Q&A: All about couponing! (and why I don’t do it)

I thought I'd start the day off right by doing a little FCF Q&A. Remember, drop your questions in the box on the right side of this site and I'll try to get to YOUR question too!
 I got two different questions within the last few days about coupons/couponing, so I thought I'd tackle them both at once. Here's one thing you need to know about me…
I don't believe in couponing.
I'm sorry, I just don't.
I totally respect couponers, it really does work wonders for some people, but frugality is all about deciding what works for you. And for me, it's a no-go for couponing. I've read the blogs, watched the shows,gone to the couponing classes, and did enough research that I really feel like I know HOW to coupon, WHY people coupon, and HOW to make it work.
Yet…
After all that research I have still decided that grocery shopping with coupons is NOT for me.
Frankly, I feel that couponing is like trying to lose weight by training for a marathon. Effective? Yes. …But there are easier ways. HOWEVER! Couponing works great for some people.
(To see how I save half on my grocery bill each month WITHOUT clipping coupons, click HERE.)
SO! All that being said, let's get to the Q&A!

“Hello!
New to this site…
Love it… Love Fun. Love Cheap. Love Free… Love-ly combo!
Been hearing a lot about couponing. Can you tell me which sources you have found to have the best deals. I don't want to make a part-time job out of it 🙂
THANKS BUNCHES! ” – Mary

“Jordan,
I just want to start out out by saying… I'm in awe at what you've accomplished on here.
My question is… Will couponing work for me if I've resorted to buying only store brand items. I say this in hesitation since couponing does involve a lot of time. The last time I tried couponing, the amount I saved went right back into taxes. It didn't make any sense to me. Most coupons were things like “”save $1.00 when you purchase two””… And the items were like $3.50 or so each.
I would really like to start saving money since I want to go back to college (I'm 35yrs).
I'm open to any suggestions. Thanks for your time. -Rese”

Great, great questions Rese and Mary!

Let's start with Mary's Q. Yes, I have found certain sites to be better than others. Here are some that I researched and liked:

  • The Krazy Coupon Lady. She is the grandmother of couponing in my book. She was really the first big hitter and, in my opinion, is one of the main players in couponing becoming so huge. She has been featured on TLC's Extreme Couponing show, has been on shows like The Today Show and more, and she's been around for a while so she knows everything about everything about couponing. The name is actually a misnomer because the website and books are written by TWO ladies. The reason why I recommend her site is because she really breaks it down for you. Start with the tabs at the top of her site and she really spells it out for you, A-Z. Her book, I've heard, is also a great resource.
  • Grocery Smarts. I don't really love the look, organization, or “flow” of this site, but it's FUNCTIONAL with a capital F! She matches current coupons with current store deals so you can maximize your deals. A coupon by itself isn't a great deal most of the time, you need to match it with a store sale to really get much out of it. She helps you do this. At the top of the home page you select your state from the drop down menu. Then, from the next drop-down menu you can pick your specific store, or you can simply scroll down the page to see all the options there for you. She flags the great or even free deals for you with red starts (she explains the rating system at the top of the page). Click START, then you can go down the list, click on the deals you want, and print your list. It helps you organize your shopping list when going to the store, and helps you see in one shot how to match coupons with store deals. She also gives you access to printable coupons.
  • Coupon Mom and Hip-2-Save are also two very popular, reputable couponing sites. They post deals and teach you how to coupon.
  • To get a discount on the Sunday paper (which you need in order to be an effective coupon-er) I recommend attending a free coupon class. They sell discounted subscriptions to the newspapers, so if you're going to do it, at least don't pay full-price. I found THIS SITE that offers them. Google “free coupon class in ___” and list your city. Here in Utah HERE is a class, and HEREis the class I went to that you can try.

 So now onto Rese's question:

Rese, if you couldn't tell by my soap box above, couponing does NOT work for me. In your case, it sounds like it might not work for you either. Just educate yourself on how to effectively coupon (read below here in a second) and see if that's best for you. Personally, I recommend THIS method. It's easier, faster, and you can get both name brand AND store brand items if you want, for 1/2 price. Likewise, it saves you not only on pantry items (like couponing does) but it saves you the most on the most expensive items: meat, produce, dairy, and other fresh items. So really, I don't know what to tell you other than just 1) educate yourself, and 2) do what works best for you!

To give credit to you couponers and give a fair opinion on the matter, here is an email I got from Alison, Co-Owner of Grocery Smarts. Here is an email she wrote me to teach me the ins and outs of couponing:

Hello Jordan,  my name is Alison Andersen and I'm the Co-Owner of Grocery Smarts here in UT.  I recently came across your blog today and knew I needed to contact you.

I'm not sure if you have heard of us, but we are free website that helps people save money in the grocery store.  We list everything that's on sale, we give everything a star rating so you know what those great deals are each week.  We also index any available coupons for a specific item so you can save that much more by combining the sale with the coupon to save you 60-100% off regular retail. What makes our site different is that we add the coupons from the Sunday newspaper and on-line to use in conjuncuntion to the sale to save even more.  I have been teaching my Free Couponing classes in Ut for the last 3 years.  I teach all over UT and do several classes weekly.  In the last year, I've traveled to California and have done several large seminars of 200+ people.  I teach people the 2 tricks of the trade of couponing.  I teach them how to use them the right way to not only save money but to mostly save time!  Yes, couponing takes time, if someone tells you differently they are lying and want to steal your coupons!!  It takes time but it doesn't have to control your life.  People think that couponing has to be a full time or even a part time job and it doesn't have to be, especially with our website and our easy methods of organization.  I teach people how to organize their coupons in less than 10 minutes a week, how to use our website, how to price match and how to shop with confidence.

After looking at your site, I see that you are a big price matcher and Costco shopper and not so much a couponer.  Couponing is not for everyone and I was the exact same way until I learned how to coupon the right way.  You mentioned these points about couponing, all of which I would have agreed with 4 years ago.

  • It takes a TON of time. To really save money you have to invest as many hours as a full or part-time job sometimes.

It doesn't have to control your life and take the time you might think.  Our website does all the work.  We let you know where to find any available coupon and teach you to organize your coupons by filing the whole inserts away by the date they came in the Sunday paper.  I don't, nor do I teach people, to cut out all their coupons and stick them in baseball card holders in a big binder!  This method is time consuming and will control your life!  I plan my shopping trip, using our lists, before I go to the store, locate my coupons, cut them out and head to the store.  Couponing only takes me 20-30 minutes a week!

  • You have to have multiple newspaper subscriptions to get enough coupons to make it worth it.

Yes, you need multiple newspaper to make it worth it!  I wouldn't shop with just 1 coupon, that's not worth my time.  When I can get my favorite hair care product that's regularly $5 a bottle for only $.50 with a sale and coupon, I want to make sure to stock up at that price.  I get 4 Sunday papers, so I get 4 bottles for $2.  I just bought in bulk spending less than I would have spent buying in bulk at Costco.  I just stocked up on my favorite hair care product for 4 months for less than the price of 1 bottle!  I stocked up enough product to last me until the next sale so I essentially avoid paying full price for that item ever again!  This is why my family of 6 thrives off of $350 a month for all of our grocery and household items.

  • Forces you to buy name-brand items.

Yes, it forces you to buy name-brand items!  Isn't that great!  In my example above, by combining the sale and a coupon I get the name brand for cheaper than the generic.  I spend less, bring home more and it's all name brand!

  • Saves you money mainly on pantry items, which are usually processed shelf foods.

Yes, there are a lot of coupons for processed foods, but that doesn't mean you have to buy it!  80% off the coupons I use are for non-food items.

  • Can save you lots of money on the pantry items, but rarely (if ever) saves you anything on the healthy and fresh foods your family needs like produce, dairy, and grains.

I coupon on the beauty products, paper products, razors, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and Laundry soup.  I spend so little to nothing on these items that I have more money to spend in the grocery store on the healthy items for my family.  More fruits and veggies and fresh meat!  The majority of my monthly budget is on those things I don't or can't use coupons on.  We are, however seeing more coupons for dairy products.  You can go to Coupons.com and print out a coupon for any Milk and Cheese!

  • Takes a few months to work up to having a good supply, and has a learning curve that takes some getting used to.

The sales at the grocery stores cycle every 3-4 months, so yes, it takes you a full cycle to get your good supply so you can start shopping from your storage room.  It's worth the wait!

  • Often times you have to shop at multiple stores, multiple times a week to get the best deals.

Because of the sale cycles you don't have to shop at multiple stores.  Everything will come on sale at your store in that 3-4 months.  You can also do all your shopping at Walmart and price match!  Our website has an awesome tool on it that makes price matching a breeze!  You can print out a shopping list with all the great deals at every store on one list!  You take that list to Walmart and price match directly from it, and use your coupons of course!  I shop at Smith's and Walmart, most people will tell you same.
Feel free to contact Alison about free coupon classes and discounted papers at:
Alison Andersen
Grocery Smarts Manager
435 – 720 – 2103
Aacoupongal@gmail.com

So there you go! I still am a non-couponer, but maybe this will help some of you make the decision for yourself. Hope that helps!
Happy shopping 🙂

Jordan signature

Photo sources HERE and HERE and HERE

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