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The world’s best coupon clipper

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I got this amazing comment from a guy named Mike on a recent post:

I have to disagree with all those who rail against coupons. My wife has the last 4 months of inserts filed in our filing cabinet with a spreadsheet that she downloads that inventories the contents of each weeks insert. She then compares our grocery list to the coupon inventory, pulls the correct coupons and goes shopping. the best savings are on the staples we use (cereal, shampoo, etc..). Our monthly grocery bill for a family of 4 is ~$320.

I swear to god, as much as I make jokes about cutting coupons, I would like to first meet this person, then marry her.

Ok, let’s play a game. Who is this person? Where does she live? What is her job? Her husband’s job)? What life experiences brought her to such a level of mastery?

Let’s all just stipulate that she is Asian (who else would be so diligent?). The rest is fair game. Have at it in the comments.

We can all learn something from my future wife.

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  1. I won’t risk guessing, but it is not that uncommon. In case of many normally time-consuming thrifty practises, if you set up a good system (automation) it can be pretty efficient. A lot of people turn it into a hobby, a game – there is some strategic thinking involved and then you have the satisfaction of “beating the system”. I’ve been actually making some pocket money on the side by re-selling coupons – our company is often getting them to distribute among employees, with a blank space to fill in the name, but usually most people are not interested in the products and services they are for (it’s mostly stuff like spa treatments at expensive places and the like), so whoever wants them can get a handful of them and these are better deals than the ones in newspapers, as the coupon issuers think they are targeting the right segment of the market. So I sell $100 off for $30 and everyone is happy (including the coupon issuer I guess, they get a customer after all).

  2. I would love to see how the spreadsheet is organized. I don’t know about keeping 4 months worth of inserts, that’s hardcore! But I would like some ideas on how to create a system like this in Excel.

    Mike, please share the spreadsheet! ^_^

  3. I do something sort of similar, but I use Evernote’s text recognition functionality to automatically do the ‘compilation’, i.e. I scan the coupons into Evernote and file the coupons into physical folders labelled with the store name. Then when making a grocery list, I do a search of the Evernote-indexed scans. So say I want to see if I have a coupon for ‘shampoo’ and where it’s cheapest, I search ‘shampoo’ in Evernote and it displays all the scanned coupons that mention shampoo (based on its text recognition), and I just eyeball the prices from there to compare, note the store name of the cheapest, and go straight to the right folder and clip the coupon. Exactly the same really, except no spreadsheet-entering.

    I find this immensely satisfying, but that’s possibly is driven more by my obsession with Evernote than anything else.

    • I would be very interested to hear more about this method, how do you manage this system?

  4. My stay-at-home mom fed our family of 6 in Indiana consistently for $80 a week cutting coupons.

    • It must be an Indiana thing. My stay at home mom fed our family of four the same way. She has a business degree from Indiana University (one of the best in the country) and after leaving the corporate world to raise little ol’ me she wanted a way to contribute financially to our family. Clipping coupons, finding the cheapest places to eat out (kids eat free, ect.) were a way of life in our family. Not only with groceries, but with restaurants, clothes, or anything else we spent money on.

      I’ve taken her frugality to a new level. Not only do I regularly clip coupons (my goal is to hit a 50% savings rate on my overall bill), but I mystery shop for meals out, and retail purchases. When my boyfriend and I eat out, it’s almost always paid for by someone else in exchange for a 20min survey. In two weeks we will be eating at one of the nicest restaurants in the city with $170 dining allowance, in exchange for completing a survey… free rack of lamb here I come! I love being able to treat my sweetheart, and close friends to a meal!

      I also cook a lot at home growing fresh herbs and veggies (organically of course) in our backyard during the summer. Growing my own organic veggies in the summer leaves me enough room in my grocery budget to have organic produce delivered to our home during the colder months from a local company.

      We eat and live like kings on a paupers budget. It is a game for me.

  5. A good friend of mine does major couponing. I’m not sure how she keeps them organized, but she belongs to a couponing site and reads couponing blogs. She regularly goes to the grocery store and gets $60-$100 of groceries for something like $1.21! She’s amazing. One day I remember b/c of some gift card deals she not only saved money; she wound up PROFITING $40! She’s started teaching classes on couponing and I want to learn the ways of the Jedi master 🙂

    • My dad regularly does this as well. Somehow, because of all his coupons, the store ends up paying him. And he frequently buys $100 worth of groceries for under $5.

      I do know most of his tricks, because I see him spend time at night organizing his coupons, and I know I’d never want to live my life that way. I just hope I will always be able to afford anything I want at the grocery store.

      I’m trying to be more like my mom than my dad–she spends on things she loves (travel, food) and saves on things she doesn’t care about (clothing), and doesn’t even think about money when making small purchases. She has plenty of savings, and maxes out her 401k. Her secret? Making enough money.

  6. I am also a hard core couponer. My family of 3 has a ~$70 per month grocery bill. I get all of my shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, deodorant, etc from drug stores that PAY me to take their merchandise. As I said on a previous post, I also sell my excess “stock” to coworkers/friends.

    It is a hobby for me but I save time by filing whole inserts, viewing grocery/drug store ads weeks in advance & using coupon databases so I know where to locate a coupon I need. I used this method to get us out of credit card debt and we are now working on building savings to 20K by the end of the year.

  7. Kate’s system above, using Evernote, seems interesting.

    I would like to see what the spreadsheet is set up like. Perhaps once everything is in place it doesn’t take too long to maintain?

    If it does take a lot of time then it’s not for me. With three kids you would think doing some major couponing would be good but we just don’t have that kind of time. We’d really have to see some real return on time. I’d rather take the time and work on my site to earn more income.

  8. $320 for a family of 4? How about $15 for a family of 6?