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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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170 Comments

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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?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQNvdKNTZUg

  9. I think this sounds like a lot of work. I shop at Aldi, you don’t need to spend time clipping/automating/scanning etc, their prices are always the lowest, even w/coupons or buying in bulk, and time.

  10. Anyone else surprised how many couponers read this site? I would have thought my posts would have driven you away by now. Not joking — just being honest, since the target audience is pretty different.

    I’m curious, if you’re a hard-core couponer, what do you get out of this site? Thanks for helping me understand.

    • I’m always open to saving money & looking at it from a different perspective. I prefer your bluntness to other “one less latte” sites.

    • Hi Ramit:

      I read iwillteachyoutoberich because you encourage us to go after “big wins,” such as lowering insurance costs and increasing our income, versus smaller costs savings such as coupons.

      I am trying to be more risk taking than my normal choices that are risk adverse.

    • While I am a hardcore couponer (half indian and part chinese FTW) lol, I do think it is important to look at other perspectives and what I love is that you focus on so many different areas of financial life. Sure, couponing may be a waste of time for some – especially those who work for higher salaries – but once you have the framework in place and you’ve done it for some time, it becomes a breeze! Not to mention, I look at it as a long term big win! As long as you (the couponer) only buy things that will be used – and are not planning on moving cross-country anytime soon, I think it is a great idea.

      As for why I read this site, well – not all coupon clippers think the same way. Nor can we be classified as one particular group with a specific set of traits. For instance, my uncle Premchand and his wife are massive coupon clippers, but will not go on a vacation or spend an unwarranted cent on anything (I’m not judging – they really just don’t EVER spend money!) For me, I spend on what I love, and that would be on my art supplies and my true love – traveling … And as for this site, (as you may know ;)) there is a lot of valuable information, not to mention the great comments from others that I enjoy reading immensely. The way I see it, there is always more to be learned – I grew up in a high-consumption household, so I spent a few years learning about how to manage money on my own (saying the word budget was like saying the f-word). While I don’t know if I will be couponing forever, as long as I still enjoy it, I will continue! BTW. your book was stellar (even to a couponer).

    • As with anything, a multi-faceted approach will work best over the long haul. I have my tsp, my roth, personal savings, and a pension plan. Why not save more by spending 30 minutes a week clipping, filing, and looking through circular’s? My last grocery bill I saved almost 40% thanks to coupons and strategic shopping. That’s an extra $30+ that equals a tank of gas or socializing out or or or? (After saving 30% of my pay every two weeks mind you—fully investing in my roth also).

      I think the people you’ve driven away aren’t the hard-core couponer’s…you’ve driven away the people who don’t “get it” that clip coupons.

    • I am disappointed when the receipt shows I saved anything less than 50%. Yes, it’s important to save on big things, but like others have said, once you get the hang of couponing (and it’s bigger, badder brother down here: CVSing, lol), it’s not that time consuming. It’s an important part of budgeting. I can put more into our savings account (or Roth IRA or whatever) each month *because* I saved half off our groceries each week. It really adds up. Unfortunately, we don’t have double coupons in Florida, because those people make BANK: *those* are the people that are making a profit.

    • Ramit;

      I confess, I’ve noticed you attempting to drive me away for some time now; what with the coupon comments, the mom-with-two-kids comments, and whatnot. However, I am a lifelong learner, and you definitely present many resources to learn from. I would like to divide my financial savvy between saving money, and earning more money — a healthy balance.

      And I really enjoy how snarky you can get. :)

    • I like your emphasis on spending money on what’s really important. I try to get the most from my dollar in every aspect of life. The shoes that I’m wearing right now that I love, I got them on sale, with a 15% off promotion, with a coupon for 15% off plus free shipping. I’ll be wearing them on my upcoming girls only trip to Vegas that we got for a super bargain (airline tickets, 6 nights hotel, and Cirque du Soleil tickets for $500 each). Being frugal in all areas of life simply gives you more options about how to spend your time. I live life to the fullest, and still have money in savings at the end of the month. My boyfriend and I have very modest incomes, but we are able to live ‘above our means’ and put money in savings by being conscious spenders.

    • Being on the research end of the companies who issue coupons – it does not surprise me that couponers read your site.

      We issue them to demographic populations that have a higher household income and home value than you think.

      It surprises me more that you spend a lot of time discussing how that’s a different population than your readership. I think that just makes the couponers read quietly in the back until you write a blog post that encourages them to comment on this secret thing they do. The other interesting thing is that people with higher education who do spend the time to coupon can have a much bigger impact because they tend to create an efficiency process by which to manage it.

      When strategically executed, coupons cut expenses. Your message is increase your income or cut your expenses. Makes sense to me.

      Oh and by the way, I’m off to PYT for happy hour after work because if I check in there with foursquare, I get a free pint. Foursquare is a free app. Lovely for me because I’m a one drink kinda girl.

  11. I am also a hardcore couponer.

    I also work F/T and am going to night school for my MBA. So… free time? Not so much.

    For (3) adults (husband and parent), we spend about $60/wk on groceries and sundries, saving about 30%-45% each trip. The FDA average for 3 adults is about $71/wk, so I always aim to buy lower than that.

    A lot of the reason for the high price is that we buy meat when it is at its lowest price, separate it into portions, and store it in our basement freezer. We also store bulk meals, also portioned, in this freezer as well.

    My recent goal is to get the price/week down. I have been putting my foot down about eating up our freezer and pantry stock. I have already encountered opposition in my family, but it is better than losing hundreds of dollars of food if we lose power.

    What is the secret? Do what works for you and makes you happy!

  12. Ditto Amber’s comment about CouponMom. The website not only has a searchable database of coupons, it matches them to store sales. I consistantly save 30% with about 1/2 hour of work a week.

  13. She could be my Russian father who does this as well.

    I still make fun of him for it because he’s a financial advisor and his time really IS money, and if he wanted to, instead of his coupon system he could do work for his clients which would get him a lot more than 25 cents off his 2 dollar purchase.

    He does it for the “joy of saving”. I didn’t inherit this gene. I work so I never have to think that 25 cents is important enough to even a second thinking about.

  14. I am also a hardcore couponer. I’m 26, white, engaged with no children, with a Masters degree. I’m also mind-blowingly attractive. hehe. So I don’t fit the stereotype of the middle-aged mom of 6.

    I teach gifted kids in an extremely wealthy school district, the suburb is VERY populated and there are 3 of every single store you could imagine within 5 miles, and live alone–so because of my profession and living situation, I have a fair amount of time on my hands. I started couponing when I was DESPERATELY poor in graduate school–as in, never sure if I would be able to pay my rent. I got addicted–it’s definitely a hobby, and I have it down to an absolute science. I legitimately save thousands of dollars a year.

    The primary reason I’m able to save so much is because I have access to sixty copies of the Sunday paper, because it’s delivered to my school.

    One day school was canceled due to snow, and there was a coupon for a FREE full-sized bag of fancy Purina cat food that retailed for 13.99 a bag. I had nothing else to do, so I proceeded to gather $300 worth of cat food. For free. For 3 hours of driving around. My cat is still eating that food 8 months later.

  15. I saw a clip on the news about a mom who supposedly fed her kids for practically free for a month by clipping coupons. She was pretty proud that she only spent a couple of hours a week managing her coupons and shopping. I was impressed until the camera panned across her pantry — 20 jugs of cooking oil, a dozen boxes of hamburger helper, chex mix, and a ton of other processed things. Now, it’s great and all that you can stock up on this stuff for practically free, but it is NOT easy to find coupons for — a half dozen leeks, a bag of potatoes, fresh chives, and some buttermilk. I really like a simple potato and leek soup, which is old school peasant food, but I don’t like chex mix or hamburger helper. Now, when I say peasant food, I mean it. I don’t eat like a rich person (yeah I WISH I could keep caviar in my fridge), but I never see coupons for anything I would buy. I keep vegetables, bread dough, milk, butter, and eggs in the fridge.

    So here’s my question… am I wrong in thinking that there just aren’t “Buy 2 get 1 free!!!” coupons for boston lettuce? Once you remove processed food, cooking oil, and paper/dry goods/home supplies from the equation, is there anything left in the coupon inserts?

    And heck, couldn’t I just spend a couple hours a week raising potatoes instead of couponing and have food for free too? (By “I”, I mean someone else entirely, as I am lazy and would prefer to exchange dollars for potatoes as long as I have the dollars to do so)

    I’m just asking questions, not criticizing the couponers — if there were a savvy couponer out there who could show me how to buy salad, potatoes, onions, etc on the super-cheap, it might be worth my time, because I buy a lot of that, because I like to cook the same foods my mom and grandmother made. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.

    • same here… as much as i loved the boxed foods i’m trying to eat healthier, a trip to the grocery store and i only really hit the produce and meat sections. we already shop at the ghettomart down the street, and they put the meat on sale fairly often.
      i just can’t see myself devoting enough time and energy coupon hoarding for it to make a difference. i tried once- i did try! but by the time i went to the grocery store all the coupons were expired. bah! this whole process is riddled with landmines.

    • Yeah, same thing with me. I could see couponing helping for products like tortillas, canned tomatoes, canned beans, dried pasta, tomato paste, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. I don’t think couponing for just that type of thing will lead to dramatic savings. But for those of us who don’t like to eat processed foods, the most important thing is to find a store that has high-quality produce at good prices (in my area, that’d be Fred Meyers, or Asian groceries) and also a store that has a good bulk aisle (like Whole Foods). Also, perhaps consider investing in a chest freezer.

      And if you have the space/inclination, apparently on of the easiest things to grow is salad greens. You can trim them when they’re young for a “baby greens” salad, and then they keep growing back…awesome!

  16. Isn’t one of the basic principles of investing to diversify? That same philosophy should be applied to saving. Why wouldn’t someone who likes to save by clipping coupons not like to save on big ticket items too? Your advice is just helping us clippers diversify how we save (and invest, think about finances, etc.). That is why we read your blog (and book). Man does not live on bread alone, so why should he save on bread alone?

  17. To build on what neshura was saying, I see coupons for lots of food that may not be the healthiest for you. You don’t see as many coupons for products you find in Whole Foods, for example. Is it worth all of the coupons if the food isn’t too good for you?

    • cont’d from other post… agreed- when i DID cut out coupons i found myself saying “well, i never TRIED beef macaroni with jalepeno and shredded cheese in a box, how do i know i won’t like it?”… but then i could never bring myself to buy food i wouldn’t eat. boxed dinners, preprocessed snacks, soda soda soda. coupons for pet food i can see- i have a litter coupon on my fridge now- but i couldn’t take the onslaught of rainbow hamburger helpers.

  18. Totally NOT into coupons, unless it’s for a retail store (24% off at XYZ this weekend).

    I literally have never seen one for anything I buy these days in the Sunday paper or on coupon sites. I buy everything from soap to detergent to lotion all at the local farmers’ market, and shopping at the market, I never buy processed food, either. I actually don’t trust meat “on sale,” or meat purchased from anyone but a local rancher, for that matter. I’m also extremely picky about personal care products (who makes them, what they’re made of), so toothpaste, floss, even shampoo and conditioner are out.

    I know there are a lot of people saving a lot of money, but I’m more than okay with not getting the lowest price. Quality and “voting with my dollars” is more important to me.

  19. Ha. Meant 25%. Whatever. :)

  20. I guess I should rephrase my question. I spend $700-$800 a month on groceries for a family of three. The majority of that goes to, as I mentioned, vegetables, basic dairy, flour for bread, and yes — we do eat pretty simple food. Not quite bread alone like what Patricia says, but soups, egg dishes, and our daily bread (literally). We eat meat occasionally but I know the farmer and I’m not abandoning him to get meat cheaper elsewhere.

    My question for any experienced couponers who might be monitoring the comments is — can I (or people like me) save enough money by clipping coupons for the foods I already like to make coupon clipping worthwhile for our family?

    I’m completely serious — it would be a godsend to cut my family’s grocery bills in half by clipping coupons. Nothing I buy is “big ticket” but it sure does add up.

    • I’ve experienced the same problem–I just never see coupons for things I actually buy. A few times, I have actually seen coupons for salads–like, those premade bags of salads. But I buy primarily veggies (for salads or fast cooking), chicken breasts, and um…some processed food which I can find coupons for (those 100 calorie snacks–I’m bad with portion control, so they do actually help me not eat 800 calories of chocolate cake).

      Coupons are usually for new products or things that aren’t being bought as often as the manufacturer would like. By definition, that seems to mean food that is processed.

    • I completely understand and in some ways agree with you. I’m not an uber-couponer, but I save my fair share. Personally I find that my biggest savings with coupons are for things like toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, cleaning products, pasta, cereal and yogurt. My biggest “splurges” with coupons are ice cream and tortilla chips. Otherwise I don’t buy the junky hamburger-helper type foods either. But I do like to save on essentials when possible in order to have money to spend what I please on other ingredients (whatever they may be).

      I’m all for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) by the way. You can get great produce and meat for reasonable prices while supporting your neighbors.

      As an FYI, you can get organic and all-natural coupons from http://www.mambosprouts.com and on Ebay as well if that is your thing.

  21. She appears to be using a variation on the ‘Grocery Game’

    This is referenced here in the following post on ‘Get Rich Slowly’:
    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/05/17/busting-the-myths-why-coupons-are-a-valuable-part-of-your-financial-arsenal/

    We should be focusing on the ‘Big Wins’ … right? So … what equates to a ‘big win’? $80/hr?

    According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal (and subsequently referenced in MSN here ( http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/earn-100-dollars-an-hour-clipping-coupons.aspx ) at approximately 1 minute a coupon (if you know what circular the coupons are in) and an average coupon amount of 1.44 that equates to ~$80/hr.

    Combined with a service like http://www.groceryguide.com/ (free), http://www.couponmom.com/ (free), http://www.hotcouponworld.com/ (free) or http://www.thegrocerygame.com/ (Paid) you can optimize WHEN you buy, in coordination with the coupons. (One Blog which has coupons is http://www.truecouponing.com ).

    So the big win is “coordination of buying when something is on sale, with using a coupon magnifies the discount available”. You may be stocking up on more stuff, but it is like catching a 2 for one sale, and then slapping them with a coupon on top of that.

    So, if you think about it. Saving $25 a week … is $100 a month and ~1300 a year. If that money is put aside into your savings plan 1,300 a year in 10 years, ignoring interest is 13,000.

    Or to put it mildly. Save $25 a week in coupons and in 10 years you can get yourself a “free car”.

  22. For a minute I thought I was on the wrong site. Ramit! please bring back the capitalist posts. Thx in advance

    I could care less who save .15 on shampoo, etc

    • People who save .15 on shampoo aren’t couponers they just occasionally use coupons. Shampoo and most toiletries, in my world, is free and sometimes puts money in my pocket and takes less time to figure out than an easy game of Sudoku.

  23. Personally, I done a little of everything. I’ve tried “hardcore coupon” tactics, focused on the big wins and focused on earning more (highly recommend Ramit’s Earn 1K program btw). If you cannot earn more (or presume you cannot earn more because of mental barriers) then saving more is a viable alternative. Couponers love to say how their time is worth more saving because they don’t have to pay taxes on a salary or it’s better because they do this while watching the Price is Right in their pjs.

    When I’m working, I LIKE what I’m doing, just like coupon moms probably like clipping and filing 100 coupons. There’s an attitude that saving money is superior to earning money and as Ramit pointed out in his long ass post about judging others for their spending “Easier to criticize others’ spending — or earning — rather than do something different in our own lives.” I think the coupon stories in these comments are a great example of this – if I had 3 hours free time and access to 60 coupon inserts for free cat food I’d go home and work on my freelance income. I don’t have a cat. Or really like cats. At the most I’d spent 10 minutes to drop off the coupons at the animal shelter and let them do the leg work.

    Eventually most couponers should come to a point when they can cut no more, they’re living bare bones and earning money is the only way to improve their situation. Which excludes the old, rich, coupon obsessed parents who probably see this as a hobby. It’s not necessity.

    I still use some coupons but I go for the “big wins” like $40 off flowers for a birthday present or free photo printing that I use for my freelance photography portfolio. I don’t think the two mindsets (small coupons and big wins) are mutually exclusive but time is limited and eventually you’re going to vote with your time which is more profitable. Clipping a coupon is much easier than taking an 8-week course that will teach you to earn $12,000/year, I’m guessing that’s what most people will do.

  24. For those that are curious about coupons for healthy food – they are out there but maybe a little harder to find. One example is a winetag. The little tags that are the neck of the bottle often have coupons for $$ off of meat/dairy. I picked up one two weeks ago for Laura’s Lean beef but most just are not that specific. Also, several months ago there was a printable coupon for buy 1 dozen eggs, get 1 free. I know that Lowes Food had coupon booklet out recently that had “health brands”.

    Another way of saving is to utilize beer rebates. Since I live in a NBPN (no beer purchase necessary) state, I can use these to get free/cheap meat. The rebates are in the beer section and typically state “get $10 off wyb $20 in meat”. So when I buy meat, I send off for these rebates.

    • Jenn,

      You’re right! I forgot about this, but it is something my father does do. This one can be relatively simply too–just walk by the beer/wine section of the grocery store that day and see if they have any coupons.

      I think I’ve also seen (through him) coupons for seafood on those tags.

  25. I bet she stays at home with the kids now but used to have a job that required looking at a task and systematizing it like computer programming, project management, etc. Then she started to have kids and decided she would rather raise them right. So now at home with a little “free time” she put her job experience to work and made a useful tool for their family by systematizing their coupon clipping. Good for her!!

  26. I don’t think $320 for a family of four is that amazing, in all honesty. I used to be a super couponer, but found that shopping at WinCo was just as cheap and saved me time. We spend at the most $180 per month for my family of four, and that’s eating a lot of fresh produce. We don’t do boxed anything except cereal.

    Now, my sister has a family of seven. She uses pinchingyourpennies.com to check the sales and know which coupons to clip, no planning involved, and she spends $300 per month. That includes diapers, toiletries, etc.

    With all of the grocery sales blogs and Web sites that are out there today, I don’t think it’s difficult at all to spend minimally on your groceries without putting in a lot of time.

  27. I’ve got friends that save on average $400 – $500 per month on groceries, toiletries, and other necessities by using http://www.grocerygame.com – granted, they have families >4 and they do stockpile some items. They don’t have whole storage rooms full though. Seems like on meat, you need to have an extra freezer to be able to make couponing work best for you.

  28. When I used to check groceries 25 years ago, I was constantly amazed at how much people could save with coupons. Like $100-300 in a trip!

    Because of the kind of food and other products I buy I am in the same boat as some others above who never see coupons for the (usually healthier) things they buy. A solution I use is to do a special order for staples I use regularly, like organic cereal, gluten free pasta, rice milk, curry sauces, etc. My food co-op gives a 15% case discount for members. Doing this while the product is on sale saves even more.

  29. Clearly your recent blog post of how people are judgmental about how others spend their money was ignored by many of the folks who are commenting on this topic.

  30. I save about $5-$10 per trip on my grocery by spending 10 minutes going through coupons.com and printing out ones that look useful. And I’m a huge health snob too, as in what most people call “healthy” I think is complete junk, so I don’t know if I could ever do extreme couponing, but I can usually find coupons for 3-4 things I actually want.

  31. My mom is the world’s best coupon clipper. She once saved over $600 on a single grocery bill. She kicks the butt of most of these websites that teach you how to save using coupons. She is a master.

    However, here are the downsides. She has an anxiety disorder, so for her coupons are a way of retaining control. She used to spend $40,000/year remodeling the house (she’s now stopped since my parents are close to retirement.) She has over 200 pairs of shoes–and continually buys more because they are “such a good price!”

    She recently financed a Lexus…I believe this is Lexus SUV #2 or #3…before that it was Lincolns.

    My parents go on extravagant vacations because hey feel they “deserve” them, but have only saved about 1/6 of what they would need for retirement. Mom had no idea how much she spent every month, but I can tell you her monthly credit card bills approached $12,000 some months (to give my parents credit, she does pay them off in full.)

    I did get my parents to go to a therapist once because Mom’s anxiety leads to Dad’s alcoholism and they just feed off each other. But they didn’t go back. It was Mom who was less willing to go, surprisingly.

    You will notice on my blog my parents are the thing I talk about least.

    Do you really want to marry my mom?

    -Erica

    • Wow. I did not know that.

    • Erica,

      I feel for you. I know for my dad, it’s a disorder as well–he goes shopping at least one a day, usually several times a day. Because of his career, he doesn’t sit in an office 9 to 5, so his day revolves around meeting with clients and going food shopping. When I visit him (he’s in another state), I always ask him to go food shopping just once a day, so I can spend more time with him outside of a grocery store, but he will usually sneak out of the house to do it. I think it’s ridiculous and pathetic to have this uncontrollable need, but my grandfather tells me my dad was always like this–he loved the thrill of saving money, no matter how trivial the dollar amount may be. Financially, he could perfectly well afford to shop at whole foods for full price and buy anything his heart desires, but he actually enjoys doing this.

  32. I used to be pretty skeptic about coupons as well but some people really make them work. Check these out for more info:
    myfrugaladventures.com – this mom keeps to a $50 per week grocery budget for a family of 4 and posts her weekly shopping trips: http://myfrugaladventures.com/category/shopping-trips/
    hip2save.com – posts helpful videos on saving tips: http://hip2save.com/2010/02/follow-you-monday-publix-and-target-shopping.html

  33. Great posts guys!
    Both my wife and I have both run the gauntlet of coupons and there is totally a benefit to coupons, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT : ) Most extreme couponers will say that it does take a lot of time, and it does, but the wins can come in both tremendous savings AND profits! Streamlining our lives have brought us to the point where we collect our weekly SmartSource and Red Plumb coupon inserts and store them by date. Then once we receive our weekly circulars from our grocery store (yes, just one) We, then jump onto http://www.HotCouponWorld.com to find the coupons we need. They have a database of all non-expired coupons in circulation… so therefore it becomes a check and balances game. First, find the deals you like, then check the site to see if you have the coupons within your collection of inserts, if you don’t buy them on Ebay and have them within 2-4 days. All this can be done in less than an hour every Sunday night and has brought my wife and I to a point where all we buy is meat and fresh produce… everything else if free or very close too it.

    Some will argue that you end up buying more than you really need… well, that is true, very true. A few ways of dealing with this:

    1. Donations to your school/church/non-profit/Family/Friends
    2. Long Term storage inventory – nonparishables
    3. Excellent garage sale items… who wouldn’t buy $4 cleaners for $1-2 that didn’t cost you a penny! Come’o hoss!
    4. Trade for whatever you need! yes, old fashioned bartering works!

    Keep your powder dry and watch those paper-cuts!!!

    Thats all from this end ~

  34. I recently had a friend post about how “hot dogs are on sale, plus the coupon in Sunday’s ad means they’re only $.29 per pack!” Yes, but you’re still eating hot dogs. That’s the origin of my coupon philosophy.

    As people have mentioned, the problem I’ve noticed with my couponing friends is that they’re buying food that I really don’t want to have tons of. Yeah,you got a great deal on Sunny D and five(!) tubs of Cool Whip, but I’d rather drink regular OJ and whip my own cream. Most of them are stay-at-home moms, living off just one income. They’re buying that stuff because it’s cheap and that’s their main priority.

    I use coupons on stuff I would have bought anyway, try to shop with the sales, and otherwise move on with my life. I don’t have the time or desire to turn coupons into a part time job.

  35. I joined the yahoo group how to shop for free. I consistenly with the groups help get groceries for 10-20 % of the cost and all my toiletries I get for free or the pay me to take them home. I find it to be a game. When I have saved my million dollars cash I will still be a couponer.

  36. As usual, stereotyping people is just dumb. I don’t consider myself a hardcore couponer, but I do use them a lot. And I look for lots of other ways to save on groceries…like buying the store brand if it’s decent, keeping inventory and checking weekly circulars. It doesn’t take that long and the feeling of saving is rewarding. I also use that savings to mentally justify my overspending on clothes. But I’m also frugal when it comes to clothes…I use coupons and only shop clearance stuff….but I buy a LOT more than we need.

    That said, I’m 100% white, work as a senior level engineer part-time and our household’s combined income is huge. My husband and I both have side incomes besides our salaried jobs that are pretty substantial, and I read this blog because it keeps me motivated. Ramit, your book was good but I already knew most of it. Still, it’s good to be reminded about things to keep from getting lazy and overspending.

    It’s really nice to be able to afford anything I want at the grocery store. But I like saving money anyway. Conscious, mindful spending and saving.

    • I thought you bring up a good point: Many people have this outlook, that it makes them happy to save.

      For me, the need to save has always been tied to being poor. I’ve actually never been poor, and my mom always bought whatever I wanted, if it was on sale or not. I grew up wanting to be exactly like her–to never have to count money. I always wanted to just live a comfortable life, with money being an afterthought. I like going to a store and not even looking at how much anything costs, just knowing I can afford whatever it is. It’s just a different outlook on life. I like having financial feedom, and to me, it is a burden if I actually have to count how much anything costs. I see it as a limitation of my income that when I go to a nice store I need to look at the price tag. I look forward to the day when my income is high enough that I can do anything I want as if it was all free.

  37. I am a health nut and love to cook. I find clipping coupons is useless if you make food from scratch with basic ingredients. I shop almost purely by price per unit which almost always is cheaper then a coupon item. Prepackaged foods are the most expensive thing in your cart. Without prepackaged foods, you can feed a family for way less than without the coupons.

  38. I’m curious and kind of shocked this wasn’t asked: how much would the grocery bill have been without the coupons?

    It’s typical cost/benefit analysis. If she’s spending 4 hours to save $10, that’s $2.50/hour for that time period.

    If she’s spending 30 minutes and saving $100, then I’m interested.

  39. For those commenters who say that there aren’t coupons for produce, etc., they are out there. Just this morning, my wife (she’s the coupon clipper, i’m just the shopper) sent me to the supermarket with a buy 1 get 1 free coupon on 5lb bags of potatoes. In the past, we’ve gotten free tropicana half gallons, free dozen eggs, free milk w/ cereal purchase (cereal is often on sale and coupons are abundant). So you can find these coupons sometimes.

  40. I used to be appalled when my mother would use coupons when I was young- I just thought that the savings was just not worth it. A combination of being very bored at my job and my boyfriend losing his, I started to research ways to save money and get our financial life in order- that is how I found this blog!

    I stumbled upon many blogs about coupons and the drugstore game and so I started getting the Sunday paper and slowing started learning the process. Soon enough I had more or less mastered the ‘game’ and could walk out of a drugstore with $50 worth of products for a few pennies. Then I moved onto the grocery stores. It didn’t take long for me to catch on to that game either- there are plenty of blogs out there that just tell you what to do- the biggest challenge was finding all the right products that you needed ‘to make the deal work’.

    I went on to teach others how to do this- and even taught a class at the local community college. I was even going to start a blog with a friend about saving money in Chicago. But by this point, I was pretty much done with couponing about a year into it. I felt really good that I had been able to buy a lot of products to give to family and friends or to shelters and other charities. I love helping others out- so that was the best part for me.

    Soon, the task of keeping up with ‘the game’ became more daunting than fun. What was once a puzzle or challenge for me became a task I dreaded. At that point, I threw out my files of coupons and quit couponing.

    I am very happy that I learned about couponing because it taught me a few important lessons:
    1. Be aware of your expenditures, often times you can save some money with a little planning (ex: having food in the house with recipes makes cooking less overwhelming and you are less likely to go out instead, being aware of prices and stocking up (a small amount) on things that you use a lot when they are on sale will save you time and money).

    2. Do not undervalue your time! While I was saving a lot of money, it was taking a lot of my time that I would rather use to do other things ( like make more money!). I still do the things that make sense for us, like stock up on TP, paper towels, some meats and cheeses that are on sale because we will use those things frequently and it saves me another trip to the store.

    3. There will always be another deal. I repeat, there will always be another deal! Products are always on sale, if you miss one- just wait it will be on sale again soon.

    4. I had heard the saying ‘voting your dollars’ before, but this really made sense to me at the end of this coupon journey. I still want to be a savy spender and not waste money frivolously on grocery store food and toiletries, but to me it is also worth spending the extra money (voting my dollars) to not have to spend the extra time running from store to store to do all the deals. I still try to be conscious of my spending, but right now it is more important to me to spend my time working towards building my wealth. No matter what you do, you can’t change the fact that there are still only 24 hours in each day!

  41. I do coupon clipping. I realize you don’t see them as “big wins” but they do follow your philosophy, which is spend what you love & cut back mercilessly on what you don’t. Right now my goal is to be able to continue to stay home with my kids and buy a house. I do care that my family not eat Hamburger Helper, but I don’t see any reason why I should spend full price on spaghetti noodles when I can take about a half an hour to an hour a week and pay pennies on the dollar. I use time to coupon that I would normally use to play on Facebook, so I’m not losing money at this point.

  42. I’ll play the game. In fact I’ll do even better…I was this person for awhile last year.

    Where does she live? What is her job? Her husband’s job?
    I’m a stay-at-home mom/artist living on a farm in a rural area. My husband is a project manager for a construction company and earns enough for us to live comfortably on one income.

    What life experiences brought her to such a level of mastery?
    I started clipping coupons because I wanted to cut back on the spending and pay down some of our debt; a car loan and mortgage. If you haven’t guessed, there was some Dave Ramsey influence. I mastered it by reading coupon blogs…you should check them out, maybe you can find for your future wife there.

    After a few months of coupon craziness, I did an assessment and here’s what I realized:

    I was spending too much time saving a minimal amount of $.

    I felt more like a consumer than ever before; more time in stores, more time planning when, where and what I was going to buy.

    I bought items that we didn’t need and/or weren’t healthy because I couldn’t resist the great price. (For you coupon freaks, I know there are coupons for healthy, organic food and I used those, but I also brought home 3 bags of marshmallows because they were free when you purchased the graham crackers and chocolate bars!)

    So I ditched the binder, donated the food we were never going to eat and canceled my newspaper subscription. I started reading your blog and took the earn1K course. Now, a year later, I’m focusing on earning more money from my art, saving where I can and enjoying life with my family.

    I will never go back to fanatically clipping coupons. I have better things to do!

    • Nice, Vinita. I am generally skeptical of coupon-cutting once it becomes highly time-consuming and focused around “saving serious money.” If it’s something that’s fun and relaxing and maybe saves a few bucks, great. But if the goal is to truly save money, there are a LOT more effective ways to do that, whether it’s saving on big wins or learning how to make more money.

    • Thanks for posting this! I’ve been wondering recently what an ex-couponer’s perspective would be, since I haven’t really seen many. People seem to either give up quickly or become obsessively frugal for life.

    • Just like everything else in life, it’s important to find a balance.

      You CAN obsess over anything. Find a way to do it, get a system, and move on with your life.

  43. I briefly looked into the grocery/drug store game. You have to check on it every week to see the deals/coupons posted (30mins or so looking through it, print out coupons, getting the inserts/newspaper for the coupons) You may also have to go to multiple stores to take advantage of sales+coupon for the biggest savings. I guess after time it becomes routine. For big families that can use most of the products, you can save a good amount… but a couple or single people its kinda pointless.

  44. @Tim, @neshura Post # 25

    I agree that coupons are nearly useless for fresh produce/meat and coupons will get you the most substantial discounts on the processed/prepackaged foods such as the hamburger helper mix, soda, and such.

    For the people that use coupons, yeah it’s great that you spent $4 on $100 worth of groceries, but what you buying and feeding yourself. Are the foods you buy with coupons healthy? Are you basically eating those types of foods because its free or cheap.

    I like to save money, but not at the cost of my health and well being. With that being said you may be saving money now with coupons, but in the long run you may incur medical costs for medication because your blood pressure or cholesterol is high and thus negating any savings you may have incurred with coupons.

    I challenge anyone of you professional couponers to show me that you can get substanial savings on fresh produce

    • I am not a ‘professional couponer,’ but I do save a substantial amount on my overall grocery bill on a bi-weekly basis. I am a very healthy eater. I would agree that those who are ‘super healthy’ (only completely non-toxic products, ect) would have a hard time couponing. However, if you like to wash your clothes with things like Tide, and brush your teeth with products like Crest, you could probably save some money with coupons. I almost never pay for toothpaste or toothbrushes. I generally buy dish and laundry detergent for $1-2. I use coupons to buy products like cheese, yogurt, eggs, frozen veggies, and whole grain bread. I generally shop the discount racks for fresh veggies and meats that need to be eaten in a day or two. I grow my own veggies and herbs in the summer, and rely on local markets for produce in the winter.

      I don’t spend more than 1/2 hour per week on clipping coupons/ going through sale ads, all of which I do while my computer is booting up at work. Generally, I end up saving around $60 on my bi-weekly grocery bill. It’s worth my time to save a little cash, and I get a thrill from doing it. My Mom, Sister and I all call each other to brag about our ability to ‘stick it to the man’ and share tips and coupons. It’s enjoyable and I do manage to eat a healthy diet this way. Plus, with produce that I need to use at home, it’s that much easier to pass fast food joints.

    • You would need to rely on Store Coupons for produce, meat and dairy deals.

      Safeway/Genuardi’s (PA) publishes coupons on these items in their circular (especially eggs and berries).

      I always get rain checks for items that are sold out because they were below the normal price (and the usual price of a competitor).

  45. My coworker is another coupon clipper who also saves BIG on everyday staples. She’s 60+ and lives alone. Yesterday she told me that over the weekend she had gone to the grocery store and her bill was $28 or so. (she gave me the exact amount but I forgot). She then handed her club card and her coupons and ended up paying only $4 and change. $28 worth of stuff for less than $5!!!
    Some yrs ago, when stores still did the double-coupon thing, she was telling my husband (who dropped by to have lunch with me) about her savings. He insisted she tell me how to do it. :-| A couple of weeks later, she presented to me a gift for my husband. It was brand name deodorant that was on sale and that she got for 25¢ after a coupon, it being doubled and her club card.
    She’s diligent about looking at the circulars and only clipping coupons for stuff that she already buys and the exhilaration she feels when she sees the register subtract all that stuff is beyond description.

    I tried, I really did but I could NOT get organized enough to clip coupons. I even got a plastic coupon organizer and I just could not do it. HOWEVER, my husband now uses coupons to go out to dinner (nothing fancy, obviously, just so I “won’t cook and have the night off”) and we’ll haven a free entree every now and again. :-)

  46. If the household income is over 100K, couponing is just a waste of time. These are the pros and cons with couponing:

    CONS:

    1. The amount on the coupons are usually $1 or less.
    2. It is time consuming to cut them, arrange them and find the perfect time and place to use them. You can make about $10 hour using coupons. That’s all about it.
    3. They are usually for processed goods. I usually cook from scratch so they are no use for me.
    4. No grocery coupons for store products. Store products are usually cheaper than brand names even you use the coupon.
    5. You need to make sure that you have the brand name and type exactly matches the product you want to buy. It can get tedious.

    PROS:
    1. You can save some money, but I doubt it would be more than $100/month. This is not a worthwile money for an household making more than $100K. I would get a higher return on attending a free networking/social event, read an investment book, work on your personal stock portfolio than clipping coupons.
    2. High amount coupons are worthwhile though. Such as $25 of $100 office depot coupons, %30 off Kohl’s coupons and so on. You can save substantial money using those coupons/coupon codes.
    3. I like setting up strategies in drug stores to save some money and have fun. I recently bought 2 digiorno pizzas, one herbal essence shampoo and 3 pack dial soap for $9. I probably saved around $8 for 1 hour work (cutting coupons, driving to cvs, setting up the strategy, deal with cvs cashier…). It did not make sense in terms of time lost, but it was fun.

  47. Wow. I know I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but it really is amusing how surprised you seem about it. But please don’t mistake me; my amusement stems merely from the fact that you can scoff so easily at your parents’ coupon for Del Taco, and then demand to know where you can meet such a girl and marry her. But this is how my family raised me! We have all of our coupons saved, and while we don’t use a spreadsheet–too much time–we do keep all of the coupons highly organized. As for going over the shopping list and matching coupons, we always do this. Need coffee? $1 off coffee. Need cheese? Buy one Cheddar get one free, etc.We are a family of 6 (two adults, 17yo, 11yo, 9yo, 6yo.) and we have not spent more than $300 on any grocery trip at most, and sometimes only $10 on groceries that last a whole month. We never eat out. I happen to be that 17yo, but I do all of the shopping since my father works 6p.m.-7:30a.m. and sleeps all day, while my mother stays home and takes care of the house.

    So, I’ll play your game!! But don’t be surprised. :)

    Who is this person?
    –Me!!

    Where does she live?
    –I was born in Westminster “Little Saigon”, California, raised in Long Beach, CA, and am now currently living in Kingman, Arizona. Well, technically we’re 25 miles out of town, off a dirt road, and have 10 acres of farm all to ourselves, and, of course, our livestock. :)

    What is her job?
    –None, at the moment, however I have been employed off and on. I’m still a minor, so I don’t need full-time employment yet.

    Her husband’s job?
    –I don’t have a husband! Although my father works at a factory for twelve hours in the middle of the night. My mother was recently fired from her job by her irresponsible boss, so saving is more important for us than ever; but she prefers being able to stay at home and raise her kids.

    What life experiences brought her to such a level of mastery?
    –I would like to say tough times (when my mom lost her job, and therefore her income, we were all terrified, but we’re okay) but really just being raised properly.

    Let’s all just stipulate that she is Asian (who else would be so diligent?)
    –Wrong!!! I am purely European: Irish, Scottish, Dutch, Welsh, French, German, Italian, and Native American. Although many Asian cultures have had a severe impact on my life, and being born in Little Saigon probably had a major influence on me.

    What do we couponers get out of your site, you ask? Well for one, I wouldn’t say that “couponing” is a way of life (thus “couponer” is not a real word!). Mostly, I get sound advice. Just using all the coupons you have when you grocery shop is not going to save you a maximum amount of money, and so what if sometimes the store will actually give you money if you play your coupons right (Ralph’s is the best for this!!!)? I have still learned how to build a stable financial life from you, and how to save on things that don’t come with coupons. Plus, what should I care if you sometimes snigger at us? An opinion is an opinion is an opinion.

  48. My problem with cutting coupons for groceries is that you really have to work hard in order to find coupons that help you to eat fresh and unprocessed food. A previous commenter noted that he was able to get a 5 lb. bag of potatoes for free and that there are several coupons for staples such as milk and cereal. I don’t know about you, but I am not a huge potato eater and I don’t consider milk and cereal to be staples of a healthy breakfast. As someone who is trying to eventually become vegan and aspires to eat as much fresh food as possible, I don’t see how it’s even likely that couponing can help you to save money while eating a healthy diet.

    Can couponing help me to buy sweet potatoes, chard, kale, brown rice, soy or almond milk for less? I NEVER see coupons for healthy food, ever. How about coupons for organic eggs and steel cut (unsweetened, non-instant) oatmeal? How about coupons for salmon and lean meats?

    Even if this characterization is unfair, people who use coupons for groceries aren’t putting things in their bodies that are good for them. A previous commenter stated you could get Tropicana for cheap with coupons. Hello, high fructose corn syrup anyone? Coupons exist for high-shelf life types of foods that have a lot of preservatives, additives, and sweeteners in them. I tried to clip coupons for food, but there is an enormous health trade off in the type of food that will go into your body, the body you need in order to earn money and live into your old age. Fresh food is a better investment in your life than coupon clipping.

    Barring the coupons that come for clothes or big-ticket items, I really feel that couponing for food is a serious no-no.

  49. All these judgmental people on here. I love this site, but people… get over yourself. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. Don’t criticize someone because they are trying something to better their situation and you don’t understand the process. My fiancé’ and I have recently started couponing (she was laid off and we needed a way to find money to continue paying off debt). Couponing is a process and you need to find a process that works for you. My fiancé’ spends an hour a week on couponing. Our goal is to save a minimum of 60% on the grocery bill every time we go. We’ve hit that every time since we’ve started and the % has gone up each week. We’ve only done this for 4 weeks and we’re up to 70%. To those that complain that you need an entire new room to store everything that’s bs. There are some that take it to that extreme, but all you really need is a 6 week stock of the items you use most. Grocery stores generally have a 6-8 week sale cycle. And to the morons that say they only eat produce, meats, eggs, etc… We only eat healthy food, the foods we buy that give us the free items and money back, that’s how the produce and meats are bought (and only those on sale that have the greatest percentage off). We donate items we will not use to shelters since we cannot tithe right now. Ramit says not to just take people’s word for it and there is a lot of information that everyone here is throwing around that just isn’t true. Again couponing may not be for you… fine, but for those that see it as a way to help get out of debt and eventually be on the fast track with everyone else here do it.

    • For me, the biggest surprise is the competition within the couponing space to save “a minimum of 60% on the grocery bill every time we go.” I love that. I didn’t realize it would be such a competitive space, and I love how creative people are in hitting these goals. Btw – I’ve been emailed by a few people who tell me this is very common, so it’s great to learn more about this whole area of couponing.

  50. Using coupons, recreationally or religiously, is a personal choice. Ramit has never said they’re stupid or evil, his parents use coupons for tacos and Ramit’s Taco Bell love is well documented. FWIW, I don’t think he was impressed by the original comment because of the amount this woman saves, but to the extent she is organized with a file cabinet and excel document. Ramit says all the time if you want to learn about coupons this blog won’t help you do that. And there are alternative ways to save money.

    Which brings me back to my original point. These things take TIME. And even if you can zip through a stack of coupons now you couldn’t always do that, you had to learn a system that works for you.

    Even when I used a lot of coupons I wasn’t saving a substantial amount of money. Of course I wasn’t spending a substantial amount of money either (single woman vs. large family makes a difference). I used Scrooge Strategy tips to renegotiate my car insurance in a day saving over $300 a year. Less time and hassle for more savings for me so that’s where I chose to spend my time.

    For me it was a choice between doing the right things and the easy things. Coupons were easy but had very little financial impact. The right things – renegotiating salaries, multiple streams of freelance income, reducing expenses and automating payments – took time and effort but continue to pay off every month.

    Anyone else think it’s funny that the same people who buy a newspaper for coupons or buy them on eBay to save money on the product later are the same ones who think it’s stupid to spend money on a course like Earn 1K in order to make money later? And I would argue I have much more control over my freelance income than I do over a grocery store putting food on sale.

    • Kelly, you are one of my star students so it’s always a pleasure to hear what kind of Big Wins you secure.

      Yes, I definitely do NOT have a lot of crossover with frugal readers and people who buy my Earn1k course. In general, they just don’t think the same way.

      I write about this in detail here.

    • Ramit- I have to respectfully disagree. I am a small business owner. The $97 I saved at the grocery store this week paid for my virtual assistant in the Philippines to work for a day and a half. She’ll be working this weekend, I’ll have my toes in the sand at the beach.

      ‘It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.’
      ~William of Occam

      Couponing is so engrained in my routine, I would have to make a conscious effort not to. I sort through the coupons when I sort through other mail and file them away. I personally feel that it’s wasteful to spend more than you need to. Before I buy anything online, I pop over to http://www.retailmenot.com to see if I can get a coupon code to save me 15 or 20%.

      Don’t be so quick to judge. It’s a fine line between couponing and maximizing credit card rewards, and I do both. I’m positive that I don’t meet any of your stereotypes of a couponer. I’m an attractive, 27 year old, white female, small business owner, and MBA. Saving $2 on a bottle of Tide doesn’t make me more or less capable of running my company.

      Within a year I plan on leaving my grown up job to run my small business full time. Knowing that I can eat Hamburger Helper for free (only if I absolutely have to) gives me confidence that when there are slow sales months I will not starve.

  51. I don’t get coupons. They are usually for brand name goods that are more expensive than generic goods, even with a coupon. Also, once you add up the opportunity cost for clipping and organizing coupons, just does not make sense.

  52. Don’t even think about wasting time cutting out coupons, sorting or arranging them in any way. Just write the date on the insert in Magic Marker and either file it in a storage box or pile them up in a corner. When you’re read to go shopping, go to http://www.coupontom.com, search for the items on your list, and you’ll be told what dated inserts have those coupons. That’s Step 1, Basic Couponing. Step Two is to use a site like Coupon Mom or The Grocery Game to match coupons with what’s on sale at your local store in order to stock up on non-perishable items at the lowest sale price, minus the coupon price. This is Step 2, Super Couponing. If you never go farther than that (and there’s much farther to go), you can save a lot of money with very little investment of time.

  53. I never used to cut coupons until I tried it once and literally got hooked. I saw an ad for something I was planning to buy and I cut out the coupon thinking, “Hey, extra $2 to buy a magazine or something.” Then I cut out a few more coupons for other things I needed like toothpaste etc., went to the store and paid only $9 for a purchase that would have cost me $30. Those kind of savings add up and I love to spend it on extra things that I would not have splurged on otherwise.

  54. I went through a phase and became addicted to the coupon game a few years ago after seeing a show on Oprah about this lady who saved so much couponing. I became totally addicted for a while, playing the CVSing game, subscribing to a several frugality blogs. Looking back at that “phase”, it’s not for me.
    It was very, very time-consuming. I spent hours a day looking at subscribed emails of what I could get cheap, cutting and filing coupons, etc. Most of the groceries I bought with coupons were for unhealthy processed box-type foods, etc., I still have the clutter of shampoos, razors, etc. I found that it was counterproductive to my goal of living simply.
    Looking back, I feel that I should have been doing something better with my time, like exercising, etc. Although I still do subscribe to a few blogs & glance over the deals, and take advantage of a few of them, (restaurants.com, Old Navy Weekly coupons, etc.) Otherwise, it’s just not for me. Ramit’s book has been more beneficial, (and less time-consuming) for ideas to save my money.

  55. Thanks Ramit, I try to give credit where it’s due. Earning more and Optimizing spending is definitely a different way of thinking from Cutting costs.

  56. I am not anti coupon, but I am more interested in big savings. Time is money, and cash is king. If I can make even $10 an hour, it is probably more worthwhile to work instead of clip coupons for small items. That extra work might also have more impact- more networking, job opportunities, etc).

    I also find it more worthwhile to research a smaller amount of items (when replacing my laptop I looked ONLY at ones that met a set of super specific criteria instead of looking at a wider variety of laptops).

    I think often people also end up buying a lot of stuff they don’t actually need, or stuff that is a good deal up front but that ends up being more expensive or time intensive in the long run (a really cheap printer that has really expensive ink or frequently eats paper. Sure, the printer was free, but was it really worth it?).

    • I agree Jenn! the cost of ink is another reason I don’t print internet coupons – there’s a hidden cost involved :) And it’s true that narrowing your choices can really save time and, in some cases, sanity.

  57. Anne,

    Just curious, how do you get into the “mystery shopper” thing? Sounds enticing…

    • Check out the MSPA website for companies that need people in your area. You can get certified, but you don’t have to. At first, they will give you small assignments, fast food, retail, ect. You have to prove yourself before they give you the good stuff. It does take some practice to get good at it, but it’s fun!

      Good luck!

  58. Mike’s wife here.
    I’m not Asian. He’s an engineer. I’m a J-school grad turned stay-at-home mom.

    I got into couponing with the Great Huggies Diaper Deal of January 2007. (Kmart, as low as $1.50 a pack!) From there I found the BHB coupon board, and it went downhill!

    I don’t actually use a “spreadsheet” … I utilize Hot Coupon World’s coupon database, taylortownpreview’s upcoming insert list and some other sites.

    I do however take all my inserts and stick them in a hanging file folder with the date on it. This saves my time (I only cut them out when I need too) and my husband’s sanity (we don’t have stacks of inserts all over the house).

    It’s true that coupons are readily available for “processed” foods. However, last week we ate grilled boneless porkchops, pineapple and corn on the cob. (We paid .40 total for the pork, 1.88 for the container of fresh pineapple and .19/ear for the corn. The pork was with a coupon, the rest were sales.)

    AND AS FOR TROPICANA…I just checked the Trop50 I have in the fridge. Paid just under $1 after my coupon. It does NOT contain HFCS.

    Do we eat processed foods? Absolutely. But I figure if we are going to eat them, might as well get the best price. If I’m going to marinate my chicken in Kraft Dressing, I’d rather be paid to take that dressing out of the store. We also eat them in moderation. I paid $.50 total for a 5-pack of Kraft mac and cheese AND a pack of capri sun. Our kids rarely drink juice, so it took us a month to finish a pack.

    A big savings has come on toiletries. Things we no longer pay for: shampoo/conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, some cough meds, cough drops, body wash, body lotion, deodorant, razors, shave gel and laundry soap. And those are all name brands.

    I absolutely “stockpile” items. We keep a stash, have a garage sale for some to recoup tax and such, and donate others.

    My daughters pediatric hematologist’s office (they also do oncology) gets all the toys. I use some of the garage sale money to buy them. They also get toothbrushes/toothpaste/deodorant/etc. for the parents who don’t know they’re going to end up with an overnight visit. Friends who get laid off come “shop” in our basement. I never pay more than $3 per pack of name brand diapers/pullups.

    Here’s what your missing: My couponing is more like a “habit” or a “hobby.” Where Target used to be my black hole, now I rarely walk out of there spending more than $10.

    It’s fun, it’s a cheap hobby that saves us money and teaches our kids how to stretch dollars and cut along dotted lines (hopefully without cutting the bar codes!)

    Now, I’m off to eat my overly-processed, high-fructose-corn-sugar-laden Drumstick Ice Cone.

    It will be the best $.25 I’ve spent all day.

  59. I’d be curious to see some screenshots/scans of people’s savings with coupons. This could give a better idea of what type of items are actually purchased.

    Also, you may be able to make more $ in 1 hour vs. couponing, but I bet the vast majority won’t do that work. Also, if your job doesn’t pay OT, it sucks even more :P

  60. Unrelated but I am sure you would like to know about this:-
    Your book was mentioned on an Indian news website (www.rediff.com)
    http://getahead.rediff.com/slide-show/2010/may/27/slide-show-1-money-ramit-sethi-bestselling-author-tells-you-how-to-get-rich.htm

  61. Mike P’s wife, just an FYI: You are not getting paid to take the processed foods out of the store. Even if they made $.01 profit off of you, it cost them less then nothing to make that stuff. It’s called an economy of scale. I love that people feel like they are getting such a ‘deal’ on processed foods when basically the food industry is set up to stir everyone into a coupon frenzy, thinking that people are getting such big ‘deals’. Coupons are marketing. For as much couponing as people end up doing, they’re still being marketed to incessantly through having to chase the elusive ‘deal’. Basically, these food giants have bought your health and undying loyalty to couponing for as little as $.50 in some cases. Amazing to see at what price the American will sell themselves to a big corporation for a ‘deal’.

    Also, it’s fine if you want to eat a Drumstick. It’s not like you ever wanted nor asked for my endorsement and/or approval, but I think people can forgo items like designer jeans (if they buy them, that is) and eat a little better. Your health is your true wealth, everything flows from it. Why are people squandering their lives couponing and eating processed foods? I thought people had a little more dignity than that. Before I get counter-attacked for being elitist about my food choices, I don’t think that there are too many things more important than feeding yourself healthy food. Food companies make it cheaper to eat unhealthy food so that producers of nutritious food have to invest more into producing a smaller batch of food when compared to how quickly Kraft cranks out boxes of mac and cheese. We’re trapped into feeling like the only way that we can save money is to buy this crap, directing our dollars toward these food conglomerates, fluffing up their ad budgets and coupon design departments while those who make nutritious food have to pass on the costs to their consumers. Is nutritious food more expensive? Yes. Is it currently out of reach for many people? Maybe, but the answer can be yes or no depending on your priorities. Is it like buying gold when you can afford tin? No. Is the food you eat an essential determinant in your health 10 min from now, 10 days from now, 10 years from now? Yes. The short-term high of couponing is really outweighed by potential chronic life-shortening illness later on.

    I just think it’s sad that when people think that couponing for food is their way of sticking it to the system. Sadly, it’s the system’s way of sticking it to you. The system can afford to give you that stuff for free. Is it really any surprise that many of you get paid back at the grocery store, no questions asked?

    • I don’t get this argument. Raina, YOU value your health and you assume that “better food = better health” and “processed food = bad health” … and somehow couponing, conglomerates, and marketing fits in there. Maybe other people value convenience or the ‘thrill of the deal’ chase.

    • You’re making the assumption that coupons are only used for processed foods, which I think it false. You can just as easily use coupons for “made from scratch” items, fresh vegetables, meat, etc.

      Furthermore, there is more at the grocery store than just food. Do you use shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, medicine, storage containers, aluminum foil, toilet paper….the list goes on. The same people who are cutting coupons are probably using coupons on other retail goods as well.

    • While I’m not sure if this is what Mike’s wife meant when she said “paid to take [it] out of the store,” you have a good point. However, it is entirely possible. One of the best examples I can come up with is a recent experience with Ralph’s; I had a $1.00 off coupon for a bottle of Suave Shampoo, whose price had been lowered to $.98 (it was on sale). When I got to the register, the cashier scanned the shampoo, I handed her the coupon, and she GAVE me $.02. I call that being paid.

      I have had other such experiences though, with larger coupons, and bigger payments. Regardless of the price to make the item, you can still make money off of it.

      Also! Notice! While Suave shampoo isn’t the best, it isn’t what you would call a “processed item;” it can’t make you unhealthy. And coupons don’t just come for junk foods and chemically items, in my house coupons are most abundant in the form of cheese, coffee, cat food, vegetables, and healthy frozen dinners whose contents are–while not fresh–not artificial. The point is watching for sales. Our cupboard is currently full of High Fructose Corn Syrup-free items, and our diet consists of the five main food groups for every meal. And while it’s true that bacon increases your risk for heart disease, it’s protein, and honey we’re stocked. Saving does not = unhealthy.

  62. Coupon clipping can work for most people. The key is balance. Collect coupons only for items you use and match them with sales at your local grocery store or drug store. If there aren’t many coupons for the products you buy, that’s just fewer coupons you have to manage. If you use coupons like me, you won’t save as much as the dedicated coupon users, but you’ll still save probably about 50% of what they do in only 10% or less of the time.

    Each week my grocery store puts out its circular online. I can click on items in it and add them to an electronic list which I can print out when I’m done. So in only a couple minutes I can compile a shopping list of only the sales that interest me. Next I do a little quick meal planning and write down on my printed list any staples or non-sale items I will need. Finally I go through my coupons (kept in just a zipper pouch smaller than an open wallet) and see if I have any coupons for the items on my list. I put these and my list at the front of my pouch. This makes shopping much faster and cheaper – because I have a list to follow and all the coupons that I might want are at my fingertips.

    As for getting coupons, I don’t buy a newspaper. Every 2-3 months I use a coupon clipping service for coupons on items I usually purchase. That way I get 30-50 coupons for items I use (and multiples for items I’ll probably buy more than once before the coupon expires) for about $5 – much cheaper and easier than the newspaper would be. These coupons include those in the newspaper as well as a selection of what hard-core couponers call “non-ss”. Those coupons save me at least $25 and often more. Plus, they are already clipped. In addition, to the service, I also get coupons from the “blinkies” in the grocery store aisles, the ones printed out at the register, and participate in a “coupon train” (a coupon trade where people add coupons they won’t use to the pot and take out ones they will use).

    I don’t save a ton with coupons – but I do save quite a bit. Matching coupons (especially when they are doubled) with loss-leaders results in significant savings. And unless you are extremely strict at eating healthy, unprocessed food only, there are probably some coupons out there for items you would normally buy. Most of the meat I eat comes from a local farmer and I also buy much of my produce in season at a local farmer’s market. But I also buy things like ziploc bags, canned pineapple, organic yogurt, pickles, organic cereal, cheese, nuts, pasta, organic rice, etc. – all of which I’ve gotten coupons for at some point in the last few months. With coupons and shopping sales (some produce items are on sale every week), I’ve lately been spending only $150 a month for one person. I find using coupons and reading the circulars has gotten me to be much more conscious about my grocery spending – saving me a lot without really changing how I eat at all. All in all, in a given week I probably spend as much time planning and couponing as it took to write this and my coupon-using approach has saved me easily $100/month.

  63. Raina – Yeah, sometimes I really am getting paid. if I spend $1.50 and get three bottles of dressing, but I get a $2 OYNO order coupon…then I’m getting paid. Kind of like how i took my razor coupons to target. Paid with a $10 gift card, got 6 razors AND $15 in gift cards back. Yup, I’d totally call that paying to shop.

    Does that always happen? Even usually? No, of course not. But it does.

    And you can be elitist about food all you want, no problems here. But when I buy my Ronzoni Smart Pasta for $.17 a box, and you pay $1.25, no problem there either.

    And I don’t see why not making the same food choices you make means I’m squandering my dignity. And your opinion doesn’t make you elitist, it makes you judgmental.

  64. Mike’s wife–I don’t see anything wrong with saving money on small items like this–if it makes you happy, go for it. My grandmother is the same way. She remembers how much each item she bought costs and likes to compare between stores. I went to stop and shop with her to buy myself a carton of eggs, and she informed me that I was overpaying by $1.50 a carton. Then I informed her that I buy a carton of eggs once every 6 months or so, so I don’t mind–I’m paying for the continence of not having to go to multiple stores just so I can get everything at it’s cheapest price, when I’m buying so few items anyways.

    I assume that if I were to ever have a large family (more than 3 people), I’d also care how much my eggs cost. But really, if it’s going to be just my husband, me and perhaps 1 child, I’ll gladly pay whatever the cost is, so I can focus on other activities not focused on money.

    My mother never made money an issue (so she never showed me how to “stretch a dollar”), and never even discussed it with me as a child, yet I know not to overspend, and I save more than any of my friends do.

    I think you should stick to what works for you. Clearly, you’re happy to do this. If it is something you enjoy doing, that’s great. For me, it would be a chore, something I would only do if I was in a bad situation financially.

    • Just a friendly suggestion, if you ever do worry about the price of your eggs, raise your own chickens! :) At first it may seem like a bit of a hassle, considering the feed, but if you have a good number of hens, they’ll all eat one scoop of the same feed (total) a day, and will give you lots of eggs. What you don’t need, you can sell, and you’ll end up making a profit. :) However, the farming approach isn’t for everyone, and you might live in a city where it’s illegal. But usually it’s worth it.

  65. err….I meant the “convenience of not having to go to multiple stores”

  66. Very happy with today’s trip:
    3.56 pounds of Perdue (no hormones!) chicken breast tenderloins
    2.3 pounds of apples
    1.26 pounds of bananas
    = $10.23

    Found beer rebate for $10 off $10 poultry purchase, including stamp to mail rebate this transaction cost 67¢.

  67. In Australia, we just don’t have that coupon thing (not that I know of) so I’m having trouble seeing what all the fuss is about!

  68. I’m wondering… so judging what other people spend their money on is bad, and judging what they spend their time on is good? Because this is the attitude I see in some of the comments. Makes no sense, since time is money. Deciding to spend hours on coupon clipping is not much different from deciding to spend large amount of money on eating out. I’m talking about people for whom it is a choice (that is they could afford to shop without coupons) and there’s a lot of them. I haven’t been couponing myself, but I know that playing it as a game is quite common.

    • You seem to assume that all of these people would choose to do a side business that generated about $700 – $1000 a month in less time than it takes to clip & use coupons; that might not be the case. Instead of clipping coupons they may read novels, organize their closets, play Rock Band, bounce a baby on their knees, go on a walk, etc. While these activities have variable values they aren’t easily quantified into a monetary standard.

      Your argument about time = money can only apply if instead of doing the “money-saving task” (in this instance clipping & using coupons) the person in question would be doing something that generated income. After all time also equals quality of life.

      BTW, my coupon use is something like 10 coupons a year. Like last November the grocery store I do most of my shopping at sent out a bunch of dollars off coupons. Some were specific to certain foods some weren’t. So I used the ones that applied to the foods I was purchasing for holiday dinners. To read, clip, & use the coupons involved maybe 5 minutes, the savings was $22; or a pay level of $264/hr, that seemed worth my time.

    • A very good point. Thanks Lissie.

  69. My middle school teacher once made her classes compete to see who could save the most money in one month by using coupons.

    I surprised myself by saving $50 off a $100 grocery bill

  70. Oh, and your future wife, she’s probably a bit older than you – I’m going to put her as married, 34-40, works a well paying middle job where she manages processes instead of people (internal audit, corporate accountant, etc). I think she lives in the surburbs of a major metro area (like Atlanta). Her husband does something a bit more hands on but is a decent paying management type role – general manager for a retail store, regional sales director kind of thing. They hit the 100K or better household income mark. Their house is worth better than half and just less than 3/4 of the housing spread in their area and they have more equity than debt in it. They probably have no children or one. They don’t have two or more for sure. As for her ethnicity, I think you put more weight on this than the market research can prove (significance proof) to the segementation you quote – indians who were born abroad vs. asians born in the states to immigrant parents vs. a blank field of “caucasian”. I can however, determine, which ethnicities she’s not. :)

  71. I was pretty sure Ramit was being sarcastic about this one. I don’t want to knock the lady’s efforts, but she’s clearly bright, resourceful and dedicated. If she spent that much time on a work-from-home job (or any kind of job that worked with her family’s schedule), she might score one of those bigger “wins.” And then she could buy whatever kind of cereal she wanted.

    If I come across a worthwhile coupon, I’ll definitely hold on to it and try to use it. But anything I put a lot of time into had better be paying me in CASH.

  72. Part of the stereotyping that is associating with couponing is due to a lack of information. Couponing is no longer sitting around with the Sunday paper and scissors. A modern couponer will 1) log onto a site that details all the local deals with the coupons that are associated. 2) log onto another site that sells coupons spend $5 for someone else to do the work 3) check the mail & go shopping.
    How much money should a couponing family of 4 spend on groceries each month? $100. How much time should it take to do this? After the initial learning curve, under 2 hours per week including shopping time. Who wants to eat macaroni & cheese and hamburger helper? ewww! I spent $12.50 on 30 pounds of meat from the butcher and 10 pounds of fresh produce in one trip. Some people are even eating an organic diet with coupons. Honestly, you don’t need to “coupon” each week to reap the savings. I haven’t been shopping other than fresh, whole foods, in over a month.

  73. I’ve never been a couponer myself, but i do use them once in awhile. But honestly, my free time is too important to me…I couldn’t imagine spending a Sunday morning going through the papers to save 50 cents on milk.

    However, much to the thoughts of this website, i DO believe in big wins and coupons can fill into this category. The other day i was shopping online for a dell computer, and before i bought it, i googled dell canada coupons, and bam, there’s a forum with a post for a $100 off! So 10 minutes of googling saved me a 100 bucks!

  74. I don’t want to marry her, but I wouldn’t mind if she’d be willing to drop some coupons my way based on my single lifestyle and consumption. Yes, I’d be happy to outsource this stuff to someone who enjoys it for a few dollars. An e-mailed shopping list or “need new laptop by next month, want a xyz speed” and coupons showing up in my mailbox or e-mail would be a good time saver.

    It’d keep me off slickdeals, fatwallet, and from wasting time looking at other big win deals as well! Time savings to work on other things I like is a big win. Plus I’d prefer someone local over a website, so they can point me towards the farmers market deals and other good local resources.

  75. My fiance and I (25 and 24) are both self employed. We have a few passive income streams and are working on adding a few others. I’m Jewish, and I do not like to buy anything without a discount.

    There are NUMEROUS websites (including http://www.SouthernSavers.com) that list what’s on sale at the grocery store, match up the coupons that correspond with the sales and post the information for free online. I buy a few newspapers each week, and when something is on sale that I need and want, I cut the coupon and purchase it.

    I spend less than $160 on groceries, personal items and household items each month (some months it is less than $100) and I always buy name brand items. Last week, my grocery bill for $100+ worth of groceries was $10 and $9 of that was on beer.

    Due to sites like Groupon.com, HalfOffDepot.com and ScoutMob.com, when we eat out (admittedly several times a week), we usually save 40 – 60% on our bill.

    It takes less than 1 hour a week to cut at least $500 a month (a very conservative estimate) out of our spending. That’s money that we put into savings.

    These habits extend to anything we spend money on – travel, cars, shopping, utility bills (including cable/tv/phones), entertainment, etc. Why would you pay full price for something when a discount is available? That just seems like such a waste of money.

    Previous commenters on this site have talked about how they can’t save $1,000 a month (or $500 or $300). People have told me this to my face, as well, that when you’re living on a fixed income that it’s hard to save money. I say that’s bullshit. It’s not that people can’t save money. It’s that people don’t want to spend 4 hours a month to get a better deal on what they’re already spending money on. Those are different things.

    I think you can be focused on the big ticket items, saving for the future without sacrificing your daily Starbucks, and be price conscious when shopping.

    • Tiffany, do you think people use “I can’t save on groceries” when they mean “I don’t know how” or “I don’t want to spend the time”? I absolutely COULD save more on groceries but I choose to spend my time elsewhere. And I’ve spent the time understanding and using coupons in the past so I know exactly how much time it takes me (most people are probably quicker than I am, I’m liable to cut myself with scissors still).
      So all of us non-coupon people, we’re either “whiny complainers” or have a different viewpoint. Whiny complainers will probably never change until they change their mindset and it’s probably not worth the time arguing. But, for those of us who have thought about the options and choose not to use coupons it’s worth understanding why. For me this whole discussion is more about making conscious choices on how we spend our time and money and being self-aware. For example, I will not use a 43 cent stamp to send in a $1 rebate. Nope. And if I did I wouldn’t take that check to the bank and cash it either.

  76. Kelly,
    You’re 100% right and I hope my earlier post didn’t seem like I’m criticizing people who have decided that couponing isn’t for them but save in other areas.

    Deciding to focus your savings efforts/time in a different area is different than people who complain that they live on a fixed budget and can’t find money to save. Admittedly, this is recently a hot button issue for me as I know several whiney complainers who don’t want to adjust their spending down to put money in savings or plan for the future, but don’t want to take the hour a week to cut their spending without sacrificing their lifestyle either.

  77. I really like the idea of using Evernote. I remember watching a Youtube video about an MIT lab coming up with a system where you take pictures of barcodes and you can search online for the market price of each item that you look at when you’re at the market. Using Evernote to look up coupons is not the same, but it’s moderately similar.

    In Indiana, it is definitely pretty simple to have a smaller food bill than some of the commenters here. I have no idea where they are shopping, but what they are paying sounds ridiculous.

    Kelley is a very good business school. :)

  78. Try this shopping site also:
    http://www.onewayshopping.com/coupons/

  79. You know soemthing, Im geting sick of asians. I praise their family oriented clture and hard work ethic which really sets them apart from others. But latinos/hispanics are just as smart and hard working. They come from disadvantaged countires and poor families so they obviously have a hard time getting rich here in America like asians. You cant just assume this woman is either white or asian. I am a Boston Public School teacher and the difference how asian and latino childen are raised is what sets them apart but they ae no diferent. Asians are the new jews and hispanics are the new Irish it seems.

  80. Are you just now getting hip to this…?? “Coupon Divas” have been around for a long, long time and there are entire communities dedicated to this type of thing on countless websites… While I am impressed at her savings, I’ve seen several other moms use coupons and do much better…

  81. and yes, it’s about the thrill of the chase……

  82. @Ramit- You were surprised by how many of your readers use coupons. I bet many of your followers are also over 40 and not just starting off in life/ career, etc. You don’t have to convince them to save for a wedding or max out their retirement; they want to know what to do if they did NOT do those things. BTW, coupons give me a headache.

  83. I would like to point out that even “positive” stereotypes (Asian people are diligent) are harmful.

  84. I coupon like crazy. I’m married, with no kids, and work full time outside of the home. It does take some time to coupon, but there are so many money-saving blogs out there that will literally tell you what to buy and which coupons to use (and usually include online links to those coupons) that I can’t even imagine not using coupons now. We spend, tops $150/mo on groceries. And, no, we don’t just eat crap. Couponing isn’t just about the Sunday inserts, its about combining sales and catalinas and rebates, all of which will net you a lot more than just using coupons alone. Just since Jan 1, I’ve saved over $800 on groceries. I haven’t paid for eggs or butter in I don’t know how long. There are even deals on fresh vegetables and meat if you know how to look for them (and aren’t some snob that only eats prime rib, lol!) Drugstores are even better – I’ve gotten over $500 worth of stuff absolutely free from Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, etc. I know some people that make money at the drugstores, but I refuse to buy something if it isn’t something I will use or need in the near future. You only need so many tubes of toothpaste, and then you’re pretty much set for the year!

  85. Last week, I just watched that link regarding the woman who pays $4/week for groceries. Afterward, I signed up for her “How to shop for free” email newsletter regarding coupons.

    Each day since I signed up, I’ve been getting 6 emails from that forum advertising specials and coupons. If I actually followed through, spending 2-3 hours researching coupons, I’d probably save ~$20. $10/hour is not my idea of a big deal worth wasting time over.

    This morning, I got six more emails this morning from that forum. I wanted to shoot myself in the face; I unsubscribed. It might have cost me dollars and cents in “savings”, but the mental burden associated with having to research deals is simply not sustainable.

  86. I used to majorly coupon–and I agree with all the above comments about how it is very time consuming, even with the best system, yet you really do save a ton of $$. Like the book says, learn to be frugal, not cheap. If you don’t have the time to coupon, or you don’t want to do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Either find the time but don’t whine if you choose not to. After enrolling in a full-time master’s program with a family and four kids, I took a stab at online grocery shopping in order to save time, but not necessarily money. WOW. Happy to say this saves time and moolah (a little hard to grab those things that are strategically placed on the end aisles). I have yet to go over budget on my grocery bill by shopping this way. Admittedly not as fun as roaming around the grocery store and getting free samples of teriyaki chicken dippers, but surprisingly an effective way to keep the grocery bill under control.

  87. Whoever she is, I’m totally hands down on her diligence! But I would really have appreciated it more if Mike had shared how the spreadsheet looked like, so others like me who are fumbling would get an idea how to proceed correctly.

  88. Anyone else think this Julie character has too much time on her hand? It would be better spend helping your dad cut coupons!

    • My dad lives in California and needs no help, since this is a hobby for him and not something he does for the financial benefit.

  89. let me start of by telling you who i am. im 26 years old mom of three kids (9y step daughter,4y daughter,1y son) i live in barrington,nh(average median household income around 50,000) my husband and i own a local business and our income is beyond 150,00 a year and have my 401k,IRA,money market account and my savings and bought my house at 22 years old.
    about two months ago a friend was raving about a workshop she went to and it didnt make sense so i researched it and found myself intrigued by it. my regular grocery bill ranged around 275 dollars and didnt included diaper and other personal or household items.
    ive been doing this for two months and now have reduced my grocery bill between 60 some weeks to 100 on others and this consists of buying only organic milk and some other dairy products( 6 stonyfield organic milks, u can find coupons on there website which double at shaws) chicken,beef,and more. i buy organic raw sugar for cents. carolina rice mixes at shaws are .99 cents but with a a coupon for .75/2 (doubles to 1.50) equals to .25 for rice.wacky mac( great for pasta salad! o sale at shaws .99 use .50/1 coupon(doubles to 1.00!= free)a few weeks ago old el paso had a catalina(special promotions on certain products) if u bought 6 products you got 3.00 off beef/chicken(any kind even all natural/organic!) seasoning packets were .69 each but a coupon for .60/2 (doubles 1.20) equals .42 cents for 6 packets and 3.00 of free meat. i have some many more deals ive got i still cant beleive it! i do some stock piling but no more then my regular pantry in my kitchen and in my basement a shelving unit for my household and personal items which included huggies pure and natural diapers i never pay for! viva paper towels for .37 each including the cost of the coupon! (price locked at shaws for 1.79 though some ring in at 1.59, i have a 60/1 coupon(doubles to 1.20 off/1) i bought the coupon for .08 cents) i have pampers wipes(free=2 off/1, priced around 1.98! walmart) and huggies wipes (.28 cents =2 off/1, priced around 2.28 walmart)
    i also save on clothing now that ive found i can buy 20 $10 coupons from kohls and have done this for a week and got over $800 worth of clothing for my kids! (infant nike boy sets,chapsclothing,socks,underwear,flipflops,sneakers, even a $75 backpack and more!)
    so you all know i send very little time a week doing this.i spend an hour every week going through the flyers online then go to a coupon clipper service site i order ll the coupons i want( i spend less then $10 a week usually much less)
    I go shopping for food once a week and once a week to the drug stores(walgreens and riteaid, sometimes not even every week only when they have stuff i need) and walmart maybe every 2-3 weeks.

    I save at least $150+/week=$7825+ a year if a keep at a $150 savings a week but every week i go it gets cheaper and cheaper the better i get. This savings doesnt even include personal items and household stuff but to give you an idea, diapers a pack a week at the normal $10 average huggies, which i have been getting for nothing equals to a savings of $5200! the cost of coupons on high average would be $520. do the math people just groceries and diapers equals a saving of $10,235+ a year. so i can make around $198+/one hour per week
    its not for everyone but sometimes it takes thinking outside the box a little bit cause at first i was like most here saying it wasnt worth it for me because the time i thought it would take and my families eating habits didnt match the “coupon lifestyle”but i was wrong and that extra $10,000 is a nice vacation for my family or extra to put in savings.

    • oh and btw to all you girls, ive even got FREE makeup! covergirl makeup and physicians formula are some that ive got so far.
      oh and something i thought was crazy when a store is offering a product say covergirl buy one, get one free, you can also you a buy one get one manufactor coupon and you will get BOTH for FREE! the store is giving you one free and the manufactor is giving you one for free! last week at rite aid i used 6 buy one get one ziploc bag coupons with the rite aids buy one get one ziploc bag($2.19) sale and also got a pack of huggies diapers(8.99) for nothing! the 6 boxes of bags came out free, and the diapers i had a $3 manu coupon, rite aid (video value- u can get them online) its a store coupon, and i used a $5off/$20 purchase making my total free

  90. I can see the benefit of CVS and their Easy Care Card system for toiletry/cleaning items like toothpaste, hair gel, furniture polish, etc… I know plenty of people that get $80 worth of stuff for nil.

    But most coupons are for unhealthy food. I think if you bought produce and staple items like rice, beans, quinoa, etc… And ate vegetarian {which is also healthier for you if you actually eat your vegetables as a vegetarian – alot of people are known to eat high amounts of unhealthy deemed ‘vegetarian’ food}… then you would save a bundle, too. This of course goes hand in hand with batch cooking and freezing.

    Make up the casseroles, the granola snacks, muffins, meusli, nut milk, salads…

    It would take the same amount of time to put together as handling a couponing system & shopping.

  91. Wait a second!
    Has anyone thought of assigning couponing tasks to their remote admin assistants? : ).

  92. There are a lot of websites out there for downloading coupons, and also coupon related sites like couponmom.com and thegrocerygame.com ; my preference is to just get them out of my Wednesday and Sunday newspapers. They are printed on a cycle so that when you are about to run out of something, you usually will get a new coupon for it. I’ve done this as long as I can remember and reap the rewards. You can also bargain shop for big ticket items too. It really does pay to be an informed consumer :D

  93. I am never going to cut coupons. It saves you some $ but it destroys your self-worth. Only miserables or people in really bad moments should do it, not people able to use computers, internet access and able to write/read. You’ll miss many opportunities by placing time and energy in the wrong place.

  94. There is a long list of items I never pay for anymore, from toothpaste to cereal to canned tomatoes. I don’t have a system like the woman described – I do even *less* work. Yes, I save months and months of inserts but that’s because I’m too lazy to throw out the old ones. I just keep them in a big pile in a plastic bin. It would be more efficient to have them sorted by date, but it would also require an investment of time up-front.

    The key is that there are a bunch of websites that will do the matchups for you – all you have to do is print the list, highlight the stuff you want and then go find the coupons they reference. It adds maybe 15 minutes per shopping trip. This really pays off during “triples” or “Super Doubles” events. If you want to buy something that isn’t on sale that week, there is a database at afullcup.com that lists all the coupons you are going to have in the big pile of inserts.

    You have to find a website for your area, for your grocery stores. I live in Northern Virginia, so mine are frugalinvirginia.com, madamedeals.com and southernsavers.com, among others. I’m sure there’s someone in your area already doing all the necessary work.

    I do think of it as a game, a hobby. I also get all kinds of free shit at CVS that I give away to my friends, who think I am some kind of couponing domestic goddess person, which is entirely true.

  95. I think using coupons is good for people who are organized and can plan ahead. For those who are organized challenged it’s just a headache and way too much work. You can still save a lot of money on groceries by meal planning, not buying alot of junk food, etc. I use coupons because I love the thrill of getting things super cheap and having a grocery bill of $200-$250 per month for 3 people. This includes all food, personal hygiene and paper products.

  96. Coupon clipping is extremely common practice (almost de rigeur) for stay at home moms. Through careful budgeting, and never paying retail, a family of 4 can survive on one middle-class income. I am one of 4 kids, and growing up in central Kentucky, my mom clipped coupons and sold Avon to help make ends meet. She still couponseven now as an empty nester, and with the senior citizen discounts on “geezer day” as she calls it, she’s still hauling home bags full of great bargains (and loads of free stuff).

    Someone else posted couponmom.com, but there are coupon blogs and websites galore. It’s huge on the internet. I don’t know what the most common topic is for blogs, but knitting and couponing must be at least neck-in-neck for the number one spot:

    http://www.thegrocerygame.com/

    http://coupondivas.com/

    This woman feeds her family for only about $4 a week:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQNvdKNTZUg

    Stephanie Nelson is the coupon mom, and in this video she explains some of her techniques:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVvUfJQXo1Q&feature=related

    A tip from my mom: don’t throw away expired coupons. Although some stores won’t honor them (ahem, Meijer) others *will* (Kroger will– so far anyway…).

  97. My wife and I took up couponing after we heard we were about to have twins and already had a 2 year old. We learned how to do it from a coworker and his wife who literally stockpiled tons of stuff for pennies on the dollar. We bought our coupon inserts for 40-60 dollars a month, but in turn saved us a bundle. We had ketchup for 3 years (all of which we got free with coupons). We organized, cut and stapled them together. It brought us together. Funny we would go out on date nights and end up at the stores to see what deals we could find. Could you imagine a years worth of jello for free?

    There is a good amount of time invested, however reducing your food bills to nearly half as well has stocking up on staples of food will help you have the extra dollars in your pocket to spend on what your really want or a nice evening out with the wife.

  98. It sounds great to save money with coupons, but how does this work with fresh veggies and non-processed foods? We try to avoid hfcs, trans-fats, white flour, etc.

    Also what about products that are paraben-free and phosphate-free and bleach-free cleaning products?

    I usually shop at 4 different grocery stores each week to take advantage of the special deals from each one – one market for organic fruit and veggies, one for bulk, one for snacks and health/beauty stuff, one for organic dairy. But I still seem to spend over $400 each month for a family of 4. We try to eat un-processed, organic when possible, and two of us are allergic to gluten.

    And as for the resto coupons with kids eat free nights – most of those restos offer food that I would prefer not to feed the kids – fake orange mac and cheese, small frozen pepperoni pizza, corn dogs with a soda and soggy fries. Am I missing something?

    I don’t buy all my fruits and veggies organic, just the ones that are on the ewg list as having the highest levels of pesticides in them like strawberries and apples, potatoes, greens, bell peppers.

  99. I hesitantly went to a free couponing class put on by an independent representative of http://grocerysmarts.com/. I am a stay at home mom with a family of 4 and usually have a min of 2 extra kids each day. We make most all of our food from scratch and therefor use very little processed food. I didn’t think that there was any thing in this couponing thing for me. I soon learned I was wrong. Personal hygiene products, paper products, razors, cleaning supplies, flour, sugar and more all have coupons available. I found that using the charts on grocerysmarts.com and the coupons they tell you to use that I could beat the prices I was getting at Sam’s Club.

    I don’t think of it as extra work, it just changed the way I shopped. I was used to buying in bulk from Sam’s Club, but now instead of 1 huge bottle of shampoo I get several small ones which end up equalling more product for less price. Each week I file away the RedPlum insert from the mail and the SmartSource inserts from the Sunday paper (we have 4 Sunday papers delivered). I don’t like to run from store to store chasing deals. The deal that one store is having will make it’s way to the other stores. I personally use Walgreens and Smith’s the most, but that is not the case for all couponers. When I am ready to shop I look at GrocerySmarts.com to see what the best buys at Walgreens and Smiths are, then print out my shopping list right from their site, quickly clip my coupons from my file and then head off to the store.

    My goal with couponing is the save more than I spent. Two examples at Smith’s: debited $17.39, saved $26.50 or 60% and debited $113.81, saved $110.81 or 45%. On these trips I bought things like VitaminWater, pasta, olive oil, chicken broth, Mott’s apple juice, cheese, yogurt, sour cream.

    All I know is that it is working and I am finally staying in my food/sundries budget. For me it has turned into a big win. We are still eating the same healthy foods and using great razors, shave gels, and soaps. It IS a fun game to see how much you can save and how astounded you can make the cashier. Will I do it forever? Hrm, hard to say, but for now yes. Why would I not get free Skintimate Shave Cream from Walgreens?

  100. We don’t really have coupons in Australia. When I lived in the US, I had the same experience as many of the readers here, I rarely saw coupons for things I actually wanted to buy. Here we:

    1. Shop in the fresh food markets (I didn’t really see these where I lived in the US). Here it is somewhere between a traditional outdoor market and a collection of stores that sell mainly fresh produce.

    2. Shop in Aldi

    3. When we do shop at the major supermarkets – Coles and Woolworths – we try to buy as much as possible stuff that is “on sale”.

    All this keeps the bill down without having to do any pre-planning apart from deciding where to go shopping.

  101. I live in Canada and I don’t understand a lot of the comments on this site as we just don’t seem to have as much of the ‘something for nothing’ mentality here. There aren’t many coupons to be had here and they’re just not worth a lot.

    Maybe that’s one reason why we aren’t experiencing the financial meltdown that has taken hold in the good old USA. When you keep trying to get something for nothing, eventually you end up with nothing and it costs a very big something. I’m just saying….

  102. In college, I would have been closer to a couponing-dream girl. With less than a half hour a week, I kept my food bill low to start with an additional 15% with coupons. 11 years later, the only coupon I check for are the ones sent by clothing retails to my email inbox. I am impressed by families that can keep their monthly food bill under $400, which is what I spend (this does not include eating out) for just myself (50/50 mix white and hispanic for those of you keeping track). Why so much? I live in NYC where I have to carry everything I buy at home (5th floor walk-up). So I would not be in the market for a bulk size bag of rice. I have a gluten allergy so a bag of spaghetti is double the price what anyone else would pay. And the grocery stores are not huge chains- they have limited selections and not much of a price range. They may or may not accept coupons. I rarely see people use them. And believe me, people will complain if you hold up the only cashier line in the store. The only way I have a prayer to save on food is to pre-plan my meals and to eat a plant-based diet. So I read Ramit’s blog for other ideas for maximizing income and effort. Thank you, Ramit!

  103. I admire the organization of the coupons and I truly love spreadsheets, but this chick needs a real job. She’s got entirely too much time on her hands

    • I disagree. I love finding people who do the most random jobs — garbage collectors, watch repairers, carpet cleaners, coupon cutters — but are the BEST IN THE WORLD at what they do. It takes a certain type of person to truly excel in their chosen area, whatever it is. And I think lots of the lessons are transferable. What did it take to get there? How did they do it?

      Don’t you find it interesting?

  104. What I think a lot of you guys miss is this does save a lot of time with probably just as much time as you guys waste reading all these comments and write comments about how much its not for you.unless you really reseearch it and give it a try you shouldn’t judge, not to mention thatThere is so much more you can do once you get good. There are a lot of people who make thousands teaching others how to save money using coupons.next time your at your bookstore look and see what you find and I think you’ll be surprised.

  105. My grocery bill for a family of 3 plus a home daycare (so I feed multiple children during the day) is $350. No coupons. I buy whole foods- grains, produce, meats, dairy- and make things from scratch. When I tried couponing, it ended up costing my family our health because I was getting a bunch of processed food for nearly free! We’re much happier and healthier eating fresh foods and we are only spending $30 more a month to do it…

  106. I figured I should add the additional info to my above comment that I live in a high cost of living area, so you can’t argue that food prices in my area are low.

  107. i’d love to see the spreadsheet! I would try it, but I’m a little OCD when it comes to having all of them with me in case I go shopping [unplanned] or come across something and wish I had them. That’s rare, though, but yeah. I’d give this a shot though! I’ve been doing this since March… my statistics so far (I track them on my blog):

    Total OOP since 3/01/10: $412.66 – w/ $50 BP card
    Savings since 3/01/10: $1,115.84 [73%]

  108. I thought I’d post this link to the Environmental Working Group.

    http://www.ewg.org

    Among the work that they do, they research the ingredients in body care products and they claim that some are indeed toxic! It seems a little extreme to me to avoid all of these products all the time, but I definitely have sensitivities to some of these ingredients. So that’s why I wouldn’t clip coupons for a free bottle of Suave. Sadly. I’m totally white, and I feel a little silly about it.

    They also have a list of veggies and fruits and rate the level of pesticides. So for instance, Sweet Corn is ok even if it’s not organic. Bell Peppers – they are loaded with toxins.

    I definitely like those little mailings full of coupons for restaurants, dentists, carpet cleaning (non-toxic haha), etc. I find them easy to sift through and have gotten some great deals.

  109. I am a couponer and I read your site. Your focus is on the “big wins.” For many people, that is their food budget. Saving $300 a month is a big win for an extra hours work each week matching coupons to deals. I like your site because you offer bigger ideas and ways to look at saving.. Couponing is great, but your site offers a different perspective. The couponer wants to know how to save any way they can..including Ramit’s ways. :)

  110. As some have mentioned MoneyFunk-Catherine, the coupons are designed to get one to buy (the usual crap) that the store wants to move. (not allways however)…

    Having been in a major fire where renovation fumes left me near dead, I recovered functionality (not all) from years of holistic methods (degrees in pre vet/ocean, arts and chemistry, bio chemistry and was obtaining my Masters before fire). So the items I need to buy ie whole foods, nothing packaged or canned are rarely to be bought with coupons.

    And if you think that eating foods and using products that are toxic to you a “savings” fast forward when you start to receive the “benefits” in ill health, and worse (most all household, fabric softener, shampoos, cleaners, contain thousands of toxic petroleum based products) ie “fragrance” the worst… like pouring gasoline over your head and into the oceans btw… (oh and into the eyes of rabbits – throats cut out so screams not heard – research paper for Psychology degree -and down dogs throats so institutions get “grant” money from companies that make these hideous products – test can be done if really warranted by skin grafts and computers now). Think Bayer Aspirin Bayer pesticide to see the connection.

    I am living on 10K a year by the way – as most with chemical injury are forced to do and some less, some more. And I did have disability insurance, “health” insurance (run don’t walk and no good doctor takes medicare or does it pay for holistic therapies) and more.

    You can do without a lot of “stuff” you think you need.

    I am in Midtown NYC and cook with one iron pan only. I use whole foods, buritos (sprouted grains) and toss in veggies, this and that – wrap and roll. Spices and herbs are all medicinal and add super taste. I already knew different ethnic cooking and applied some basic concepts – easy and fast and real foods.

    Ditto for my rescue cats – canned and dried foods are made from dead animals from pound and many other toxic products to keep them hooked. Far worse then the Chinese scare… and after a few treats of Greenies (silently recalled for poisoning cats and dogs) now major kidney failure in one cat (young)… costing a fortune for maybe a year of life… (all holistic as well or would be long dead).

    Read the labels, look up the chemicals and think on your own feet. (as with me I could read the labels – not many companies follow the truth in lending laws and others as essentially the consumer fraud agency in this country is basically null and void!)

  111. I think it is fascinating that this discussion started off with an invitation from Ramit to speculate on who uses coupons and why to what almost feels like a debate regarding whether using coupons means you’re poisoning yourself and the environment or not.

  112. What I have always wondered is are these people only buying name brand big manufacturer items? or are there coupons out there for things like fresh fruit and veges, milk, chicken breasts, eggs, dried beans, etc? That is the bulk of what I buy. I go through the papers each week, clip one or two coupons for something that maybe sounds interesting and then end up never buying the product.

  113. “Our monthly grocery bill for a family of 4 is ~$320.”
    How much money this family has saved each month by using coupons? How much time they spent on collecting/managing those coupons? How many supermarkets they have to chase after for the savings? The cost of gasoline and time?

  114. I think the responses here really show how personal our purchases are.whether saving hundreds each month or spending more for non-processed,or simply eating beans and veggies, we all seem deeply engaged with what and how we consume. We all seek the balance between saving and living well by our own definitions. Thanks for the ideas ppls, I mighthave learned how to save a little extra grocery cash and still eat the food that’s right for me!

  115. Hello, suburban moms everywhere do this. At my job, several of the women bring their coupon inserts to work after they’ve cut out what they use and we trade them around. Then I go to http://www.southernsavers.com or http://www.couponmom.com and make a grocery list for the store I’m going to visit and it matches my coupons for me. Perfecto! I save a ton that way! This is how I get my shopping fix these days.

  116. [...] claiming it’s worth the effort. Even Ramit “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” Sethi is intrigued by the [...]

  117. My mom was always cutting coupons when I was a kid. As far as I know she still does because she refuses to pay full price on anything. My wife and I don’t bother with coupons mostly due to the fact that we’re just too busy. Our monthly grocery bill is usually around $300 and that is for just two of us! So if we can keep it the same when there is a third mouth to feed (and only one of us working), we just may have to join the coupon clipping club.