different sites that send my coupons. I love snagging something for free. I just don’t see any reason to go back to paying full price for an item.
    By using the tips I read online, I have saved myself quite a bit of money. Anyone who doesn’t use coupons really needs to read your article and the others that are dedicated to saving money.

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