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Q&A Tuesday: How can you effectively use coupons without it taking over your life?

I am wondering if you have any tips for how to be an effective couponer without it taking over your life! I am about to have my fourth baby and for most of this pregnancy I have totally fallen off the coupon bandwagon because I just can’t seem to keep up the schedule of clipping, organizing, coupon train, printing coupons, planning weekly shopping trips, and so on.

I can’t seem to find the balance between “all” and “nothing”! I’m not opposed, in my mind, to a happy medium, but I can’t seem to figure out how to do that, practically speaking. -Kiersten

Thanks for asking such an excellent questions, Kiersten! Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Give Yourself Grace

There are seasons of life when I can focus more seriously on couponing. There are other seasons when using coupons takes a back burner.

It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now, so I just want to encourage you not to stress too much over always getting the lowest price on everything. Do the best you can do with the time and energy you have and don’t worry about the deals you’re missing out on. Your health and sanity is worth more than saving a few dollars.

2. Focus on Stocking Up on the Best Deals

If you don’t have a lot of time, focus your dollars on stocking up on the best deals that can be frozen or have a long shelf life. Instead of worrying about getting those 35 different decent deals, pick 2-4 really exceptional deals and buy extras of those. While you might still end up paying full price for things sometimes, by getting 60-75% of your groceries at exceptional deals, you’ll still come out way ahead.

3. Stick With Simple Meals With Inexpensive Ingredients

If the majority of the meals you make are really inexpensive, you’ll save a lot of money–without even using coupons! Make a list of some of your family’s favorite inexpensive meals and use this list as a go-to when you are short on time and energy and just don’t feel like messing with coupons.

4. Consider Price-Matching at Walmart

If you’re finding it exhausting to shop at more than one store, consider price-matching the best deals from your local store at Walmart. This way, you’re still getting great deals, but it’s less time-consuming.

How I Plan Our Weekly Menu and Shopping Trips in Less Than 30 Minutes

1. Print great coupons as they become available throughout the week. I don’t print all the coupons that I post, only those that I know will be a good deal at the stores I regularly frequent.

2. When I’m ready to plan my menu (usually on Saturday or Sunday), I quickly review the printed coupons and divvy them up by store.

3. Then, I glance through my local store’s sale fliers, what coupons I’ve already printed, what I already have on hand, and inspiration from Pinterest and jot down a basic menu plan for the week.

4. While I’m planning the weekly menu, I also make a grocery list at the same time.

5. After I’ve planned the menu and grocery list, I double-check my store’s coupon match-ups to see if there are any deals I’ve missed or coupons I’ve forgotten to print.

6. Then I take the jotted down list of groceries I need to buy, look at my schedule and tentatively plan when and where I’ll do my grocery shopping that week. I don’t always follow this perfectly, but having a rough plan in place that I’ll swing by Walgreens when I’m my way to something else, or that I’ll block out an hour to hit three stores on Tuesday helps me to stay organized and on track during the week.

What advice do the rest of you have for Kiersten?

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  • Sporksoma says:

    Actually….I don’t clip coupons! When my middle child was around 1 year old, clipping coupons was no big deal. I would get several papers and clip through the inserts, then file the coupons in my binder. It took three or four hours total. When she started learning how to grab things, though, and when she learned how to walk…suddenly all that time I was spending clipping and organizing DOUBLED!

    When my youngest came along, I gave up the idea of clipping coupons alltogether. Now I just get the coupons I need from clipping services, and do big stockups when something is on sale (like I’ll buy 5 coupons for toothpaste, get the tubes for cheap/free, and not worry about messing around with coupons I’m not going to use, so will wind up expiring).

    I used to spend at least 10 hours per week menu planning, clipping and organizing coupons, browsing the internet for coupons. Now I spend two, maybe three hours if the kids are bugging me a lot, and I shop from my pantry more than I worry about shopping at the store. Saves time, saves money, saves stress.

    The *biggest* obstacle I had to overcome when it came to coupons was telling myself that I wasn’t using about 90% of the coupons I was touching. Once I managed to get some good stockpiles going on, the coupons went to waste, and I couldn’t even get on a good train and stick with it. Why waste my time? Why even let those coupons touch my hands? Get the coupons I know I’m going to use. If I miss out on a good deal, well…no big deal. Good deals always come back around.

    Good luck 🙂

    • anon says:

      I do the same thing. I don’t buy a newspaper. I didn’t use most of the coupons when I did! I use a clipping service and internet printables and don’t even clip those till I am ready to use them. I liked suggestion #3. I think that is the best way to save big.

    • Wendy says:

      I’m probably playing devil’s advocate here and I’m not that familiar with clipping services but don’t all coupons say in the fine print “void if transferred….etc….” wouldn’t that technically make clipping services illegal even if they say they are charging for time? I’m just wondering.

      • Ann says:

        Yes – clipping services are illegal. Personally, I use the ‘clipless’ method, where you just keep the inserts. Then, when the deals come out, they normally mention where the coupon can be found & clipped. MUCH easier than clipping, sorting and storing.

      • Nikki says:

        I’m not sure how different it is than your friend having 5 of the same coupons they can’t use and she gives them to you…..they are still being transferred. There is a whole lot about super couponing that rubs me the wrong way like ringing up 16 different transactions because the coupon says one per transaction. I don’t think you can get too caught up in the ethics of it.

    • Emily says:

      What coupon clipping service do you recommend?

      • Sporksoma says:

        I use thecouponclippers and Coupons & Things by Dede, as well as getting off ebay.

        As for the “clipping services are illegal” comment, well…I’m no lawyer, I don’t make the laws, but I would think that sites like thecouponclippers, which have been around for many years, would have been shut down if they were doing something illegal. It’s not illegal to charge someone to find and ship coupons, just illegal to charge for the coupons themselves. They aren’t charging for the coupons, just their time to find them, clip them, send them to you, and the postage to send them.

        If you receive the coupons and the store won’t let you use them because the coupon has been transferred, I guess that’s just something you have to consider before you order from a clipping service. I have never had any problems, however, and I know very few couponers who don’t use coupon services because they think they’re illegal. They’re considered to be legitimate ways of getting coupons.

    • Roxanne M Jones says:

      I agree. After my last child was a few months old I quit couponing almost entirely.

      I appreciate someone being realistic about how much time it takes to work deals. It was taking me about 10 hours per week too to match coupons & sales and actually find the items in the stores.

      No advice. But at least you are in good company!

    • Alex says:

      I don’t clip all my coupons and this saves me a ton of time. I used to clip and organize all the coupons I thought I would use, but now I just keep them in a binder chronilogicallly. When I search for deals for the week and plan my shopping, I only clip the ones I’m using that week. I use websites that tell me which insert of what week/month to find the coupon. If you want to keep an easy reference of what coupons come in which inserts, you can print a list from

  • amy says:

    What helps me stay sane is to get 99% of my coupons from a clipping service. I used to worry about getting papers and dumpster diving, but as my youngest got older and more mobile, I had to come up with something else. It saves me time from not only getting the coupons, but they come clipped and I can get as many at a time as I want/need. I check matchups at the first of the week so that I have plenty of time to order and receive my coupons before the sale ends.

  • Patrice says:

    I agree with getting it all planned out in one sitting. I actually do a monthly menu. Once a month, I go through the pantry and freezer to see what we have on hand and what needs to be used up and plan most of our meals based on that. Throughout the month, i may tweak the menu a bit based on sales and deals, but it basically stays the same. Once a week, i look at the menu for that week and pull items from the pantry that I will be using that week. i have a tub on one shelf that is designated for ingredients that i will be using that week. As i fill the tub, i also make the shopping list for the week. Then i head to for the coupon database to see what coupons are available for the items i need that week. I decided long ago that it’s not worth it for me to drive to multiple stores, so I only wory about getting the coupons and don’t mess with comparing prices at different stores. When i get home from my shopping trip, all of the ingredients that are needed for that week’s meals go into “the tub” and any other deals i found while out go into my stockpile for the following month’s menu planning.

  • Sarah says:

    I totally agree with the question. If you do your list on Saturday night , the stores change sales on Sunday. If you do your list on Sunday then your running out during the busy time during the week. I like to shop on Sunday but it makes it tough to figure out what the sales are and have the deals prepared.
    My advice would be to focus on a few items each week. If you see a coupon for $2.00 off Laundry detergent or another type of cleaner then print that.
    Perhaps meats and cleaners are the two to work on at first. Then try to add like cheese and over the counter meds and stick with just that for quite awhile. It might be easier this way.

    • Andrea says:

      Our flyers come in the mailbox on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I have them before the sales change. Also, some stores run their sales on a different schedule; there’s one near me where the sales start on Thursday.

      • Sarah says:

        Wow, That is great! I wish we got flyers that way.
        I guess we all have to just try to do our best with what we are given.

        • Jodi says:

          If you don’t get your store circulars in advance, try checking the store’s website. They may show the upcoming ads if you enter the date for the next sale.

  • Andrea says:

    Honestly, I find that the easiest way to save money is to buy what’s on sale in the weekly flyer. Sometimes coupons make a great deal, but it’s not worth it to me to spend more than an hour planning.

    • Wendy says:

      I agree. I clip or print coupons only for things we use. When our grocery sales paper comes out on Wednesday, I plan my shopping trip from that. Then I scan through my coupons to see if I have any for the items I have listed.

    • MamaG says:

      For the most part I agree. I do clip coupons and use them as well, but the majority of our savings come from shopping the sales. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, I actually shop at a higher-end store (Tom Thumb), and I find I get really good deals.
      My 4.5 year old LOVES to look at the toys at Target, and play in a variety of play lands in fast food restaurants. Typically I will quickly pull those pages from the Sunday paper that include coupons that I may use and then at some point during the week I will end up in the Target toy section or Chick fill A with my son playing and that is when I finish clipping and organizing.
      I have found that maintaining the ads by date a nuisance and a much larger time consumer than any other method. I will say that I don’t pull those that are expired every week, either. I pull them as I see them, and about once a quarter I will go through my book and pull those that are expired.

  • Jennifer W says:

    This sounds like me as well! I just started couponing seriously in the fall, and I’ve wavered between all or nothing a few times.
    I’ve started using the “no-clipping” method of saving coupons – write the date on the front of the insert, then slip it into a page protector in my binder. Then, as I see a good coupon deal, I cut out the coupons and make a pile for my shopping day. If I miss a deal, oh well. I use the databases right before I shop to see if there are any coupons in those inserts for the items I know I’ll be buying anyway.

    • Maria T. says:

      This is what I do too. No-clipping has worked really well and I only print out printables that I know that I will absolutely use. Clipping services can be useful too, but I only use them if the sale is truly awesome and I can stock up on an item. I also tend to focus more on saving on and stocking up on the household/personal care/beauty/pet items and don’t fuss so much about the grocery item coupons. That is probably mostly due to the fact that our local Safeway is a nightmare about coupons, but it really helped me not feel so pressed for time and frantic about couponing once I made the split between grocery and non-grocery items.

  • Abby says:

    The biggest time saver for me has been not clipping a single coupon until I’m ready to use it. When I get my inserts from the newspaper every week, I simply write the date on the front. Then, when I make my grocery list based on online coupon match-ups for my local store, I refer back to the inserts and cut only the coupons I need for that trip. I sometimes miss out on unadvertised deals at the store by not having every coupon with me, but the amount of time I save by not clipping everything is a much better savings.

  • Tina says:

    Tip #1: Shop at only 2 stores

    I have 4 kids too. I mainly shop at 2 stores: CVS (Longs Drugs in Hawaii) and Safeway. I know CVS will offer me great sale prices and allow me to use all of my coupons. Safeway offers deal match with the other 2 big grocery stores. I don’t usually have time to do shopping at a third store.

    Tip #2: Use Facebook for updates

    To save time, I have all the blogs on . I don’t have to check out different blogs. I just check for all the latest coupon information.

  • Stephanie says:

    When chafing lots of deals gets to be too much, I rely on judy a few coupons. If I come across something for a favorite product, I grab it, but don’t bother searching things out in particular. I use the sprouts $5 off $40 purchase coupon from recyclebank & buy just things on sale our that I’ve happened to grab a coupon for. I also use reusable bags & take advantage of the bag credit many stores offer.

  • Karin says:

    My suggestion is to stop cutting the coupons out. I tried and tried and tried but with 2 kids, everything they do and working fulltime I couldn’t keep up. I file mine. I file the coupon packets by date oldest to newest in a cute file box. That way when a coupon is referenced I go find it and cut it out, etc. This way the coupons have a home as soon I get them. Yes it takes me probably an extra 10 – 30 minutes when I match my coupons up but it took me well over an hour to cut the coupons all out and file them!! I also have an old school coupon file for printed Qs and Qs I didn’t end up using ( yes that could probably be more effective but for now it works). Do I miss deals because I don’t have a binder? Yes but I have time that I didn’t have when I had a Q-binder…and I coupon instead of being mad that I’m behind on my coupon organizing.

    • Shelah says:

      I agree!

      I found that the bulk of my “couponing time” was cutting and sorting. Since many websites tell you exactly which ad to look for the coupon in, I simply starting writing the date at the top of each ad packet and stacking the packets somewhere.

      Then I cut out only the coupons I need before heading out to the store.

  • Karin says:

    LOL should have read previous comments. 🙂 I also write the date on the front of each Q packet

  • Lydia says:

    First of all, most of us dont have time to be “extreme” couponers. many of us start off thinking we have to be. I tried to do the whole cutting out and organizing the coupon binder deal and it was just too time consuming. Now i do the clipless coupon method and i clip the coupons before i go to the store. I also stick with the same three stores that are closest to my house. when you start going to tons of different stores it gets too crazy. I have months when i do a lot of couponing but when i get too busy i just live off my stock pile and follow what meat and produce is on sale that week. Remember ladies, It’s ok to be a casual couponer not an extreme couponer!

  • Brighid says:

    Costco. The store closest to us (about an hour away) is in some ways like a giant discount small-town store. They don’t have everything you want but what they do have is a very good price. They send out their coupon books fairly regularly and you only need one of their coupons (and the cashiers almost always have extras) since the UPC code is the same for all the coupons.

    I do have to go to a Walmart or local store for some items but the day t0 day stuff, I get at Costco. We drink a lot of milk here. Local discount grocery store: 2.49/gal. Small store in town: 3.49/gal. Grocery store in nearest reasonably sized town (it has a traffic light): 2.89/gal. Costco: 2.19/gal. Since we drink roughly 6 gallons/week, that’s $93.60 over a year if I bought at the next cheapest option. There are some things that tend to be more expensive but overall staples like milk, eggs, flour (but mine doesn’t carry whole wheat), rice, butter, cream, Greek yogurt, oatmeal, laundry detergent, etc. are all less expensive there.

    There will be a time when I don’t start making granola with 12 cups of oatmeal but at this time of my life, it’s where I am.

  • Sharon says:

    What a good question. I have 2 kids, and even I get tired of clipping coupons! If you go the “no coupon” route, my suggestions would be to:

    1. Focus on the big stuff. That is, the items you spend the most amount of money on during a given month (diapers, gas, proteins, etc…) and work on finding the lowest prices on those items first,and stock up if you can. It will give you the most “bang for your buck” and your time.

    2. Plan your menu around what’s on sale. I think this has been mentioned before, but if chicken breasts are at a good price, consider using this cut of protein for a variety of dishes– barbecue chicken pizza, chicken marsala, chicken parmesan, tortilla chicken soup, etc, chicken enchiladas.

    3. Buy in bulk. If you don’t have a membership to Costco or other discount store, consider purchasing one. There was a discussion a while ago regarding pros and cons, but overall I think you will find a membership there very worthwhile, esp. with a large family. Did you know that if you get the Costco Amex card you get a rebate check for 1-3% of all your purchases made there? This will most likely cover the cost of your membership there, and more.

    Hope that helps! It’s awesome that you are looking for ways to save while working around your family’s needs and your available time!

  • Marianne says:

    I agree with giving yourself grace. I am a perfectionist and so when I set out to do something, I can’t just do it partways- I have to go all out! This makes it so that I go crazy when I set out to start couponing and puts a lot of stress on me to make sure I get all the deals and not ‘waste any money’ by letting any coupons expire etc. It was stressful at first but then I let go a bit and stopped beating myself up over every missed sale, expired coupon.. Now couponing is very enjoyable and I get great deals when I want them. If I don’t get to the store one week to take advantage of something that’s OK too.

    • Beth says:

      I’m a perfectionist, too….which is why I am going nuts right now. It’s encouraging to read that other people struggle with this- sometimes it just seems like everyone else has it together other than me. Since having three kiddos three and under, it seems like I just can’t get anything done and it is getting so discouraging. 🙁 We’re finally settled after moving multiple times this year and I still feel like I can’t catch up. And it seems like I haven’t even “couponed” at all in the past year hardly. I find myself just running to the store at 10 pm at night when I have time, and at that point I rarely want to deal with coupons. I just can’t keep my sanity if I try to take all 3 kids during the day, though, and most carts can’t hold them all anyway. I feel like I literally just run around all day and I am sincerely an organized person, so I don’t understand. I am trying to give myself grace…especially when it seems like everyone (including my sweet neighbor) has it all together. My three boys never, ever stop moving. I love them….but I’m exhausted.

      • Erin says:

        Beth, I just wanted to encourage you. Three under age 3 is a VERY unique circumstance! You definitely need to give yourself grace and don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have it all together. Don’t compare yourself to others, just do what you can do and don’t worry about the rest! ((hugs))

        • Beth says:

          Wow, is this an extremely belated reply or what… 🙂 I’ve been meaning to reply for a couple weeks now. Hopefully you will see it! Just wanted to say thank you for the encouragement- I got it on a day I truly needed it. It is so hard not to compare, because I feel like I will never get it together, ever. 🙂 But, I know there is grace and I can get through it and it is a season…..gotta give myself grace. Thank you for being an encouragement to me. (((hug))) 🙂

  • Julie says:

    I don’t make time to clip coupons because our schedule is so busy. I do shop at discount stores and have a master list of prices of items I buy every week. I currently get trash bags, papertowels, snacks and misc food items at Big Lots. I also shop at Ollies, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. Many times the prices at discount stores is 1-2 dollars cheaper per item so it is like having a great coupon!

    • Debbie says:

      I haven’t stepped into a Big Lots in years but I think I will. Its right next door to the Discount Bread store! Thanks for listing what items you buy there. That helps. (I love Dollar Tree.)

  • Meredith says:

    SInce your family is getting even bigger, I think you actually need that warehouse club membership. I go one time a month there and stock up on things I need. Then every week I go to aldi and one other store to complete my list. The “other store” is typically a couponing place. First, I see if there are any freebie deals and I write down where the coupon is. I compile what I need from that store and then look on msm’s database. I print what I need first. Then, I organize my flyer coupons in a binder….I don’t cut them out, I just put them into a clear sleeve and pull out the mailer date when needed. Then I clip and go. I spend anywhere from five to fifteen minutes a week on it and the most coupons I use are about 10 a week. Spend your time planning your meals and forming a good routine, and the couponing will come. Forget about it being a game. Use coupons for their intended purpose…to save.

  • Lisa says:

    I also don’t spend a lot of time planning out the shopping but still manage to save about $30 a week (or 25% of my trip).

    1. I clip the coupons only from the one Sunday paper that I receive
    2. I spend about 20 minutes a week to look through the ads to find who has what I need on sale and match it with some recipes for the week.
    3. If I’m going to Target, I’ll go on their site to print coupons. They take one Target coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon per item.
    4. I pay by credit card – The Target card gives you 5% off your total purchase or I use our Discover card for the cashback bonus. It may not be a coupon but it can turn into a free dinner or something after a few trips. Since we pay all our cards off every month, there’s never extra spent on interest.

    The way I look at it…every little bit helps and you don’t need to always be a super couponer to save a lot. Sometimes it’s just about shopping smart 🙂

    • Rachael Waller says:

      For those people who don’t like to use credit cards, they also have a debit card. So far this year, we’ve saved about $45 by using the debit card there–we buy about half of our household products and groceries there.

  • Diane says:

    I don’t clip coupons either. I put them in plastic sleeves in a 3 ring binder and put the date on the front (so if I get multiple copies from friends, I put them behind the same ones). Then when I’m planning my shopping trip I clip the ones I want and put them in an envelope.

    There are many coupon data bases online you can use to search or if you’re looking at a major drug store deal, almost any deal site will also have the date of the coupon you want. I clipped coupons for about a year and it was a huge time waster.

    If I miss a clearance + coupon deal a couple of times a year I consider it worth the 100 hours I saved that year in not cutting and sorting coupons (and yes it did used to take me about 2 hrs to cut each one and then file it).

  • Jodi says:

    Pick one store and do all of your shopping there. I have 2 little ones and this saves my sanity! I do all of my grocery shopping at Publix according to the sale flyers. I make a menu plan according to the flyer and then check to see if there are coupons for the things I need that are on sale. This saves me time AND money as I am not tempted to buy things I won’t use just because it is a good deal. I also make a trip to Target once a month or so for diapers. Most of all-enjoy your little ones and let yourself off the hook for getting every good deal.

  • Rachel Abel says:

    I love It is $10 every 8 weeks and she does all the match ups, links coupons, & gives you the percent off. She does chains, drug stores, dollar stores! Saves me a ton of time & $$$

    • sarah says:

      Just wondering if you find the GG to be different or better info than what you can find on money saving blogs (like this one) for free?

      • Moriah says:

        I live in an area where the grocery stores I have are NOT huge chains like in the south.. I live in NY. So I only have Tops & Wegman’s as kinda big stores.. I use I use the forums on there for my stores. They match it up every week. I find them to be the most useful for store matchups!

      • Michelle says:

        I tried the GG and I did not find it to be worth the money. I do just as well using free blogs. Others may have had better luck, but I have tried it twice on free trials and cancelled both times.

  • Jennifer says:

    I pay my 11 year old to clip all my coupons. This saves me a big chunk of time. I am still filing them so I know which coupons there are but now it is a reasonable task for me. Except some weeks like this one the coupons are all still sitting on the piano bench waiting for me to file them. Oops!

    • Kristie says:

      Yes! I was going to mention using my kids too. Your kids might still be pretty little, but as they grow older, they can be a big help. If they do all the cutting, all you have to do is organize.

      The other thing that helps me is that I organize my coupon notebook by both product as well as month. So each week all I have to do is skim over the current month to see if any have expired.

      And thirdly, I don’t cut out anything that doesn’t excite me a lot. I’ve learned where my best deals come from. Since we don’t live near a CVS or Walgreens, a lot of those shampoo/soap/toothpaste coupons actually go to waste in my file, when I can get off-brands at our stores here. So I focus mostly on food, which can get me great deals at my local Kroger.

      And I love the advice about not feeling guilty–we moms are so good at making ourselves feel guilty all the time. What works for one mom isn’t always going to work for another mom. We all are at different seasons of life.

      Congratulations on that little one on the way! 🙂

  • Cheri A says:

    I have gone through the phases of worrying about every deal that I make and shopping lots of different stores. I tried different methods of dealing with the coupons. We are a family of four with two busy teenagers and two full-time working parents. I found that I was buying all kinds of junk food that I would not have bought if it wasn’t so cheap.

    In the end, I have decided that it works best for me to clip only the coupons that I will use: cereal, a few canned goods, some dairy, toiletry items. It takes me about 5 minutes to go through the flyers and file coupons.

    I shop Sam’s Club every few weeks, Aldi’s, and one grocery store that doubles coupons if I have them. I do have a price list for the items that I buy all the time and try to maintain a small stockpile to get me through to the next sale on these items. We are trying to eat with the seasons and eat the fruit and veggies that are on sale for the week that is from the U.S. only. This week we have strawberries and apples, green beans and broccoli and green peppers from Aldi’s.

    I have decided that it’s better for my family to invest my time in cooking from scratch and not chase all the deals. When you stop buying all the premixed things, that is a monetary cost savings as well as a health benefit. It really only takes a few minutes to whip up a delicious salad dressing instead of buying a bottle of preservatives because most people already have the ingredients in their pantry already, and it tastes so much better!

  • Jennifer says:

    Right now, probably just for this busy season in my life, I am doing 99% of my grocery shopping at Aldi with no coupons. Since I plan simple vegetarian meals that are rather inexpensive, it’s easy for me to spend about $25 a week for the two of us. I do however, coupon at one drugstore. Right now it’s been Walgreens– my goal with the drugstore is to attempt to get ALL other household items (deodorant, shampoo, lotion, garbage bags, cleaners, etc) free or almost free. I budget $5 a week to drugstore couponing, and quite often I don’t use it all. This way I am still getting AMAZING coupon deals that I love to get, freeing up $ in my budget so I can save for other things, and yet using my time wisely. I don’t really spend more than an hour or so. I don’t really count time spend reading crystals blog “couponing” since I often read so much other great stuff on here! 🙂

  • Anna says:

    I look at it as a hobby, because I love to coupon and challenge myself to save, and I use that college education! but if it takes the focus of what is important it’s not worth it, no matter what! Just keep it simple and shop at walmart and costco and that will help too!

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    I think most of us are in a position where we can’t spend hours and hours each week couponing. Ten hours a week? Really? Where do you have that kind of time? I certainly don’t!

    I spend about 2 hours a week total on my couponing/clipping/matching and yes, even the shopping! I take roughly 30 minutes on Sunday when our sale flyers come to jot down the best deals at each store and clip my coupon flyers. I spend about another 30 minutes on Friday night writing up my grocery list and filing the coupons I might use later. I only clip coupons that I have a high chance of using (i.e we don’t have pets, so pet food coupons don’t get clipped).

    We spend about an hour on Saturday doing our grocery/toiletry/household goods shopping while the kids are at dance class – 2 stores within a two block radius of dance class and two more on the way home. Usually I only hit 2 stores a week – 4 on a very rare week with deals are just too good to pass up. I only get what’s on the list, so it’s easy to get in and out of the stores quickly (30min or less per store).

    I end up using about 2-6 coupons a week. The rest are just good sale prices.

    Hope that’s helpful!

    • Sporksoma says:

      That’s why I quit doing it – I didn’t have that kind of time anymore! lol lol lol!!!

      Also, we were pretty well homebound because we only had 1 car that my husband used to go to work in, and he couldn’t do carpools. There is nothing within a 20 mile distance of our house, no parks, no sidewalks, no stores, etc. and the backyard….yelch. So we were stuck at home without much else to do. Now we have two cars and I’m able to get us out of the house more, and that time spent at home has lessened a great deal.

      Also, that’s ten hours over an entire week, not ten hours per day, and that’s ten hours I used to spend total, including being interrupted ten dozen times while trying to find printable coupons, with having to get up and change diapers and so on while I was in the middle of making the shopping list, etc. It’s so nice to be able to do everything in an hour or two now 😀

  • sarah says:

    My most successful way was by making a coupon kit – I use the thirty-one large zip tote to store a tablet, pencils, scissors, and both my coupon organizers (I use 2 cheap dollar store ones- 1 for regular coupons, and 1 for special store or restaurant coupons.) I have tried the binder, or keeping them whole- they both just became too much work. I found that the best way for me is going through the inserts right when I get them and pulling out the coupons I will use. I also print coupons as I see them. After I have collected the pages I put them in the zip tote. Then later when I have a few minutes (sitting in the car waiting for my husband to get out of work, at the doctors office, when I have a brief 15 minutes free) I can work on cutting them out and organizing them. If I run out of time everything just goes back in the tote until I have another few minutes. By the end of the week I find that all my coupons are usually cut and organized. I also changed how I organize my coupons (pantry, cold stuff, health & beauty, household products). Having 4 categories instead of 6 to 10 makes it faster for me to get them put away.

    I do menu planning on Saturday because our stores change their sales on Thursday. I only shop at one grocery store and one drugstore, I read the blogs that highlight the deals for those stores and look through the sale ads. When I make my menu I rely mostly on stuff in my pantry and freezer. While planning the menu I make my grocery list for the week based on sale items and staples we have run out of like eggs and milk. I prefer to shop on Sunday or Monday because then I can do the drugstore and the grocery store all in one trip.

    Clipping coupons then doesn’t feel like work because I did it in the spare minutes I would have probably wasted throughout the week. Planning my menu and making my list usually takes less than 20 minutes.

    • Emilie says:

      I do a similar method. The two stores I shop at change on Monday and Thursday so I shop on Saturday or Sunday.
      I have my coupons in two sorters (the accordian style with 13 spaces). One for the grocery stores and one for Walmart/Shopko. These are small enough to carry in my purse or reuseable grocery store bags.
      My grocery store one is done by the aisles so when I am in the aisle and see something on sale I can easily check my coupons.
      The Walmart one is by category for things like paper products, toys, health and beauty, groceries ( a few things I can only get there.) and office supplies.
      I make my weekly menu plan, look at the flyers, sort my coupons etc on Saturday morning for maybe 30 – 45 minutes.
      I print coupons when I see them and cut them in front of the TV or while I wait in the car during the week.

  • Marie says:

    Last year I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had hyperemesis and was severely nausous and vomiting 24/7. I had to have home nurse care and a pic line IV and drugs they give cancer patients. It was not fun!
    Obviously, I was not going to the store or couponing. Two things helped-
    1. Having a stockpile. We were able to eat from that for a good while
    2. Shopping at Aldi’s for the majority of our food. We would also get a few items like milk and eggs and cheese from Sam’s club.
    Then after the baby came I found I didn’t have the time either with also having twins and my husband gone every week.
    The way I “found balance” was just realizing that this was not my season to heavy coupon. I still couponed but picked and chose my deals and only if it was convenient.
    I like what another commenter said about picking different items per week or month to stock up on. If you have 5 tubes of toothpaste then move on to something else.
    Realize that even in the small steps you will be saving your family in the long run.
    Also Walmart will price match so maybe focus on that store to do all your shopping.

  • CaronC says:

    As the two posters above me mentioned, it is cheaper to cook from scratch then to worry about couponing for groceries. I do most of my couponing at Rite Aid and Walgreens to get free toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, ect. I do not bother with their rebates as too many restrictions. I love Staples rebates and watch for their sale ads. Staples will often run two day sales with free copy paper, photo paper, pens and pencils with easy rebates. I watch for the back to school sales that start in July and get a lot of free or almost free notebooks, lined paper, markers and colored pencils from Walgreens and Staples. Saving on the little stuff will free up some money for other things.

  • Danielle Hull says:

    I tried a coupon train for a few weeks, but with 5 kids at that time, it was just too much. I have used a coupon clipping service once, because the deals were worth it at my store, but it makes a lot more sense, because you know exactly what you’ll be getting. I have simplified my meal plans to a 3-week rotating menu, so my grocery list is on the computer to print out. I have minimized my coupon printing and cutting to what I know we will use. I save about $30 (20%) every week with coupons now at the grocery and occasionally go to CVS or Wags. Maybe once a month I’ll hit Wal-Mart. Simplifying has really helped!

    • Moriah says:

      I personally love coupon trains. I like the different varieties that I can get for say 50 cents/1 item opposed to where I live I get $1.00/2 & then the 50 cents can double. Not just that I get many different coupons that I do not get here. I love receiving non insert coupons so it makes it so much better. I believe a lot of this is in fact time consuming but it makes it worth it & I can see myself saving more money from more effort.

  • Jordan says:

    I’m not a mother yet, but I am a full time college student working three jobs so I can definitely understand not having enough time.

    Personally, I use the clipless method. On Sunday morning, I get my newspapers and stick them in a sheet protector in my binder with a sheet of paper on the front that has the date in the upper left hand corner and what inserts and how many I have of them in the middle of the page. If I need to find a certain coupon, I look through the coupon database, flip to that month of my binder, grab out the insert and clip what I need. This saves me tons of time because I’m not spending X amount of time clipping all of the coupons I “think” I’m going to use and allows me to clip the coupons I “know” I’m going to use.

    On Saturday evening, I spend about an 30 minutes planning out my shopping trip for Sunday morning. I clip the coupons I already have and will only spend about five minutes Sunday morning clipping the coupons out of the Sunday newspaper. Usually my shopping trip on Sunday is just to CVS and Walgreens. I try to get to Walgreens at 9:30 and be out of CVS by no later than 10:20.

    Sometimes on Saturdays or even on Wednesdays, I make my grocery list based on the sales that week. I clip all of my coupons and stick them in my accordion folder to be used on Thursday when I shop. I only have two grocery stores in my town, Publix and Winn Dixie. Most of the time I only shop at Publix so this can be done in under an hour.

    I really try not to spend that long on planning my shopping trips because I just really do not have the time. I would say I probably spend about three to four hours a week planning and shopping with coupons. Even with doing this, I always save 90 to 95% at Walgreens and CVS and at least 50% at my grocery stores.

    I’ve also found that if I stop trying to chase all the good deals, I have so much more time left. I’ve built a substantial stockpile of personal care needs, but am trying to focus more on building a food stockpile.

    • Erin says:

      Congrats on being so organized with couponing and menu planning as a college student! I wish I would have started sooner with it – most college students blow a lot of money at the grocery store and end up in student loan debt.

      I totally agree with your last statement. You have to pick the deals that are best for you and not worry about trying to chase them all.

  • Melissa Jones says:

    I’ve found that I realistically only use coupons during Harris Teeter’s Triples or Super Doubles events. So when I go through the inserts, I don’t bother clipping anything that is above $1.99 or that says “do not double” unless it’s for something we actually use or need (I’ll always clip coupons for the few items we have some brand loyalty to). I also don’t bother with anything that I know I’ll never buy (like hair color). Since we try to make most of our meals from scratch and are working on getting our cleaning and toiletry products there too, we really just don’t need most of the coupons that are out there. That drastically reduces the clipping/organizing time required.

    When I first started this, I was clipping every coupon and chasing every deal and it annoyed me because most of the time I either didn’t have the coupon the scenario-maker listed (because they were in a different part of the country) or the store was out by the time I got there. This is much more of a “happy place” for me in terms of couponing.

  • Gina says:

    I went through this, too, when I had my twins (and a 2 year old!) and the biggest help for me was just realizing that there are “seasons of life.” Sometimes you let the whole coupon thing go, and you spend a little more. But it’s not forever. Now that they’re all in school, I can do more stores and more time than I had before.

  • Victoria @Snail Pace Transformations says:

    If your kids are small, keep it REALLY simple. My mother passed away when mine were little, and some days the grief mixed with the pressures of taking care of little ones and homeschooling an older child, it was all I could do to get out of bed. I spent a lot of time praying, “Lord give me the strength to keep food on the table, clean clothes on their back , and home that is sanitary, even though its cluttered”. I started a SET MENU during that time which meant we at the same 14 meals either for lunch or dinner over and over again. Meals were simple, and often contained one semi-homemade option. This also made my grocery list the same week after week, so I just made up a master copy and printed it out each week. I always hit the stores when my husband was home to care for the little ones. As for coupons with a set week to week list, I knew exactly what ones to cut and file and what to toss. YES IT WAS BORING but for 6 months when my grief was at its worse, it allowed me to spend the least amount of energy on the basics so I could give what I had left into loving my little ones that didn’t understand grief. We no longer eat the same 14 meals, but I have never once heard my children complain about that time period, so I guess it worked.

  • Susannah says:

    I stick to shopping at one grocery store, for the most part. Most of my shopping goes on in one single shopping center: quick stop at farm supply for animal feed, another at Dollar Tree for bread & disposables, then the grocery. My pharmacy and gas station are right there at the grocery store, too!

    I concentrate my coupon list on that one grocery store. I copy & paste the week’s match-ups, quickly go through and delete anything I don’t want to buy that week, print any printable coupons, then print out the list. I try to stock up on things I know we’ll use for certain when I see that they are included in deals that earn extra gas points. Once I got well over $2 off per gallon! Filled all my gas cans that week for the full 30 gallon limit. 🙂

    As for organizing the coupons themselves, I do not clip. I use Krazy Coupon Lady’s method of stapling & storing the inserts in a binder. I clip in the store as needed. (I carry a list of current coupons found at Pinching Your Pennies for deals I come across in-store.)

    Can’t stand to sit there forever clipping a bunch of coupons I will just have to sort out & throw away later. My MIL clips some for me, so I do also carry a coupon wallet for those multiples.

    I do CVS and Walgreens on a very irregular basis–only for things we actually use and need.

  • Laurie says:

    Since our diets have gotten much healthier we are eating around the perimeter of the grocery store and very rarely go to the inside isles. No need for coupons when your diet is mostly fruits, whole grains,organic veggies and organic dairy. I go to Aldi’s for some basic things ESP TP etc,but I can go to Trader Joe’s to get most of our food. I have a food budget,but it varies for what our needs are.

  • Meegan says:

    Don’t clip coupons until you need to use them (which means, don’t compare yourself to the super organized mega-binder ladies).

    How to do it:
    1. Put the date on the top of the insert when you receive it.
    2. Find an accordion folder OR use a binder with full size sheet protectors.
    3. Shove all the inserts from the same date in one file/protector.
    4. Find an online mom blog for your region that does coupons/deal matchups AND lists the date/source of each coupon (I use Ex. $1 off Advil from RP 1/29
    5. Make your grocery list with notes on where to find your coupons.
    6. Clip what you need. (If you’re super organized, you can write on the front of the insert what you took out… ex. ADVIL)
    7. Shop

    I started off as a megabinder person and couldn’t manage it. This takes about 30 mins a week for me to manage and it’s pretty hard to get behind, so long as you record the dates on your inserts. Once you fill your binder or folder, take the oldest inserts out and chuck them. Most of the time everything is expired in them anyways.

    What to do with the random coupons you get not in an insert? I shove them in their own protector. If I remember I have them great… if not, oh well.
    Hope that helps!

  • Swappin' Spoons says:

    I never clip my coupons until I am ready to go to the store. I write the date on the top of the inserts and then file them in an accordian type box/file cabinet. This is the easiest way to coupon.

    The next easiest thing, would be to follow a local blogger for your local stores—local bloggers will help you save the most when you are looking for deals at your local grocery store. 🙂

    Crystal has just about everystore listed from every state, just click on your store and then click on the bloggers address (the one doing the matchups) and you are all set to start saving lots of money. 🙂

    If there are any Publix, BiLo, or Ingles shoppers on here, I do these on a weekly basis and would love to help you out. I send my BiLo and Ingles deals each week, here, to moneysavingmom.! 🙂

    Happy Couponing!

  • Reese says:

    I’m with the clipless delegation, and I stick to one grocery store and buy almost exclusively what’s on sale (and stock up when it’s something we like…lol, we had 40 bags of Goldfish crackers once!). I just put my coupon folders in a magazine file box in order by date (don’t even write the date on the front…almost all dates are on the spine), and I have a small expandable for other misc. coupons that come in the mail or that I clipped but didn’t end up using. I usually print only the coupons I think we’ll use, but I don’t cut them out until I’m ready to use them…that way, if I don’t use them I can print on the back or give the page to my little girl to color on. Whole process takes a few minutes each non-shopping week and maybe 2-3 hours on a shopping week.

    I use the coupon match-up link for my regional Kroger on MSM and copy the whole list into a Word document so I can delete what we won’t eat and add my own stuff. Then I’ll go through and clip my paper coupons and print any printables. Sometimes the prices and sales differ at my local store, so it’s nice to have the sale price from the coupon match-up for things not in the weekly ad with me in case it’s different and it’s not a “deal” at my store.

    I usually can get between 40-50% savings (including store sales), and even with stocking up on sale items I have cut my grocery bill down by approximately 1/3. (And I don’t have a huge stockpile—I have one plastic shelf in my basement with a stack of milk crates next to it and some paper towels and TP next to that…no stockpile room for me.) I try to shop every third week, with mini-trips in between for things like milk and bread.

    I play the drug store game sometimes, but not consistently…I’ve not had the time lately. So I keep a Walmart/dollar store list for things I know I can get cheaper there, and usually hit that “other” store every few weeks or so.

    Does anyone have any good ways to know when to throw away old coupon folders—other than just to look through them?

    • Rebecca says:

      When I get my new coupon insert for the week, I write the date on it and also quickly glance through them looking at the expiration dates of all the coupons. Then I write “Expires on” date on the front of the insert too. I can then easily toss expired coupon inserts when I see the expiration date has passed.

  • [email protected] on a Budget says:

    I totally hear you on this! While we don’t have kids yet, I work a crazy schedule at a hospital, and some weeks (like this past one where I worked 8 in a row- yikes!) couponing goes by the wayside! When I can’t coupon, I try to go to my favorite store that has the best prices (I actually blogged about this experience this week: When I’ve got time to coupon, I try to trim it down to my favorite, close by stores like Bilo and Ingles and just get the things that I know we will use.
    Blessings on you and your growing family!

  • MonicaBerry says:

    I’ve only just recently started couponing, but I’ve made it a rule for myself that I will not let this become a full-time or even much of a part-time job! I spend a few hours a week. I did start getting the Sunday paper & I check a few websites. I refuse to run all over town, so I use Coupon Divas to look up coupon/sale match-ups for the stores we do shop at. I think the #1 tip in the blog above is the same as my #1 tip. You have to find a balance that works for you.
    I’ll admit, I felt a little anxiety when we were out of town last weekend for a funeral & had to pick up some diapers & snacks & I didn’t have my coupons with me & had to pay full retail… *gasp* but I bought them & moved on.
    When I put my little bit of effort in, I usually save at LEAST 20% off my total bill. The last couponing trip I did to Meijer I saved 36% if you count my “$4 off your next purchase” coupon I haven’t used yet. It’s not the super-crazy 90% off the extreme couponers get, but as long as I’m saving some & not losing all my “free” time… I’m good. 😀

  • San Diego Deals and Steals says:

    I usually just go to a match up site (Like MSM of course!) and just print off coupons from there with the match up at the store I am going to anyway – or if I find a free item coupon I will print that out – I find that I still save quite a bit – but I dont have multiple papers or huge amounts of coupons each time i go shopping- but carefully shopping sales and using coupons with those sales still saves me quite a bit on a handful of things each time I go shopping =-)

  • Kiersten says:

    Kiersten here. Thank you to Crystal for posting and answering my question and to all of you for your excellent advice, tips, and congratulations. 🙂

    OK, so I’m so NOT on the ball right now that I didn’t even know this was up until I read an email from a friend today asking if I was the Kiersten, expecting #4, who wrote into MSM. Ha!

    I am encouraged by those commenters who “don’t have it all together” either. And let me encourage you right back, sisters, that superwoman is a myth. There are periods where things are going smoothly, homeschooling is ticking along like clockwork, things are organized, I’m getting great deals, but several months later here I am totally overwhelmed with all that was going smoothly just a year ago. You are all right about life’s seasons. I think the biggest challenge is to maintain humility through both the highs & the lows: to not get cocky when things are going well, and to not be overly discouraged (and too hard on ourselves, which is just a form of pride!) when things are hard.

    Mostly what I was looking for was a new “method” that took me from the 5-10 hours per week club to the 1-2 hours per week club. I have gained some really great tips here, ladies. I think the most often repeated is the most helpful: don’t clip! Don’t laugh at me…I had never even thought of that before! DUH! I love it.

    I also love that I read several times to focus on looking for deals on a few things (cereal & diapers in my house, for sure). For those that mentioned this, what does this look like practically for you? Do you look at only certain stores and just wait for a good deal there or do you make a special trip when you find a great deal anywhere?

    I have also, in the past, been in the Aldi club and not used coupons at all. I may have to pick that up again. To those who mentioned Costco/Sam’s, what do you find to be a truly good deal there? In the past when I have price-compared at Costco &/or Sam’s it seemed that most things broke down to be just an average, regular price and that the only difference was you got A LOT at that price. I would love to know if there are certain items that are significantly cheaper. (And to Sharon, who mentioned the discussion about pros/cons, would you happen to know approx. when that discussion took place. I’d like to take a look.)

    Thanks again, ladies. I am definitely uplifted by the new ideas and encouraged that there is a happy medium out there. Now, to find it….


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