It’s National Coupon Month!

life list
In case you’re un-cool and unaware, National Coupon Month starts today!!! There’s even a whole website dedicated to it:

3 interesting facts and then I’ll let you go celebrate:

  • 97% of consumers want to know the cost of an item before buying.
  • 91% of shoppers would walk away from the “perfect sweater” if it wasn’t on sale.
  • Coca-Cola invented the FIRST coupon!! It was hand written, dating back to 1887. (More info here…Coke lore also says they invented the modern day Santa Claus “look” too!)

Okay actually I lied about letting you go so quickly. Before I could post this up Mrs. BudgetsAreSexy chimed in and started telling me all about her run-in with some crazy coupon lady at the grocery store yesterday :) I told her the lady was probably getting geared up for National Coupon Month but she wasn’t buying it. Instead, she offered to share her own thoughts on the subject matter. So, in the spirit of couponing, please to enjoy my wife! (that sounded bad, didn’t it?)

Based on my lengthy wait behind Miss Coupon Crazy this afternoon, here are a few thoughts on the pros and cons of coupon clipping (specifically, for grocery stores):

Why coupons are awesome:

  • You save $
  • Fun family activity? (or at least, you could argue that clipping coupons might teach your kids a good lesson…or serve as a creative punishment for wrongdoing)
  • You can feel accomplished and proactive about reducing your grocery bill
  • Potential to find a good product that you might not otherwise have used (since you are more likely to buy it with a a good coupon!)

Why coupons are the opposite of awesome:

  • Clipping coupons sucks
  • It’s often hard to remember to bring coupons along to the store
  • Using them at the register can be aggravating to others (mainly, the cashier and/or the people behind you who have to wait those precious extra seconds)
  • With many grocery coupons offering just $.10-$.50 off, the money saved per coupon usually seems pretty insignificant (and disproportionate to the effort required to use it)
  • Clipping coupons sucks

The dedicated coupon-clipper, however, can probably attest to the fact that it can be a big money saver in the long run. E.g., Miss Coupon Crazy, whose extra 20 minutes of sorting, tearing, and handing over a mountain of coupons resulted in a pretty giant reduction of her even more giant grocery bill — from $376 to $318. That’s a whole $58 that could go towards so many other things! …Like candy bars and magazines in the check-out lane. :)

PS: According to National Coupon Month’s website, just spending 20 minutes a week clipping and clicking could save you over $1,000 annually! Do you think that’s true? How much do you reckon YOU save every year clipping/clicking coupons?

Thanks to Lina for the head’s up on coupon month! If you reside in Canada, check out her Coupon Tracker application. And thanks also to Lomo-Cam for the awesome pic.

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  1. Ashley Baxter September 1, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    Clipping coupons takes me back to childhood. My mom would wait until our local Kroger had coupon tripling (back before they had those pesky limits of how much the coupon could be worth) and then go to town. She made a game out of seeing how much we could save, and even as a kid… it was fun!

    Sadly, grocery savings aren’t my thing. I’m often pulled into Whole Paycheck (Whole Foods) and end up spending way too much of yummy exotic foods and faux meat since I’m veggie. However, I am a mean clothing and apparel shopper and rarely buy anything less than 70 percent off. However, this month I’ll try and rekindle the childhood couponer in me and see what happens. I must agree with the Mrs. though. Crazy coupon shopper ladies are like that year round, I lived with one. :-)

  2. Betsy September 1, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    I have to chime in on this one, as I love coupons!

    I’m not sure about the save $1000/yr for 20 minutes per week. But I use (free membership required) and have for about 5-6 years. Stephanie’s system helps manage the amount of time it takes to find the coupons you could really use — and the best time to use them (i.e. when the item is on sale). I probably spend about an hour to an hour and a half each week making my shopping list and menu for the week. (You could probably cut down the time, but I spend a good bit of time reading recipes as I get tired of the same old food very quickly.)

    I used to track my coupon savings to figure out if it was worth it. I can’t remember the figures off the top of my head, but I was saving hundreds and that was good enough to me.

    I don’t buy something just because I have coupon. I buy it if I can use it or donate it…and if it’s a good price. If a different brand is less expense without the coupon, I’m getting the less expensive item.

    It does take time and organization…but I consider it my part time job that I can do anytime I want and don’t have to pay income tax on my “earnings.” Yes, you can find part time jobs that pay more…but it depends on what you are interested in doing, how successful you are, and if you have the time to work that job. You have to figure out if the opportunity cost is worth it to you.

    Yes, you can end up with a problem at check out when you have coupons. However, I work hard to make sure everything is straight (i.e. no expired coupons, products match coupons) before I reach the register. I will challenge the store if something doesn’t ring up right. However, I do my shopping early on Sunday morning before church. I can hit multiple stores without worrying about traffic (on the road or in the aisles), items being out of stock, or long lines at the stores. Shopping at non-peak times helps keep the peak-time, non-coupon shoppers a little less crazy. :-)

    My husband thinks my coupon “hobby” is a bit silly — “you can only save 25 cents and you hold up the grocery check out line.” But boy does he love the savings — in fact, I know he is secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) amazed.

    J – despite the somewhat dorky name, you should check out (I started using her site in my late twenties…and I’m not a mom.)

  3. Krista September 1, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    I love using coupons. I have the Sunday paper sent to my place for the purpose of coupons. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love reading about all the happenings in my ‘hood and racking my brain over the crossword. But it’s awesome that for $1.50 I get a paper that winds up providing over $10 in coupons for products I regularly purchase.

    (Also, I like to read the funnies.)

    Actually, here’s a tip: my sister-in-law regularly gets all her household items at Walgreens/CVS/etc. for very cheap. (How cheap, you ask? Three days ago, she purchased toilet paper, mascara and body lotion for 17 cents. Total.) She does this by coupling manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons. It’s so simple, yet, I never attempted it before!

  4. Charissa Cowart September 1, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    I have to agree that clipping coupons sucks… I just don’t have the patience, and I get antsy waiting in line behind a coupon clipper, which makes me not want to be one even more…

    HOWEVER, on a more positive note :) I LOVE online coupons!! More of a Coupon Cutting & Pasting instead of clipping ;) and I do clip coupons and organize them all perfectly for Black Friday – Oooo it’s coming up!!

    Thanks so much J for bringing National Coupon Month to our attention!! It might be worth it to clip a few this month ;)

  5. Lindsay September 1, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    The problem with coupons is that they encourage us to eat processed foods. When I go grocery shopping, I hit up the produce and meat/seafood sections pretty hard. I’m also a farmer’s market gal. So in theory I could save a ton of money with coupons, but since they rarely offer coupons for cilantro, in reality that doesn’t happen. Good thing fresh produce is pretty darn cheap to begin with.

    I do use coupons/store sales for stuff like toiletries and other household items. (toothpaste, dishwashing liquid etc). That way I still save money on groceries, but my diet stays nice and healthy.

  6. Penny Frugalista September 1, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I “reckon” I save about $10 each shopping trip with coupons, on average. If I shop every week, that’s about $500 a year. But since I tend to go only 2-3 times a month, my savings is probably closer to $350/yr. But that’s money I’m saving, and I don’t spend a ton of time slaving over coupon clipping — so it’s worth it to me.

  7. Jenna September 1, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    I rarely use paper coupons however, I am a big fan of online discount codes and in store offers. I definitely save big time when it comes to clothes and will walk away from a sweater that isn’t on sale.

  8. Nicole September 1, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    I beg to differ on the subject that couponing only saves a small amount. We have saved over 7000 this year alone by shopping sales and using coupons. I am able to get most of my items free or close to free! I am an avid couponer and I will probly never shop without coupons again. It does take time to clip and organize coupons but if your saving over 50% of what you spend it is a great investment!

  9. Suba @ Wealth Informatics September 1, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    I agree coupons can save a lot! But for me personally, I can never find a coupon for my regular grocery (veggies/fruits and basic staples like rice, flour). We even make our own bread, all the coupons that comes with the Sunday paper is for processed food. I have seen coupon for milk only once or twice. I still use coupons for 2 things (1) toiletries : Combining coupons with sale and rebates, I have never paid for my toiletries in the last few yrs always get them for free, but when I get them it will be in bulk, so I have to do this only once/twice a year. (2) Online purchases. I never buy without looking for some coupons, even free shipping helps.

  10. Jenna September 1, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    @Betsy, I like how you view couponing as a part-time job!

    Many grocery stores will double coupons up to a certain amount, so $0.50 off can really mean $1 off. Between using coupons and planning our meals around grocery store sale items for week, we regularly save 25% on our grocery bill.

    I’ve even heard of some who organize coupon swaps with friends so that you can trade coupons you don’t use for duplicates of items that you do purchase. I’m not that dedicated, but I like the idea. :-)

  11. Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 1, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    I absolutely LOVE coupons and free samples! I actually have Money Saving Mom’s coupon database installed on my site, so I just search for the sale items on their to find out where the coupons are. I do this right before my shopping trip, so no chance of forgetting.

    For instance, if CVS has a product on sale for $5 with $3 cash back, I may or may not buy it. However, if I enter that product into my database and I find a $2 or $3 coupon, then I’ll add it to my list and either print or cut the coupon.

    I have saved so much money that I began to write about it on my site. I think $1,000 is nothing for someone who has a good system and doesn’t waste time.

  12. KP September 1, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    Coupons are awesome when you save money on items you need. Especially the automatic ones that go on your grocery shopping saving card or the ones that come on your product.

    Coupons can be the opposite of awesome – when you spend money just to use the coupon. Yes, there are people out there who love a good deal and will spend just to get it! Then they ask themselves, did I really need that?

  13. Molly On Money September 1, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    I with Lindsay on this one. I have yet to find coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables in my area. I don’t buy much processed food (or as my Mom would say growing up,”If it’s in a box we don’t need it- we can make it!”) and that’s all I can ever find coupons for!
    I do want to go shopping with those people out there that buy $100 worth of groceries for only $5 using coupons just to see what they end up with. I’m very curious…..

  14. Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 1, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    @ Molly, when I go to CVS, I usually come away with deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, wipes, cleaning supplies, razors, cosmetics, medical supplies and toiletries. I usually pay a couple of dollars and come out with a ton of store credit (Extra Care Bucks).

    I have yet to see coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables, but at least I can pay next to nothing for all of these things and then focus on saving on the rest.

    There are a number of sites where you can see the results of shopping trips (of course I do it too, but only for CVS so far).

    Wow, I never thought I would be commenting about coupons! lol

  15. myfinancialobjectives September 1, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    I agree with your wife: Clipping Coupons sucks…

  16. Serena September 1, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    I have a love-hate relationship with coupons.

    I love them: I print them out or clip them, and I save money on items I love but normally don’t buy to save money. Like the Kellog’s Toaster Strudels my boyfriend and I love! Or I can make a list based on what coupons I have, only buy those items, and control my shopping compulsions!

    I hate them: I print them out and use WAY too much black ink! And the Sunday paper often has coupons for items I don’t need, and rarely for items I do need. Lots of items I want, but what’s the point of getting a coupon for an item that you don’t really need?

    Some weeks I don’t clip any coupons at all. Though I guess it’s a good thing … save time!

  17. Stacking_Cash September 1, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    I have to agree with KP, coupons can make us spend money on something we don’t need. Right now I have two coupons for a new smartphone from Best Buy, but do I really need one?
    I want one badly, but my phone works just fine for me right now. Also my cell plan would increase in price tremendously, I miss my $5 month beeper back in the day :)

  18. Kay Lynn (Bucksome) September 1, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    Although I am a coupon clipper, you don’t have to clip them anymore. Load digital coupons on your shopping card account so if you buy the item, the coupon is automatically applied.

  19. Lina Zussino September 1, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    Thanks for the mention of the coupon tracker application.

    I love the graphic!

    I am a pro-couponer. I love seeing how much money i have saved using coupons.

  20. J. Money September 1, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    GREAT points on the *types* of food that most coupons are good for – never even thought about it. Probably because I eat most of the non-veggie stuff out there ;) But that does seem like a sad state of affairs. Maybe we can be the first group to ban together and make this happen?! Healthy Coupons for ALL!!!

    And I also agree w/ those who don’t like using coupons all the time since it tricks them into buying more. That’s my one and only jab at groupon and living, and the rest of those daily sites (even WOOT!). PERFECT when the stars align, but they are just too damn tempting to check every day for me… gotta watch ourselves ;)

    @Ashley Baxter – “Whole Paycheck” – haha…. Whole Foods is like that ;)
    @Betsy – – got it, thx! You keep workin’ it over there.

  21. Lina Zussino September 2, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    Forgot to mention that the coupon tracker application is also available in the US and has many popular stores: Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Albertsons, etc..

  22. Lisa September 2, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    I only use coupons when I have a coupon for something I actually need, or if I am getting it completely free, or better yet, making money by using the coupons such as overage, extra bucks, or rebates.

    I personally couldn’t care less if the person behind me is annoyed because every time they ring me up and they say my total is $50-$150 dollars, I love the satisfaction of using my coupons and then the cashier saying “your total is $1.22”.

    I have literally had people that were behind me in line track me down in the parking lot to learn my secrets. I save tons of money, and with the things that I get for free I give away to local charities.

    As far as the excuse that coupons trick you into buying something you don’t need… that’s a little juvenile; a coupon doesn’t have that much power over you, its simple: don’t buy it. And as far as clipping coupons sucks, well work sucks too and anything that saves you money is going to require some work.

  23. Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 2, 2010 at 11:53 PM

    @ Lisa, I’ve had a few cashiers complement me and remark about never seeing savings like that before. I was able to give a business card to one of them and had another one comment on one of my CVS articles!

    As far as the line is concerned. I’ve actually let up to 3 people get in front of me because they had one or two items!

  24. Lisa September 3, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    @Khaleef – That is awesome! I agree, CVS is my absolute favorite when it comes to savings. I know it varies from region, but the CVS I go to always has the best employees. I should also consider drawing up a business card and perhaps offering coupon classes, there are so many people who would love to learn!

    I also agree that if someone is behind you with a few items, it is a good idea to let them in front of you if you have a lot of items and coupons. However, If someone gets in line behind me when I am in the middle of my transaction and their frustrated, I am not going to let that affect me. I refuse to feel ashamed to save money!

  25. Donna Freedman September 3, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    With regard to doubling coupons, I live in a wasteland: Seattle. Every couple of months Albertsons lets you double three coupons.
    My daughter lives in Phoenix, where double coupons are a lot more common — and where one store declares that all coupons are worth $1. In other words, that 25-cent coupon that Betsy’s husband pooh-poohs is worth $1. Combine that with sales and instant store rebates and you can kick frugal butt.
    I don’t keep track of how much I save. What I can say is that I haven’t paid for toothpaste and a bunch of other toiletries for years, and that coupon/rebate combos allow me to donate a ton of stuff to a couple of emergency pantries and a shelter for homeless youth.
    As for the “holding up the line” thing, well, possess your soul in patience for heaven’s sake! It isn’t just couponers who add an extra 15 seconds to your wait; it’s people who can’t find their debit cards, or whose credit cards are denied.
    I wrote a piece on this very subject, called “Don’t hate the payer, hate the game.” If it’s kosher to post URLs, here it is:

  26. J. Money September 4, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    You know, as much as I hate waiting behind slow people in the check out lines, I would MUCH prefer to see coupons holding up the register than people writing checks. It drives me LoOnY when people start digging in their purses for checkbooks! (and it’s always women too, I have yet to see a man take out a checkbook at a store in the past 10 years). If you want to write a check, that’s cool, but fill out as much as you can before getting there! And know where it is so you don’t have to search all over.

    //end rant :)

  27. Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 4, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    @ J$ I can’t stand to see this!!! They can at least write out the name of the store, date and memo – then only put in the amount and signature. Do they not realize how much they are holding up others? Oh, and I’ve never seen a man pay with a check either!