Diary of a newbie couponer: $81 saved in two weeks

Consumer Reports News: March 05, 2010 07:08 AM

Clipping coupons never much appealed to me. Grocery shopping is annoying enough, and I doubted I’d ever save enough money to justify the added hassle.

That was before I talked with two dedicated couponers, Donna Montaldo and Georgine Kaczmarek, for a report on shopping with coupons published in the April issue of the Consumer Reports Money Adviser. They shared insider tactics they use to save a bundle at the supermarket. They made it sound simple and almost fun, not to mention rewarding. And I wouldn’t have to switch to weird brands or buy foods my family wouldn’t eat.

They coaxed me into trying this coupon thing myself. Start slowly, they said, and see how I did in a month. And be sure to put the money I saved in a jar or bank so I could see how much I saved. 

In the interest of good journalistic practice—not to mention the jar of money—I took them up on it.

I clipped coupons from the circulars stuffed in my newspaper, nabbed store flyers, and looked through the coupons that print out with my sales receipts (they’re called “Calypso” coupons). To my surprise, one of them was for $10 off any future purchase at A&P. Anything! I even found an empty jelly jar and labeled it “Coupon Savings.”

But when Sunday afternoon rolled around, just thinking about that pile of coupons and flyers in the corner of the family room sapped my enthusiasm. I decided to officially start the test in another week. Then in the checkout line, I remembered my $10 Calypso coupon. It was still stuffed in my wallet, so I redeemed it.

Week 1 savings: $10.
Total in jar: $10.

OK, $10 wasn’t half my grocery bill, but it gave me enough incentive to get organized. I found an old photo album and sorted my coupons. I didn’t have any coupons for $10 off the top, but there were at least a dozen for things I needed. I looked through the A&P circular and found some deals I could double up with coupons I already had. That’s called “stacking,” which I’d been told was good. Coupons in hand, I got behind the cart.

I sheepishly warned the shoppers behind me in the checkout line that I had a lot of coupons. I’d expected groaning and scowls, but everyone was really quite nice about it. My subtotal was $225. After redeeming my stack of coupons, the final bill was $154. I’d saved $71! That was almost one third of my bill. The clerk even showed me where each discount showed up on the receipt.

Week 2 savings: $71.
Total in jar: $81.

Well, scoring $71 in one shopping trip has motivated me to keep up with this new hobby. Even my doubting husband and skeptical son were impressed. I’ve continued clipping coupons, and I’ve also nabbed some from a cereal box, hanging on the neck of a bottle of olive oil, and set out on the shelves of my CVS pharmacy. But I’ve yet to print a coupon from the Web. My experts say that’s where more and more good ones can be found. So my goal this week is to set up a new e-mail account and download at least a few coupons.

I’ll post updates on my progress and welcome any tips, comments, or questions from fellow couponers. If things go well, I’ll soon be searching for a bigger jar.—Jean Pietrobono

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