Saturday, July 2, 2011

Couponing in Real Life: Why You Aren't Getting 80-90% Savings on your Receipt and Why I'm Not Either

Viewers of TLCs Extreme Couponing are regularly bamboozled by the the extreme savings of the show's stars. These extreme couponers walk out of the store with 100s of items with an over 90% savings on their grocery bill.

If you are like me, you've seen those average looking couponers and said to yourself and said, "If they can do it, I can, too!"

Money saving blogs also promise the same amount of savings so we clip our coupons and follow their money savings tips.

But when you get to the store, despite your research and planning your saving end up being a measely 20% or less.

So why can't we get the coupon savings these couponers get. Here are my theories:

Reason #1 We don't live in areas where stores offer double coupons. A lot of couponers on TLCs Extreme Couponing are able to take a .50 coupon and turn it into a dollar just by bringing it into the store. That kind of magic doesn't happen in Northern California.

Reason #2 We don't shop in store that mark up their prices so they can show greater savings at the bottom of the receipt an in store circulars. If I go to a brand name store X, the regular price of a box of pasta is, let's say 3.29. When store X drops the price of that box of pasta to 1.59 without a club card and to 1.19 with a club card so they can claim 64% savings on that sale in their ads and at the bottom of the receipt. When a couponer brings in a .55 off coupon, bringing the price to.64, then the savings drops to 81%.

But, when we shop in stores that offer reasonable everyday prices like super savings store Y, the everyday low price for the same box of pasta is 2.49 and the sale price is 1.09. In this case the savings at store Y is only 57% and if the couponer brings the same 55% off coupon into the store, the price drops to .54, a lower price, the the percent saved is also lower at 79%.

Personally, I'd rather pay the lower price than have to claim the higher percentage myself.

Reason #3 We shop like real people. Face it, if we wanted to get extreme savings on every receipt, our diet wouldn't be very interesting. We'd live on pasta with premade sauce, fruit snack, granola bars, canned and frozen veggies, sports drinks, yogurt, and cereal. Our diet would be lacking in some of the health benefits of whole foods but, by golly we'd have a lot of nearly free vitamins to make up for our diets' nutritional deficiencies. Instead, we shop like those crazy people who spend more than $5 on a full cart of groceries and put fresh produce, eggs, and milk in their carts, and buy fresh cut, unprocessed meat from the meat section. These items rarely have a coupon and since we have to buy them at full price, out percentages go way down.

If I was an extreme couponer, I suppose I would make two trips to the store. One trip would be to Oregon to buy everything I needed with doubled coupons at the lowest possible price so I could have a receipt with crazy high savings. And one trip to buy weekly essentials: milk, eggs, meat, and produce so I wouln't mess up my savings percentage.

But I'm not and I still feel like I am getting the best possible prices for my dollar when I go shopping


  1. This is why I tell people to monitor their monthly grocery bill (or cost of food) instead of any one day's receipt.

  2. Hey, I'm from Oregon (well, I'm an Idahoan) and double coupons never took hold there. One or two chains tried them on a very limited basis (3-4 in-ad doubler coupons per week) for a year or two, about 35 years ago, and then they were gone. You do save on sales tax there, though!

    If you are shopping in Oregon, Fred Meyer (a Kroger affiliate now) seems to have the best overall prices. We have one of their stores here too. Although I shop at all the stores, Freddy's is my go-to grocer.

    The stores in my area that mark the prices up and then state huge savings on the bill are Safeway and Albertsons, which I assume you also have where you live. I never shop at either except for sale prices, and I want to burst out laughing when the checker says, "Congratulations, Mrs. S, you saved 62% today." Ha! I wouldn't have even been in the store if it hadn't been on special!!