Recession Mama

{May 3, 2009}   Crafty Coupon Clipping I: Not just for sweet little old ladies.

Katy Sez: My friend, Sarah, doesn’t look like someone who clips coupons, right?


I mean she’s cute, blonde, and outgoing! She’s also really great at cooking, crafts, and throwing wicked awesome parties. So, why does clipping coupons have such a stereotype attached? Well, let me have her explain how she got started doing something that normally you think cheap old ladies do.

By Sarah

I’ll come right out and admit it: I am a coupon clipper. I carefully cut them out of newspapers and magazines, I print them out from the Internet, sometimes I get them in the mail. Go ahead and chuckle, roll your eyes at me, have your vision of a shuffling old woman in a housecoat and let me know when you’re finished… Now think of the money that I have in my wallet that you don’t! I don’t claim to be an expert clipper, but I’m happy to share a little bit about what works for me.

My coupon use didn’t start with the recession; I’ve been doing it for years. I didn’t inherit the habit from my parents either, although I come from a family of bargain hunters. My mother was only an occasional coupon user during my childhood. However she is/was frugal and fastidious about knowing which grocery store had the best produce prices and which one had lower prices on dairy, etc. Once a week we would zip from store to store for the different bargains to stock the fridge and pantry. My father wasn’t a devoted coupon clipper either, although he was quite the deal hound. He loved a store called “Canned Goods Plus,” which sold – canned good, plus some other stuff. It was a dimly lit building next to an Ames department store and most of the goods were dented or on the verge of expiration (Christmas candy in July, anyone?). For him it was not about stocking the pantry, it was finding odd items for cheap. He ended up cluttering the house with things that we didn’t need – which didn’t actually save money at all, but what I learned from his spending habits is a whole different ball of wax.

During college I wasn’t much of a clipper either, you don’t find that many coupons for ramen or macaroni and cheese in the USC student newspaper. It was post-graduation, when I found myself jobless and completely confused that I started clipping coupons. I needed a task that made me feel like I was contributing to the household beyond cooking and cleaning as my roommate kept us afloat financially. Buying the Sunday Los Angeles Times and poring over the deals offered by manufacturers and local stores was like a research project, figuring out how to stack weekly specials with coupons that were good for months in order to get the most bang for our buck.


Now that I’m employed and more secure, I still savor the weekly clipping ritual. About once a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I will settle in at the kitchen table with the newspaper, my scissors and beaten-up purple plastic coupon organizer (gotta get a new one) and go to work. Flipping through the circulars, I’ll cut out coupons for products that we use regularly, both familiar and unfamiliar brands. Sometimes I’ll clip a coupon for a new product, if it sounds really interesting or useful to me. I try to avoid clipping a coupon just because it seems like such a good deal! I learned that lesson when I found myself tempted to buy things just because I would save money on them – not because we needed or really wanted them. It’s easy to fall prey to that temptation, whether it’s for a high tech cleaning gadget or fancy gourmet chocolate. I’m not against splurges, but doing that regularly cancels out any concept of frugality. Saving $2 is great, but if you weren’t going to buy the product originally aren’t you still spending more money than you need to?

I learned to be open to different brands as well. Just because your mother always used Best Foods mayonnaise, that doesn’t mean you might like something else for which you have a coupon. You’ll never know unless you try and since you’re trying to save money, it’s the perfect time! However, if you find a brand that you love, don’t force yourself to buy an alternative just because you have a coupon. We always buy Cottonelle because that’s what my roommate prefers and I’m not about to argue about it. I just check around to see which store sells it for the best price and stock up when we’re there. Similarly, I prefer Fair Trade coffee, for which there are rarely coupons, so I’m sure to get it when I’m at Trader Joe’s because it’s consistently cheapest there.

Tomorrow: Now that you’ve got all these coupons, what do you do with them?


Katy says:

I think this is awesome! I’m learning stuff already about coupon clipping, and I’m learning stuff about you, Sarah, that I never knew.

Vanessa Bull says:

Maybe it’s an L.A. thing, ’cause I didn’t think there was any sort of negative stereotype to coupon clipping. When you see “free entree with purchase of entree” at your favorite restaurant, you jump on it.

Maybe the stereotype is that Coloradoans are cheap. LOL.

Heather B says:

I need to start using coupons. But I always forget them. Can’t wait to hear more! Also, where can you get coupons for organic products? I never really see them.

Sarah says:

Hiya Heather!

Remembering the coupons is a crucial step! I get wicked frustrated when I realize that I could be saving a few bucks but my trusty purple organizer is sitting in the kitchen drawer at home.

I agree it can be tricky to find coupons for organic items, since they still seem to be specialized products. However, they’ve started showing up as the trend to “buy green” grows. Coupons for larger organic / health food companies like Kashi and Cascadian Farms have started to pop up and I recommend, if you haven’t already, signing up for your local grocery chains’ frequent shopper programs. When Ralph’s (Kroger) started their store-branded organic foods line, they sent me coupons for those products in the mail. Last week I was surprised to find that Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) unveiled an in-store booklet that includes coupons as well!

Today was a slow day for me, I only saved $3 with coupons at the grocery store but my coupons saved me $10 at Target!


[…] Craft Coupon Clipping II: Now that you’ve got all these coupons, what do you do with them? By Sarah (Read yesterday’s post where Katy introduce the lovely […]

[…] comes to stuff she really wants.  She’s not the coupon-clipping type, like my amazing friend Sarah.  And you definitely won’t catch her making her own detergent, like Carla’s friend, […]

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