Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Dudes Guide To Couponing

Ok, I know what you are thinking. Couponing? Really? No, really? Lets go back a few months to July-ish of this year. My Sister was visiting from NY and of course she spent most of her trip staying at my already too small home in Phoenix. I was on the computer doing something with HULU. I was searching for a show that I wanted to watch, probably SuperNanny or another “my kids out of control” show, when up came some episodes of Extreme Couponing. I don’t have cable so I have never heard of it but my sister Melissa saw it and said, “Have you seen that show?” “People walk into stores and buy $500.00 worth of groceries and pay $10.00 after their coupons”. I said, “No, I haven’t seen it and how is that even possible?” We selected one of the episodes and started watching. As the show started, they introduced a family that seemed to be doing ok with money but for some reason, they were cutting out coupons. I thought, wow, what a waste of time. Coupons are for low-income people. Coupons are for buying items you wouldn’t normally use otherwise. Coupons are gimmicks. Right?

As the show went on, the family on TV talked about how they buy 4 newspapers every Sunday. I thought that was totally stupid but hey, they had my interest, so I watched. They threw away the newspapers after they removed the coupon inserts. There are usually at least two inserts but sometimes they could have many more. This week’s episode shows two inserts in their newspaper. Now they had 4 copies of every coupon. Next, they showed the mother of the family going down the street to the vacant/foreclosed homes on her block and grabbing their newspapers. She did the same thing with each of those newspapers as she did with the four she purchased. Next, she was going through the dumpsters at a recycling center looking for coupons inserts. I thought, “Is this lady nuts?” All of this craziness including climbing into a dumpster to save .25 cents on soup? I was ready to call her up and go, “Honey, here’s a dollar, pull yourself together, the soups not worth all that”.

As the show progressed, she had all her coupons from various legal and not so legal sources and the family was off to the grocery store. This is where it all started to make sense. First, they had made a list of what they were going to buy based on the weekly adds from that store and the coupons they had, not based on what they needed. They started with candy bars. The store was having a sale on specific candy bars for .50 cents. She had a coupon for .50 cents off that brand of candy bar. The candy bar was now free. Of course with all the newspapers, she had 25 coupons for that candy bar so she loaded her cart up with 25 candy bars, all free. Wow, I thought, that’s amazing, and really totally unhealthy. Next, she went to the cereal aisle. She had a coupon for .50 cents off a specific brand of cereal. The store doubles coupon so it was $1.00 off each box. The store also had their own coupon out that week for $1.00 off that specific box of cereal. Together, between the store coupon and the manufactures coupon, she had $2.00 off a certain box of cereal that was priced on the shelf at $1.99. (Most grocery stores allow you to use 1 of their own store coupons and 1 manufactures coupon for each item, also known as “Stacking” coupons) She had 30 of these coupons. She loaded 30 boxes of cereal in the cart and at this point, the store was going to owe here a penny for each box she bought, or .30cents in this case. I could not believe it. She purchase two products and now the store owes her money? The shopping trip went on and in the end, she had $850.00 worth of groceries in her 4 carts and ended up paying $16.00.

After the show was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about anything else. “This is my new obsession,” I thought. I can do the same thing. That next Sunday, I went to the store and purchased a Sunday paper for the first time in many years. I cut out the coupons that I thought I would use. Men’s shaving stuff, men’s deodorant, Boxes of Cereal, Bubble bath…er..I mean Shower Gel. One of the coupons was for $1.00 of Old Spice Deodorant. I was currently using that brand. Next, I read all the weekly ads for all the stores including the drug stores. The purpose of the coupons was to hold onto them and NOT use them until the time was right. I had to wait until I saw the price of that specific product so low that I could get it for free or very cheap. I didn’t use any of the coupons the first week or even the second week. On the third week, Basha’s grocery store had a sale with Kellogg’s Cereals on sale for $1.88 a box. That alone is a great price, but I had a coupon for .50 cents off Kellogg’s cereal. Basha’s doubles the first three coupons up to $1.00 total off the item. So for a $1.88 box of cereal, I used my one coupon for $1.00 off and bought the box of cereal for .88 cents. WOW, I thought, I just bought Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for less than $1.00. That was amazing, but at the same time, it was terrible because I just had one coupon. Now I totally understood what that lady was doing in the dumpster, although I still think it was gross. I get it now. She was getting ready to stock up her cabinets. The next week I started purchasing 4 papers. I would throw the papers out and keep just the inserts. A few weeks later, a really big sale hit the local stores. First, Albertsons was having a deal where if you purchased 4 items from a list of items, you got $4.00 off. That already made their General Mills cereals $1.49 each if I bought four of them. Of course, I had a coupon for .50cents off each box (Albertsons doesn’t double coupons), which made the cereal .99 cents each. This time, I had 4 coupons, which were perfect in order to get the cereal for that price. Also at Albertsons, they had my Old Spice Men’s Deodorant for .99cents if you purchased 4 of them. I had 4 coupons, each one for 1.00 off Old Spice Men’s deodorant. The deodorants were going to be free. So, I went to the register and paid my .99 cents for each of the boxes of cereal and left with the 4 boxes of cereal and 4 brand name deodorants for under 4.00. WOW. I would normally pay that just for 1 box of cereal. Its like I got 3 boxes of cereal and 4 deodorants for free. As time went on, more and more deals in the weekly ads started matching my coupons. Just last week I paid about $22.00 and got $145.00 worth of groceries between 4 different stores.

A lot has changed since I first started this craze in July. For instance, I don’t go to the grocery store when I need something. I go to the grocery store when they have a sale on products that match up to my coupons and the price is low enough where I get the product for very cheap of free. When that happens, I stock up on that item. Besides getting coupons in the paper, you can print them online for the same products, so I usually have 8-10 of each coupon when I am at the store. Another thing that has changed is I now have lots of stock in my cabinets. My hall closet has 14 bottles of brand name men’s body wash, 11 deodorants, 24 Men’s 5 blade razors and cartridge refills (Gillette Fusion), 8 large bottles of mouthwash, 8 bottles of men’s lotion, 6 tubes of Sendodyne Pro-enamel toothpaste (that stuff is way expensive) and so on. I didn’t pay for any of it. It was all free from coupons or from the stores rewards programs. Another thing that happened is I now know the price of just about everything I use. For instance, I know that a tube of sensodye Pro-Enamel toothpaste is about $5.50. That of course is absurd but that’s the brand we use. Recently, CVS had a special where if you purchased $10.00 worth of that toothpaste, you got $5.00 back in their Extra Care bucks. Well, they had a sale on the toothpaste for $3.00 each. I had coupons for $1.00 off each one. When you figure in the $5.00 they gave me back, that’s another $1.00 off each one. I used a $5.00 Extra Care bucks reward from a previous deal so now I had 5 tubes of toothpaste that I paid $10.00 for and then I got $10.00 back in rewards, making the toothpaste completely free. Would I pay $5.50 again for a tube of that toothpaste? Hell No! I just stocked up with enough of that stuff to get me to 2013. But, the next time it goes on sale, Ill add to my stock at that time.

While I am not an extreme couponer, I believe that I am a couponer born out of today’s economy. I work hard, make a decent living and pay all my bills, but in the end, I don’t want to pay a dime more than I have to for grocery items. So I stock up when the price is low. Did you know that the more affluent the household, the more likely it is that there is serious coupons usage? Its true. You start to see much more serious coupon usage in salary ranges of $50k and up. This is based on a Neilsen report on their blog at It’s quite an interesting read. People that fall into the lower income bracket seem to pay much more money for items that they need than people in higher income brackets because they buy the items when they need them instead of when they are on sale with coupons. I never really understood that until now. You have to have resources to get the coupons in order to eventually save so much money. It takes a few hours a week to cut and organize your coupons into a binder so you can find them fast. It takes money to buy 4 or more papers a week. It takes a computer to print coupons online. It takes a lot of planning before you go to a store to make sure it’s a smooth experience. If you are poor and you work two jobs. There is no way that you have time for any of this.

So, I will leave this story today right here. With me, pulling into the grocery store parking lot, getting out of my German SUV, wearing a shirt and tie and carrying my 3-inch coupon binder filled with coupons. Do I find it even just a little bit embarrassing? Not at all. I’m about to get 30 Candy bars for free.

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