Saturday, November 7, 2009


Are any of you into couponing? I don't mean the casual use of coupons; I've always done that. But there is this whole subculture devoted to intensive couponing. I've come across several articles about it recently and decided to give it a try. It's not like I never took advantage of sales or coupons before. I have my Kroger plus card, do get some coupons, do buy more of our most used items if it's on sale that week. But there was no real effort outside the grocery store or much planning ahead. Last week my first couponing effort was not very successful. I think I saved about $5 more than I would have with my casual efforts.

But according to what I read, the savings build over time as you get used to it and build up the store of coupons. Plus this week Kroger was tripling coupons and had some great deals on top of that. So I decided to try it again. It was like a comedy of errors. The strategy here is basically to stockpile coupons so you can stack a store coupon on top of a manufacturer coupon on top of the item being on sale and save big time. So I printed off coupons online, gathered all my other coupons, made up my shopping list of best deals, and went to the store.

First casualty: my reusable bags. I already have a cabinet full of plastic grocery bags and care about saving the environment so we have canvass bags we use. In my excitement to head out the door with my coupons, I forgot most of them.

Second casualty: all the people I kept bumping into or just generally being in their way. I swear I was the rudest person in the store as I was so engrossed in my coupons that I ignored all the people around me.

Somehow I made it through the store and bought everything I wanted to. I did get some great deals on things we buy all the time. I wasn't going to buy things we don't normally buy just to get a good deal on it, though. Still, I headed to the checkout confident that I was getting great deals on the goods, but unsure if this whole thing would work.

It did! The first total the checkout lady gave me was $63. That already included $21 in Kroger plus savings. Some of that I probably would have gotten anyway, but some I know was due to my diligent efforts to find what was on sale. Then I handed her my stack of coupons. My total went down to $46! I couldn't believe that this whole thing worked.

Except it didn't quite work all that smoothly. Two of the coupons I printed online didn't scan. So I had to go to the customer service area and wait another five minutes, but eventually I did get my $3 back (2 coupons to save .50 that were both tripled). And then in my excitement for saving so much, I threw all my bags into the trunk. Including the eggs. Oops.

DH was proud of me when I came home and told him about all the savings. But then pointed out what I see as the flaw of extreme couponing by one simple question. He said "this is great, but I don't see what there is to eat for dinner this week." See, this whole process depends on stockpiling food, which means it requires a lot of freezing food or buying non-perishable items. But the most expensive items we buy are perishable (mostly fresh fruit and vegetables). And I'm not willing to sacrifice the quality of the food I want to eat just because something else in on sale. For example, there is a local blogger who does extreme couponing in my area. So presumably we have access to the same local coupons and deals. She posted her weekly savings with pictures and details of all she bought. The only item she bought in the produce aisle was bananas. How can that be the only fresh produce you buy? And I noticed she scored great deals on this ground chuck. I saw it was a great deal and was tempted. But we buy only the leanest meats and I couldn't bring myself to buy it. This high fat ground chuck falls in the category of something I don't normally buy. Does this make me elitist? In some ways I'm impressed by all she does, but in other ways I can't see myself buying the items you need to buy to save the most money.

I guess it comes down to how much of a necessity this is. I remember one year I asked me mom what she wanted for Christmas. She said she thought I had more time than money (I was in grad school) and so what she wanted was me to convert her home movies to DVD. I had the technology to do that, but I looked at my dissertation, decided I actually had more money than time, and took her videos down to a company that did it for me. I see couponing as the same thing. Sure, there are ways I could save a whole bunch of money. But it does take time, energy, and some possible compromises. I think I will continue for a while just to see how I can balance all those factors.


  1. I agree. My time and effort and sanity are worth more than the 15 cents a coupon could save me. It was for that reason that I chose to stop shopping at the discount grocery store chain in our city. Yes, I was able to get some good deals, but inevitably I would come out of there frustrated and stressed (they often sell out of the basics like low fat milk and boneless skinless chicken breasts, and their checkout lines took at least 25 minutes). Now, I use my Safe.way discount card, and buy in bulk what I can at I feel better about shopping and get things we actually need. Couponing seems to work for some, but at this point, it doesn't fit my lifestyle.

  2. Just because you don't save the most money possible (by not compromising your desired quality of food), it doesn't mean that you didn't save a lot more than you normally would.

    Sounds like it was a successful start!


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