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The Power of Coupons

by Tara Kuczykowski on September 2, 2009 · 35 comments

coupon savings every penny countsPhoto by Darren Hester

I’ve teamed up with Propel® and DivineCaroline to write a series of inspiring and motivational posts to encourage women to enhance and streamline their lives. Propel’s mission is to enhance your life, give you the ability to move through obstacles and live a more streamlined, energetic life.

I cringe every time I hear someone say, “Why bother using coupons? All that clipping and hassle to save just a few cents . . . “ Chances are if you’re reading this post, you already know the amazing savings potential of coupons, but for those of you that may be on the fence, I just want to share what a powerful financial tool coupons can be.

We struggled for many years to get our finances in order. Having five children within the span of five years was never our intent, but it was a blessing we welcomed with open arms.

When I lost my job at 7.5 months pregnant with our first child, I was thrust into the position of being a stay-at-home mom. Couponing wasn’t a choice at that time; it was a necessity. As a first-year pipefitter’s apprentice, my husband’s wages barely covered our budget. Back then I used the Grocery Game to plan my shopping trips, and it felt good to be able to contribute something to our household finances in the way of big savings at the grocery store.

Fast-forward seven years through four more children and three layoffs, and we’ve been through even tougher times. Coupons were crucial to making it through those years that were such a struggle. With the advent of money-saving blogs, I was able to learn even more tips for saving, and I found that not only could I keep my pantry well stocked, but I was also able to give back to others by donating items that we could not use.

Today coupons are no longer a necessity for meeting our family’s budget, but I continue to use them. Why? Because the savings potential is much more than just a couple of cents here and there. Learning how to maximize our savings through coupons and careful budgeting has allowed us to build a substantial emergency fund, something I never thought we’d be able to do. Even more amazing than that, through the Cash For Clunkers program and a generous dealer incentive, we were recently able to purchase a new car with cash. I can’t even describe how good it felt to walk into that dealership knowing we had the upper hand and were in full control of our purchase.

You might be tempted to think that our family is just an isolated case, but there are examples of many other bloggers that have shared how instrumental coupons have been in living a debt-free life. Just look at Crystal from Money Saving Mom’s amazing goal of paying cash for a house. Or look at how Mercedes from Common Sense with Money was able to pay off her family’s new van within 6 months.

I’d like to encourage you all to see just how much you can save this week with coupons. If you’re new, you’ve got nothing to lose. The information is right at your fingertips, and it’s completely free. Even just $10 a week is a fantastic start, and I’m confident you can do it. I have a feeling that once you get started, you’ll start to wonder why you never do this sooner, and I look forward to you sharing your savings stories!

How did you enhance your life today? Chime in every day at You.Propelled on DivineCaroline for another chance to win $5,000 to pursue your dream. The more friends you bring, the better your chances of winning.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 julia September 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for the inspiring story (that made my eyes teared) and all the tips. Its great to know that I am not alone and its never too late to start.

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2 sherrie stalvey September 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm

first time couponer...I jumped off my couch last night when I realized that Harris Teeter was having a Double Coupon day. I got over 1/2 off my total bill..AWESOME...Thank You

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3 lynn September 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Tara- Awesome post!! My husband is a pipefitter too!! I am only new at couponing and blogging and I have been amazed at how much money you can save - IT IS CRAZY!! Not to mention what I have been able to give to our local food pantry!

Because of blogs like yours, I started saving and now blog to help others learn how to do it too!! Thanks for the inspiration!

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4 JnLsmom September 2, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I love reading these stories. It motivates me to do more with my savings besides just get more groceries. I have only been couponing for 7 months now & I can tell you that I look back at a time or two when a friends tried to shed a little light on the couponing lifestyle to me and it just didn't click for me. I thought it was too much work, but I would go home and pricematch all of the store ads each week thinking I was "saving", but still my groceries cost $100+ per trip. Couponing does take more time... but the savings is SOOO much more than what I was doing before. I have since decided that I no longer have a need to purchase bulk items at the warehouses (Stores that I will let go unnamed) because I can get those items for free or cheap if I use coupons and shop sales. I used to enter the warehouse numb to the idea that I would spend $100-$200 for just a few items and there was nothing I could do about it. NOW I KNOW BETTER! My membership has expired and I couldn't be happier. I now have a stockpile!!! I've been able to help friends with my stockpile and I still have enough to hold my family over til the next sale. I LOVE COUPONING!!! It's work, but it's kept me from needing to use credit cards and going over budget and it's been such a blessing. I often get upset that I didn't catch onto this sooner.

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5 Jenn September 2, 2009 at 8:15 pm

I was very hesitant to get involved in coupons to the extent I am now but I cannot believe how I ignored their amazingness before.

Just this week I saved my little family $84. I saved more than I spent on the actual groceries. And I couldn't do it without the help of your wonderful blog and the many other wonderful couponing sites out there. Thank you for passing on your knowledge :D

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6 tulip September 2, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Any advice on how to be frugal and healthy at the same time? I can't afford organic and am trying to stay away from pre-packaged foods as much as possible. It's hard to find coupons for produce, whole wheat flour, beans, brown rice, etc. I'd love to save the amount I see on many blogs but it's really hard. We are a one-income family expecting baby #5 soon and I can only spend $200-$300/month on our entire grocery bill. Are there any money-saving sites out there that also focus on healthy eating?

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7 Melissa September 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the tips! I saved $20 last week and it was so easy-this week I have done ok too,s o far. We have a family of 7 and this is really helping us right now...

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8 Stephanie September 2, 2009 at 8:36 pm

I was lucky enough to find your blog and so many others after reading a small clip on MSN Money. Even though I have always been a penny pincher, I found the world of coupon blogs very interesting, a challenge, and extremely addicting.

My goal was to start small by trying to save $500-$1,000 by the end of the year using coupons. I started a "savings" spreadsheet in April and by the end of August I have already saved $1,200!

Thank you for all your tips and for the time you invest in your blog to help newbies like me to be so sucessful at saving money!

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9 ann September 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm

i love to use coupons its my very best hobby if i didnt use coupons i wouldnt be able to live i save hundreds of dollars a year and just love your site its my fav ty very very much

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10 JnLsmom September 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm

http://www.TheThriftyMama.com has been more focused on healthy deals (I think its a new thing she has started w/in the last months). She also lets you know where to find organic coupons when they're available.

I personally have just started to freeze stuff. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me. Target had their .50/1 lb of bannanas and so I bought them in 1 lb bundles and spent just cents for each bundle. When I got home I sliced them up and froze them so that I can use them for mixers in babyfood, shakes and anything else I can come up with. Also, when a grocery store has a great sell on produce I buy a LOT and freeze it to use later (If it's something like greenbell peppers, I slice/chop it up so it's ready to add to a recipe and freeze it). Just a suggestion! Good luck!!!

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11 JnLsmom September 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm

The above comment was to answer Tulip. Forgot to mention that.

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12 Angela @ Savvy Mom Finds September 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm

I can fully attest to the power of coupons. I've been using them for 15 years, but never really sat down to figure out how much I save. I started a ticker this summer on my blog and figured out that I have saved over $300 with clipped/printed coupons alone. I also watch for sales to maximize the power of my coupons. All totaled, I have saved over $1300 this summer by being a savvy spender. And I'm not doing anything extraordinary. I'll admit there have been times in years past when I have fallen off the coupon bandwagon merely for lack of time, but then I think about how much money I've wasted, and I hop right back on. The time invested is definitely worth it.

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13 wehave5sons September 2, 2009 at 9:45 pm

We are a family of 7...daddy, mommy and 5 wonderful boys. Ages 10, 8, 5, 4 & 2...
I am a coupon-aholic (lol IDK if thats even a word)
Over the last 5 years I have been off again on again on the coupon wagon, but usually more on than off. Now tha my youngest is 2, I have the ability to focus a little more on being diligent to go get 2 papers on Sunday, cut that afternoon, and sort into my envelopes by catagory. Then I search all my fav sites, like here at http://www.Dealseakingmom.com and look at ads, and make a list of where I need to go and what I need to get from where. It makes my trips much faster. Because I not only have a list but I pull coupons for each store as I go. I usually take one night a week, and serve frz pizza and a movie, and hubby and kids are good, and I take about 4 hrs going from store to store, starting at the one that closes the earliest, on to the latest. (I usually dont leave til 7pm or so, so bedtime is a llittle easier for DH) Anyway I know I save a ton of money, but the last 2 weeks I have been keeping a talley of the percentages I have saved total at all stores...NOT including Kmart I saved 61% last week and 59% this week. Our budget is $200 a week for anything you can buy at a grocery/box store. So including paper products, body care items, feminine prodcts, cat food etc...we dont eat out very much and if we do that also fits in the $200 budget. WOW I really feel like I got off track and now dont have a point.. : /
Anyway thanks for all your inspiring stories, and great links and coupon/savings ideas! I just got back from saving $21 at Kmart : )
Have a great night all!
God Bless!

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14 laurie September 2, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Tulip, I have seen a couple sites. This one comes to mind. She makes everything from scratch... supports what you are trying to do, but as far as the sheer aspect of saving money on the grocery items themselves, you might want to check out the organic grocery deals site. Perhaps hooking up with a local CSA (crop sharing) with an organic farmer (if that's available in your area- ask at farmer's markets) would be a good way to get your produce & then freeze things, as JnLsMom suggested. HTH!

http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/blog/category/high-five-recipes

http://www.organicgrocerydeals.com/forums/

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15 laurie September 3, 2009 at 3:09 am

Oh, is it okay that I posted links to other sites from here, Tara? I didn't even think about it, but it says my comment is "awaiting moderation". Sorry if that is a taboo thing... had no idea... my bad.

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16 Tara Kuczykowski September 3, 2009 at 5:54 am

No, it's okay, Laurie -- there's a glitch that's sending all coupons to moderation right now. I'm trying to figure out why!

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17 Brandy September 3, 2009 at 6:37 am

Tara,
You could not be more right! Awesome post. I am a first year couponer, and have said to myself on more occassions, I cannot believe I did not start this sooner. Right now coupons is a must for my family, with a layoff comng very soon, and my two daughters scheduled for surgery in November, things are going to get even tighter, but knowing that I can cut our grocery expenses so dramtically is a big weight off our shoulders.

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18 Kelly September 3, 2009 at 7:54 am

After 16 years of being a restaurant manager with crazy hours, (50 +)weekends,holidays and nights, we made the drastic decision to have me be a SAHM .I was tired of missing everything and my family was missing me. Also my father in law was diagnosed with cancer and given 3-6 mo, after losing my dad to cancer last year. We need the flexability to travel to Fla when we can. Working mostly nights/ weekends 50-60 hours, and being home all day with a toddler, and never seeing my husband was crazy! ( not to mention 3-4 hours sleep at most) Taking my income out of the budget made us change how we spend completely. I "make" money by saving. I also watch a couple of kids PT after school to make half of my grocery money. I have taken our grocery bill from over $650 a month to about $ 300 a month including all laundry,d ish,cleaning, cosmetics, tolietries and Diapers, etc for a family of 5. (and stocking up) I love doing it and I am trying to get my friends and family on board. I really would like to start my own blog..but don't really know how...it would help my family who are in FLA, MI, and NY. They call me from the grocery store to ask if a price is good or if they are using their coupons right. I direct them to your site all the time! It is so helpful, and thank you for all you do. This week I spent 55.23 at Harris Teeter on 213.56 worth of groceries. ( super doubles) Saved 109.93 with coupons and 48.40 with store card. I now make alot of things I used to buy,like seasoning mixes, tortillas, pizza dough, and snacks etc. ( cookies,snack mix) I spend half as much money , and I am still stocking up. It is amazing! If you are reading this and you are new to this..YOU CAN DO IT!!! I have been doing this for about 4 months and my family and friends are amazed. It also makes me feel great!
Sorry to go on and on!
Kelly

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19 Kelly September 3, 2009 at 7:55 am

I forgot ...
Thank you TARA, you inspire me!

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20 Christina September 3, 2009 at 7:55 am

I have only been couponing for about 5 months now. When I started, I gave myself a budget of $200 a week (cash) that was to be used for eating out, groceries, household expenses and gas. This was less than what I was spending previously. At first, I spent my whole budget and used coupons and stockpiled. But very quickly I had so much food and health and beauty stuff in the house that I had to stop buying stuff because we were running out of room. After about 2 months I started buying less and less and saving more and more of that $200. I just counted and I have saved $1220 out of that cash budget in 5 month....and remember, the $200 was LESS than I was previously spending. Many weeks I put away almost all the money.

So do not doubt the power of coupons! They work!

-Christina

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21 Jennifer Laxson September 3, 2009 at 8:27 am

Tara your site makes me so happy when I thought my life couldn't get any better. My divorce has been final 6 months now. My husband of 8 years had an affair and we have 3 kiddos together, which makes it that much worse. I went from a 5 bedroom house, 5 vehicles and a 3 digit income to a 2 bedroom house, 1 car and a under 30,000 a year income. My daughter loves to help me use coupons and to see how much stuff we can get on our shoppong trips! My son's love it too they just won't admit it! You also made my eyes tear up reading this...Shame on you!!!

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22 Kellee September 3, 2009 at 9:14 am

Coupons is my new hobby! I totally agree with you about feeling a sense of relief when you are able to purchase things without breaking the bank! And, I also love being able to give back to others as well!

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23 Laura September 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

What a wonderful post! My husband was unemployed for a little over a year, so we depended on my income for a family of 4. I have only been couponing for about 6 months, prior to that, I would just try to catch a good sale. Coupons were a necessity to help feed my family. Now, he is working again and I refuse to give up couponing! It has become a wonderful hobby and I love seeing how much I can save at the grocery store. I like, wehave5sons, spend time scouring the sales ads, consulting this site (thank you to Mom for referring me), then usually on a Sunday, my sone (6) and I go hit all the stores I have made a list for. It is great bonding time for me and my son and he is learning very quickly (the other day he wanted a certain type of fruit snacks and asked me "do youhave a coupon for them and are they on sale" :) ) The other day my Kroger doubled coupons up to $1 (which they normally don't do) and I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before! I don't mind putting groceries away now because I tell my husband "I saved $xxx on this" or "This only cost $xxx" or, the best one, "This was free". I haven't sat down to see how much I have saved with couponing, but I save well over $40-50 a week on our grocery bill. It is such a sense of accomplishment. I am just sorry I didn't figure this out sooner. THANK YOU for the wonderful site, the inspiring blogs, and the countless tips, time and effort you put into making saving money so easy!!! Keep up the good work.

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24 Sara September 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I just started couponing about a month ago, and it has been amazing! I stumbled upon your blog, and have never looked back. We were trying to find a way to stretch our budget even further so my daughter could attend private preschool this year. At first we tried buying less and trying to stretch the food budget, but it didn’t work out because we would end up not buying enough and having to make an additional trip to the store anyway. Now with coupons, we actually have more food/toiletries stored than ever before, but have spent less to do it! Thank you so much for all that you do. I hope others are inspired to give it a try!

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25 Faye September 3, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I am a newbie and get major anxiety waiting in line with coupons. I just found your site a little over a month ago and I am hooked! I went to the last Kmart doubles ( a couple of weeks ago) and didn't do too well (didn't follow my list-never even heard of double coupons before this) and vowed to do better. Yesterday, I went to Kmart and got $37.09 worth of merchandise for $2.09 OOP. I can't believe it. I have $35 RR from Walgreens, and $7.99 EB from CVS. I never even thought of getting my groceries at these stores, but WOW! You have changed my life forever. I thought I was a smart shopper before, but I really had no clue.
I just hope some of the anxiety dissipates. I worry I am not using the coupons right, worry about beeps, and feel bad for holding up a line or when a cashier spends excessive time scrutinizing the coupon (like I'm cheating). Actually, when I started my transaction yesterday at Kmart, the cashier said, "I hate coupons!" She was disgusted. I told her, very nicely, it was double coupon week. She had no idea and called a supervisor over because she didn't see the coupon doubling on her screen. At the end of the transaction, she must've hit the subtotal button 5 times before she said questioningly, "$2.09, is that right???" I said, "Yes, thank you" and paid. She then asked me how I did that and I referred her to your website. I bet she'll like coupons now. (I often share my coupons with the cashiers at Walgreens and CVS when they are inquisitive about how much I am saving.) You are absolutely the BEST and your story inspires me to let go of my fear. Thank you, Tara.
P.S. I hope your foot is healing well and you are up and around:)

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26 Andrea September 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for the great article! I used to be a coupon naysayer, but I quickly jumped aboard the coupon cutting bandwagon. My husband has been amazed at how much I've managed to cut our grocery bill by the strategic use of coupons in conjunction with sales. The savings may seem insignificant at the time, but it really adds up over time.

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27 Nancy September 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Hi Tara,
Thanks for the post - I get the same rebuff when people find out I actively coupon and budget! Instead of 2 legged kids, my husband and I have 7 horses and 5 dogs which are our kids and without coupons and budgeting we would never be able to enjoy these beautiful creatures that God gave us! It is because of coupons that we are able to share God's gift to us with other children that would not know what it was like to have a horse breathe on your face or to spill your heart and soul to someone who does not judge or talk about you to others - the transformation of these kids is mind boggling - even the parents comment on the change in attitude at home. We do not charge to all these children to come "work" with us at the ranch but open up a whole new world to them - our payment is their help and the look on their faces as they interact with our animals - priceless thanks to coupons! Thanks again and I referenced this post on my blog as I believe it should be spread as far as it can go! Thanks again! Oh, forgot to mention - stop by the ranch sometime and check us out - door is always open and the coffee is always on!

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28 Jayne @ Misplaced City Girl September 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I started out using The Grocery Game's service, too. I love that stocked up feeling, and you're right, it makes it easier to help others.

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29 Amy September 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Excuse the link but I JUST posted my grocery receipt at my personal blog with my coupon savings! I LOVE couponing and you aren't kidding about the money you can save!

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30 Michelle Zink September 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Great post, Tara! I've been following your blog for the past couple of months and just love it. My first book just came out in August, and I imagine there are a lot of people who think I don't need to use coupons anymore. But I do! And I love it! Besides, the kids are already used to standing in the grocery aisle figuring out the best deal by calculating sale price-coupon=cost!

About nine years ago, I made a major life change by ditching my high-priced, fast-paced life in Southern California for a small rural town town in NY. It was just the beginning of a major simplification in our lives, and it was the best thing I've ever done - for me AND my children.

So even though I have a published book (and two more coming out as part of the series over the next two years), I just want to agree with everything you've said. Every dollar saved is a dollar, well, SAVED! Or spent on something fun. It's worthwhile and it's a good lesson for children, too.

Thanks for a great blog!

Michelle Zink

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31 kien September 3, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Thank you Tara for your amazing story.

I started couponing seriously since last May. Our income only comes from our rental property. Without a real job for both of us, it is really tough. I had to find a way to stretch every single pennies we have to support a family of 4. I stumbled upon your blog and love it so much.

Our grocery bill went down 50 %. It comes slowly but sure. First i thought, was it real ? Once I got so much stuffs for a dirt cheap, my confidence on couponing grew. Now, I won't go shopping without a list on what the deals of the week are. Stick with it and I start building up my pantry. Hopefully I can catch up with you guys soon, the veteran couponers

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32 Cheralee September 4, 2009 at 12:18 am

I had on and off used coupons and used to get really excited about saving $20. However, when I got laid off only 13 days after having my son and needing to provide diapers for two and trying to become debt free I knew I would have to do more. I found all the money saving blogs through a couple of friends and have been amazed at how it has changed our lives. We not only spend less than we ever did before, but we also have more....WAY MORE! We have had to adjust some things - we are no longer brand specific on several things - but we also eat and use name-brand products more often than ever before. Couponing may be time consuming, but it is worth every minute. I was spreading the word and got one of my friends hooked, she and I are now coupon buddies! While my family is doing a no-spend month right now, she saved over $198 at target tonight and only spent a little over $7! She and I figured it up one day and with the amount we save through couponing and my being a stay-at-home mom now saving childcare I make WAY more than my husband in a month. In addition to that we are now able to GIVE like we never have before....I have become an entirely different and more generous person due to couponing. Thank you for all you do to help us make a better life for our families with the money we save!

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33 Tara Kuczykowski September 4, 2009 at 10:36 am

Thank you all so much for sharing YOUR inspiring stories! I loved reading all of them.

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34 Julie Curry September 4, 2009 at 10:46 am

This post was wonderful. I have been on your site since April, and your site is what got me couponing. I cannot thank you enough for all the wonderful tips you put on your site!
My husband and I have a LOT of debt, loans and credit cards, and have been digging ourselves deeper in the hole for the past couple of years. Your site helped me gain a new perspective on the way that I spend - that I have a choice! I had never made a budget before I started on your site. I had never once clipped a coupon, and barely had any food in the fridge, let alone the freezer! Now I track every dollar of our spending, I am an avid couponer, I have a large stockpile of food in the pantry, freezer, and H&B and cleaning items I got 60%+ off of retail price! I am able to take the money we were spending on fast food and expensive retail items and put them towards our debt, savings, gift fund, vacation fund, and (my favorite) things for our beautiful 1 year old daughter!
We were on the brink of filing bancruptcy within 6 months of coming onto your site, because I didn't think there was any way to pay our bills, noneless pay on our debt. I have been stretching every dollar since then for all its worth, and guess what? We have a roof over our head, food in our mouths, and an appreciation for every hard earned dollar we spend or save. :) It is not just the time it takes to coupon vs. the money the coupon saves you, it's changing your mindset, your lifestyle, and making a better life for your family.

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35 Karla Scott September 22, 2009 at 11:02 am

I agree with you completly!!
I just wish I had known this many years ago when all of my children were little and still at home! To think of all the money I could have been putting on bills just drives me nuts!
I am so glad I ran across sites like this about 3-4 months ago and have already saved so much money and have so much more stuff!!haha That is the thing you really do get more stuff for so much less money.
I have a pretty good stockpile already and it just feels good to know I can just run down stairs to get what it is I need.
I do have a ? tho. Should I still be doing the Grocery game or am I getting all I need to know by reading about 15 sites alot like this one?
Thank You for such a helpful easy site to learn from.

Karla

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