Crazy Couponing

Betcha didn’t even know that “couponing” is a word! Well, maybe it’s not, but it will be. Trust me on this!

Self-titled experts claim to save 70-80% or more by using coupons.

If you’re one of those who has watched show after show and read article after article about these uber-shoppers who can not only save 89% of their grocery bill by using coupons, but sometimes even get the stores to pay them, and yet you can never really seem to make it work for you…you’re not alone! I’ve been trying to use coupons to my advantage for years! I’m still learning.

A couple things I’ve figured out – First, coupons don’t always mean the best deal. I frequently buy generic – good product, low price. If I find a name-brand with a coupon that beats my generic deal, then I’m in! Takes a bit of time and math (who says you never use algebra after high school?) but it can be worth it.

Second, just because I have a coupon for it doesn’t mean I need it. The best deal is to not buy it at all. That’s 100% savings! Coupons, sales prices, BOGOs, etc, are only good deals if you need the thing in the first place. Otherwise, it’s just a little less money wasted. But it’s money wasted, nonetheless. (wow – that sounds a little weird…)

Third, using coupons is a lesson in organization and planning! Don’t expect to grab the paper and run. General Schwartzkopf once pointed out that amateurs think “tactics”. Professionals think “logistics”.

I still haven’t figured the secret to slashing my grocery bill to $10/month. In fact, since moving to Texas, our groceries have jumped 33%! What a wake-up call for us! What I have figured out is that we have to do  something. If you figure the same, join me as we find the best way to get control of this monster before it eats us!


The Follow-up:

Since publishing this article two months ago, I have been faithfully seeking, clipping, printing and otherwise collecting coupons. I’ve subscribed to ezines like Fabulessly Frugal (great collection point for all things savings) and Groupon,  joined mailing lists for savings at our local theaters, used a trial newspaper subscription (Wednesdays and Sundays only, please) at a hugely reduced cost, and followed every tip I could glean from more experienced friends. I’ve attended meetings and talked to every thrifty shopper I can find (frequently, that’s in the aisles of WalMart as we’re both combing through our coupons!)

Grocery stores in my area don’t double or triple coupons, so that’s out. One store thinks they’re offering a huge boon by allowing one day a week when shoppers can use both last week’s sales ads and this week’s new edition. Yippee. Not terribly enticing. The rest of that store’s pricing is so out of line that except for the occasional phenomenal sale on meat or produce, I won’t even bother with them.

The results? On a typically $220/week grocery bill, I save about $20.

Not exactly the tremendous savings I was looking forward to. When comparing my meager savings with those of the authors of Fabulessly Frugal and others who claim to save sometimes 50% or more, I think I have figured out the difference. I’m already there. Yes, $200/week is huge. But I’m feeding a family of six – all of whom except me are far taller than average and VERY active – plus a Labrador and an old cat.  When we moved a year ago from Montana to central Texas, I had thought, that the grocery bills would just naturally drop because they grow everything here. Not so. Food is every bit as expensive, if not more so, here than there.  Plus we pay 8.25% sales tax on non-food items. (Montana and Oregon have no sales tax.)

The point is, that I am already saving about as much as I reasonably can on food items. I make about everything from scratch, which saves over prepared, pre-packaged meals.  Price comparison is my chosen art form, and I buy generic in most cases. My husband doesn’t care so much for the line up of white, plain label packages in our cupboards, but that’s the only way I keep from raising that weekly bill to over $300.  And I don’t buy a lot of juice, treats, or Nutella (much to my daughter’s distress). Not only does that help keep the costs down, it keeps my family a lot healthier! Not to say they don’t eat treats – they definitely do! But in very reasonable, regulated amounts. Besides, I make awesome brownies a whole lot cheaper than any bakery department!

I shop for certain staples like milk, cheese, eggs, salad, et al, at Sams Club (I have little preference between SC and Costco – whichever is closer gets my business.) We get good quality products at generally the lowest price I could ask for. I’ve tried running all over Round Rock and Austin to “cherry pick” at different stores. Not worth the time and gas, especially as fuel prices are climbing again. I shop sales, but rarely get to combine sales and coupons before my home-printed coupons expire. Not sure how the FF ladies make that one work.

So, the savings for my family really have to come from other sources than groceries. For instance, instead of going to new releases at the theater, we use Red Box, cable Pay Per View, or go see second-runs at the dollar theater – and those only as special treats. Just have to watch those refreshments! We rarely go out to eat, like maybe once every couple months at the most. Occasionally we’ll get a soft drink if we’re out and about for the whole day. But not much more than that.

I LOVE thrift stores – good ones, at least. A few weeks ago I went to a Goodwill warehouse. It was very different than anything I’d experienced before – buying EVERYTHING by the pound! But when I was done, I’d spent around $65. For that, I got a pair of sweats, eight pairs of jeans – name brand and great shape! – a boat load of school supplies including three backpacks, ten 2″ and 3″ binders, locker organizers, a full set of art pencils, a sketch pad, a crystal goblet, and a few other things I can’t even remember. New, that would have cost between $350-$400. That’s my kind of savings!




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