Coupon Crazy

One phenomenon I found most interesting as I’ve worked with people and their money is the extent to which they will go to “save.”  I put “save” in quotes, because often these people use the “savings” they derive from their couponing or sale shopping to justify the mad shopping they love to do.

I like using coupons. I’m not coupon crazy, but if someone wants to give me a buck or two off a product I’m going to buy anyway, hey, I’ll take it. I particularly like those shelf coupons that you can redeem immediately, and I often take an extra or six so that I can use it again if the product goes on sale… feels like a double win to me. I saved $40 on bread last year (two 50¢ coupons a week for almost a year).

You can improve your odds of saving if you visit sites like,, and And if you get in the groove of the 12-Week Cycle you can really pile up the savings. What most folks don’t realize is that stores don’t drive sales, manufacturers do, and items typically go on sale in 12-week cycles. So the hungriest deal hounds use a price book or a spread sheet to keep track of prices on the items they buy most often. When there’s a great sale – I’m not talking about a wussy 25¢ off here – they stock up with enough to last until the next great sale.

Completing consumer surveys is another way you can get a stash of coupons. Or write to the manufacturer directly and you might be rewarded with some high-value coupons.  And if you’re shopping online, make sure you search for “promo codes” for that retailer so you can fill in that enticing little box at check-out and save.

If an item is out of stock when you hit the store and you’re looking at a limited time offer coupon, make sure you get a rain-check so you can receive the same discount the next time the product is available. And take advantage of price-matching to save having to drive all over hell’s half acre to get the best deal. The gas line on your budget will thank you.

Of course, you actually have to SAVE the money. That means taking it out of cash flow and putting it somewhere to work for you. If you save 50¢ using a coupon and then you turn around and spend it somewhere else, you actually haven’t saved a thing. To SAVE you have to take the money out of your wallet and put it somewhere you can’t spend it.

Make yourself a Coupon Savings container that you can slip your savings into when you get home. Each time you return from shopping, go over your receipt and look at what you saved by being such a smart shopper. Now take that money and drop it into your savings container…plunk! NOW you’re saving. Once you have a bit built up – say $25 to open a high interest savings account, or $100 for a term deposit, you can put that money to work to earn even more money.

37 Responses to “Coupon Crazy”

  1. I’m not coupon crazy but use them when I can. I don’t take the money out and save it though – I use the savings on higher priced things to buy more of the expensive things in my grocery budget – if I ‘saved’ $4 or $5 with coupons, well, that is a package of pork chops I can keep in the freezer. So while I don’t pocket the extra cash I saved on a coupon, I use it to buy more good food – I’ll splurge on grapes when they’re not on sale because I spent less on bread this week, stuff like that. I still feel like I saved. I wouldn’t have those grapes or the extra meat in the freezer if bread had been regular price this week.

  2. I agree with Tara…I use the “savings” to make up for the cost of other items…and if I save on a big ticket item..i.e. recently we needed a new chair..we had our eye on a certain one but waited for it to be on sale..(the full price was affordable but we also wanted to paint)…when it went on sale the difference in price was enough to cover the paint we needed…so althought the regular price was within the budget, by waiting for the sale price we still spent the same amount of money but got more for it because we were able to get the paint for the room as well…

  3. I’m not a very good couponer – I don’t seek out coupons but tend to use the ones that come to me on items I generally buy. I don’t tend to buy a lot of processed foods so I don’t get to use coupons frequently as the biggest savings coupons tend to be on processed food products that we would never eat. I have used coupons on personal care products but I will however wait to use the coupon until the item goes on sale. You don’t normally have to wait too long – about every 6-8 weeks the specific brand will go on sale.

  4. I use coupons if they are for something I am getting otherwise, but I don’t really seek them out, with the exception of Michaels! For non-food things it is a good idea to watch flyers, as I bought a vacuum in early march, then on Thursday it went on sale half price. So I went to the store and got the difference back as they have a policy that if an items goes on sale within 14 days of your purchase they will give you money back if you have your recipt.

  5. I tend to not do coupons but I do take advantage of certain store cyclical sales. For instance, Shoppers regularly has sales and I have one nearby, and the items that go on sale every 2 weeks are the school snacks, juices, milks, breads, etc. Things the kids go through fastest. When I can pay $2 instead of $5 on a snack, I stock up. I do the odd coupon usually in store.

  6. avatar Jennifer Says:
    March 20, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I’ll admit it. . .I am coupon crazy. For me it’s a game. There is a thrill in the hunt and WOW when you find a really good one. It’s also a social activity, I am on a number of FB sites where I trade coupons and tips with other crazed couponers. My best friend and I talk coupons all the time. I have met new people through coupon exchanges and I have discovered other friends who also coupon so we trade back and forth as well.
    There are some challenges, in order for it to work, you do have to build a stock pile of items and that takes time AND MONEY. You aren’t going to save buckets of money your first time out. I remember I was so excited when I used three coupons (YIPPEE). That was in September, in February, I had a shopping trip where I used $103 in coupons. There is a trap though, buying something just becuase you have a coupon. The best solution is set your budget for that week, determine what you really need, see whats on sale and see what you can use your coupons on. I have a weekly budget of $50 on food and $10 for pet supplies. If I go over one week, I try to trim back the next, I only buy anything when its on sale (except fresh that you need when you need). I haven’t bought frozen vegtables since before Christmas and I probably have enough pork chops to last me til the summer lol. On the other hand, I have 20 cans of pasta sauce (which I use a lot) that I paid 0.25 for and bodywash that I only paid the tax on.

    I used to spend over $400 a month on groceries and in recent months the most I spent was $220.

    PS. You can’t do extreme couponing like they do in the US and if thats what you are trying to do, you are going to end up buying stuff you don’t need just to score the BIG deals.

  7. I blogged about my method of couponing and pricematching here: When I first started I got a bit overzealous and the fact that I’m a perfectionist got me a bit stressed about having to use up all the coupons on time so I didn’t ‘lose’ money and making sure I got to the store to get the awesome deals etc. Thankfully, I’ve gotten into a groove and calmed down a bit. I haven’t had as much success with food coupons since I buy a lot of store brands and fresh products- though I certainly use coupons for items that I regularly buy when I find them. My biggest coupon successes have been with over the counter drugs. I currently have a great stockpile of medications which is awesome since my husband has chronic back pain and I suffer from migraines. I recently pricematched the Walmart sale price of Childrens Tylenol ($6) at Loblaws and used some $4 off coupons so I got two botles for $2 each and my double PC points on top of that! score!

  8. I began couponing – mainly for baby things when I had my first child a few years ago. And I DO place all the money I save in coupons in an ING account. At first it was to see if they truly made a difference and then it became a game. In the first year, we saved enough to pay for our California Shutters in the kitchen and a TV in year 2. They do pay off but as the previous poster mentioned, you have to be careful not to buy things/stock up just because you have a coupon.

  9. Speaking of coupons… on that TLC show “Extreme Couponing”, the shoppers are doubling and tripling coupons on one item, or they are using 50 of the same coupon for 50 items. I don’t understand how they can do this because every couponeI have ever seen says “one per customer per visit”. Does anyone know the secret here? Although those people are buying a lot of crap that have expiry dates, they are still saving a ton of money…

  10. There are lots of coupons out there for processed food and for baby items but since we cook from scratch, use cloth diapers and I breastfeed we have no use for the majority of coupons. Oh well, in the long run our choices are cheaper (and healthier and greener) than trying to save with coupons

  11. @Fan – it’s a US show. No way on earth could you expect anything like that in Canada. No idea how stores can support that, but you can double, triple your coupons, even with items that are on sale. Crazy!

  12. @fan, I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard that some of those stores relax their policies to appear on the show for publicity.

    I will use coupons when possible, but I think shopping the fliers tends to save me more money. I do like getting coupons for diapers though and then waiting for a sale to use them!

  13. I use coupon to extend my grocery budget. I look for coupons for things that I buy regularly only. I use those coupons on things that are on sale. So I get my Tide laundry detergent that’s usually $9-10, for $4 after sale price/coupon. I can then use that $5-6 savings for other grocery items, or to stock up on another item that’s on sale. I only shop at No Frills (pc points!!) and WalMart (ad matching!!). I know that No Frills ad matches too, but their policy isn’t as generous, so I prefer WalMart for that.

  14. I have been using coupons since the 1970’s when I was first married and started my family. At that time, some of the Canadian grocery stores were even trying the “double coupon days”. I only use coupons for things I need, and only if they bring the price down to the lowest on the shelf, for instance if another brand is still cheaper, then I won’t buy the one just to use the coupon. I don’t “save” the money separately, but use the savings to get more for my money. I also track my savings. Last year between sales, coupons, rebates and secret shopping, I saved almost $6000 (six thousand dollars). This allowed us to afford a trip somewhere every 3 months for my hubby and I.

  15. Going on mat leave I needed to find a way to cut back. I make more then double then my husband so I knew things would be tight. So after changing grocery stores and watching for sales and using coupons I have managed to save 50% on our monthly grocery bill. My old grocery store woul sell Pepsi for $5.99 but I can get Pepsi at Walmart for $3.97. So for non grocery items Walmart can be a great place to shop. I get my coupons from newpaper inserts, websites like (they mail them to me) and tear pads in stores. I also buy non food items at Walmart since they price match and they are closer to me and easier if I need to price match from different stores. I ended up getting 2 things of Tide 84 washes sensitive for $3.50 each because I watched the sales and used my coupons. I got Campbell soup for $0.25 a can with sales and coupons! Couponing is pretty simple and isnt as time consuming as the TV show make it out to be. I spend maybe 20 min a week online ordering free coupons (I will never pay for them) and then my usual 2 hours grocery shopping trip. I only take 2 hours cause I am kidless and I enjoy that time to have a relaxing lunch – even if it is at McDonalds and then I walk up and down every isle. Couponing has allowed me to stay on mat leave just a little bit longer, but sadly even though my little one 10 weeks I need to go back to work part time. 🙁

  16. I use coupons. Actually, to be truthful, I eat, drink, sleep, dream coupons. I am a closet Extreme Couponer. I stay at home with my 2 year old son, and although it does take my time and energy I use couponing as “me” time while getting my family great deals and stocking up our local Women’s Shelter. Last year we were able to donate over $6900 to charity with only spending about $200 out of pocket. That $200 I spent in cash resulted in tax refunds of $1400 so just there I netted $1200! Besides the money we have generated through charitable donations, I have cut an easy $100 a week off our grocery bills – money that goes directly into our son’s 529 plan. By the time he’s ready for college he’ll have over $100,000.

    Being a couponer is so much more than clipping coupons for processed foods. In fact, the argument that coupons are only for processed foods drives me crazy! I get organic products, fruits, veggies, meat, dairy, staple food deals ALL the time! Just this week I got $30 free at Whole Foods for syncing my American Express and Twitter account! We participate in and and have earned over $350 in gift cards (which paid for all our Xmas presents last year). I learned how to use coupons last Spring and I feel like an idiot I didn’t do it before. There are free things all over the place – from music downloads, to gift cards, to food, to gas even. I’m hooked.

    We can pay extra principal to our mortgage, fund college savings, pay for our life insurance policies, and aggressively save 25% of my husband’s income because the money isn’t falling through our fingers like it did before I started couponing. It’s been a complete lifestyle change, and I know it doesn’t appeal to some people, but I don’t mind the stigma being “coupon crazy” brings. I’ll laugh all the way to the bank.

  17. I’m am extreme couponer as well. I mostly coupon on items that I normally use. I’m not a picky eater but my boyfriend is a health nut. I find that coupons help a lot when he prefers to buy greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. He gets his fancy food, while I pay regular yogurt price. It’s not just couponing, it’s price matching too. I get to save money and time! I started couponing as a way to save a few dollars a week to put towards our first home and pay off my school debt. I’ve been couponing since late last year and can proudly say I’ve now paid off my LOC with my couponing ways! Let’s just say I some made bad decisions when I got my first credit card. Still working on my school debt, and the house downpayment is still a few years away. Yes, I admit I do spend money on things that are “free” or super cheap cause I still have to pay the taxes but I usually give them to my mom or other needy families that live in Jane-Finch. I’m happy to say that I’m always in the black with my couponing and never have carried any further debt from it.

  18. avatar AnotherDawn Says:
    March 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t use a lot of coupons. Like MP3 above, I don’t buy a lot of processed food, which seems to be what most of the coupons are for. Plus, most of the grocery store coupons come in our Sunday paper, which I’m not willing to shell out for.

    I’ve found I get the most savings from our grocery store member card. I also try to eat seasonally and take advantage of sales whenever possible.

  19. I love coupons! I scan the flyers every Thursday to find out about upcoming sales/promotions and I match them with my coupons (which I get from and My young girls already recognize sale items in the store. The older one won’t even ask for something unless it’s on sale : )
    Never ever pay full price! I think the best I ever did on sales and coupons was a grocery shop at Co-op. I walked out of there with $130 worth of groceries for a little over $60!

  20. avatar Jennifer Says:
    March 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I have to reiterate what Nicole (above) said, it is a huge misnomer that you can only get coupons for processed food. There are coupons for eggs, milk, meat, butter/marg, yogurt (almost every brand has coupons), and while we haven’t really seen coupons for fruit and veg, other provinces are.

    PLUS it isn’t just food stuffs. The bulk of my couponing is health and beauty items, including make up, and cleaning supplies. I have dish detergent and all purpose cleaners that I only paid taxes on. Cleaning supplies (even no name ones) are expensive and if I can save there then I am already ahead of the game.

    In fact Websaver currently has coupons for Mattel toys.

  21. avatar Deanna L Says:
    March 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I am not a big coupon user because many of the products I buy are no-name (with no coupons available) or are entirely fresh. It’s not often that you find a coupon for a few pounds of broccoli.

    Personal care items are another matter. The P&G Coupon book is one I watch for very closely, and the sales on these items at SuperStore & Shoppers immediately after the coupons are released are predictable. So I only buy laundry detergent, etc twice per year. It’s not useful if you don’t have much room to store items, but if you do you can really save big on top-brand products.

    The most important thing is to really know your prices – both regular price and the typical sale price. Things like Peanut Butter can cost almost double the sale price if you have to buy them at regular price…. not fun to feel like you’ve been fleeced on Peanut Butter!

    Saving money on items you regularly buy is important, but I’ve had more luck with really examining what we purchase and giving up some items. Rationalizing what you use is the best way to save money. It’s likely good for your heart & your waistline too.


  22. Would like to know if anyone’s found a $100 term deposit (or GIC) per Gail’s article. My bank and CU only have minimum $1000 now.

  23. @Judy – ING allows you to open GIC’s of any value, including $100.

  24. I go back and forth on coupons. I think they’re a great idea and yet I often forget them when I go shopping. When I do remember them it seems that the product I have a coupon for is still going to cost me more than a comparable product on sale.

  25. To the commenters who say they get coupons for fresh fruits/veggies and meat… I’m guessing your are American, not Canadian? There were coupons on the Cheerios boxes last year for $1 off bananas or something but that is the only time I have ever seen a coupon for fresh food. “Couponing” in Canada is just not worth it a lot of the time. Coupons tend to be for the name brands, and often the more expensive name brands, so that even using a coupon, you are still spending more than on a less expensive brand. Sometimes there are good deals out there but they are hard to find.

  26. I wish we had coupons in Australia….

    I watch that Extreme Couponing show and am in awe of some of the deals, last night they had an episode where the shopper donated $21,000 worth of goods to local charities.

    Oh well, maybe one day.


  27. […] here to read the rest: Coupon Crazy « ← TLC's Extreme Couponing: No Thank You! | Green Bay […]

  28. I should probably use more coupons than I do. It really is just the amount of time it takes to find them and cut them out. I always look for things I need on sale. Food Basics has Laundry detergent on sale for $1.47. I picked up the maximum for 6. I may even go back and pick up 6 more. Detergent never goes bad.

  29. avatar Julie V. T. Says:
    March 21, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I tried using coupons a few months ago – I went crazy trying to get all sorts of coupons from different companies and then hoarding them around! I ended up having way too many coupons of stuff that I don’t generally buy. And most of them expired before I could use them (I tried to use them only on sales), which made me feel bad! What my husband pointed out, and it’s true for us, it is less expensive buying generic brand/ store brand/ no name brand than using the coupons, for the most part. So… unless I see a coupon for something that we really really buy, I’m not going to use coupons. (On that note, I went to the store today to buy bread – I had a 1 dollar off coupon if I bought two. Since I’m having a baby any day now, I figured I could freeze one bread. When I got home, I realized that I had forgotten to use my coupon!!!!!!!!!!)

  30. avatar Wendy K. Says:
    March 21, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Gail, great idea on taking the $$ saved with coupons & put it in a savings account. I been foolish with the savings. I either buy a few more extras like a bigger chicken or a bag of cookies or a movie. With regards to the movie LOL I first go on line to see if I can find a “free” code for the red or blue box(es) to rent a movie. I also go to a site called Recyclebank and earn points for coupons to my favorite store; $5 off $50 or $10 off $100. I add other coupons from that site, the coupons I have/got from blinkies and save close to 25%. So I guess I can say I’m coupon crazy. I use them but do foolish things and not save the money. I don’t have a hugh stockpile of food (don’t wanna be the next mustard queen of the US). Thanks Gail.

  31. avatar Jennifer Says:
    March 21, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Tara: I live in NS and currently Hamburger Helper has coupons for $3 off Ground Beef or Green Giant Vegtables (not nec fresh but still), In January Websaver had coupons for Eggs. I can promise you that you CAN get coupons in Canada for fresh product.

  32. I’m not a huge user of coupons, but do watch for sales. I will say I am a huge fan of signing up with my fav companies, like The Gap, Childrens place,ect. I find if I wait long enough there is always a coupon or sale eventually, I almost never buy clothes for my family at full price. I’m not a huge shopper, so I like that I get an e-mail telling me what is coming on sale, huge time saver too.

  33. avatar Elizabeth A Says:
    March 22, 2012 at 1:43 am

    I started really matching coupons and sales when the show Extreme Couponing came on here in the states. While it shows some ridiculous and frowned upon things, it also has some very good ideas. Which I copied. I started getting the paper, one paper, for the ads and coupons, and with the local papers which are free and have more coupons I applied the lessons learned. I learned to shop sales much better, too. Within my normal budget, in a couple of months, I accumulated enough of certain laundry health and beauty items to last a year for two people. I actually had to stop buying certain items even if they were free or nearly free. I stockpiled enough food that I pretty much only shop the fresh and dairy things, and decided to use the stockpile up before I did anything else. It looks like it will last 4-5 months, including all the frozen meats. We are eating much better, more good protein and fresh food with the extra money. Before my budget was getting pretty thin, and I found grocery shopping depressing, now we are eating shrimp. I don’t like the work of it, but look at it as worth it for me.

  34. I am interested at the idea in using coupons. Here in the Philippines, coupons available for everyone are the ones you usually buy at fast food restaurants. I am surprised why large supermarkets here do not use coupons. They just offer discounts directly. Or it is just the same? I wonder.

  35. Always used coupons here and there. We have some things we want to save for so I’m starting to do more couponing and watch the flyers better. I managed to save 10% on my grocery shop today with using in store and ad coupons.
    Starting to get the hang of it!

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