Practical couponing

by lisacng / 17 comments / Read comments or add one!

One of the first blogs I subscribed to was Common Sense with Money. She’d post deals on CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens for free, or close-to-free, body wash, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc. The first time I went to a CVS, armed with the coupons she told me to bring and my CVS card, I was nervous. Would they really let me walk out of the store with these products for free? Indeed, they took my coupons, I got Extra Care Bucks, and essentially got products for free. The adrenaline from getting free products sure was awesome.

A few months later, TLC debuted Extreme Couponing and everyone, including me, thought they could save 99% at the supermarket. I ordered the Sunday paper (just one, ok?), I….can’t believe I’m about to admit this…please don’t judge…on recycling day, would casually walk around my neighborhood collecting coupons people had discarded so I could have multiples of coupons. I put the date on each coupon stack and put them in a binder. I also had an Excel sheet to keep track of each coupon in my binder — the source, the date, the product, and the expiration date. Every week I’d look at my local supermarket circular to see if I could match-up any of my coupons to their sale items. And of course, check Common Sense with Money for CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens deals.

BUT even with ALL that work, I NEVER saved anywhere close to 99% at the supermarket. I’d be lucky to save $0.99 on a single trip. So…wanting my life back and some sense of dignity, I decided that extreme couponing would never be for me, and I’d be happy being a “practical couponer”. So, here’s how I’m  practical couponing:

1. I only clip coupons that I’d actually use.

To be extreme, you gotta clip every coupon known to man because you never know exactly what’s going to be on sale. To be a practical couponer, save your energy and only cut coupons for products you’ll actually BUY and USE. Some products I wouldn’t buy even if they were free, such as Hot Pockets or Glade Sense-n-Spray. Nothing wrong with these products but I don’t eat Hot Pockets and I have a sensitive nose. Look at how small my coupon binder is now! It used to be as big as my recipe binder as shown for comparison below.

2. I no longer keep an Excel sheet but clip coupons weekly.

One reason I kept an Excel sheet was I had so many darn coupons. How would I possibly remember if I had a coupon for a sale item? And even if I remembered, where would it be? I wasn’t about to flip-through every single stack of coupons to look! Now that I’m a practical couponer, I spend about 30 to 60 min a week clipping coupons and putting them inside trader-cards sheets. When I put them in my binder, I am reminded of the coupons I have. And since I’m doing #1, I know if I see an item on sale, and it’s product I use, I know where a coupon might be.

3. The Sunday paper and the free paper delivered to my door are enough coupons.

Some extreme couponers go door-to-door asking for coupons. Some dumpster-dive. No joke. Saw it on an episode. And some, like me, just take them from their neighbors’ recycling bins. *Sigh* Anyways, being a practical couponer, I’m ok with just 1 or 2 of a certain coupon. The Sunday paper and the free paper are just fine with me. I don’t go to extra lengths to find duplicates. I don’t print coupons anymore unless I’m going to use them right away. I don’t want to waste paper and ink anymore.

If you’re interested, I’ll post next week on where and what I save-on most. If not, I’ll leave my couponing advice/experience at this :).

Do you coupon?
Got any couponing tips?
Other thoughts on couponing, extreme or practical?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Zhanna November 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

I try to do the coupon thing but its very difficult for me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my family and I decided to go organic and use natural products and there isn’t that many coupons for that.


Dakotapam November 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

I’m also a non-extreme couponer. I think it is poor stewardship to hoard a bunch of stuff that I don’t need or won’t use. With 6 kids we go through a lot of cereal, so i often use coupons for that. I also shop at a grocery store that has many many in store coupons (I’d prefer they just lower their prices), so I usually shop there with their coupons and shave about 25% off of my bill each week. I mostly cook from scratch, so the in store BOGO coupons for meat and cheese are more useful than newspaper insert coupons for air freshener. Well done, and good job recognizing what is wise and practical for your family!


kathy November 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

i’m a horrible shopper — we just grab whatever we need from the shelve without looking at the prices :\

i never look at coupons — all that information is just too overwhelming!


Always Maylee November 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

I do very minimal couponing. In the past, I’ve found myself buying things just for the sake of using the coupon. I would never have bought the item otherwise, which I guess really defeats the purpose. SO, what I really do (which I don’t think counts as couponing), is I buy generic on certain things. It saves so much more money, especially if the ingredients are exactly the same (which I check for).

xo, Yi-chia
Always Maylee


Fashionably Yours November 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

I guess I just don’t have the patience to do couponing, or just that I’m too lazy! I keep coupons of clothing items though but I always forget to use it and then it goes int the trash! That’s the story of my couponing ventures!
But your practical couponing tips are great! Would try to give it a try:)))
Have a happy Thanksgiving, dear!
Juneli from Fashionably Yours


Mandi November 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I don’t coupon per say. Our grocery store sends me coupons in the mail every once in a while and I’ll use those on the items I buy. They are always really good coupons too. Some of them are even for a FREE item. But I only use those coupons on things I would normally buy. One girl in my mom’s group at church has four or five kids, so she does couponing like you. She said some store will let you double or something? I don’t know what that means. She also said the dollar store now accepts competitors coupons.


Jen November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for sharing your coupons secrets. I don’t coupon as much as I would like to. I should be more proactive about saving money. I do, always, buy produce on sale. It’s very rare that I buy items not on sale. I don’t know why, but I just feel weird paying full price on a gallon of milk (which in Hawai’i runs between $5-$9, depending on the brand. Actually, $5 is really a good deal on milk around here). Honestly, groceries in Hawai’i is way too expensive, which is why I only buy it on sale. I love going to Trader Joe’s (in the mainland), because everything is SO cheap. I mean $2 for cereal…wow!


Asianmommy November 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I do clip coupons, but often they expire before I get a chance to use them. You are very organized! I’d love to hear more.


Marsa November 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

okay i always envy all those people in the check-out line who save $10 or more because of coupons!!! i want to become a coupon bargain shopper 🙁
i’m not organized enough. i always just toss my coupons somewhere and forget about them. boooo you’re an inspiration


Lucy November 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I use to coupon many years ago, every Sunday after church I cut all my coupons but then it got complicated and I found I bought things just because but that was me. Now, I use a coupon if I have it but I mostly I just buy only what I need and small quantities. I stopped with all the over buying,over stocking and stuff but once again, my life has changed,kids are gone and life is a little simpler. Oh, except I still overstock toilet paper, something about toilet paper LOL


Henry November 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Who would’ve thought that you went down the path of extereme couponing!! LoL … those people disgust me~ LoL .. or maybe I’m just jealous~ I want my own stockpile of junk I’m never going to use~ I want people to come over and shop my closet like it was a supermarket!! hahaha .. have you seen the show Extreme Cheapskates .. I think that show is even better than extreme couponing!!


Justine November 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Hi! I found your blog through Kimmie!
I coupon! And I totally not ashamed of it and I LOVE watching extreme couponers. I have the Sunday paper and SOMETIMES my neighbor gives me her free newspaper (she doesn’t speak English). However I realized a long time ago there is no way I can ever save the way they do. I wouldn’t even know what to do with all the stuff. My mom and I stock up tooth brushes, soap, mouth wash, toliet paper, pantie liners…you know the practical stuff you know you’d use when it’s free or very close to free (or even the best deal ever). At one point we used to collect whatever we’d make money on (has to cover for taxes, we live in California). My mom had a shoe box with divider that separated her coupons by category. Eventually my mom threw in the towel because it exhausted her. Now she just buys what she needs and uses whatever she has at home. For me, I spend time every Sunday when I read the paper to clip the coupons I need and may need or my mom/bf may need. Then I stick them in a “coupon organizer” (index card divider I found at the $1 section at Target). I have the Just4U for Safeway and use store coupons to stack with manufacturer coupons, but that’s the most extreme I go. My bf thinks it’s amazing and I have to admit I get a small high from looking at my receipt. Other than that, it’s a great way to save on a tight budget. I say coupon for the stuff you need when you can because in reality you’re really just getting “junk” you’ll never use.


Bravoerunway November 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I try to use coupons where I can but people who leave the store paying 10% of the retail blows my mind! Happy thanksgiving!!!!


Sandra November 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You are very organized! I used to clip coupons when we were living on my almost-minimal wage salary. Now, I clip them when I see one I will use, but end up not since they expired. Your binder is very inspirational!


Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

I went through my own cycle of couponing and today, I no longer do it. To be honest, most of the coupons I find are for the most unhealthy food items in the store. We try to limit how much we buy from the center aisles at the store and most coupons direct your shopping there (from my experience, at least). I could probably save some money on cleaning products, but I just can’t muster the energy or organization. Plus, we just discontinued our local paper in favor of a national one that lacks coupons. I think it’s good that I tried, so I know how much effort it takes, but I’m ok spending a few more dollars each week.


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