Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coupon Crazy

(Warning: Reading this very long post may start you down the path of either craziness or boredom).

Have you or someone you love been exposed to the coupon craze?

Yes, I've been exposed
and now have a full-blown case of coupon crazy.

Of course, coupon clipping has been around since the first newspaper but it's never been done like this before. The grocery shopper, the homemaker, the thriftster now strives to be
a couponista. 

Jenny in Lex was the first to expose the condition to me.
But it wasn't the right time in my life.
I found it overwhelming, stressful, time-consuming and I just plain ole disliked doing it.

But I kept trying.
Clipping a coupon here and there.
Matching it with a sale sometimes there, sometimes here.

Then I moved and I met another couponista named Janell. 
 I was at a different point in my life. I had already been through the initial exposure.
Janell had some other tricks and tips to add to Jenny's.
The rest is history, as they say.

This was into my 2nd week of coupon crazy:
12 boxes of cereal, 4 boxes of fruit snacks, 2 packages of diapers and wipes, large package of toliet paper, deodrant, kitty litter, 2 boxes of granola bars, 2 containers of ice cream plus more all for $75.
It would usually be at least double that.

My 3rd week in I had another Kroger grocery total of $48 before coupons and ended up paying $13 after coupons.

Another thing I have discovered is that I hardly ever go to Wal-Mart anymore because it doesn't have the most inexpensive prices now that I coupon.
That alone is worth it's weight in gold.  
(The last time I went to Wal-Mart I was in line 45 minutes. Most of the time was spent with the cashier, the cashier manager and the store manager trying to ascertain that an item was truly on sale. This was after I handed them my Wal-Mart flyer with the sale listed).

Interested in being a couponista?

My suggestions:
First, you need to get at least one subscription (many couponistas have several subscriptions) to the Sunday paper to begin couponing. I find one newspaper is enough for my family's needs with all the coupons I can print off the internet.

Get "the lists" that tell you exactly what to get from each store using which coupons for the best deals
There is a 4 week free trial so you can figure out if it's helpful for you.
I like the way one gal there organizes her coupons into a binder without clipping. 
(You can read about it on the website).  
I find it less overwhelming and time consuming.

These are my two favorite blogs about couponing:
I read these blogs to find the smokin' deals that aren't always on "the list" because these couponistas scour the internet for the best coupons and deals and then tell you exactly how and where to go for the deal.
(I only read two because there are tons and tons of blogs about couponing and it can be overwhelming and time consuming).

  • She focuses on stores that are found more in the midwest area.

  • She also does bulk cooking which I haven't tried yet.

  • I like her articles for "Beginners"
  • This blog focuses on different stores such as Target and other stores found more out west.
Some issues I have had to conquer on my way to being a couponista: 
1) It's still cheaper to buy generic than with coupons.
I use to think this but I've discovered if you coupon like the above couponistas it's not true. 
In the past I would indiscriminately use coupons- meaning I did not wait for the items to go on sale first and/or I did not "stack" (using multiple coupons) a store's coupon with a manufacturer coupon. 
When I started doing these things it was less expensive to shop with coupons than to buy generic.

2) I don't want to spend money on newspaper subscriptions, buying coupons or subscribing to coupon websites. I rather spend that money on groceries.
 What spend money to save money?! I was a little bit leery because that usually smells of scam. But I went ahead and budgeted these expenses into our grocery budget and found I was still saving money.  I was able to get our newspaper for $0.99 a paper. My husband enjoys reading the newspaper anyways.
 During the 4 week trial to "the list" I found that my favorite list was for Kroger and I plan to only pay money  for the one store.

3) You just get a lot of things you don't need or use.
 I make a list of things we use regularly and items we are getting low on. I scan through the lists and the blogs for those items. Sometimes I'm not able to find items that I want/need that week. So I make the decision to either be patient and wait for the good deal or pay more money this time if I really need it. Most of the items were average size not huge bulky things that can be hard to store or to use up once opened. A few have been travel size or the smaller sizes of the product though.

Hard Truths & Costly Mistakes:
I still spend more time than I wish on couponing although now I kind of enjoy it. It's sort of a hobby for me or a game to find the best deal. I still hope that I get better and quicker at it. My time is valuable and I might have to start charging for my time and adding it to the budget. I'm interested to see if I would still save money. I bet a lot you are more organized and efficient and could be a couponista in less time.

At least for me it's not perfect and something still inevitably goes wrong every week. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes:
 At Walgreens, I forgot to purchase items in a separate transactions so I could turn around and use the $10 Register Rewards I had earned to buy the nonRegister Reward items. The Register Rewards are like cash that can only be used at Walgreens and they expire. If I don't use them right away I forget about them or don't use them in time. I've lost $12 that way so far. Again many of you are probably more organized and this wouldn't happen to you. 

Another time, I did do a separate transaction so I could turn around and use the Register Rewards but I did not purchase items in the correct order. If your total isn't more than the Register Rewards you want to use, it won't work. I think I'm making it sound complicated, it's not really all that bad, you just need to think it through and (once again) be a little more organized than I am.  

I've also gone to Kroger without my Kroger card. I've gone to Meijer without bringing my $-off-your-next-purchase catalina. At Target I have a hard time sticking to my list and often buy things that aren't way on sale or without coupons. I have also spent time researching and couponing to never make it to the store before the sales end.  

Every now and then I buy something I don't need because it's waaay on sale. I bought Bayer AM for $0.50 but then realized I would never use it. (It's mainly for hangovers and since you have to drink to get a hangover--it's a not a problem. And it uses caffiene which I avoid as much as possible in my food and medicine because it makes me anxious).

Maybe you can help me decide on this one: 
To get the deal I had to buy 4 packages of Oreo's, 2 gallons of milk and 3 packages socks containing 6 pairs each. I got it all for around $16. (I'm having flashblacks to math story problems). Did we really need the Oreo's? No, we did not.  Milk we go through almost 2 gallons in a week, so we are good there.  And the socks aren't needed at this moment but eventually they will be right?

What do you think: Deal or No Deal?

Sometimes I think about giving up the whole couponista dream but I think I'm too far in that I can't ever go back.
So I keep hoping I will get better at this whole coupon thing.


  1. First of all, of course you can always go back... don't force yourself to keep doing it if it stops being advantageous or you stop enjoying it!! :)

    Also, I would say go for the Oreos, because I love love those cookies and never get them, but I know my husband would say: forget about it.

    I think you've probably earned a little treat, and socks keep... you'll need new ones eventually. And um, make pudding or something this week. That uses up milk. :) :)

  2. Oh I don't know reading your post and others about couponing sounds so inspiring, but yet I just can't bring myself to care enough to go to all that extra work and effort. Yet I can see how it would be so rewarding to see so much saved and somewhat addicting once you have started.

    And for the record Deal on the oreos, you can never have too many oreos, even if you didn't really need them!

  3. I remember clipping coupons for my grandparents, and when I worked in retail, thinking, "Why on earth would anyone NOT use coupons?! I'm definitely getting into that." I tried signing up for one of those websites, but it seemed like they only offered discounts on a few things that I NEVER would have used. But I guess part of the fun would be trying new foods??
    I don't know. I definitely think coupons are the way to go, but I feel like some coupon-shoppers are just so much better at it than I'll ever be!