How to maximize coupon savings

Yesterday we came across this amazing YouTube video of a Good Morning America segment profiling Kathy Spencer, who runs How to Shop for Free. By using a few techniques highlighted in the video, she manages to feed her family of six for less money than you probably have in your sofa cushions right now.

Here at Unclutterer, we were wondering how much of Kathy Spencer’s shopping involves buying unneeded items just because of the savings, so we did a little digging and found this an eHow article by Spencer in which she addresses that particular issue:

People always say why get something if you don’t need it, or say I don’t need 10 jars of peanut butter. My answer to that is if you don’t need it someone else will. I did not need the 6 diabetes monitors that I picked up at CVS while shopping with Inside Edition but I got them because I will be donating them to my local Council on Aging, a lot of people have diabetes and don’t test regularly because they can’t afford the meter.

If you’re willing to actually make an effort to find a good home for such “deals,” then it’s probably not a bad thing. If not, you should probably be much more critical about whether you really need something that’s on special.

It’s actually quite surprising to see how much money you can save with a little planning and effort. We tried out some of Spencer’s tips yesterday at our local Harris Teeter and managed to save about 30% off our total bill.

And if you need a way to organize your coupons, check out this Unclutterer post from March on repurposing brag books.

57 Comments for “How to maximize coupon savings”

  1. posted by dogfood coupon guy on

    Great info. this has been a fun read!

  2. posted by Leonie on

    @ ms brooklyn – GOOD ONE!!! :-)

    yeah, the “baby formula, I won’t judge,I just won’t judge” comment seemed judgemental already but then I won’t judge ;-)

  3. posted by Leonie on

    BTW, I googled “kroger’s coupon policy” and found this:

    apparently you don’t have to clip coupons.
    I may try this. I’ve attempted to clip coupons but end up throwing them out or not bringing them with me. I also think my time is worth more than I can compensate in searching for coupon savings and driving from one store to another. But not having to clip coupons might help!

  4. posted by h20 on

    I second with MM….

    to MM, though I don’t live in ‘coupon-mania’ country, I really hate it when some groceries stores crews looked down (as if we’re beggers, not bargainers) on the couponers while we are trying to to take advantage of some offers/discounts whilst the said offers/discounts was the stores policy

    so what’s the point of giving away discounts/freebies when you actually making fun of the recepient / talk them back etc

  5. posted by Weekly Round-Up: Being Thankful — Almost Frugal on

    [...] How to maximize coupon savings | Unclutterer [...]

  6. posted by Melanie on

    What a great thread! I am blown away by the comments about coupons being a waste of time and that coupons are only for junk food. Wow, that is soooo not true.

    Here’s my story–I’m 31, make a great salary, live with my boyfriend and our two dogs. My boyfriend is a carpenter and hasn’t worked much during the last year. While I wouldn’t say we are hurting financially in any way, who doesn’t love to save money?

    About a year ago, I saw the lady that started the site “The Grocery Game” on Oprah. I looked into it and thought, I don’t shop at Walgreens, Jewel, or CVS. What’s the point? But, then a few months went by and I knew that I could save some money on my grocery bill, so I decided to take another look and came across a TON of very useful websites.

    Now, I admit, at first I thought coupons were going to be just for junk that we don’t really eat anyway, but let me assure you, I don’t think that anymore. Clementines, anyone? Buy one get one free on a dozen eggs? GE light bulbs, toilet paper, dog food? The list goes on and on with the coupons that are available.

    It has gotten to the point with household products such as deodorant, shampoo, razors, etc. that I have a 25 cent rule. If I can’t get it for 25 cents or under, I don’t even buy it. There is no reason to ever pay full price on any of that stuff when there are Walgreens and CVS stores around. Plus, the amount of makeup and toiletries I have donated this past year would blow your mind. Not to mention the food I have donated, which includes 3 of the most sought out items at my local food pantry—peanut butter, tuna, and spaghetti sauce. We are not talking the crappy cans of veggies that have been sitting in a pantry for ages. And one other point—the amount that can be saved on household products alone can more than cover your organic/vegan/whatever food expenses.

    So, seriously, I am really organized. I realize this coupon thing is not for everyone. I spend 1 hour on Sundays printing my list from assorted websites that post that week’s deals, and clipping and organizing my coupons. Then, when I hit the store, I am in and out and DONE. I don’t have spreadsheets with my savings or anything like that, but looking at my savings account, I will tell you I save hundreds a month doing this, we have more food (are filet mignon junk food?! pork chops, chicken, veggies?), shampoo and toothpaste than GOD and I donate mass quantities to a food pantry and a women’s shelter. Plus, and I am not kidding, my savings paid for my boyfriend and I to go on a cruise to Alaska (granted, I booked that through Travelzoo, so it was a steal).

    So, M–if I can combine your store’s sales with a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, you bet I’m gonna get 20 bottles of mayo for 5 cents! I’ll keep one or two for myself and give the rest away.

    And TL–this whole community of couponers out there, and believe me, there are many of us, donate so much stuff to the less fortunate. I don’t “need” to coupon. I have no credit card debt. I have a great paying job. I am very, very grateful for all of that. Many of the (mostly) women who shop like me are also in the same boat. But many are not. Check out some of the blogs and forums and you’ll see that many of these couponers depend on their savings. Maybe they’re stay at home moms or their husbands lost their jobs, whatever. The point is, we “crazy couponers” out there like to spread the wealth. We realize we don’t need 20 bottles of mayo or whatever the product may be, but if we can get it for less than the price of one and donate the rest, why wouldn’t we?

    And last thing, then I’ll step off my soapbox. The stockpile is the key to successful couponing. A few weeks ago I bought 24 rolls of Scott Paper towels for under $2. Some people might think that it’s crazy to buy that many rolls, but I think it’s crazy to buy just one for the same price. Ah, potato, potahto.

  7. posted by Nurit on


    Supersize the savings. Most coupons have a disclaimer that says you can only use one per item. However, you can still get multiple discounts on the same product, because there are two types of coupons–one issued by the manufacturer and one issued by the stores. The store coupons can be found in Sunday circulars, store fliers and on retailer and product websites. Clip both types of coupons for the same item and you can really rack up the savings.

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