How I Went Broke Saving Money

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

I haven't used more than five coupons at the grocery store in the past month, and I don't remember picking up more than a handful of items on sale. I don't "shop around" anymore, and I refuse to "stock up." So, why am I saving money since I started these new habits? Because often people can waste money by saving money.


Don't Stock Up

Just because it's on sale doesn't mean that you need fifteen cans of it. I used to go to the store and load my freezer full of meat just because it was on sale. Then, months later I found that I hadn't used most of it, forgot it was in there, and now it was past the date of usage and I'd wasted money. Likewise, my cabinets got to the point where they were full yet empty. I had twenty packages of pudding, but no egg noodles which I needed. Weekly grocery bills can't go down if this type of buying occurs every week. Once in awhile stocking up is acceptable, but to do it every week doesn't get a person anywhere.

Coupons Aren't There to Save You Money

Shocking isn't it? Advertisers don't put coupons in the flyers to save you money; they do it to lure you towards their products. Coupons that require a customer to purchase four or more of an item fall into the stocking up problem. At times these coupons are useful. I buy juice in multiples of three and four bottles a week, so a coupon for 75 cents off three would do me good. When clipping coupons, plan ahead. If you won't use the advertised amount in the next three weeks, it's not worth your money.


Another issue with coupons is that they lure shoppers to brand name products. If vaporizer fluid is $1 off with coupon but the generic product is $1.50 cheaper every day, what's the point of the coupon? Likewise, coupons often lure people to try new products, thus "hooking" them on a brand name item. While clipping, only clip what you use and always do some comparison shopping when cashing in the coupons.

Sales Can Be Dangerous

Have you ever bought something just because it was on sale? We're all guilty. Sale and clearance items are luring but often dangerous. By walking down a sale aisle one can easily add $50 or more to the bill for the day. Ask yourself this question each time you go near a sale rack, "Would this have caught my eye at regular price?" If you answer yes, buy it and savor the deal. If you answer no, walk away and come back. If it disappears in the meantime, then it wasn't meant to be.


Keep this unchanging rule in mind and avoid going broke by saving money: it's not money saved if it's money spent.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines as well as online newsletters. She teaches writing in the public school as well as at the collegiate level. Contact her at or visit her website at

April 28, 20061 found this helpful

While some good points are made here .. I find that almost the exact opposite works for my family! Couponing, done correctly, will save a bundle! Combining a coupon with a sale price and a special promotion is wonderful! For example, last week my local "mega-mart" had a promotion sponsered by a large food manufactor where you buy so much of their products and you get a coupon at checkout for $10 off your next shopping order. Well .. these were all products that were on sale, I had coupons for and my family uses .. if this weren't the case it wouldn't have been worth it. I paid $9 for $24 worth of salad dressing and bbq sauce .. and then got a coupon for $10 off my next purchase at that store .. it's like they paid ME for their product!!! I have no problem stocking up on deals like this when they come along AND its for products that I would buy anyway .. I think you have to know the prices and sale prices of items you buy routinely, so when a deal like this comes along you know its a good one!

I do stockpile many of the "nonpersiable" items we use everyday, each week as I shop. But I know the "sale cycle" of products .. for example I know at my local store the boxed potatoes that my husband loves goes on sale every 6-8 weeks, depending on the time of year .. so I buy enough to last those 6-8 weeks, using coupons when I can to save more.

I do have to disagree with the poster about clearance items as well .. I often get products for free or very close to it using coupons combined with clearance items, especially on health and beauty items, but again these are products that I use anyway or I donate to charity, so they won't be going to waste .. coupons usually don't state that they can't be used on clearance items. I also "stock up" on gift type items when I see them on clearance for over 60-75% of their orginal price .. Most of my holiday gifts are bought months before the holiday itself .. the danger here is forgetting you have them! Most of the smaller gifts for Christmas for my kids .. as the holiday nears my husband and I will sit and go through what we have and add to it with the "big" gift.

Whew .. thanks for reading all of that .. sorry I went on and on .. I just want people to know that couponing, stockpiling and shopping clearances does work and does save money .. it may not be the same as putting the money in your pocket, but if you go about it the right way, it will put food in your pantry for less!

I've only been couponing for the 2 years since my oldest was born and we became a one income family. In that short time I've slashed our grocery bill from between $75 and $100 a week to around $45 .. It does take me about an hour each week to make my grocery lists and collect my coupons but it's worth it!

Good luck to us all!


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April 29, 20060 found this helpful

Recently, at my local grocery store, they had their brand of frozen vegetables on "sale" for 77 cents a bag. When I went there, of course, they had very little left to choose from and this was the very first day of the "sale". Seems to me that whenever the sale price is very good, they never have enough of the product. The very next week they had the very same vegetables on "sale" again, this time for 1.00 a bag! I don't trust grocery stores at all, they are not there to save us money, they are there to make a profit off of our money. You have to watch them every minute, especially those scanners that are constantly ringing up things for the wrong price. I also feel very strongly about coupons, I am offended by a manufacturer of a product that will issue a coupon for 25 cents off, if you buy TWO. That is the most ridiculous waste of my time and money. If they are going to offer real coupons for real savings, of say, 50 cents or more, then that is worth my time and money!

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November 25, 20150 found this helpful

When your supermarket doesn't keep re-stocking sale items throughout the day, GET A RAINCHECK which you can use the next time you shop, Sounds to me like your store is crappy. I use ShopRite, a big chain store, and they always give rain checks (customer service desk) but first they will send someone to the back to see if there are any more of the item in the back. Inconvenient but rarely needed. The scanners are correct also, which is amazing since the store is so huge.

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April 29, 20060 found this helpful

I agree with Rebekah in that some people can save money in these tactics. In fact, shortly after writing this article I read another article that was completely the opposite of mine, and I found it interesting that we had unknowingly said almost the exact opposite of one another. I came to the conclusion that there are two types of people--those who use coupons, sales, and other offers to their advantage wisely and those who "fall for" the store's gimmicks and fail to save money.

If you can get the most out of those "buy 5 get one free" coupons, by all means do it!

Happy shopping and saving!


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April 29, 20061 found this helpful you shop at Fred Meyer ;) That is the only store that I have ever been able to do all that you posted! I would save 30-40 dollars in groceries alone, not to mention their AWESOME clearance prices! I would get two copies of their monthly coupon book, and use them for each pay day, and combine any coupons needed from other sources to "double" the savings. And of course the buy one get one free. If you get in when people are at work, you can always get the deal! And avoid weekend shopping.....that can lead to busting your budget in too many ways!

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May 3, 20061 found this helpful

I use few coupons and I do stockpile. I spend less than $40 per week on groceries; we eat at home almost all the time, and eat extremely well. We feed our one dog and two cats with name brand foods. The most notable thing I do is shop smart. I am familiar with the foods we like and eat. I garden, can and freeze. I stockpile not what is on sale, but what is on sale that we use. I rotate my stockpile, keeping track of what is in the cupboards and freezer. I buy off brands that are generally cheaper, except for loss leader sales-- especially when I have coupons. I know where stores keep marked downs. Often when I am busy, I'm lucky to shop for groceries one time a month, and it makes no difference in our eating habits. I go to food warehouses to see what bargains I can find just for fun and keep my pricebook close.

Yes, you must have room to properly stockpile, but there are months when I spend less than $50 for food. And the following months I still never go over budget. Buying just because something is on sale or you have coupons is setting yourself up for failure. Discipline saves me money--not going to the store every week saves me more.

A good part of savings has to do with other things, like: where you live, what stores you have near you, do the stores have great sales, what foods you routinely eat, do you cook from scratch, are you a disciplined consumer, do you use a pricebook, do you keep track of food staples at home, do you rotate your stockpile, do you have a great recipe repertoire...

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June 14, 20060 found this helpful

When one enters a store one is implicitly entering a contract with that store. The contract is this: the store offers merchandise for your needs and/or convenience; you pay money so the store makes a profit and therefore can continue doing business. Why would anyone feel distrustful or cheated because the store is offering this contract?

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June 14, 20060 found this helpful

I havent gone broke saving money but I use coupons a lot one time I saved over 8.00 using coupons and these were on products I use all the time. I agree with the lady that said when the company offer 50 cent or even 1.00 off two of a name brand when the cheaper brand is less when buying one item most of the time when the coupon says so much off two I dont bother but cutting coupons and then shop does take time but when i can save say over 5.00 its worth the trouble to me I will try a new item if I have a coupon for it some times its worth trying some thing new thanks for all of your money saving tips. Any one have gas saving tips its either that or pray to go down thanks again I love this web site

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March 25, 20070 found this helpful

I agree with the author that a lot of time coupons are a waste of money. I have done a bit in sales work and so has my husband. I learned from him about the bait and switch routine. So I tend to shy way away from coupons even when it comes to my hobby. As far as grocery shopping is concerned, Costco, WinCo and Trader Joe's are my choice. So when I shop, I don't need coupons but I do keep my eyes on the prices and many a time have found that generic is a better price than name brand. Also, sticking to my grocery list unless I know I've forgotten something that I really and truly need. Another thing I have found with coupons is that there is no more left, then I get bummed out and tend to overspend to make up for missing out on the sale. Even with a menu plan, what do you do if one item is all sold out at one store when you have already gone to your other stores...creativity is an edge.

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July 12, 20070 found this helpful

Wow! I agree with everyone. Couponing can save money, but the original post had valid points. If it isn't done right you end up spending money on items that you don't use up before the expiration date, can be bought more cheaply in a generic brand, or that you don't really need. I love the buy one get one free deals at Winn Dixie, but for our family of two we can't always make use of two large boxes of cereal, for example. However, if it is something we use a lot, I never pass those deals up.

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November 11, 20070 found this helpful

Honey use your common sense that the Good Lord gave you only buy what you need yes coupons are good sometimes but shopping sometimes at different stores that are near you and using generic when needed if you like however I sometimes buy name brand because it is a good product and the generic will not do like the kraft mac n cheese daughter is autistic likes certain foods leftover kraft mac n cheese is good. Generic is same with philly cream cheese.

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February 16, 20080 found this helpful

I disagree somewhat on this one. Yes, you need to be careful if you stockpile but when you are paying .50 for Mayonnaise that you usually pay 3.00 for why not get 3 instead of 1? If it wasn't for stockpiling I wouldn't be able to afford to stay home with my kids.

I went from paying almost 200.00 to 100.00 because I use coupons and stockpile. I got 10 jars of Peanut butter for free with coupons! Why not stock up! Deb from MA

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April 3, 20080 found this helpful

This is the most sense I have heard in a long time. We have just started shopping this way and it takes getting used to but I think we will be further ahead in a couple of months.

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April 19, 20080 found this helpful

I have to say sometimes it is just not worth the effort to use coupons along with sales to only buy a few things if you have to go out of your way in gas. How do you work this stuff in time wise when you work full time? I will say it is worth it if the store is "on your way" somewhere.

I am the only one who will cook ANYTHING that takes any amount of prep work in my family. So stockpiling gets wasted a lot. I also have very limited kitchen work space and a small freezer. I usually look for the best price on basics on my way home from the local grocery store. It is hard to discipline yourself sometimes to be thrifty only to find out there is not enough time or someone else in your home does things to break that budget.

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November 25, 20150 found this helpful

After you shop set up a "Prep Station" - nothing more than a large counter or table (cleared off and clean).

Cut all the meats, season separately for each recipe.

Cut and add to their respective meats in gallon-size freezer baggies OR freezer-safe containers.

Write (or print out from computer!) the recipes out and tape to their baggies/containers OR put them on the freezer door with a magnetized clip.

Then your household members can cook them FOR you. It takes time only when you shop and your workday meals take NONE of your time.


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July 25, 20080 found this helpful

When you eat healthfully, you'll find that you hardly use coupons at all. Since when are coupons offered for fresh vegetables or fruits in your produce department, for instance? Things like peanut butter are really bad for your heart, considering the fat and sodium content. Saving money on stuff like that now will cost you major bucks on medical bills in the future. :-(

As far as non-food coupons, if we're frugally making our own household cleaners, etc., there's not much use for coupons on those items, either.

We save by watching the ads in our local newspaper for sales on healthy foods, rather than looking for coupons. Shopping at Wal-Mart as much as possible helps, as well.

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November 25, 20150 found this helpful

My ShopRite prints out coupons at the register for $ off your next purchase in different departments. I saved about $15 on produce, $5 on fish, and AT LEAST $25 off next orders (just for shopping) so far in the past 6 months. I only use certified organic so that is a great savings in their extremely limited selection, but it is worth it.

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August 17, 20080 found this helpful

I use coupons mostly for name brand items that we're picky about, like cat food, toilet paper, kitty litter, and toiletries. I try to limit our groceries to generics and find coupons for the few name-brand foods that we do eat. I also won't waste my time on a coupon for less than 0.50 off one item. We mostly save money by eating at home and limiting our entertainment spending -- no shopping sprees, dinner out, or movie tickets for us every weekend, thank you!

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October 12, 20081 found this helpful

I have tried MANY times to buy the Sunday news paper, go to the store and compare brand name for generic is always cheaper! Only the time brand name is less if the it on sale and you use coupon.

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November 25, 20150 found this helpful

I certainly agree. I don't have a Meier's or Aldi's, where most of these folks score big savings. Walmart isn't close either and I use buses. IF I can find just ONE person to take me to Aldi's (far) and Walmart once or twice a month I could score big time, even paying for lunch and gas.

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November 19, 20080 found this helpful

In the past 2 yrs. I have learned many money saving tricks with coupons. I can stock up on one item, then when another item is on sale, stock up on that. My lady friend told me not to give away the 20 jars and bottles of mustard I got free with coupons as I'm invited to her church picnic and I can bring Mustard! I recently purchased $210 in food for $60 using coupons on a Triple Coupon Sale. And I bought 70 cans of soup. Soup will not go bad. It is a kind I like and have enjoyed a few cans of it already.

I exchange coupons with friend, meeting them weekly to do that. Now, I consider Couponing a Hobby and enjoy it. With the expired coupons I have and get from friends, I send them to the military bases overseas who can use them up to 6 mo. after they expire. That is part of the volunteer work I do for my Retired Military Auxilaries.

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January 11, 20090 found this helpful

I can't understand why Kelly wrote this article which reads like "confessions of a formerly dumb blonde." If she wanted to make a point about stupid shopping decisions, she could have used a different, more effective tone and not turned readers -- at least this reader -- off. Anyone who can not remember what is in her freezer probably needs a home care worker.

When I lived in suburban Boston where chain stores dominate, I shopped at the local chain but largely bought only their sale items. My youngest remained at home while he attended community college and a trade school and always had friends over, so I bought foods the boys could microwave and lots of beverages. I would stock up, using metal garage shelves in the basement for storage of shelf goods and the freezer for the few frozen "lunch"foods I was willing to buy.

Most of those frozen foods are ridiculously expensive and not very tasty. I learned this as a newly divorced mother, attending graduate school. I thought things I could leave for the kids to cook for themselves would help maintain a semblance of order and homey-ness. I was wrong. Used to homemade bread and pies, my kids hated the junk.

However, faced with feeding kids from families that had tossed them out, I was forced to resort to some carefully selected goodies, which I bought during their regular sales cycle and used coupons to reduce their cost per serving.

I did then, as I do now, shop at a farm stand. I do not and never will shop at the big box stores which are neither good for the economy or for personal marketing choice.

As for cleaning supplies, well, if we all stopped using those environmentally harmful, expensive things, everyone would benefit. All cleaning can and should be done with baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, ammonia and cream of tartar.

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January 11, 20090 found this helpful

BTW, I avoid the "generic" brand sting and sting it is. How anyone can think they save money on them is ridiculous. I once bought a box of generic sandwich bags to pack kids lunches. all of the bags were fused together in a mass and there was not a usable bag in the bunch. Our family personally likes Hellman's and finds other brands of mayonnaise inedible. While we appreciate several different ketchups, I have heard from families where the kids like one brand only.

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January 22, 20090 found this helpful

Personally, I find it very believable that someone would not know every item in one's freezer and that would not qualify a person for home care!!! Coupons can indeed lure us into buying something we don't ordinarily buy and then hook us on that item. Money spent is not money saved; that is very true. I also agree that people can save money with coupons and many comments illustrate how that is done. I was not put off by this post and found it very helpful.


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February 6, 20090 found this helpful

I have always thought that about coupons. I NEVER buy the junk that you see coupons for. I cook from scratch and buy whole food, not all the processed junk you can buy with a coupon. My grocery has 2 brands of generic and they always beat the coupon savings. I have found the best way for me to save money is to stick to my list. No exceptions.

Peanut butter is not bad for your heart if you buy the right kind, btw.

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April 15, 20090 found this helpful

Don't forget, when you get to the store and they don't have what they advertised and you have coupons for, to ask for a RAINCHECK or SORRY SLIP, whatever it is called in your part of the country.

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April 27, 20090 found this helpful

I have never had much luck either with coupons. I live in a rural area, where double coupon days are rare, and triple has never been heard of. There is also a limit of 50 cents value per coupon, one coupon per item, etc. I am glad that some can buy $200 of groceries with only $60---but that is not feasible for everyone. And I am one of those that has a freezer, the contents of which I am not entirely sure of. Why? Because I have 2 jobs, 3 kids, a husband, and a small farm to look after. I wish I had a home care aide :)

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January 29, 20100 found this helpful

First, hats off to SWozniak with the post "Anyone who can not remember what is in her freezer probably needs a home care worker."

That said,my couponing is restricted to the few name brands we are likely never giving up--generally in the household cleaner category. A buck for a bottle of sweet-smelling generic dish detergent isn't cost-efficient for me if I need to use 3X as much as the name brand to get the job done. Same goes for my laundry detergent; it's name-brand and the only one that doesn't give my husband a skin rash outbreak.

I only stock up on two categories: toilet tissue in bulk pack at my local CVS--always a deal and their sale always coinciding with a coupon; and once a month, meat at our local discount butcher--whose prices run about 50% lower than the supermarkets here, with better quality.

Like a few other posters, I've learned over the years ( with four kids now grown and with families of their own) that pre-packaged, processed stuff that coupon dreams are made of are generally unhealthy options and rabidly overexpensive.

Better to Google all the things you can do with back-to-basics produce,grains,fruit,beans and legumes and wheat-based foods--plot your menus at least a week at a time and learn to get creative with making a pound of meat resurrect itself over a couple of meals. At that point the couponing becomes close to unnecessary.

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April 5, 20100 found this helpful

Why is it positive to insult someone who doesn't know everything in their freezer? When I was young and very poor of course I knew every item. I had to keep track just to get fed on a daily basis. But the more money - and purchased goods- you have the more difficult it is to track. I used to have to bring a calculator to add up every item in my grocery cart because if I didn't keep close track, my check would bounce. That's how close to the bone my life was at one time.

Buying in bulk and keeping close watch can serve a family with young children very well. How about when your children are grown? I for one do not want huge amounts of food in my home, but old habits are difficult to break. I empathise with the original post. The occasional coupon for pet food or another item I would buy anyway is fine. But you can lose money buying too much with coupons if you don't really need it.

I am better off buying a small store brand jar of mayo than getting two family size jars of buy one get one free. It is cheaper and less wasteful.

Also, I work 12 hour days outside of my home. That's partly because I have a passion for my work and partly because, in the present economy, I had better make myself as indispensible as possible to my employers. I need fresh quality food as fuel because I am sure not getting any younger, but I work alongside 20 somethings who can subsist on Dunkin Donuts and lattes and still be perky.

I buy those boxes of veggies with a bit of healthy carbs mixed in and microwave them. Then I add an individual serving cup of salmon or an individual size serving of grilled fish- also microwavable. I buy only the best organic apples and pre-cut fruit salads. I splurge on healthy smoothies whenever I go out and am a frequent customer at any fast food restaurant who puts together a great grilled chicken sandwich. This is not how I lived when I was 21, childless and poor. This is not how I lived when I had children to feed, but it is what works for me now. Oh, and I do know what is in my freezer. Four ready to heat meals from the Easter dinner leftovers. (I cooked a lot because I had company). Whole grain bread, frozen fruits, and frozen veggies. And a few other items like frozen herbs.

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June 5, 20150 found this helpful

I could not agree more! I also do not run from grocery store to grocery store to shop the "specials". Time and gasoline are both worth way more than the few cents or dollar I might save. I shop at four stores on a regular basis and I tend to have specific things I buy at each store. Costco is once a month or so and for items that do not spoil OR that I use in quantity. Kroger is for most of my grocery items and that is where my pharmacy is. Tom Leonard's is for fresh vegetables and some cuts of beef.

We visit Kroger and Tom Leonard's about every two weeks and only when we are in the vicinity. Food Lion is my neighborhood, run in quickly, store. My husband goes to Trader Joe's specifically for some of their brands. Everything goes on the same credit card so that we always know how much we are spending and have spent.

We shop with general lists and ideas about what we need or want. It is far less stressful than trying to remember which coupons we have and then seeing if we are actually saving money on a couponned item.

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