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Once, twice, three times…too many?

We did it again, and we seem to get better at it each time.  Due to a little advance notice and the opportunity to order coupons from www.thecouponclippers.com ,yesterday David and I came away from a morning triple coupon spree at Pamida in Dyersville with two overflowing carts.  The store opened at 9:00, and we were the first ones through the door. My list was a little more varied this time around, due to a preview of the sale ad. I knew Olay body washes were going to be 50-cents each after coupons and Puffs tissues, Colgate Total, Suave deodorant, Werthers caramels, Butter Kernel vegetables, Dasani water and Betty Crocker cookie mixes would be free.  Tylenol would be 99-cents after coupons, Advil $1.79, Robitusson cough syrup $1.99, and Noiticeables 49-cents. The cans of Folgers coffee were a mere 79-cents. David and I each took a cart so we could do the most damage maximize our savings, since the ad stated “three like coupons per product.”  The cashier said we could do our orders together, however, so our morning trip netted us six of each free or cheap product and filled two carts.  We paid $52 for $320 worth of products, and that included a $13 clock and a box of hot cocoa that I didn’t have a coupon for.  I say our morning trip because after church and an afternoon spent with my siblings sorting at my mother’s house, we headed to Dyersville again after David and the kids came to pick me up. After all, we were halfway there, and I had more coupons to use.  Unfortunately, they hadn’t restocked the shelves so there was no Olay body wash or Suave deodorant. In the afternoon, we paid $25 for over $90 of merchandise.

I am so tempted to go again today.  The savings to be had with triple coupons are tremendous and well worth another trip to Dyersville, 28 miles away. November has been quite a month of savings for our family with these Pamida store triple coupon events.

And yet.

I don’t need it pointed out to me that I didn’t actually save anything if I bought items I wouldn’t have bought without the triple coupons.  I still paid something for the extra coupons (an average 10-cents each) and I still spent money.  A great deal of money, if you add up the last three Sundays of shopping. Looking at the picture from yesterday’s trip, I can easily pick out those products I would have purchased anyway: Folgers coffee, Tylenol, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, cough syrup. I wouldn’t have gotten the Werthers, cookie mix, Noticeables, Covergirl make-up or the boxed potatoes without coupons. I have plenty of toothpaste and shampoo in my cupboard already so I wouldn’t have bought those items right now if I was a normal shopper. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, I am not a normal shopper, I am an extreme couponer, and have been ever since I got married in 1979. Thats a long time to change bad habits, or good habits, depending upon who you ask.  I’ve been an at-home mother for almost 21 years, and have gotten creative about making money at home.  Besides selling some of my writing, I’ve been holding at least one garage sale a year, and some of this stockpiled stuff goes out for my garage sale. Paying a dime for something that sells for $1.50 is an investment for me, one that results in a decent profit during my garage sales.  Another thing I do with this extra stockpile is fill baskets for my adult children, and I’ve been informed that this is one of their favorite gifts.  While my baskets full of health and beauty and cleaning products might not cost me a great deal in dollars, they know it did cost me time in planning and implementing my shopping trips. I know their favorite products, too, which is why I had hoped to get more Olay ribbons body wash this trip. Even my grandson is going to go cuckoo for the bottles of L’oreal Kids shampoo that have the Toy Story characters on the front! I have also donated excess stockpiled items to various charities and/or sent Priority mailers of items to those in need. I would have a difficult time doing this without my couponing. Through the strategic use of coupons, I can send a $10 medium flat rate mailer filled with $40 worth of products to someone in need for maybe $12 total (counting the cost of the coupons and the postage!), and whenever I hear that the food pantry is in dire need, I can easily pull out some of my free toothbrushes and toothpaste to help them out.

I feel like a genius after paying $50 for two cartloads of merchandise. According to coupon detractors, I am fooling myself.  Factor in the time it took me to clip (and buy) the coupons, file them in my coupon box, read the ads, drive to the store, circle the aisles with my vulture-like stealth that hones in on good deals, and then stand in line while they are scanned and tripled…well, there are those that would say my valuable time was wasted, and that my use of coupons was directly responsible for rising prices.  I am currently writing the chapter of my book that details these claims.

Despite some evidence to the contrary in a few of these studies, I still feel savvy regarding my couponing habits, and find the use of coupons to be rewarding, both emotionally and monetarily. I enjoy couponing, and I love getting things free.

But another trip today? As tempted as I am, I know it would not be a good idea. It would involve the gas to get there and back and taking the chance that the shelves were restocked from yesterday, and in my experience, they usually are not, so it could be a wasted trip, or one that barely paid for the gas to get there.

And that just wouldn’t be smart shopping.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015.

5 thoughts on “Once, twice, three times…too many?

  1. All you have to do is say “Triple Coupons” for my mouth to water. Amazingly, I don’t do coupons like I once did. I rely a lot on the sales at Walgreens, CVS, and now Rite Aid for my good deals. It’s difficult to get extra coupons around here unless you buy tons of papers, and living out of the region for the paper, it’s over $2 for a Sunday paper. I miss shopping trips like this, though. We used to have a store that would triple to 49¢ no limits and one that would double to 99¢ no limits. Between the two of them, I was able to get some amazing deals, but that was about 10 years ago.

  2. One could argue that the items you bought you will use eventually. I do the same kind of shopping only I don’t drive as far. I might buy stuff that I don’t need at the moment but will use sometime in the future. I am using peanut butter that I purchased months ago. We are using razors that were purchased for pennies years ago. I just think of it a smart shopping. Yes, we might purchase coupons to buy these products, but it is still cheaper than paying full price. As far as the gas goes, I remember driving 25 miles once to take part in quadruple coupons. It was the most fun I ever had while shopping. My cart was overflowing. I had free cat food, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I think that I paid something like $20 for close to $200 worth of groceries. You just have to know how much you want to spend and where to draw the line.

  3. Mary, I have saved loads of money using coupons and stocking up. My receipts are the proof; plus I spend less on groceries each week. It’s a no-brainer for me to stock up on items I use regularly. Although I don’t buy in order to sell, I do buy for several months ahead on whatever items I can. I particularly like to shop at Target and Walgreens for staples because I can use both the store and the manufacturer’s coupons on the same item. This way I get items either for free or for very little money. I often get 2 or 3 bags full for less than $20; who wouldn’t like buying $50 or more of groceries for less than 20 bucks. And with rebates, or coupons for free items, I am saving even more over time. I don’t add those items in, so am sure I am saving more than 50% regularly.

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