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February 23, 2010


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My wife is what I call a Coupon Diva. She is devoted to the practice. She has been trained by the best. She takes the time to cut every Sunday and she waits and pounces on a good deal. She has the receipts to prove it. It has been a great savings for our family.

I think unless one is disciplined enough to stick to buying only what you need and have on your list anyway, you will actually lose money buying things you don't really need (and would not have bought) just because you have a great coupon. I suspect some coupon users are like credit card users who brag about their rewards while not realizing that they actually going backwards financially because they are buying much more than they would if they used cash. I'm not saying all coupon users do that, but in my opinion if your goal is to save money, the best way to start is to make a list of what you need and learn to stick to it. Once you build that discipline, then maybe coupons will help you save money.


I think you are correct for MANY people.

However, I think you can save money if you are disciplined. For example, I always get paid to buy toothpaste - CVS and Wallgreens give 100% rebates and I have a coupon.

Do I get to much toothpaste, yes. However, I give it to people.

I would say that the average is skewed high. The average person does not use coupons, but if there was a coupon for $2, the odds are they will use it. I would be more interested in the average value of coupons, not just the ones that are used.

Overall, I play a pretty good frugal financial game. But coupons is one area that I've been slacking!

I remember seeing my grandmother have such a system (she was meticulous with it), but my mom didn't continue with the same cost saving system! Unfortunately, My wife doesn't do coupons either. I'll have to do some extra research and see if I can get the ball rolling on this in my household!!!

I was amazed when reading that Smartmoney article about: Affluent households, including those with income above $100,000, tend to be heavier coupon users than those with lower incomes"
If that group can do it, nobody should be embarrassed to do likewise!!!

This article may actually prod me into taking action!!!

I'd like to shout out a personal thanks! :)

Practically all the coupons we come across are for overprocessed foods or overpriced goods we have no need or desire to purchase. Our coupons are mostly for cleaning supplies and paper goods rather than food, then we wait for them to go on sale before using the coupons.

We probably saved $100,000 over our lifetime by not buy stuff just because it had a coupon.

I agree with Chris and lurker carl. I shop from a list, and most of the food I buy doesn't have coupons (or packaging, for that matter). Most of the coupons I see are for things I don't buy anyway.

I used to be an avid coupon user but often discovered that there were similar competing products that were cheaper even with the use of the coupon. I turned into more of a fan of store brands and now do about 80%-90% of our shopping at a Trader Joes where there are no coupons -- just lower prices.

I still do a fair amount of shopping at the local Stop N Shop. I always go to the same store and I know the standard prices cold for the things we usually get there. Whenever I see a circular deal or other reduced offer I'll usually stock up on them. We bought an inexpensive spare freezer to keep in the garage for just this purpose and I think it paid for itself fairly quickly.

Chris said it right. I use a coupon only if its something I would need. Spending on the other stuff doesn't save money. I don't feel like this is getting paid 100 bucks an hour also. There is more to using coupons than just clipping them out of the paper.

I say be careful with coupons. Its like if your wife comes home with a 100 dollar pair a shoes and tells you that she saved a hundred bucks because they were 50% off, did you really "save" a hundred bucks....or did you spend a hundred?

In my opinion if your goal is to save money, the best way to start is to make a list of what you need and learn to stick to it. Once you build that discipline, then maybe coupons will help you save money.

We have stopped using coupons all together. I have rarely found instances where coupons are for items I would even buy. Most coupons I see are for overpriced beauty products, processed unhealthy foods, or cleaning supplies laden with chemicals. We don't even go down most aisles in the super market. I never hear people who say they save tons of money using coupons actually list everything that they bought.

I know that if you have a Dillons/Frys/Bakers Loyalty card, you can download coupons directly to your card and they are automatically activated when you swipe your card.

Another new trend out there is mobile coupons, which are downloaded directly to your cell phone and scanned at the check-out. I haven't tried it but would be much more convenient than having to clip them out of the paper.

Yep, as others have pointed out, most coupons I see are for processed or premium brands that I wouldn't buy anyway. Fresh foods and store brands are cheaper, don't have coupons, and don't need them to beat the premium brands. While there are some good coupons and programs out there (like CVS and such), I think there are better ways to save money and get a higher return on your time.

Love this site! Been reading for a while and am posting my first comment:

As some who have posted have said, using coupons takes great judgment and discipline. I too find that many coupons are for overpriced, sugar-laden, processed items and expensive beauty products that I don't use and I ignore them. However, you may be missing some fabulous deals by using this excuse to totally ignore coupons.

Many people sell "lots" of coupons - 10 or 20 ususally - on ebay for a very cheap price (how they make money I don't think I'll ever understand - but I am happy they do it - and realize that they are selling their "service" and not the coupons as it is illegal to sell coupons). This way, you can search and only buy those that you want for products that you use. If there is an item that you use frequently and you hit it with a sale, you can save a boatload of money.

Best way to explain this is an example that happened to me two weeks ago as a case-in-point: Our local grocery store chain put an environmentally friendly toilet paper that we like on sale - 4 double rolls for $2. This manufacturer had issued a coupon in the middle of the sale for $2 off this item making it free. Everyone apparently flocked to the store and bought it out. I (and my husband) was able to get a raincheck for 10 of the double-rolls of TP that was good for 30 days. I went on ebay, ordered 20 of the $2 coupons for $1.99 with free shipping. After the item went off sale and was restocked, we headed over and got 20 packs - 80 double rolls - of toilet paper for free at the store - or $1.99 and 3 minutes of my time including my search and purchase of the coupons on ebay. Yes, people looked at me funny and I have to give up some storage for a while, but no one can argue (1) that toilet paper never goes bad and (2) will always be needed, thus it made perfect sense in my mind to take advantage of this. Oh, and $38+ in savings isn't a bad reason to do it either.

Other items that I have done this with are shaving cream, disinfecting wipes and razors (some were not free but a very reduced cost that made sense to make the cash outlay). In summary, combining manufacturer coupons with discipline in buying only what you need, store coupons, double-coupon offers, financial analysis, rainchecks, reasonable judgement and sometimes a little luck can save you a TON of money (and get you lots of free TP :).

Michele --

That's a GREAT first comment -- keep posting! ;-)

I use coupons occasionally. But for the most part I don't bother.

The problem is that most coupons are for processed food or some other low quality, unhealthy thing. I'm not going to buy these anyway, so why bother with the coupons. Where are the coupons for flour, butter, milk, tomato sauce, meat, pasta, etc? The things I actually buy.

As for household items, I run into a space problem. I could probably do some crazy tricks like Michelle, but then I'd wind up with 80 rolls of toilet paper and absolutely no place to put them in my tiny apartment.

My grocery strategy is to focus on shopping at the lowest price store (Wal-Mart or Target). Then I assess store brand products. If they are junk (almost every Great Value food product!), I refuse to buy them. If they are good, then I'll buy them. For fresh meat and vegetables I go to a higher end grocery store because the extra money is worth it for the quality of the food. I'll also take advantage of sales or coupons if they coincide what I need to buy or if they are for small items with a long shelf life.

I was printing out coupons from the internet sites (, etc.) until my local grocery store stopped accepting them. They claim there are some fraudulent coupons out there and they aren't taking anything that is printed on regular paper. Anyone else have this problem?

We are brand loyal to several name brand products. Coupons make it easier to swallow.

For example, my husband loves Tide and Oxyclean (Tide for almost everything and Oxyclean for his ref clothes). I balked at the price since I never bought name brand anything. Now I just find the coupons and make my husband very happy for winning a "battle". He's also won on French's mustard and Charmin toilet paper (although I usually get tp at Sam's Club and don't use the coupons). I agree with him and gladly use coupons on Frosted Mini Wheats and Honey Nut Cheerios if I don't feel like going to Sam's Club that week.

I'm not as hard-core as some, but by using coupons during Krogers' sales and buying non-coupon items at Walmart and Sam's Club, we do okay. I save about $30-$40 a month on things we would have bought anyway.

I only look for coupons for the big ones like TV, digital camera, etc.
All our grocery comes from Sams, so it is discounted anyways.
If I were more disciplined and motivated, I might save like a 50 dollars a month playing the coupon game, but is it worth my time, probably not?

Like many people here, my grocery shopping is mostly pasta, fresh meat and veggies, and bread from the grocery store's local bakery. We don't buy convenience foods or frozen dinners. I sometimes buy cold cereal, but it's basic (cheerios).

The coupons all seem to be for processed foods or for new sugary cereal. I save money and my family is healthier because we eat fresher & less processed food. So coupons are useless to me. Beauty products are purchased only a couple times a year---honestly, we don't go through enough toothpaste to bother with coupons. Saving $1 or $2 over the entire year---meh, not worth the bother.

I pretty much stopped using coupons. Lately it seems you must buy two or three of an item to qualify for the $1.50 or whatever off. Doesn't work for me. I live alone and three ginormus boxes of Cherrios is just too, too much. I do better at the bulk bins at my local co-op and Target.

Coupons are often frustrating for me. They're almost always for products I never buy, or aren't enough savings in comparison to the generic. Often, the coupon is for a Name Brand and is a measly 30 cents off or something. I usually save more just buying the Generic Brand rather than using a coupon for the name brand. Maybe part of this is due to the fact I am buying for 'just me' and I don't use very much overall, in comparison to families.

Every now and then, I'll get good coupons for products I use, but it's just so rare.

We clip coupons, but I'd say we save less than $10/week with them.

Definitely worth it, but not the type of savings they're talking about.

Quick FYI...Krogers automatically triples coupons that are 35 cents or less and doubles coupons that are between that and 50 cents. That is why there are so many 55 cent coupons now. It's automatic, so you don't even need to say anything...just hand over your coupons.

I love 35 cent coupons and can sometimes get things free this way (like a roll of Bounty paper towels that are on sale for 99 cents...subtract the $1.05 and I actually got paid to put Bounty in my basket).

Yeah, we don't save a fortune, but it only takes me 5-10 minutes a week to find the few coupons we would use. I don't have a real system; I just put them in my wallet and take out the ones I'll be using as I put the item in my basket. I only usually cut 5-10 coupons out a week for items we always use, so I generally know which coupons I have in my wallet.

I don't even properly "time" the use of my coupons, but it still saves us $30-$40 a month...that's about a $1 a minute. Seems worth it to me. :-)

My wife is pretty good at this. We go to BJ's once a month and we save easily $25 to $30 each trip because of the coupons. She's able to use a lot of the buy 2 items get whatever off at BJ's, even when we only buy one package. For us, it's easily worth the $4 we spend on the Sunday paper every month.


Yes, I've run into the problem of stores not accepting printed coupons.

We don't use coupons as a rule because the items we buy are discount/store brands. Our weekly grocery bill is around $50 so that's hard to improve on. We keep our eyes open for things like "everything in this bag is 10% off", but we can't justify the $6+ it costs for the Sunday paper and the time it takes.

There is some savings to be had with coupons and rebate books, but for us a 10% savings amounts to $5 per week. That's not worth the time and assumes 10% which is difficult with out buying patterns. I think the larger the family size the better, but coupons have really lost their appeal in recent years.

I think many people are too close minded towards coupons. I will admit, I used to be the same way. I didn't think it was worth the time to save 20 cents here and there.

However, I got married in June of 2009 and realized that it was insane the amount of money I was spending on groceries/toiletries/etc, and I really just bought the bare minimum. The "drugstore game" seemed like it would be kind of fun, so I tried it out.

I too buy natural foods and not what the food coupons typically are for, but there are many beauty and household coupons in every paper, as well as coupons for Jennie-O turkey, eggs, etc. I now get paid (or close to it) to buy makeup, toothpaste, hair products, contact solutions, etc. It is fun to see how low I can get my spending. What is funny is that I now spend less, and live with more... I used to skimp on makeup, expensive shampoos, glade plug-ins, things that I considered luxury. Now I get it all for free!

FYI, I am an engineer and love to make spreadsheets (because I'm a dork) and I've kept track of every single thing I've spent money on in regards to groceries/toiletries, including how much I've spent out of pocket, and how much I've saved. Since I began couponing in October, I've easily cut my spending by 50%-75% on average.

I use coupons and am a shopper of mostly whole, basic foods. I hear arguments that there aren't coupons for whole foods, but it's just false. In the past few months, I've used coupons in conjunction with sales to get many whole, unprocessed foods for free or very cheap, and occasionally they pay me.

I bought a year's supply of baking supplies before Thanksgiving, including corn starch, flour, baking powder, Kosher salt, sugar, and walnuts. All of them had coupons in the paper and were loss leaders. The grocery store had a deal that if I bought $25 in baking goods (before coupons) I got $10 back as a "catalina" coupon for my next purchase, and for each $25 in products I had at least $15 in coupons, essentially making them free.

I left the store with hundreds of dollars worth of baking supplies for under $20 total. I spent probably an hour at home online figuring out the deal, and maybe an hour and a half at the store, and saved hundreds of dollars. It is most certainly worth it for me.

Right now, a similar deal is happening for frozen foods. Doing the same thing as the baking goods above, I have a freezer stocked with frozen vegetables and Alaskan fish, and a few gallons of Dreyer's ice cream, all for pennies on the dollar. Store brands would have been significantly more expensive.

Last week, I used coupons for plain, fat free yogurt (they paid me on that one), soy milk, Cuties mandarin oranges, Nature's Sweet tomatoes, bagged spinach, brown rice, low-sugar Kashi cereal, and sugar-free applesauce. If you like a product, call the manufacturer to tell them. They'll often send you free coupons. Two pints of yogurt, Kashi cereal and brown rice - about $18 worth of stuff - were absolutely free this week because I took 5 minutes to call and say, "I like your product." I spent $72.81 and saved $47.93 (plus $10 back for my next trip.) That's more than 70% off, plus my freezer is full of the frozen veggies and fish, and only the ice cream would be considered "junk food".

I would happily coupon more than I do if I had the endless coupon sources and store programs here in Canada. For a start we don't have most of the store chains mentioned above, except Walmart and Costco. I don't know of any store that offers rewards programs, or has cards to swipe so no rewards to claim next time, and no downloading coupons. I've never seen a Canadian store offer to double let alone triple a coupon. I've never seen a coupon in the Sunday paper - most of mine are cut from magazines, the back of food packages, or occasionally from torn off displays beside the product in the store. When our local supermarket does offer a book of coupons it's usually 90% full of products we don't use (tooth whitener, hair dye, contact solution, highly processed foods etc) but occasionally there is something useful in there. Then I grab several books and tear out one coupon from each. There are very few Canadian online coupon sites and stores won't take them from US sites. Last week I attempted to use both a store and manufacturer coupon in combination on a sale item and the cashier had to check with her manager to see if that was allowed. Apparently nobody had ever tried it before. Frankly it was the first time I'd ever had two coupons for the same item and finding it on sale was a bonus. Apparently it's standard practice for professional couponers, but I felt like I'd won the lottery.

I read many personal finance and frugal living blogs, but usually just skim over the articles that launch into couponing as a cost saving measure. It's a little like reading about life on another planet!
What I do find helpful are articles on meal planning, frugal recipes, and other strategies for getting the most for your dollar. Just as there are huge price variations between cities and states across the US, our pricing changes by region but I can safely say it's always going to be higher than south of the border. I'd venture to say our cheapest areas are on par with your most costly areas, so claims of feeding a family of 4 on $X always sound absurd compared to our reality. I take what I can from the information others share and ignore the rest. I could make myself crazy trying to duplicate the results I see reported. For the record our budget is $800/month for a family of 4, which includes kids 8 and 15 (the male eating machine). This does not include cleaning or paper products, personal care items or dog food. We all pack our lunches and virtually never eat out so this is our total food expenditure. The only reason I've been able to get it down to this level is through extensive meal planning based on weekly sales, occasional coupons, cooking from scratch, maximizing the freezer and always having a plan for the leftovers. If ever there was a case of YMMV, the US vs Canadian grocery costs is it!

I am a coupon opportunist. I browse the weekly coupons quickly and pick out the coupons that are over $1 for product I planned to buy anyways. I used to spend about 30 minutes each week, and it wasn't worth it. Now I spend about 5 minutes.

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