Super Couponers: Don’t Get Discouraged by Them

I know quite a few people who have tried to use coupons but ended up quitting because they got discouraged. They felt like they weren’t saving enough, or that somehow they weren’t doing it “right.” One woman put it simply when she explained, “I see these people on TV who get $600 worth of food and only pay $50. I can’t get anywhere near that kind of savings or even find that many coupons, so I end up feeling like it’s not worth my time somehow.”

What I tell people that express this feeling is this: If you get into couponing expecting to have those kinds of great savings week in and week out, you’re probably going to end up disappointed. If you want to coupon, you need to have a more realistic expectation of what you, personally, can achieve and then work from there. Couponing is a great way to save money, but the people that are trotted out on these TV shows are not representative of the “average” couponer for four main reasons.

First, many of these super-couponers are not buying a true weeks’ worth of food when they are being filmed. You won’t usually find them buying milk, meat, eggs, cheese, produce, and fixings for a weeks’ worth of dinners. Most of the time these people are stockpiling. Their cart is likely full of twenty boxes of pasta, ten boxes of cereal, ten packs of clearance meat, and tons of paper and beauty products. These are things that they have waited to go on sale, have amassed large numbers of coupons to use, and have waited to strike when there is a triple coupon promotion going on.

By combining sales and coupons they are able to get many of the products free or nearly so. However, this isn’t stuff that they will use to feed a family for a week. It’s stuff that will go into a pantry or freezer to be used as time goes by. While getting to the point where you can work the system like this is a good goal, many people can’t do it because they don’t have the kind of storage space necessary. If you were to follow one of these super couponers when they buy their “regular” perishable foods you’d find that they don’t come close to getting a cart full of stuff for free.

Second, super couponers devote hours to planning their shopping trips and have no problem driving to multiple stores to get the best deals, all while figuring out what can be gotten for free by using rebate programs like CVS’s Extra Care program. There’s nothing wrong with this approach and it can save a lot of money. But most people don’t have that kind of time or the inclination to plan that much. Most of us just want to go to one store, get in and get out. You can certainly still use coupons with this approach, but you won’t get the same value out of them that someone who is willing to drive to multiple places and cherry pick the deals will.

Third, super couponers are fortunate to live in areas with multiple stores that have to compete for their business. If you live in an area with four or five large grocery chains, some super-centers and warehouse clubs, drugstores on every corner, and alternative food sources like outlets and Aldi’s, you’re going to be able to save a lot more than the person with one grocery store nearby. When there’s a lot of competition, more stores double and triple coupons and have more aggressive sales to drum up business. When there’s no competition, you have to take what you can get price-wise.

Fourth, super couponers are able to make use of Internet coupons. In addition to the coupons they get from the Sunday paper, they can print many more coupons for the same item, giving them big savings when they buy five tubes of toothpaste and have a coupon for each. Some of us are not so fortunate. There’s not a store around here that routinely accepts Internet coupons. They used to, but fraud scared them off. Other areas are the same way. That avenue is simply closed to many people.

Being a super couponer who can get a cart full of groceries for nearly free is something that you can do if you are willing to devote the time and storage space to stockpiling, meal planning, and trotting to multiple stores to snag the best deals. If you’re willing to treat shopping like a war with a battle plan, you can get a lot of things for free. If you live in an area with great stores, sales, and coupon policies, your job is even easier. However, most of us just don’t want to put that kind of effort into it, or we don’t live in an area where that kind of coupon use is even possible. And that’s fine. You can still save with coupons.

It’s not hard to save $30 or $40 per week with just the coupons from your Sunday paper and shopping at one store to buy your weekly necessities. No, it’s not $500 in savings, but every little bit adds up. That $30 per week is $120 at the end of the month. You have to understand what is available in your area and then decide how much effort you’re willing to put forth to reap some savings. Do you want to just clip a few coupons and call it quits? Do you have stores that make holding out for triple coupon day a good deal? Does any store near you take Internet coupons? Do you have a lot of time to plan meals, compare circulars, and hit multiple stores? Find the answers to these questions and you can figure out how much you can realistically expect to save.

Understanding how much you can do within the context of your daily life and where you live will give you a more realistic picture of the savings you can expect. No, you might not be able to get a cart full of food for free, but you can probably trim your bill by a decent amount. Just think of every coupon as if it were cash. That $1.00 coupon is a dollar bill. Even if you save no more than that one dollar, that’s still a dollar you didn’t have to part with. There’s no need to get discouraged or feel like a failure just because you can’t match the savings of someone on TV. Save what you can and be happy about it.

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14 Responses to Super Couponers: Don’t Get Discouraged by Them

  1. rob62521 says:

    Well written! I don’t save $30 or more in coupons each week, but I do save a few dollars here and there. However, the amount of coupons you use also depends on what you routinely purchase. I don’t buy a lot of boxed things or premade things so many of the coupons don’t do me a lot of good. I did get a loyalty coupon Saturday from the grocery store that will take 5% off my next grocery bill when I give it to them at checkout. I was pleased with that.

  2. Gerry says:

    Thanks for bringing to my attention that these super couponers don’t buy a large assortment of grocery items! I have become discouraged clipping coupons because it seems like I save many many more than I ever wind up using. Sometimes I go to the store and the item is still too high priced for me even with the coupon or I find something else that will do ( or a store brand) for cheaper.
    I also do buy a lot of dairy and produce and cook a lot from “scratch”, so I feel like there are less coupons to help me. I try to get meat and seafood on sale. The sale prices on meat at my local grocery are cheaper than Wal Mart regular, everyday prices!

    Every dollar saved can be used for something else- add to an emergency fund, my daughter’s new shoes, or a special occasion dinner out.

  3. I fit your description a super-couponer and your points are dead on. I have had people ask me more than once at the grocery store if I was throwing a party because I had so many identical items in my cart. Really, I was just stockpiling them. Sometimes I go to up to three stores in one shopping trip to hit all the best sales and use my best coupons. I print coupons from the internet and trade coupon circulars with a friend so we can double up on our favorite coupons. But doing these things is tiring and sometimes I would rather just go to a store where I can’t use coupons but the prices are reasonable and I can buy what I want without worrying about whether it is on sale or I have a coupon. Super-couponing does take a lot of time and energy. Sometimes, though, it’s really exciting, like when I get something that normally costs $4 for 67 cents. So I don’t do the coupon thing every week, but I do it occasionally.

  4. Isabelle says:

    We don’t do the coupn thing here in the Uk, but if we did I would use it to do the stockpiling.

  5. Lisa says:

    At different times I have fit the description of Super Couponer. Combining several strategies can save alot of money. I look at it as a part time job, one without taxation so all savings are mine and not split with the government. I use a “price book”, I use coupons, I shop sales, and go to multiple stores. I look at it as a fun game instead an energy draining battle. The right perspective is important to success. But, there is always someone better at it that I learn new things from. We have a local guy that uses organic practices to produce eggs for $2 so I buy from him and support local agriculture. Thats important to me.

  6. Journey says:

    Thank you for pointing the reason for my coupon failureship! Couponing is great for those who eat lots of boxed and processed food items. For those of us that eat lean meats, fresh produce and freshly made breads, it doesn’t help much. Buying with a store card on key buys is much more effective for lean meat/produce stock piling.

  7. Lisa says:

    Journey, I was buying my organic buckwheat groats from a health food store 45 mins away 3-4 times a year. I am now buying online. The cost to drive to far away is equal to shipping and less wear and tear on my car. To bring down my organic cost I use coupons, and a price book. The price book saves me alot of money. Ex. I buy organic apples by the bag for 1.25 a pound and the loose apples are 1.99 and over. And some bags are a little over 3lbs so the price is slightly better. Only one store in my area sells organic apples by the bag. And that store just recently started giving a $2 off $8 produce purchase. So combining these saves me more than 50% on produce. I am constantly refining and adjusting what I do to save money.

  8. I am one of the super couponers you speak of, and I am proud of it!!!
    Yet, I DO feed my family this way. You fail to mention that we stockpile so that we always have about everything on hand.

    When soup was on sale, I bought it by the case, next week I got velvetta cheese, next week pasta and 16 free bottles of salad dressing, next week cereals…..yet it keeps my pantry well rounded and full.

    Yes, we do feed our families this way, we are just not buying it meal by meal.

    Also, buy doing this, I get for free all our shampoo, condition, toothpaste, deoderant and fem products.

    Another few tips::: don’t be brand loyal, keep an inventory, rotate your stock. With CVS and walgreen, you can use 2 coupons per item–store coupon and manfuc coupon. Combine them with the rebates and sometimes they pay you to take the items out the door. Find out where your store puts its markdown or damaged items and use coupons on them–I can get name brand cereal for $1 a box if the box is slit, but the bag inside is still intact. I use a $1 off coupon and get it for free, or any coupon I may have. I also have gotten from their markdown cart, baking chips (choc, peanut butter) after the holidays, smashed kleenex boxes for a quarter, smashed boxes of drink mixes (they kind that come in tubes) for a quarter…..

    I do most of our cooking from scratch, and only coupon when it is a better deal–cheaper than the store brand or for free.

    I spend about 30 minutes a week clipping my coupons and putting them in my coupon book, which I have organized into sections (about 24 sections)–I use clear plastic photo sheets in a 3 ring notebook. With them divided down into so many catagories, I can quickly find cereal, dairy, shampoo, meat or whatever coupons. I then spend about 60 minutes shopping.

    I do this every Sunday night–while the kids are in youth group–I clip before youth group, drop them off at the church, then hit cvs, walgreen, dollar general and 1 grocery store. They are all within 1 mile of each other. Then I come back and pick up the kids.

    some $1 stores also take coupons, and that is a good source for free items if you have $1 off coupons.

    Walmart will match prices, even Aldi prices.

  9. Jenn says:

    Very refreshing article. It is very frustrating to skim websites looking for fresh ideas on reducing grocery costs, only to have to disregard most of it because it’s all US based where couponing and loyalty cards are the norm. Good to hear the unbelievable savings aren’t the norm – it was getting really depressing!

    In Canada (or at least my area) there are no Sunday paper coupons, no store loyalty programs and I’ve never seen a store offer to double or triple a coupon. In addition, food costs are just generally higher here than in the US. My MIL lives in Niagara Falls Ontario and regularly pops over to Niagara Falls, NY for a few groceries. Even with paying a toll to cross the border it’s still cheaper.

    Occasionally I come across a coupon in a magazine, but they’re usually for processed foods or unnecessary beauty products. Instead I plan meals a week at a time and based around the sales at our store. When there’s a great sale particularly on meat, I stock up a little. I figure if we plan our meals, shop the sales, cook mostly from scratch and always use up leftovers, we’re doing all we can. If a coupon I can actually use comes my way it’s just a bonus.

  10. Anna says:

    This is for Journey,
    I am a super couponer AND we are a healthy food advocate family. I cook everything from scratch, we have a garden, the only prepackaged food we get is cereal and pasta, rice. We do not even have a microwave. I actually think people who say couponing is only for prepackaged eating people are just sorry to say, but lazy.
    Diapers, toilet paper, soap, dish. detergent, shampoo, mustard, ketchup, sugar, flour, oil, vinegar,you name it I get for just cents versus $3,$4 $5. Does it go bad? No. There are so many things you can get, but only if you want to and not make any excuse. Frozen veggies, canned plain veggies, great stuff.

  11. Dee says:

    Never get discouraged if you’re doing the best you can in your situation.

    You need to be flexible and keep changing strategies, just like the grocery stores do.

    The key is to keep “needs” at the top of both your mental list, and your grocery list, and to plan meals.
    I would rather spend my time writing out a rough meal plan for the month and keeping inventory of my stock on hand, than clipping coupons and fighting the grocery wars. Yes, it sure feels more like a war than a game these days.

    In my area, the grocery stores have pretty much made coupons useless for saving money. They seem to work better as a way to get customers to spend more.

    There are other ways besides using coupons, to save money on groceries.

    I shop at a lower priced grocery that does not accept coupons of any kind. But I recently bought EVOO there, that cost $.13 an ounce versus $.28 an ounce at the big chain grocery. That’s more than 50% savings. And I didn’t have to buy a gallon either.
    Brand name stuffing for $.99 versus $1.50 a box, (before thanksgiving even!)no coupons needed. Cheaper bread, milk is about $1.00 a gallon less, eggs, frozen veggies, etc. Also they have some comparable non-food items there.

    I set a price limit of $2.00 per pound for meat and poultry, and stock up when the price is right.
    I buy more fruit and vegetables, and try new produce at least once a month.
    I shop 3 different groceries, but not every week. It depends on the sales.
    I shop for cheaper store brand products and try them out until I find the ones I like best.
    I shop the dollar stores.
    I cook from scratch more often than not, and do batches of stuff for the little fridge top freezer, because its not much fun cooking for one.
    I do use some coupons, but only when they are helpful.
    Stores here seem to schedule the sales either before the coupons come out, or after they’ve expired. Double coupons? You can only double 4 $1.00 coupons per visit, you must spend $15.00 to use them. Spoils my fun. The same goes for CVS extra bucks, and most “save X dollars on your NEXT purchase” register coupons with their short expiration dates. Add the manufacturers coupons that have “do not double” printed on them, and coupon use is rare for me.

    I don’t eat out or do take out. If I’m feeling deprived? I look for a coupon and/or good deal on something prepared, or a frozen meal from the grocery store. I’m currently checking out frozen pizzas, or pizza crusts which I can add my own toppings to. I never had any luck making my own bread or pizza dough, and the pizza place across the street is way too tempting.

  12. Millie says:

    In the past I thought we couldn’t extreme coupon in Canada. I now know that is not true. I would probably be considerd an extreme couponer. In the past 4 months I donated 91 boxes of cereal to the breakfast program at a local church.(for a cost of approx $50) I’ve gotten free Tylenol, Advil Aspirin, Polysporin, zantac, Motrin, bananas, strawberries, hamburger, pop, snacks, a years supply of coffee, tea, 9 tubs of greek yogurt, spaghetti sauce, frozen veggies, cheese, soup,orange juice, Vitamins, Physican’s Formula & Covergirl makeup, 100 pomegranates and loads of pomegranate juice, soap and soap dispensers, laundry detergent, crackers, dog & cat food, cat litter, body wash, shaving cream, razors , deordant, hair color, shampoo and conditioner, body lotions and moisturing creams, baby formula, tooth brushes, toothpaste, movie passes, magazine subscriptions, gift cards. I also have gotten great savings on other items.

    Someone mentioned we don’t have a point system in Canada. There are many ways to earn on your shopping trips. Shoppers drug mart has HIGH prices but if you plan well you can earn points for very little if any out of pocket. In 4 months of owning a card I accumulated over $1000.00 worth of points. I was able to purchase an emachine, video game system, hand held game system, years supply of tampons, several hundred dollars worth of makeup and $100 worth of peanut butter to donate. I purchased a variety of other items as well.

    Pay for your items with a credit card that gives reward points, we earn approximately $350 at Costco every year, it pays for the membership and they will give you the cash if you don’t spend the whole check in that shop. If you sign up for a walmart card they give you $15 once you use it and $10 when you sign up for online billing. You also get points each time you shop. Presidents choice has a great offer as well. The key point is to come home and pay it off immediately as if you used cash.. NEVER CARRY A BALANCE on your credit card.

    Doing this does mean you have to research a little, use your brain and a calculator comes in handle but its easy and do-able.

  13. Millie says:

    I have coupons for eggs, milk, fresh produce, meat..I don’t think the people who say that are lazy, just not informed.

  14. miss says:

    Most of those super couponers decode the coupons any way…That’s how they really do it.

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