27.5 reasons I coupon

10/366:  Sunday Coupons
“Sunday Coupons” by TeamJTX on Flickr

Yesterday, while my kids were at my parents’ house enjoying the pool, I took advantage and went to the grocery store. Of course, I took coupons.

I know coupons and those who use them are pretty trendy these days. And there’s a whole television show mostly dedicated to those who abuse these little papers in ways most of us just can’t understand (75 deodorants and you already have 125 at home?).

But I have to tell you, I love my coupons. And I’ve loved them a very long time. After a trip like yesterday, I really can’t understand why using coupons isn’t a universal practice. Coupons are money.

I think I use my coupons in a pretty normal way and yesterday’s trip is my type of awesome shopping trip– the variety is wide and the savings substantial. I bought:

10 Lunchables, 1 Bag of Celery, 2 Ben & Jerry Ice Creams, 1 Can of Baking Powder, 2.5 pounds of Grapes, 2 bags of New England Coffee, 1 Bunch of Organic Rosemary, 1 Pint of Grape Tomatoes, 1 Onion, 1 Bag of Red Potatoes, 1 Pack of Bacon, 2.25 Pounds of Bananas, 2 Cans of Tomato Sauce, 2 Boxes of Baking Soda, 1.35 Pounds of Plums, 3 Lemons, 2 Bottles of Ocean Spray Juice Blends, 1 Box of Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 Box of Lucky Charms, 1 Box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, 2 Boxes of Fiber One Chewy Bars, 2 Sure Deodorants, 1 Degree Deodorant (for Friend), 1 Dozen Organic Eggs, 2 4-packs of Mandarin Orange fruit cups packed in water, 2 Packs of Yoplait Granola Parfaits, 2 Almond Breeze Milks, 2 Packs of Yoplait Fiber One Yogurts, 1 Bottle of Fabuloso cleaner, and 2 Bottles of Palmolive.

I spent $88.27. I saved $77.13 or 47%. What you need to know is $27.50 of my savings were in clipped coupons. I don’t know about you, but $27.50 towards feeding my family and keeping my home clean(ish) is a good deal. None of the items I bought were things I bought solely because I had coupons. I needed and/or wanted everything here.

I know a bunch of you are probably cringing at some of the food I have listed here but you should know this isn’t because I coupon, it’s just the way I shop. I am not a health nut. I also absolutely hate being in the kitchen which reflects in my tendencies to shop for convenience foods. I hate shopping the perimeter of the supermarket. I do what I can where I can and don’t beat myself up for the rest.

The Lunchables, for instance, are the perfect example of this. I had no coupons for those. But my kids like them, the Deli had a huge line, and the ham they eat wasn’t on sale this week. I would’ve easily spent $10 on one pound of the ham alone. So, I said “Screw it” and bought the ten Lunchables at $1 each.

As for time and effort, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t count the amount of time I’m actually in the grocery store because I’m spending that time there whether I have coupons or not. I don’t always have the time to go to the grocery store once a week or more, although I wish I did because I’d save more money. I definitely don’t have the time to go to more than one supermarket a week. I also tend to be faster in a store when I coupon because I have an awesome list and ONLY stick to the list.

It’s hard for me to gauge the amount of time I actually spend a week clipping coupons because right now I’m in the process of transitioning into a binder. This is taking me forever because I have almost a year’s worth of coupon inserts saved and many are doubled thanks to my awesome Mom. In the past week or so, I’ve easily clipped over 400 coupons and I have more to go. I’ll probably time myself when I do yesterday’s bountiful bunch but I have a hunch it’s about one hour and I do it when it’s nice and quiet and the children are sleeping. That much time is for one of those weeks that has a ton of inserts like yesterday’s paper did. Not all weeks have so many coupons.

If you’d like to maybe try using coupons effectively, here are my suggestions.

  • Before you subscribe to a newspaper or go buy them, ask your neighbors/friends/co-workers/family you’re comfortable with and see often (once a week) if they get the Sunday paper and if they do, if they use the coupons. If they don’t, ask if they wouldn’t mind giving them to you. Free coupons are the best coupons. If  no one convenient has them, buy the paper or subscribe.
  • OK, save yourself the trouble and get a binder (they’re on sale right now with back to school clearances and stuff) and get some trading card holders. I didn’t use this system but now that I do I feel like a moron for not using it before. Don’t risk feeling like a moron. To give you a perspective on how many trading card holders you’ll need, I’m currently using about 45 pages one-sided. But, again, I’m using several months’ worth of inserts. You can probably do perfectly well with 10 to 20 pages. Sharon just set hers up and it took her only 45 minutes from start to finish (including clipping the actual coupons).
  • Every time you get a bunch of coupon inserts, take the time to go through them and clip the coupons for things you use regularly or would like to try. If you really don’t care about the brand, then make sure you clip all of the different coupons for the same type of thing so you have more opportunities to match coupons to a sale. If you’re brand loyal, the amount of time spent clipping will be cut but so will the amount of savings. It’s still worth doing! Clip them, sort them, and put them in their handy organizers.
  • Every time you have to go shopping, make a list of everything you need. Then, check the insert to see what, if any of it, is on sale, And finally, check your coupon binder to see what you have coupons for. You can do a happy dance if you have coupons for items that are also on sale because that’s where the magic happens.
  • When I head into the store, I have a very nice list organized by section and I have all of my coupons pulled and ready in a little coupon carrier I have. I actually only use two pockets in it– the one in front is for the coupons I’m turning over at the cashier and the other one is for the coupons I ended up not using for one reason or another. I have not yet taken my binder with me because I feel this would lead me to spend more time in the store and possibly to impulse buys.
  • At the register, I put all of the items that don’t have a coupon at the front, and the ones that do at the back. When it’s my turn, I explain to the cashier “All items behind such and such have coupons. Should I give them to you all at the end or would you like me to pair them up with the items?” Nine times out of ten their eyes light up with my suggestion and ask if I could please match them that would be awesome. So, I go and start matching. Now do you see why I put all of the non-coupon items up front? Buys me some time!

If you really want to get into the groove of coupons, you can use a website like SouthernSavers. It tracks all of the sales and matches coupons for you. It also highlights which items are REALLY cheap and so you might want to try and stock up on those a bit more than usual if it happens to be something you use often.

The reason you stock up when it’s on sale really low is because you don’t want to pay full-price for the item when you run out. Yes, you’ll be paying full-price for some items when you start using coupons but eventually, the number of items you pay full price for get smaller and smaller. On my list, only five items were full-price items. Everything else was either on sale, had at least one coupon, or was on sale and had at least one coupon.

I believe using coupons is like anything else. If you go into it with a bad attitude, you’re not going to get much out of it. But, if you’re willing to learn something and take the time to keep at it, I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.

Recently, GRS did an Ask the Readers post with the question: How much do you spend on food? The couple asking was spending $750 a month– for just two adults. JD’s answer wasn’t far off either. I was shocked.

On average, I spend $615 a month on food– and that includes dining out and other convenience eating I do. My average bill at a grocery store is only $255 a month and that includes all the cleaning products and things like that. Did I mention I have three kids?

So there you go; yesterday it was a savings of $27.50 but over a year, it’s much more. And it’s just too much for me to simply dismiss it as not for me without giving it a real solid try. If you’re pressed for money, I suggest you do too. It’s essentially extra income that’s not taxable!


27 thoughts on “27.5 reasons I coupon

  1. It’s nice to hear about people who use coupons without going all crazy. You are right, coupons are free money. I need to get back on the wagon. I lost my coupon gusto. Time to get it back.

    • Yeah I think a lot of people get put off because they think if you don’t go extreme, it’s not worth it. But it really can be! I’d love to see what you do with it. You have a way of making things work out really well when you throw yourself at it.

  2. I love this! I have used the binder method for over a year now. It took me a few months to bring it to the store with me. I also don’t have time to go to the grocery store more than once a week, so bringing my binder allows me to buy items that my store is running specials on that weren’t in the circular. I also agree that sticking to your list is key. Actually, I agree with your entire post! I especially can relate to not being a health nut and owning it. I totally agree! Keep on couponing!

    • Thanks for visiting me! While at the store, I kind of wished I had brought the binder but again, I felt that maybe I would’ve bought something I hadn’t initially planned/budgeted for that isn’t a need/ Are you able to avoid this temptation or do you not let it worry you because the deals are so good?

      • I don’t let it worry me. They always run specials for individuals stores in my area that aren’t in the weekly circular. For example, they had Land O Lakes Butter as a special at my Shoprite for $1.99. I had a 75 cent coupon (which doubles at my Shoprite) and I spent only 49 cents! If I hadn’t brought my binder, I would have missed out. My hubby and son seem to go through tons of butter. It must be nice to have such a high metabolism! LOL

        After shopping for a while at this location, I know what the rock bottom prices are on many items we use. If using the coupon makes it that price, I will get it even though it isn’t on my list. I do otherwise stick to my list, for the most part. Sometimes you just need to get that Dove Bar without a coupon 🙂

      • I’m going to have to keep an eye out. I can’t think of any special I’ve seen at my Publix that hasn’t been on the circular. But, that’s a really good point. No doubling coupons here 😦

  3. Love the new layout! It’s light on the eyes and very classy. 🙂 KUDOS on your savings! I started my binder this weekend but I’m using something my mother gave me several years ago; a “Couponizer” which has sections in the notebook/binder already created for you as well as a “coupon mat” that has all of the categories for you to clip the coups and affix on top while you’re sorting through your inserts. It feels like a little game of sorts to clip them and put them in the specific category! And then it just takes about 10 minutes to put the stacks in their designated spaces. I’m going to blog about this at some point this week! I’m drafting my post today. 🙂

    • Thank you!! I wanted something clean and yes, easy on the eyes. My friend, an artist, has been working on a beautiful header for me for a while. I think with the simple design, it’ll really pop. That Couponizer sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to see your post.

  4. I admit to couponing, though not in a greatly organized way. I also check online before going out to restaurants or ordering from online sites–there are often surprises. The other day I ordered a $12.95 planner from a site I’d never used before, and decided to google coupons for it. I wasn’t expecting anything but came up with a gift code that save me $1.91. Certainly worked for me.

  5. Your grocery list is the exact reason WHY I rarely use coupons. 🙂 Over 2/3 of the things that you buy (and probably the very items that you got the most “coupon benefit” from) are items that I would never in a million years buy or eat.

    Lunchables, Ben & Jerry Ice Creams, Ocean Spray Juice Blends, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fiber One Chewy Bars, Yoplait Granola Parfaits — None of these are worth (IMO) the money spent on them, even with coupon savings.

    I’m not trying to criticize your food choices. They are yours and are perfectly valid for you. But I *do* focus on healthy eating – I have to after having lost over 100 lbs and realizing that I can never ever go back to the way I was before. People who tell me that I should be using coupons or that I’m missing out on saving money – I wouldn’t ever buy those items anyway, so spending the time to cut coupons doesn’t pay off.

    • Actually, my BEST coupon savings were the deodorants. I bought the Degree for 20 cents and the Sure came to 69 cents for two. No coupons for Lunchables, ice cream, or juice (those were just store sales). Actually, on my list, everything up to and including the juice did not have coupons. Every single thing after, did (including the eggs and the milk). So, I don’t think the point about food choices is entirely valid. There are MANY coupons for healthy items available. I actually pass on a bunch because my kids won’t eat them or I won’t eat them. And I believe it is worth the time and effort because it takes less time and effort when you have a narrower focus. Does that make sense? Another example: my Publix accepts coupons from Whole Foods as a competitor. If I were into healthy eats, you can bet this is something I’d take advantage of. Also, a lot of companies that make healthy food products give coupons if you ask. I look at coupon inserts every week. I can tell you healthy coupons and coupons for “basics” exist often enough to warrant a small collection. And I’d say it’s even better for someone like you because you have less to clip than I do.

  6. I coupon although I am not very systematic. It’s Sunday coupons for me, plus smartsource.com and the Krogers (the Midwest version of Publix) website which has additional online coupons you can just add to your rewards card. I like clipping coupons on Sunday the same way some people like reading the New York Times Sunday edition, it’s a relaxing activity for me. I do buy a little healthier than you do (hey, no judgement here), and I would say I probably save $50 a month thanks to couponing. It’s not going to make me rich. But unless you spend half the week dedicated to it, I don’t understand people who say that you would earn more money if you were working instead of couponing. I don’t work on Sundays (well, technically), so an activity I enjoy helps me save a little money. Hurray!

    • No judgment taken. I tend to get junkier as my time and patience evaporate and since my conference is around the corner and school has begun, it’s all disappearing quickly. I agree, it’s not going to make anyone rich but it’s a little something here and there.

  7. I thought of you and couponing when I read this post from another blog the other day: http://iamtheworkingpoor.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-penny-by-penny.html Note that she doesn’t cut out the coupons and file them, she has a way of noting on the actual circulars what she thinks she’ll use and then files the entire circular. Then she only has to cut stuff out when she’s ready to use them.

    I’m not much into coupons either. I tend to buy minimally processed stuff and I haven’t seen many coupons for unprocessed veggies, fruits, and meats. I’m sure I could use a few coupons for personal products and cleaning products, but I use very little of that stuff, too. (Vinegar and baking soda do a lot of duty in my house!)

    Glad that couponing works for you, though! And the new blog look is fantastic!

  8. I saw “$10 for a pound of ham” and blanched, but then remembered that the chain grocery stores around us sell lunch meat BY THE HALF POUND, and it’s usually ~$6 per half pound, so ~$12 a pound. Until recently we went to a smaller store JUST for lunch meat because it was $6-8 a pound, but there was always a line at the deli counter and super slow deli workers, so it’d routinely take 30-45 minutes just to get lunch meat/cheese. I am not even exaggerating. So I’ve given up (at least for the time being) on sandwiches and am packing dinner leftovers instead.

    • Exactly. The Boar’s Head is like $9.79/lb. It’s insane. AND the deli line takes forever. And really it’s the kids who are into the sandwiches– two of their classes are nut-free so I can’t even do PB&J. So when I gave up this week, i switched to Lunchables. It’s nuts right now the cost of food.

  9. I don’t get this idea that most of what you bought isn’t healthy. Is it because the cereals had 2-3 words to the name and the celery, grapes, bananas, lemons, plums – etc etc had only one word? Plus, if you’re like me, a box of cereal can last you a whole month or two and the fruit and veggies are gone in a week. (But sometimes the ice cream is gone in a day. LOL) And for goodness sake, you have kids. Sometimes things have to be fast – and not wasted. I’ve bought my fair share of lucky charms in the past and nobody’s died yet. Sure, they like oatmeal and eggs more but I don’t always feel like making it or have the time.
    What I like most about food nazis? They’re so rigid that when they fall off the wagon of their beliefs and the vegans turn to paleo or the low fatters turn to Atkins or vice versa, it’s hilarious to see them back pedal and struggle with all that cognitive dissonance. Some people don’t have loads to lose simply because they never had an all or nothing attitude with their diet to begin with.

    • Yeah you’re right. It’s not that they are completely unhealthy, they’re just not Advanced Healthy 😉 I understand all of the talk about chemicals and additives and things like that, really I do, but I grew up with this food and like you said, not dead. Not obese. Not sick. The key is balance and I really firmly believe in that more than any fad diet or crazy eating system or anything else. That’s why I don’t tend to be really apologetic about my food choices. Now if my kids had health problems or weight problems, I can assure you there’d be changes. But they’re all skinny little sticks with high metabolisms and perfect bills of health. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I even made them Kool-Aid a couple weeks ago and felt like a rebel.

  10. Heeheehee… how does one go about buying deodorant for a friend? And can the same technique work on students? Actually, the gift of soap might make a bigger difference in some of their lives…

    Man, I love Ben and Jerry’s. Current favorite: Fair Goodness Cake.

    • LOL it’s the Boyfriend. And he’s like me, not brand loyal. And he is unemployed still and will never say no to free anything. 😉

      You know, I bet it might just work in more students’ cases than you’d initially imagine.

      Current Favorite Ben & Jerry’s: Creme Brulee.

  11. I love this post. I usually go through the ads of the store I am going to and then match my coupons(from my pokemon binder ..dont judge me its like 15 years old..lol). But I do take my binder with me because sometimes there will be a marked down sale or something on clearance and I have a coupon.

    I like the idea of separating the items you have coupons for. This will give me time to go through and make sure I have everything in order! Great idea


    • That single technique has won over more cashiers than you can shake a stick at. And the people behind me see them and know I have coupons so if they stay, it’s their funeral. Usually though I catch them comparing what I have to what they do LOL I would love a Pokemon binder!

  12. I had to buy a little 5×6″ accordian folder for my coupons that I could keep in my purse at all times. I can’t tell you how many coupons got wasted because they were clipped but not on me at the time I needed to purchase something.

    I spend a lot on food. PS. My kids eat lucky charms too. I blame daycare for introducing them to sugary cereal but I have had no luck reversing the trend, although my little one does like to steal my shredded wheat, but only when I’m eating it and from my bowl. If I pour him a bowl of his own, he doesn’t want it.

    • The accordion sounds way more manageable. I just have too many. I used to be able to do smaller things and carry them but I’m in too deep now!

      My kids are WEIRD with food. My oldest loves a bowl of oatmeal as much as a bowl of Lucky Charms. My daughter will happily devour avocados and tomatoes. The Baby always says he doesn’t like everything but usually ends up eating everything anyways. Personally, I remember a time when Frosted Flakes were the boring and healthy cereal in my childhood! My mom didn’t care because were twigs. She was terrified we were starving. A very Cuban trait is to stuff and stuff and stuff a child. Cubans like plumpy kids probably because of the scarcity of food. I swear to you that one of the things they’d give me as a snack was a can of condensed milk and a bag of Cuban Crackers. We actually got condensed milk with A LOT of things– even Coke!


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