My Frugal Life: How Coupons Made Me Richer

I have a weekly grocery budget of $25.00. It was tight enough before, but now with rising prices it could be very tight. My husband raises a beautiful garden and fruit trees and I can the produce, and he even raises our own beef, and we have a milk cow because we raise baby calves. What we mainly needed was some variety. Coupons have made all the difference. My rules are:

  1. Only buy what's necessary. That includes a few treats such as soda pop and boxed cereal.
  2. Stay within my budget.
  3. Take advantage of every offer that is usable for me. For instance, I wouldn't buy something to re-sell it at a yard sale. My time is too valuable for that.
  4. Try to combine a sale price with a coupon and a special offer. When the sale flyers come out and the newspapers have coupon inserts, sit down with them. Figure out which products you could use and any coupons for those items. Read the fine print in the ads. I've nearly missed some deals because I overlooked them, but my husband spotted them for me.
  5. Stock up on your most commonly used items when they are reduced in price. I have been known to buy a year's supply of Tide, for instance, because it's what we use and it had a special premium offer that made a good Christmas present for our granddaughter. Needless to say, I also found coupons for every single item.
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  7. I dumpster dive. The recycling dumpsters have newspapers. Newspapers have coupon inserts. If I need to buy six of an item, I want six coupons. It is not illegal as one officer tried to tell me. After his comment I phoned the mayor's office, the city administrator, the chief of police and the head of the trash collection department. They all told me that anything left in a dumpster is considered abandoned property and is available to anyone who finds it. That was many years ago, and my "habit" has been uninterrupted since that time.
  8. Coupons count as cash at the checkout. I meet the minimum spending requirement with much less out of pocket whenever possible. To illustrate, this is what I did in March. I spent $86.00 out of pocket. This is a little below my ceiling, but it helped in April when I went a little bit over my ceiling. Any money left from the food budget goes to next month's budget. Many of the items I purchased were on a special offer from Albertson's. I bought cereal and soda pop to last a couple of months, because I could get free movie tickets and a $10.00 coupon off my next order. They were also reduced in price. I also bought sandwich meat and cheese in flavors we could not normally afford for the same reason. My rebates for the month came to $29.00. But the grand total of the groceries I bought was, at full retail, $310.90. April wasn't as good, with only $92.35 saved.

For May, I have already made out my first weekly shopping list. There is a $1.00 coupon for Wholly Guacamole and also a Buy one Get one Free coupon. I'll use the $1.00 on the first package and the second coupon will get me the second package for free. We have beef in the freezer and I can make tortillas, so I feel an enchilada dinner coming on. Instead of paying $10.00, I will pay $4.00. Cheerios and some sweetened cereals are on sale for 10 for $10.00. I have five coupons for $1.00 off two boxes. Each box will cost .50 instead of the usual $3.00 or more. Those ten boxes will last us quite awhile. Proctor and Gamble products, especially Dawn and Tide, are on sale at reduced prices. I have coupons for several of each. If I buy $20.00 worth in one transaction, I will get a coupon for $5.00 off meat at my next purchase. I plan to do this deal twice since I also need some Cover Girl cosmetics that are on sale for half price. I have Buy one Get one Free coupons and $1.00 off any CG products, so I'll get credit for my coupons. I'll spend about $6.00 for $20.00 worth and get my $5.00 coupon for meat. Thanks to a web site that helps ferret out great deals, I have a coupon for a new Scotch-Brite disposable toilet cleaner. If the store carries it, I will get it for free. I understand the full price is $12.99.

Mother's Day is this Sunday, and there are $2.00 coupons on 3.3 oz. boxes of chocolates. I understand they are on sale for $3.99 at one of our local stores. If I find them, I will buy them for our daughter, who is making lunch on Mother's Day, and they will cost $1.99 each. They are good brands so I think she will appreciate them. I also have two coupons that printed out from the Catalina machine last time I bought a 20 oz. diet 7Up. Each one is for $1.00 off a 20 oz., and the retail was $1.09 per bottle last time I looked. I will also buy some fresh produce because the garden isn't on yet and a couple of items for which I have not found coupons.

As you can see, I double my money or do even better. I do my main shopping every two weeks with small purchases like cheese or bread (when I don't bake) in between those days. The big sales seem to coincide with my every two-week paydays so I can use them to the fullest benefit.

Next payday there will be something else wonderful on sale and I'll be able to stock up on it. Maybe there will be peanut butter. The last time I bought it, the price was $1.00 and I had coupons valued at $1.00. I bought 25. Do the math. In the meantime I'll have dish and laundry detergents for months! Cosmetics, too! I could save the two $5.00 off-next-order coupons for next time, but I'm thinking about some shrimp gumbo. We have a fellow staying with us who is from Louisiana, and he will do the cooking! Wahoo! I guess you could say that the magic formula is: sale price, coupon, special offer. It only takes me less than an hour not counting dumpster diving (some weeks I miss that part entirely) and I think it's pretty good pay for an hour's "labor."

Coreenhart from Rupert, ID

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Anonymous Flag
June 16, 20080 found this helpful

Can't help but be skeptical that you are able to purchase all you say you do for only $25.00 a week (cosmetics, video, a year worth of Tide, plus cheese and cereal and, and, and) ... But if you are able to, more power to you, because most of us do not have the luxury of a vegetable garden and fruit trees to do canning and fresh milk from a cow for breakfast and dinner or the time to dumpster dive all the neighbors recycling bins :-( But I would like to thank you for some very good ideas here on finding clever ways to be frugal :-)

Editor's Note: It is $25 a week, so $100 a month, approximately.

Sorry .... Meant week in the first place ... Just edited ... Deeli

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June 18, 20080 found this helpful

Wow! I have never been one to use a lot of coupons because I am not brand particular and usually find that that the generics are cheaper than the coupon price of the brand name product. After reading your post I can see how you can really save!

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June 20, 20080 found this helpful


You rock! We've got four small kids and we can't quite do the $25.00 per week thing--but we do the best we can. We also garden, and while we don't have a dairy cow--we do have dairy goats. If folks would rely more on producing their own food, they'd have more money and be healthier, too! Oh, only one thing to add--if you don't already use it, scan the Thrifty Fun site for the recipes for homemade laundry detergent. Been using it for over a year and boy does it work great--also, no more shelling out the big bucks for Tide and such things!

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January 15, 20100 found this helpful

I think coupons must work differently in the USA than in Canada. I find here in Ontario Canada that coupons are really not worth the trouble most of the time. I recently shopped with a handful of coupons and could not use most of them-- coupons for brands of product the store does not carry, or sizes of product the store does not carry, for instance. If I have to drive to several stores looking for the product I have a $1.00 coupon for, I have not saved anything! Also, if a product is already on sale, most stores here will not permit you to use a coupon for it as well.

Also got some coupons for frozen food items, but found that every item had wheat flour in it, therefore I could not use it, so I left the coupons there in the freezer! I hope someone found them who could use them! I also hear of people in the USA using double coupons, that also is not allowed here. And as a previous comment says, for any product I have a coupon for there is without fail another brand or a store brand of the same thing that costs less without a coupon than the couponed brand does with the coupon. It really is not worth my time to build a shopping list around a coupon and then get to the store and find that I can't use the coupon. I save time and money by not bothering to even look at the coupon!

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April 29, 20110 found this helpful

The amount one spends on their grocery bill is not totally dependent on how much land they have to plant vegetables/fruit trees, raise animals for additional food sources and the ability to coordinate/facilitate the use of coupons. Where one lives geographically has a huge influence on what groceries cost in any general area (as is also reflected in gas prices these days...east coast, vs. south vs west coast).

If I could afford to spend both the time and money to drive a couple of hours, I could spend 1/3 less on my grocery bill, but I wouldn't save anything in the end. I personally do not buy any packaged/prepared foods/mixes, no cold cuts, no soft drinks, no drink mixes of any kind, no cold cereals, if it's Mac-n-cheese it's home made) so most of the coupons do not work for me and using generic products saves me the most money in the long run (and is a healthier choice, less sodium, fat, additional additives/preservatives which are advised against by most physicians to prevent documented health problems, i.e. high blood pressure, headaches, increased cholesterol.)

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