Back when I was a kid, my mom was the only mom I knew who used coupons. She was also the only mom I knew who had six kids! Of course, a lot has changed since then. Large families are much more common and couponers have become much savvier. Unfortunately, some stores have also become much savvier as well (but more on that later). Christi the Coupon Coach wants to teach more people how to coupon in order to save money on their groceries and drugstore items. In her book, Couponing Made Simple: Simple Steps to Successful Couponing, Christi walks readers through the process of learning how to coupon. This book is not about the extreme couponing you see on TV or read about in People Magazine. Instead, the strategies are those that anyone can use. In ten chapters (eight of which really focus on the art of couponing) and 132 pages, Christi sets you up with a couponing system that will likely last you a lifetime.
As I mentioned, I am not a stranger to couponing. I grew up with them. I helped my mom cut them out, sort and store them, and then pull the ones she would need for her trip to the store. I loved watching the receipt (already long as she shopped for eight people), get far longer as the coupons came off the total. When I got married, the whole double and triple couponing phenomenon was just taking off. There were no store/coupon matching websites yet (because there was no Internet!), but I was adept at matching sales to coupons and was quite used to getting things like soap, detergent, makeup, and toilet paper for free. I didn't even realize there would eventually be a name or movement for what I was doing. I was just delighted that I could do it!
Then the stores in my area stopped tripling coupons. All of them. Then most of them stopped doubling coupons. Then I had four kids in 40 months and I stopped giving a hang about coupons. That was about the time that all of my friends were discovering couponing for the first time! Since then, I have clipped the odd coupon, but have always been discouraged to see the savings of 10% or so - a far cry from my glory days of old! When I saw the chance to read Christi's book, I was very excited.
Christi's book starts off very encouragingly by telling the reader several success stories of shopping trips that resulted in % savings that you have to see to believe: 90% savings on one shopping trip? Yep. She then walks you through the lingo of couponing. It has a language all its own, and if you intend to play this game, you are going to have to learn to talk the talk. For me, the most useful chapter is Chapter 5 - Step-by-Step Process. It is here that you will learn how to *do* this thing called couponing - most importantly, how do you store and organize all those coupons? How do you actually manage them while shopping?
One of Christi's tips is to buy multiple Sunday papers, as this is where the coupons live. Our Sunday paper, at $2.00, is not cheap. I am not going to buy more than one copy. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the coupons just don't seem to be there. I would not risk the $2.00 for a paper that may or may not have been assembled by someone competent (or honest...hmmm...maybe a couponer is helping himself on the side...). However, if you, like Christi, can get deals on the Sunday paper (or still live in a place that has multiple papers - do such places exist anymore?), then this tip seems like a good one.
Thus, I decided I would try again to coupon. I will say right off the bat, though, that I have one overriding observation about couponing (as I do about any endeavor that requires time): it takes time. Now, Christi promises that couponing doesn't take that much time, and I completely believe that once you have your system in place, it doesn't. I would think it helps if you are organized in general. I try, but I'm not. I shop primarily at Wal-Mart, HEB, and Kroger. Wal-Mart is my go-to store. I can get everything I need there. Yes, the lines are horrendous, but they have far more selection than any other store I go to. Now, at Wal-Mart, they will match other grocery stores' advertised prices. There is huge potential savings there, but I don't do it. Why? It takes too much time and organization. Not a good sign.
I tried to follow Christi's directions for creating a system of organization, but I think, because I don't have a big store of coupons yet, there just didn't seem much point (perfectionist tendencies - if you can't do it perfectly, don't bother). Then I got out the grocery ads, which really just meant Kroger, since HEB is VERY coupon unfriendly and Wal-Mart (at least in my area) rarely seems to have an ad, and tried to match coupon to store sale. Deoderant - check. Soap - check. Cereal (hmmm...even with sale and coupon, it would still be cheaper at Wal-Mart, not check. Does this happen a lot when you eat generic food?). I wanted to be overwhelmed by the potential savings, but I wasn't. Again, my store of coupons - not huge.
So I went to Kroger with my coupons (got my mom's, too, so I could take advantage of those sales!), and when I went to check out, only the first one of each kind doubled. I was miffed. Confused, even. The cashier told me, not kindly, that it was store policy only to double the first coupon. My great deal wasn't that great anymore. I went home and looked online and found that Kroger stores tend to vary greatly in their coupon policies. I became disgruntled and realized that I really don't enjoy coupons much.
My Opinion of Couponing Made Simple
If you want to get into the world of couponing, this is the book to get your foot in the door. It is easy to understand, explains everything you need to know, and speaks to you with a very encouraging tone. I truly believe that everyone can save money with coupons, and since my very unsatisfying foray back into that world, I am resolved that there are some things I am not going to buy again without matching coupons to sales. Some things are just too easy to do that with (the sales and the coupons are always there). I am very grateful to this book for reminding me of that fact. However, when store policies vary from location to location, seeking out the one that will work for you is an additional burden on your time. This brings me to the one thing that Christi doesn't address in her book: your time is worth something, too.
I work from home. I know what my hourly wage is. I have to put that price on my time. Any time I spend dealing with couponing stuff is time that I am not working. If I'm not going to be teaching my kids, cooking, cleaning the house (hah!), or doing something I enjoy, then I should be working, and, according to my hourly wage, *that* brings far more money to our family than couponing ever will. Given that I don't enjoy this process (I was not a cut and paste girl in school) and I don't relish encountering hostile cashiers or annoyed patrons, couponing the likes of which Christi has in mind doesn't make sense for me. Would I love to be one of those success stories and crow about saving $80 on my grocery bill? Of course. Or, I could just put the fingers to the keys and get some work done. It would take less time and I would actually enjoy the process.
That's me, though. I am lucky enough to have a good work at home job (or two). My husband has a good job (praise God!). For me, putting my time in elsewhere makes more sense for our family, if one considers time as a finite resource. HOWEVER, couponing makes a ton of sense for a lot of families, and if I am willing to get over the initial organization hump, it will probably make a lot of sense for me, too. Actually, Therese (12) read Christi's book before I did, and she is really intrigued. She is very sad we don't live in Florida, which seems like a couponer's dream. Maybe I could make this a school project for Therese or something...I digress.
I have no problem recommending Christi's book. Because of it, I know how couponing has changed since I used to do it 20 years ago. I know places I can go to get coupons (digital coupons? Who knew? I am *definitely* loading those on my phone). And maybe that is the takeaway message: coupon as much or as little as want to. No one is going to be grading you, and a dollar saved *is* a dollar saved.
Fortunately, you won't spend much money to bring Christi's knowledge home. Her book is only $18.00 in print or $4.99 for the Kindle version. To see some truly amazing savings from women who know what they are doing with coupons, be sure to read all of the Molly Crew reviews by clicking the banner below.