Coupon Basics – If You Just Don’t Get It – Read This!

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I originally posted this two years ago when I was a hard core couponer…thought you guys would like!

People constantly ask me “How do you do that?”, referring to saving so much money on groceries. They look at me like I am crazy until I sit down and actually explain to them how I do it. Sometimes it takes a few times before they have epiphany moment where they finally get it. After three months, my mother in law just got it last week! I thought maybe my friends and family weren’t the only ones that didn’t quite understand so I thought I would try and break it down and really explain the concept behind what I do. So grab a cup of coffee and sit back and relax this may take a few minutes!

Please realize one thing, saving money like this takes a little work. I literally went from spending over $700 to between $100-$150, so the few hours I put in a week are worth the $550+ savings per month. You are going to have to be organized and put in a little time to really make this work, but when you get your system in place it is completely worth it!

Most important start small don’t make a huge list of deals and head to the store, you most likely get extremely confused and frustrated. Try a few things one week and then add a few more and add a few more. I did not get to this point over night it took about 4 months to really start seeing a difference. Start trying to shave $10 off your bill and then $15 and just keep going! First off, saving money at the grocery store involves lots of coupons. I get them from several sources, so start focusing on building a good stockpile. You don’t have to go as extreme as I have, but simply matching up some coupons will save you money so just do what you feel comfortable with. Even saving 20-30% off your grocery bill will be a great savings!

Where To Get Coupons:

  • Newspaper Inserts (i.e. Red Plum and Smart Source) – on good insert weeks, I will buy several papers if not 20!
  • Online Printables – print as many as possible of the coupons you KNOW you will use, if you don’t use it you have wasted ink which isn’t cheap!
  • Marketing Companies – programs like Vocal Point, Bzz Agent, and others that send you coupons, usually really good ones or coupons for free items
  • Blinkies – the little things attached to the shelves in stores, they have some of the best coupons! If you see something you use or need grab a few (or ten) and wait for them to go on sale.
  • Contact Companies – email companies of items you use all the time and they will mail you REALLY good coupons
  • Ebay – Yep you can buy coupons on ebay. If you see a coupon in an insert that you would love to have a ton of but don’t really want to buy a ton of papers, goto ebay you can usually buy 20 $1 off coupons for about $1.50 shipped. I do this a lot for juice because we go through so much of it!

Now that you have your stockpile the key is to match the coupons you do have to really good sales and buy a ton when it goes super cheap. If an item is Buy One Get One Free you can use two coupons since you are buying two items. Let me repeat that…If an item is Buy One Get One Free you can use two coupons since you are buying two items. This seems to be the point most people don’t understand but if you buy two items, even if you are getting one for free, you can still use two coupons. And to make a deal even better some stores like Publix will allow you to use either competitor coupons or Publix on top of manufacturer coupons (the ones in the paper). Honestly I have used all three on items before, one manufacturer, one Publix, and one competitor but those deals are super rare. But back to basics, on any week you can do something like this….

Mott’s Juice BOGO for $2.29
Use two $.55 off manufacturer coupons
Use one $1/2 Publix coupon
Your total would be $.19 for both or $.09 each

Yes this is possible and can be done! So when you find a deal like that you don’t go in with 2 coupons you go in with 20! In a case like this where it is something I use all the time I will goto eBay or Coupon Clippers and buy 20+ coupons. Then I get 20 bottles of juice for under $2. That way I am set for a few months and don’t have to spend $3 on juice when I need it because I already have it. In a case like that I would make a special trip just for juice. Sounds like a pain but think about it this way, over the course of two months that would save me almost $50 because I am not paying full price for juice. This is the premise of how you really save a lot of money. Stockpile when it is super cheap then your weekly amount spent is smaller once you have gotten a good stockpile of your necessities.

Are you confused yet? Or have you had your ephiphany moment? If you sort of get it read on it is about to get interesting!

A lot of times there are situations where you can use two coupons with a BOGO and actually create an overage. For example the deal from last week…

Maybelline Lip Products BOGO $5.39
Used two $4 of coupons = $8.00
Overage of $2.61

Now you can not get this back in cash, but you can use this overage towards other products. A lot of times I will buy things I know I will get an overage on so I can buy things I need. Since I have this $2.61 overage, I can get a gallon of milk. Then I have purchased two lip products and a gallon of milk for about $.38 (if the milk was $2.99). There also $5 of $30 (can be any combination) purchase coupons. PUBLIX accepts all competitor coupons, which means if Winn Dixie has a $5 off $50 purchase coupon you can use it at Publix. OK now you got the basics, let me show you how one of my typical transactions would be….

I am guessing prices, this is just an example:

8 Knorr Pasta Sides BOGO $1.29 = $5.16
Milk $3.69
Eggs $1.39
Bread $2.00
8 Ragu Sauce BOGO $2.39 = $9.16
8 Spaghetti BOGO $1.49 = $5.96
4 Boxes of Cereal BOGO $4.39 = $8.78
Bananas $.99
Broccoli $1.99
6 Cans of Progresso Soup BOGO $1.59 = $4.77
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts $5.99
Cheese 2/$5
Total is $52.38 plus tax

OK now here is how it would break down with coupons. Remember these are examples, but most of these are deals I have done and are possible. I am showing you a typical transaction for me…

8 Knorr Pasta Sides BOGO $1.29 = $5.16
— use one $.75/1 manufacturer coupon for each product
— total savings would be $6.00 producing a $.84 overage
Milk $3.69
–there are rarely good deals on milk, this is what you use the overage on.
Eggs $1.39
–there are rarely good deals on eggs, this is what you use the overage on.
2 Bread BOGO $2.00
–probably no coupons, but still good deal
8 Ragu Sauce BOGO $2.39 = $9.16
–use one $.75/1 manufacturer coupon for each product = $6.00
–use one Publix $1/2 coupon or each two products = $4.00
–total savings would be $10.00 total producing a $.84 overage
8 Spaghetti BOGO $1.49 = $5.96
–use $1/2 manufacturer coupon for each two = $4.00
–total would be $1.96 for all 8 or $.24 each
4 Boxes of Cereal BOGO $4.39 = $8.78
–use $1/1 manufacturer coupon for each one = $4.00
–use $1/1 Target printable coupon for each one = $4.00
–total would be $.78 for all four or $.19 each
Bananas $.99
–use $1 off Produce coupon from Publix Baby Club
–total savings would produce a $.01 overage
Broccoli $1.99
–use $1 off broccoli printable Target coupon
–total would be $.99 after coupon
6 Cans of Progresso Soup BOGO $1.59 = $4.77
–use $1.10 printable coupon for each = $6.60
–total savings would produce a $2.13 overage
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts $5.99
–there are rarely coupons, but needed
Cheese 2/$5
–only buy 1 for $2.50
–use $.55 off coupon – really hard to get cheese super cheap
–total would be $1.95

OK so here is how to numbers would work out…
Total Product Purchased $86.90
Total after BOGO deals $52.38
Total Coupon Savings is -$37.15
Use $5/$50 since I purchased $50 worth – $5.00
Total Savings $42.15
Total Out of Pocket = $10.23

I have my plan already done before I go into the store, I know what I am going to buy and have all the coupons ready to go, that makes it alot easier. Then I only spend what I plan on spending! But now because of this week I am set on spaghetti, soup, cereal, and pasta sides for quite a while and next week I will stock up on something else. This keeps my cost down and allows me to purchase other things I need like meat, bread, milk, eggs, etc. That transaction above would be my typical purchase or a week for my family because I can mix it with other things we already have to make all of our meals. Did I mention hubby also takes his lunch and I work from home, so $100-$150 is the TOTAL cost of our food for a month!

So what do you think? Did this help or did I confuse you more?

17 Comments

  1. Laura Alberts on February 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    This is a great post. Just thought I would mention that I am a pretty hardcore couponer myself but I still end up spending around $125 a week on groceries and household items. This sounds like a lot but I was spending more than double this amount a year ago. I have 3 kids and stay at home with them, so we go through a lot of food! Plus I have one in diapers and two that wear pull-ups at night so that adds A LOT to the cost. Also, we buy a lot of produce and milk each week (which rarely goes on sale) so that adds up quickly too.

    Also, I don’t actually have the storage for a really great stockpile. A 1300 square foot house with 5 people in it does not exactly have a lot of storage space. So, if you’re in a situation like mine, don’t feel bad that you aren’t only spending $100 a month! Like swaggrabber says – “Even saving 20-30% off your grocery bill will be a great savings!” I wholeheartedly agree! I regularly save 50% or better at Kroger and 80-90% at Walgreens/CVS.



  2. Sarah on February 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    thank you! i was feeling down. Trying to save money as I am not working and the bills keep adding up. But I was getting dissapointed that I was lucky to save even $5.00 on a grocery trip. But you are right, every little bit helps and adds up. $5 a week is about $20 a month which is $240 a year. Every little bit helps! Thank you for your help on this! Really THANK YOU!!!



  3. Valerie on February 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I “get” how to do it, but actually doing it seems so overwhelming. I have three kids 5 and under that I will have to take to the store(s) with me. Everyone I know that does the hard-core couponing goes to three or more stores every week. There’s NO WAY I could do that and remain sane.

    Maybe I will do some more online research to plan and prepare- I’d really like to get into this, if I could just figure out how to make it work for me.



    • Ebony on February 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

      I feel you, I have 3 kids under the age of 3! they are 3, 1 and 3 months old.

      The best thing you can do is organize. I usually find whatever blog covers my stores, I make a list of the items to buy AND the coupons im going to use. I will sit and pull my coupons out that I plan to use ahead of time and put them in the envelope so i have my list and envelope all together. It goes MUCH easier that way.
      Also if you are familiar with your store make your list by isle. for me th condiments are with the bread so I usually have those q’s near eachother etc. so im not tracking back and forth across the store.

      Another tip is SNACKS. I make sure I have sippy cups and cereal or those flavored mini rice cakes on hand. I have learned not to take toys because they get thrown and fought(sp) over.

      I have been known to be a hot mess in the store, I got one cart full of kids and another full of groceries pulling one and pushing the other and rummaging through coupons. LOL

      I still have those days but I save myself the headache and prepare ahead of time. It really only takes a few minutes since the lovely bloggers like SWAGGRABBER post the deals up for you.

      I do go to the grocery store a few times a week. I try to go either early morning or AFTER nap time. I never go right before thier nap its the worst with the whining etc.

      And also if you cant get to a store on time and the item is gone just do a raincheck. Dont stress yourself out. I was so upset I packed the kids up to go to Kroger to get some 88 cent juice and they were all out, so i just went to customer service and got a raincheck for however many i wanted. And the next week when they were stocked up I was ready to go and I didnt feel like I had missed out on the deal.



  4. Tammy Crider on February 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    This is great!! Although, I’d like to find out if someone has a great idea on how to best organize the coupons once you clipped them? I have one of those plastic “coupon organizers” from the 99 cent store, but there are not enough dividers to seperate them into easy categories. Any ideas?



    • Antoinette Vogt on February 24, 2011 at 9:13 am

      I bought a 3 ring binder and baseball card sheets through amazon. Avery makes plastic dividers you can write in pencil on the tabs to designate between cleaning products, shampoo dairy etc. I have about 20 different categories and could use more. You don’t have to clip everything but having it at your fingertips is great and very convenient when your out and about and find an unadvertised deal.

      As you search for deals in the store circulars or on posts on this site you can search for the sale product’s coupons in the database and print or cut them from the newspaper inserts. Then organize them in your binder. I only “file coupons that I know I will use later. Otherwise I search for coupons based on the weekly store circulars.
      I would be embarrassed to take my binder shopping. I’ve had store employees walk up to me and say “wow, You’re organized. That’s great”. Then I would feel empowered. Also saving the amount of money that I have in the last year is proof enough that this is so worth it!!! Good luck.



    • Ebony on February 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

      I am currently using the envelope method. I have each envelope labeled. You can break them down however you like like Cheese,cold deli, meat etc. Or you could make your own dividers out of cardstock or the 5 pack of dividers at walmart and cut them to size…

      I have to say hands down the binder method is by far the easiest way. Yes it takes time but depending on how much you coupon its worth it. just make sure you get a zipper close binder. Mine wasnt one and my q’s kept falling out : (



  5. Meichelle on February 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Tammy, Don’t clip the coupons. I keep them in a folder, and type up what coupons are in them. Then, when you are looking for a specific coupon, all you have to do is look at the list. You can usually get a list online and then change the ones that you got/didn’t get.



    • Bethany on February 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      This is what I do too, and it saves a lot of time.



    • Ebony on February 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

      i never thought about printing a list for the inserts, thats a great idea!



    • erica on February 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

      Can you elaborate on your folder method please? Do you create a list for each coupon insert section (like Red Plum arrived today-so they roughly expire at the same time). Or do you just have one page for the whole coupon folder. Do you have a method for clearing out expired ones? Where do you find online lists of the coupons? I clip coupons and then find I never use a lot of them so this method might really help me save time and be better about using them. Thanks.



  6. bunny on February 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    thanks so much for taking the time to do that, it was very informative



  7. Rae on February 23, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    I personally like having them clipped and in separate categories. And a lot of times I will send the expired ones out so they need to be clipped anyway. I usually cut them out as a strip if they are the same category (like cleaning, cold food, etc) to keep them a little bit more manageable. I have a coupon box that is “check size” that fits in the front seat of the cart for me to look through.



  8. Brenda Bobich on February 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Staples had a box w/a handle its awesome about $13 but well worth the money It holds a ton but its only about 6 inces high 9 inces long accordian style full its abot 5 inches wide



  9. Keri Peterson on February 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I clip the coupons as well. Easier than flipping through all the pages every week for me. I use a index card box and bought envelopes that fit and have dividers for the letters and make my subjects. Batteries, baby, cold food, cleaning supplies, meat, laundry, toothpaste, and ziplocks for a few ideas. Works really well!



    • Ebony on February 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

      yeah for me its easier that way so im not in the isle trying to tear a q out or trying to cut it out.

      I do see that he more coupons I have the smaller I like my categories like I have
      Cheese/butter/yogurt
      Deli/Cold
      Meat
      Bread/Condiments
      Baking/spices
      Juice
      Breakfast
      Frozen
      Boxed
      Canned
      medicine
      oral care
      personal care/shaving
      lotion/deodorant/bodywash
      skincare
      paper goods
      beverages
      AND a misc!

      LOL it might be a bit much but it works for me 🙂



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