My youngest sister has six children and feeding them would cost a fortune if she weren’t smart with her money. She uses coupons to the extreme. She could totally be on “that show.”  Every now and again she’ll post on facebook a picture of her receipts that shows the savings along with a picture of all the stuff she bought. Mark is constantly going, “You should be using coupons!” A couple of my good internet buddies also do a pretty good job using coupons and saving a bunch of money.

As everyone knows I’m *always* an obedient wife (go ahead, insert sarcasm font if you feel the need) so I went through the ads from Sunday’s paper.  Out of everything that was advertised, highlighted, and had coupons available there were two things that I actually use on a regular basis: Pepsi products and Aleve. Two. Out of all the ad sheets that come in a Sunday paper.  Those two items happened to be at Walgreens and since I had to go there to pick up a prescription I figured I’d just as well pick up the items that I had coupons for. Fabulous. My total bill was probably half what it would have been if I hadn’t used the coupons. Score!

Then I went to do my normal grocery shopping. (Pardon me if I get a little stabby at this part of our conversation.) I had everything on my list and picked a checkout line that had only one person. All the other lanes were stacked two or three deep. I felt good about my decision. For a moment. I got my stuff unloaded onto the conveyor belt and began paying attention to what was going on in the line in front of me. The woman had “green” bags so the cashier was having to shove as many items as possible into each bag. Once the bag was full she would hand it to the customer and take another bag. It slowed down the checkout process but not horribly. I looked at the woman with a bunch of empty “green” bags draped over her arm and thought, “Very nice. Helping the environment. That’s awesome.”  Then I began scanning the items that she had on the conveyor belt. Every bit of food on the conveyor belt was processed. I chuckled to myself and wanted to inform her that the processing of the food was almost more damaging to the environment than using a convenient plastic bag, but I kept my mouth shut. Somehow in my brain, being environmentally conscious and eating unprocessed, natural foods kind of goes hand in hand, but apparently I’m the only one who thinks that way. I digress, though. Her choice in bagging and food options just provided mild amusement for me.

All the food was bagged and placed in the cart and the real nightmare began. The cashier gave the woman her total. The woman goes, “Oh wait, I have coupons.” Panic did not set in at the statement and I have to admit that my first thought was, “Oh, good for you.” Then she pulled out her stack. Yes, STACK of coupons. Some were a type that had to be run through a scanner (a terribly slow scanner, I might add) You know the one that when people actually wrote checks you had to send the check through a scanner. THAT type of scanner. Some were on other grocery store flyers so the cashier had to go back through the computer to delete their store price and change it to what was on the flyer. Then there were the traditional type coupons with a bar code that you just run across the beepy machine. As the cashier worked her way through the pile of coupons I could see the frustration growing.  I wasn’t in a hurry. I was on no schedule. I had all the time in the world. Yet I was growing increasingly agitated at the process. Jump out of my skin agitated. Rip the coupons out of the woman’s hands agitated. The woman was disorganized and did not have her shit together.

After the woman was finally checked out an on her way out the door I moved up in line and the cashier looked at me and asked if I had any coupons. I adamantly said, “NO….you’re welcome.” She smiled and sighed.

Soooooo. I know there are a lot of you out there who do couponing. I know a lot of you save money at it. Hell, some of you probably MAKE money at it. Pretty sure my sister will cause her local grocer to go bankrupt some day. To you special snowflakes [typed in a very loving tone], I have a few pieces of advice. This advice comes from my experience as the consumer BEHIND the couponer, as well as from listening to one of the girls I work with explain her process. Here’s what she does and I hope that anyone who uses coupons will listen. For my sake. Please. I beg of you! I don’t want to go through what I went through over the weekend. Had I been in a time crunch I’d have lost my shit!

  • First off, before my co-worker sets foot into the store she makes a list of what she’ll be buying. She organizes the list by aisle of the grocery store (I do this, too, when I make up my list for efficiency purposes).
  • Next to each item on the list she writes down what, if any coupon she will be using. With coupons that have a bar code, this part is no big deal because you just scan the code. If you are using other store’s flyers/ads this part is essential.
  • On each store flyer that has a price she will be “matching” she circles the item so that it is easily findable.
  • As much as possible, she stacks her flyers in the order she will need them at the checkout (remember, she organizes by aisle so she knows the order the flyers need to be in).
  • She empties her grocery cart onto the conveyor belt in the order of her list, thus allowing her to go from the top of the stack in a logical, orderly fashion.
  • She lets the cashier know before the first item is scanned that she has ads from other stores that she will be price matching and that she has coupons.
  • As the “price matched” item is scanned, she pulls out the ad so the price can be changed immediately.

I completely understand that with the economy being what it is, that we all need to be pinching our pennies as much as possible. Just be cognizant of the people in line behind you and have your shit together before you go into the store. That’s all I ask!