Have you experienced this?
Do you run into this dilemma?
Has your spouse ever said “What are you doing? You are spending all of this time to use coupons, but you are spending more money!”
Well, this is actually a real and true scenario that plagues many would-be couponers. In fact, this is a risk for even the best of couponers! Believe it or not…… There is actually a WRONG and a RIGHT way to use coupons!
First, before we share the real and right way, let us tell you about the wrong way. Many years ago, Alex and I were attempting to cut expenses in every area of life in an effort to rid ourselves of the mountain of debt we accumulated the previous 4 years of our marriage. One way that we assumed was the way to drop your grocery budget was by using coupons.
Here’s what we would do:
- We would shave the items on our grocery list to the bare minimum
- Spend time searching for coupons (times does equal money)
- Spend money to get the coupons (buying the newspaper, often in multiples)
- Cut those coupons out and head to the store.
When we would arrive at the store, we would stand in the aisle and compare all of the products on the shelf. Here’s where the rubber met the road…… we would stand there and compare the name-brand price plus coupon with the price of the generic item. At least 90% of the time, we would find the generic to still be cheaper than the name brand with the coupon! Our efforts, time and plan was failing – all with more money fruitlessly spent to try saving money! It wasn’t working! How do others use coupons and make them work??
We would both leave the store irritated and exasperated! If we had purchased the items we planned with the coupons, our bill would have been about 20% higher.
So here’s where the real truth lies – buying generic items is going to generally yield greater savings than name-brand with the coupons. It’s true – there’s no myth about this!!
So why even bother with coupons if that is the case? Well, we wanted to share with you the flip-side and a big epiphany for our family and budget once we figured it out!
You can use coupons on sale priced items and get those rock bottom deals to make them much lower (sometimes FREE) than the generic counter parts! Taking advantage of these extra savings is really the only way to use coupons. It is best to use your coupons on a rock-bottom sale. What we mean by this is items will go on different sale levels throughout the year, but about 2-3 times per year, nearly every item will hit a rock-bottom price. You want to try and catch the rock-bottom sale with your coupons at that time. Nearly every week, there will be a handful of items that would be considered a rock-bottom sale and you can stock-up at this time!
Here’s an illustration to explain how this works. This is from our observation and calculations from watching the sales and retail trends over the last several years – its not official or scientific but what we consider as real life:
Let us demonstrate this concept with Quaker Oatmeal (this was a real scenario at one time that we took advantage of, but of course it will be different each week).
- Buy the oatmeal today at retail price of $3.99 – If you were to go and buy this oatmeal today off the shelf, it would be an average of $3.99 per box – final price $3.99
- Use the $1/1 coupon often found online or newspaper off the retail price – This is still a terrible deal (in our opinion) because if you take a moment to compare the products on the shelf, you will probably find that the generic was only $1.99 – a lot cheaper than the name brand with the coupon. – final price $2.99
- Combine the $1/1 coupon with the rock-bottom sale price – Wait for the cart-buster sale (e.g., the 10 for $10 sale that occurs 2-3 times per year) where the item is $1 . Now, when we combine the sale price with our $1/1 coupon(s) it made it FREE! – final price FREE!
Free items are more rare – honestly, you will typically end up with an average of 60-80% savings – certainly nothing to scoff at!
By shopping this way, your budget for your groceries will drop significantly! This is the age old secret that couponers use 🙂
And when we say groceries, we include household items, toiletries, diapers/wipes, pet care/food and more everyday items as these same rules apply to all of these categories. Pretty much everything you would find in a regular large grocery store!
How many can you get for FREE? It will depend on how many coupons you have. If you subscribe to multiple newspapers, are able to print coupons and other various ways to get coupons, then this will determine how many you can get for that FREE price. And now that you are saving this large amount of money, those coupon resources (newsapers, cost to print coupons and your time) start to become much more worth it! Just think, if you spend 2 hours preparing for a trip, saved $100, then your $50 per hour was well worth it (or even $40 per hour if you factor in cost of resources)! We will be talking about coupon resources more later, but this is just to help you understand the differences between the right and wrong ways to use coupons!
Do you see that if you used your coupon to get them for $2.99 (especially when the generic was $1.99), that you paid a lot more in the end and wasted your coupon, money and time?!
The main point of this post is to give you the tip to hang on to your coupons and only use them when an item goes on sale so that you can actually experience real grocery savings from using coupons!
Now there is another way in which a coupon by itself will save you more than buying generic, even without a sale. It is on those high value coupons or FREE product coupons that we will post here on our site when they are available. This is important to note, but these coupons are rare coupons and are usually to help introduce you to a product, but as a norm, you will not be able to have a huge impact on your grocery budget by counting on these high value coupons.
So the next question you may be asking is…… how will I know when an item goes on sale and when to finally use the coupons! And this is a very good and very reasonable question.
There are a couple of ways:
- If there is a deal that will yield a good savings, we will post them on our site in individual posts. Watch for these continuous posts with tips on how to combine the coupon with sale price if its a product your family uses. You can also search for specific deals in our search box.
- Use our Grocery Shopping Lists with Coupon Matchups section of our site HERE. The great part is that we have several printable lists for many grocery stores as well as Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. You can see the lists HERE (choose your state and store from the drop down menu). These store lists do include the items that are in the ad, but not everything in the ad is the rock bottom sale price (as this only happens 2-3 times per year for that product). So, you will see a stock-up scale listed on these lists to help you decide when it is a good time to stock-up. This scale is represented by the star rating each item is given. 4 & 5 stars are the times to stock-up on that item!
So, hopefully we have helped explain this myth and shown that although there can be truth to the statement “Help! I am using coupons BUT spending More Money,” that at the same time it can be false as well! It is all about context. 😉
We do understand that this does not entirely answer every question, nor did we intend to be exhaustive on the subject, but we wanted to cover a very specific question that many people have about their experience with using coupons.
What other questions, concerns, comments or other statement do you have in regards to the above topic? What other issues would you like us to address? AND remember that you receive an entry into our monthly $25 Amazon gift card giveaway for leaving a comment ;