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Coupon Basics: Barriers To Getting Started

by Tara Kuczykowski on July 8, 2010 · 37 comments

Photo by Abstractacus

Before we dive into learning all about coupons, I think it's important for you to take a good, hard look at what has prevented you from using coupons in the past. Perhaps you've been hiding behind one of the common coupon myths: you were embarrassed to use coupons; you can't find coupons for the items you use; buying generic is cheaper; etc.

Perhaps you were intimidated by coupons because they seemed confusing and overwhelming, or maybe a spouse wasn't on board and seemed to be derailing your efforts by coming home with two bagfuls of groceries when you asked him or her to pick up a gallon of milk. Or just maybe using coupons wasn't a necessity in your overall budget previously, but current circumstances have led you to investigate the possibility of using them to cut your grocery budget.

Whatever the reason, take a few minutes to identify why you've been reluctant to save with coupons and/or what has prevented you from using them to the fullest prior to now. Knowing your weaknesses is half the battle and will be important to know going forward so you can look for simple solutions!

Homework assignment: Spend some time assessing what barriers you have to getting started couponing or sticking with it successfully. Share your thoughts in the comments so we can cheer each other's successes on!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy White July 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I don't subscribe to the newspaper but have been printing coupons from the Internet. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting ink, especially when I don't use them. My husband thinks I use more ink than the money saved. Only been trying for a little while


2 T.C. July 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm

We have a black and white laser printer that we got for $100 after rebate from staples, and the ink is very cheap. After 2 years I am STILL using the cartridge it came with! And I got the paper for $1 for 500 sheets after rebate from staples. Consider getting a laser printer!


3 Liz July 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Would you please tell me the name brand and model of your printer?


4 nikki July 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

uses too much printer ink


5 Becky July 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm

You can change your printer settings to only print in grayscale.. which saves colored ink.
You can also switch your print quality to "fast draft" and it uses less black ink.
I use half the ink I used to when I switched these two things.


6 Maria S. July 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

You don't have a problem with what sounds like faded internet coupons being accepted?
With the way stores here are inspecting every single internet coupon I hand them, I no longer print in b/w and wouldn't even think of printing lighter because then I know I will be accused of something.
Already went through it at Target when they said loudly in front of a long line of people that my coupons were a "security issue" and they wouldn't accept the 3 or 4 that I had, regular and Target, none for the same item.
Since then, and every other store tightening their acceptance of internet printed coupons, I print in color and don't mess with any settings that would lighten them.


7 Jeanne July 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I use coupons, but in spurts, and not as successfully as other may. Primary barriers:
1. time and organization
2. finding coupons for products I use


8 Amy Q. July 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Hi Jeanne! I believe that your barriers are probably the most common two of all. I'm 24 years old, and when I got started using coupons, I was unemployed, so I had time to sit down and get started and I believe that's why I was so successful at doing it.

However, my best friend, the hardest working mom of two that I know, has recently (6 months or so) started couponing. I told her to start with Harris Teeter - I felt like it takes minimal effort to find good "trippling coupons" and you get the most bang for your buck there. The first time I ever shopped Harris Teeter, I walked out with 8 grocery bags full and I paid around $2.00 for everything! It was one of the most gratifying coupon situations I've ever had. And my best friend's first time, she ended up saving over 60% on her very first trip there and was hooked from then on!
I really hope that you can find the time to get rolling on your coupons and save even more money. If you lived in the Dallas area (I recently moved from NC), I would be more than glad to help you watch for those great savings opportunities! I also think it helps when you combine your efforts with friends! Good luck to ya!


9 Missy July 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I can't find the time to organize and sort them. If I do find the time, I forget to use them.


10 Amy Q. July 8, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Hi Missy!
One rookie mistake that I made when I first started was that I cut out all coupons out of the inserts and I tried to organize them alphabetically. Good grief!! That's a full time job in itself!!! I'm not sure how you organize yours now, but if it's anything like that, no wonder you don't have the time for it.
I suggest this, which has helped me tremendously!! - Don't cut until you're ready to use! What I mean is I have all whole inserts organized by month in a filing crate. If you notice, all (or most) couponing blogs will say RP 7/4/2010 or SS 6/20/2010, so you would go to "June's" folder, find the 6/20/2010 SS insert, and then find your coupon out of that. It just makes life so much easier!! You find the inserts out of the paper, you take them to your crate and stick them in the current month... takes minutes!!
If you're already doing this, hopefully this post will help someone else, and please post how you organize! Good luck to you!


11 Gina July 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I had a recent breakthru with my husband. Let me explain.
I have been couponing since April of this year. I print, clip, stack, plan every trip! He watched me save $80 at Target one night and said, "I'm proud you saved $80, but you could have saved even more if you had just drove right on by!" Very sarcastically I replied, "HA HA!"
It was on July 3rd that I would find out just how much my husband listens to what I say and do!
He woke early trying to find some place where he could buy new tires for my truck and get an inspection done. It was over due and with the 4th of July traveling we had planned there was NO WAY around it; we HAD to get the truck inspected!
When I woke up he told me, "I found a place we can buy tires and they'll do the inspection as well." I shrugged thinking, "Yeah, OK. No biggie." Then he comes to me holding a piece of paper in his hand.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Coupons!" He says with a smile on his face.
I thought I had left some coupons on his printer and didn't think anything of it. He hands them to me, still grinning like a baboon and says, "I found coupons for not only the inspection but ALSO $15 off your tires!"
You would have thought he was holding THE LAST Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka!! I smiled, laughed, hugged him and said, "Good! You ARE learning and you DO listen to me!!" To which he replies, "HUH?"
Just goes to prove, anyone can learn to use coupons!! ;)


12 Virginia July 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm

For those that find ink as a problem, I highly recommend joining the rewards programs at Office Depot and other office stores. They typically offer a lot of stuff that you can get for free after the rewards. The first time you do it, you will have to spend OOP, but then when you get a reward card for $50, you can go buy your ink for free. We use Office Depot most and typically get a reward card for close to $100 every time!

Or, if that just won't work... go to the local library. Almost all of them have computers (and printers) you can use for FREE. And, on top of being free, they usually have multiple computers, so you can print 2 from each computer.

Time is definitely an issue. I am a stay at home mom, so my job is to save my family money. But, if I worked full time, I wouldn't be able to use nearly as many coupons as I do now. I probably spend 8-10 hours each week "deal hunting", organizing, printing, etc.


13 tamika July 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm

i don't know where you are, but the computers in jacksonville public libraries are NOT free to use the INTERNET, and NOT free to PRINT or COPY anything!


14 Virginia July 9, 2010 at 8:47 am

I am in the metro Atlanta area and we have some great libraries that have many, many computers and all services are free. I never use it myself because between my husbands office and our 3 home computers, I have plenty of coupons, but it is a great way to use a free service. :)


15 AC4 July 9, 2010 at 8:36 am

The internet and printing is free at libraries in Northeast Ohio. Its a great option. I normally make a donation a couple times of year because they have such fantastic services.


16 Melissa E July 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

My biggest hindrance is dealing with internet coupons at the store. I spend all the time locating the coupons, and then I get the 3rd degree when I present them at the register. I don't mind the questioning, but I do not like that I hold up the people behind me in line to use them. I'm embarrassed that others are being held up just because of me. The last time I was in Wal-Mart the cashier had to call the manager over. The manager then pulled out a pack of about 30 sheets with 50 coupons per page that they would not take. She had to look up each and every one of my internet coupons. Took about 15 additional minutes with a long line behind me.


17 Beth July 8, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Melissa, I have found that Walmart is the worst store for coupons, especially printables! Not sure where you live, but Kroger is my new all time favorite store to shop at with coupons. They never give me any grief and they double up to $0.50!


18 Virginia July 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I absolutely HATE using coupons at Walmart... their employees are not very nice about them. I also hardly ever find good deals there and if I do, it's usually not worth the hassle of getting in and out of that store when I can pay a few pennies more at Publix or Kroger.


19 Kari July 8, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Time. Not the time it takes to cut and organize the coupons. I actually enjoy that part. But the time to do all the shopping. I used to do one big trip every two months or so to Target. Now, I'm finding to get the best deals I need to go to Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc nearly every week. I'm hoping I'll fall into a pattern soon and it won't seem like I'm shopping all the time!


20 Amy Q. July 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Hi Kari!
I think you have a great point about trying to hit all of the stores at once. When my little one comes (we're due November 21st) i"m sure I'm going to have the same problem.
I think we have to look at it this way - find the store with the absolute best deals (for us, it will be the best diaper deals) and just spend a little extra at the store to get the rest of the things that we'll need. You'll usually come out cheaper anyway, so at least you're still saving money, even if you don't hit all the great store deals that week!


21 tamika July 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm

i make a round trip, starting the furthest away. i have coupons and grocery list in hand, cooler in back. at least, that's the way it goes when all works out. sometimes, the kids are uncooperative, or my husband will not watch them. sometimes, i just don't have the time to go to more than one store. if there's anything at dollar tree or walmart, i'll start there, then cvs, publix, winn dixie, food lion, dollar general, walgreens. sometimes, it varies, depending what they have on sale. may take about 3 hours total (sans kids), since i know the stores front to back and go by my list (looking up sales ads on line and blogs like this helps)


22 steph July 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm

i wasn't "anti-coupon", i just didn't think about it. that is untill i saw a program that mentioned the DEAL SEEKING MOM blog.

i checked it out and have been hooked. i try and plan my shopping accordingly and it only takes me about 30 min a day to browse to see what i can match.

my household is me, my boyfriend and our 2 cats. i have started to stockpile items and when i come home with a new item such as body wash or toothpaste, the boyfriend gets kind of excited. especially when i show him the reciept and it shows that i saved more than i spent...

i try and follow my own rule of "less than a dollar", so if i can get i for less than a dollar or free, i take advantage. any extra coupons that i may have, i give them to co-workers or even send them to military bases overseas. i am also starting to get items together to send packages to military persons too.

i print most of my coupons since i don't have access to recycling spots to go dumpster diving... i am also in the nyc area and do not own a car so getting to places like wal-mart and major grocery stores are out of the question.

i do keep an eye out on cvs and walgreens as well as target and usually jump on a bargain before it is gone.... with the money that i am saving, we put it aside to help pay for bills and maybe this year we can go on a much needed vacation..


23 Crystal W. July 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I'm new to the "Coupon Game" lol, but I love it! I'm a single mom of 3 ages 4,5,and a 3 month old. Any money I can save helps out a bunch. It can be time consuming, however I have managed my time well enough to browse, print, and search for coupons. My most recent trip to walmart i spent .80 on half a bag full of merchandise ( shampoo,baby wipes,pantyliners and etc.). So now, I'm always on the lookout in the clearance sections, rollbacks and great deals at Walmart. I personally haven't had a problem with the Internet coupons out here in Longview, Tx, but I have read on many sites where people always have problems at walmart, when it come to the printables.


24 Anne July 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Two things come to mind. First, there are days I feel like I have to have money in order to save money. Alot of times I have pretty good coupons/deals but I don't have the cash to do it. That is very frustrating to me.

Second, kids! We are a one car family. I am at home with them. When we do go shopping we usually go as a family. Well it's not working. My kids (who are 6, 4 and 2) turn into little devils in the store. I can't concentrate on what I am trying to do and my husband can't get them to straighten up.

So this afternoon, we decided I would go out by myself. Probaby on Sunday mornings or after my husband gets home from work. But my husband is going back to school this fall and will be working. So I may have less of a chance to go by myself then.


25 Twyla July 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm

My biggest hurdle right now is me. I tend to want to go to every blog and get every matchup for all the stores in my area (Walgreens, Walmart and Target), I show up at the store with my file binder of coupons and my matchup list. Too much brain power. I am thinking I need to get everything ready before I hit the stores. I also find too that I might not go to any store because it is so difficult ot hit them all and get all the freebies out there. We shop for grocery at Woodmans and I cannot find anywhere any advance notice of sales so it is hard to show up with matchups. And my husband refuses to follow a grocery list. I hate the $300 grocery bill. I am also an impulsive shopper :-(


26 Laurie July 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I was doing great w/ coupons for about a year, and in the last few months kinda fell off the wagon. The obstacles I've found are that #1 I'm pregnant and trying to eat very healthy, little canned or processed food, mostly organic produce, and that stuff is rarely free or cheap, and you can't stockpile fruit and milk. #2 obstacle is time: spent running after papers every Sunday and then clipping all the coupons and weeding out all the expireds. (A home-delivery is much more $ than buying the paper at the dollar store- just $1vs. $2+ but running out every Sunday for a paper sometimes gets forgotten or isn't possible.) I do have a binder w/ all my coupons and I do clip them all, and it takes awhile. Then I file them (under categories, like the store is set up- not alphbetically) which takes awhile longer. I've tried the method of clipping "as needed" and I find I miss so many clearance deals, or just don't have the coupons I need WITH me when I need them. And then all my internet printables were SO disorganized when I tried the file/ clip-as-needed method. So, for me, it's so much more time consuming, but seems I get better deals when I have my binder. #3 obstacle: I hate when the "rewards" deals don't work... (ie at Walgreens, "unadvertised" deals, etc) and then remembering to use the rewards before they expire can be frustrating. There is nothing more sickening than finding a stack of RR (like $17 worth) that expired! I've found that our Target and Jewel Osco in town will take Wag's RR though, so that's been great. I like being able to buy necessities like fruit w/ my RR.


27 Desiree Torres July 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I am trying my best but I too dislike holding up the people behind me. People hate to be on line with someone who has coupons! Checkout cashiers also give dirty looks, long pauses, and call over other people. Sometimes it's embarrassing and they have a way of making you feel ashamed! Also, I work hard to research, print coupons, organize, print out a shopping list and get to the store. Finally, I find what I am looking for and it's the wrong size or wrong amount. OR, worse yet, it is NOT there at all! Other times I go and pick it up only to see that the sale price is STILL too expensive. And, yes folks, paper and ink are not cheap. For some reason websites feel like they have to use up every inch of the paper to further advertise with a large photo which ends up going in the garbage anyway! I always end up with a zillion pieces of paper and wandering down the aisles for hours trying to find the stuff on the coupons. It's extremely time-consuming. Ok, thanks for letting me vent! I'm done griping lol


28 Sheila W July 9, 2010 at 10:52 am

I wanted to let you know what I do about the issue of holding up the line. I have one store that I shop at all the time (Publix). The managers and most checkers know me. When I have a large amount of coupons to use and I am ready to check out I go up to the service desk and show them what I have and the amount of coupons. The service desk will normally call the manager up to watch the service desk and the person working the service desk will open a new register just to check me out. Doing this has helped my relationship with the store and they now watch for me to come and have bets on my savings.


29 Sarah July 8, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I'm still pretty new to couponing, so I'm sure it will get better with time, but...

1. I feel like I have awful timing. I don't really like to stockpile, so when I find I need something, I'll buy it (with maybe a $0.50 coupon if it's handy) and then find the item on sale and a $1.00 coupon in the following week's insert. Very frustrating! I know that's still $0.50 saved, but if I had just waited a few days...

2. I'm afraid I will buy something just because I have a coupon for it. I've gotten better about this mindset, but it's still difficult to resist sometimes (because I -could- use it in the future maybe... right?), and then I just end up spending more money than I would have by not buying the thing at all. :(


30 Audra July 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm

I've been couponing for about a year. Before I got started, I honestly didn't think it was worth the effort to save $.25 here or $1 there. I didn't believe my friend when she told me how much she saved.

I still feel like I'm blundering about especially when it comes to groceries. I can handle Rite Aid and CVS, but I make so many mistakes at grocery stores. I'm still saving money though!


31 Eleaves July 9, 2010 at 7:23 am

I'm a mom of 4 and am homeschooling our oldest two (the other two are 3 and 2 so life is full). So time is a definite issue. I like the idea of just organizing the inserts by month in a file folder though. I was trying to figure out how best to organize because if I can keep organized it will keep the time spent to a minimum when it's time to organize a shopping trip. I've only been couponing since May so I'm trying to figure out a system before school starts back up in the fall. Any tips on how to organize and find coupons would be appreciated. Thanks.


32 Irene S. July 9, 2010 at 7:37 am

I have been a couponer for a little over a year. I consider this my hobbie now because if I'm not working or doing homework for school, I'm tending to my Q's and shopping for deals. I cut every coupon out and file it. I find that works best for me over the just cut when you need it. I don't live in town where I can run back and forth to the house because I found a deal for a coupon that I know I have at home filed.

I think my biggest problem is the organization of it all. Since I'm going back to school, the coupon clipping gets shoved aside sometimes, and I wind up with 3 weeks worth of clipping sometimes. OMG is that tedious to do! It is so gratifying, though, when I come out of the store with so much stuff for so little money!


33 Sheila W July 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

I hear a lot from my friends that they do not have enough time to do couponing. So one week I sat down adn charted all my time and the amount saved to see what my time was worth couponing. On average I make $50.00 in savings per hour. Now I have worked full time all my life and I have never made $50.00 an hour. It is worth it to me and I consider couponing my second job. And I am so lucky to have two jobs that I enjoy doing.


34 Cristina July 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Help! I have a couple questions that I have posted on the forums, but haven't gotten a reply. My biggest obstacle is finding the coupons .. so many of the deals and freebies on this blog require you to get the sunday inserts (which I don't). I keep wondering if I should subscribe just for the coupons (it would be about $150/yr)?? Also, do you couponers take the time to search the pages and pages of online coupons? It seems to take forever to scroll through dozens of pages (I wish there was a "view all" button!!). Or do you just follow blogs like this one to point you to the good online coupons? Thanks!


35 Virginia July 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm

The best way to coupon is to stockpile items when they are cheap or free, so you really need multiple sets of inserts. You can buy them on ebay by 5 or e-mail and ask to be added to her mailing list. She will email you the preview of what coupons are coming and if you want them will ship you 10 sets of insert for $10.50 shipped. I am splitting this with a friend, so it's $5.25 total for 5 sets of inserts. If there are 3 sets of inserts in the paper, you will get 10 of each insert. If there are no inserts or nothing interests you, skip that week. It will end up saving you the most money and building your stockpile. There are also other coupon sites that sell the whole uncut insert. I believe has them.


36 Catherine July 11, 2010 at 4:03 am

I am a stay at home mom for now. I get a few hours while the baby naps to work on organizing and planning my shopping trip...but I get all this crap from my family that I'm wasting my time. Also they are very embarrassed to go shopping with me. But it's so funny because when they need something they come to tell me. I don't mind using coupons to shop especially when there is a bugdet of $150/month on groceries and everyday necessities.
Some barriers being faced are printable coupons. Of course like everyone else it gets scrutinize and most managers think I photocopy coupons because they are in black in white. At target they tell me to do separate transactions if two of the products are the same that I will be using coupons for. For example 5 sobe life water equals five separate transactions. CVS has said that they will only accept one printable coupon per transaction. Walgreens thing is the number of coupons can't be more than the number of items I'm buying. Got to keep in mind all this while I'm shopping where I'm shopping. Plus I have so many extra coupons that I don't know what to do with.


37 Cheryl January 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I just starting couponing, and how are you able to buy numerous items at one time. Exp: I have ten coupons, but the store only limits one coupon per item per transation. This is krogers limit 4..Randalls limits one. So how is everyone buying in bulk?? Please HELP!!!!!!!!


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