Confessions of a Coupon Addict

I am what you could call a serious coupon. I’m not the kind of woman who subscribes to a copy of the Sunday paper, she cuts out four or five or ten coupons and throws the rest away. That’s too easy for people like me. Instead, I pull my coupons out of the recycling bins. Once a week I take my kids to my in-laws and then head to the local recycling center with a huge box to store my newly found inserts. I’m agile, athletic, and fairly young, so it’s usually not a problem for me to get into those big metal recycling bins (they’re NOT dumpsters, by the way, there’s hardly anything in them except newspapers!). I used to carry a flashlight, but it was too difficult to work efficiently.

For Christmas, my husband bought me a flashlight that clips onto my head, freeing up my hands and allowing me to dig, dig, dig for coupons. I look like a lost miner and I tend to scare people who plan to leave his papers. For some reason, people don’t expect to find someone sitting inside a huge metal container filled with newspapers. As a result, I’ve been hit over the head throwing papers on multiple occasions, usually scaring the pitcher more than me. My husband says that this only contributes to my mental problems.

Once I have my coupons, I need to make sure I can find them as needed. No ladybug envelope or 3×5 card case for me! No sir, I have a large file cabinet dedicated to my coupons. When I get home from my “dives”, I file each insert uncut. I usually get 20-30 of the same insert, which translates to 20 or 30 of each coupon. When I need the coupon, I open my Excel spreadsheet, where I typed in each individual coupon and its location, browse to the desired coupon, and pull the insert file out of my drawer. That’s when I cut them. Believe it or not, this saves me time; otherwise I would be cutting and filing 200-300 coupons a week and risk losing them.

People (usually my mom) often wonder why I go to such lengths with my coupons. It’s simple: coupons can be a huge money saver if used correctly. There are many coupons that, when combined with sales, give me free or very cheap items. I frequently go to the supermarket, fill two carts and pay less than $25 for everything. And I never buy just one. Instead, I buy thirty of the same item (or whatever coupons I have for it), almost guaranteeing that I’ll never have to pay full price again. This is called storage. Right now, I have about 70 pounds of white rice, another 50+ pounds of flavored rice (yellow rice, Uncle Ben’s, Rice-a-roni), about 45 pounds of pasta in various shapes, 20 packages of Keebler Fudge Shoppe Cookies, 100 packets of Gerber baby food, 18 gallons of apple juice…and so on. All of these were free.

In fact, my biggest problem is storage. Right now, not only are my kitchen cabinets filled to the brim, I also have three cramped bookcases, my entire laundry room taken up by shelves, half of my linen closet stacked with personal items, and the bottom from the two bathroom sinks stocked with other gifts. I used to keep my toilet paper (30 4 packs) under my living room dresser, but then we got rid of that piece of furniture.

Many stores run promotions giving free movie tickets using the totals before the coupons. I have 40 boxes of Raisin Bran, for which I paid around 0.50 per box (and thanks to a site called Upromise, I’ll be making around 0.10 per box for my kids’ college fund). Every 7 boxes or so I got a free adult movie ticket. I hate paying more than a dollar for a box of cereal, but sometimes I do: I recently paid $1.50 for Cocoa Puffs and got a free kids movie ticket with every box. I also participated in Walgreen’s movie ticket special during the summer and got about 10 free movie tickets. So my grocery shopping frequently gives me free entertainment!

The big trick is the coupons that say “any” or “any size.” Believe it or not, these really do mean ANY size, including trial size. Consequently, I have about 200 trial-size toothpastes scattered around my house and another 100 trial-size shampoos. These are great for travel, but honestly I tend to give them away. I keep a box for charitable donations and usually throw at least a tenth of my gifts in it, and almost all of my test items (I keep some for travel and “emergencies”). This means that I am not only helping myself, but I am also able to help others, even though we are on a shoestring budget.

Most people, especially my mom, think I’m crazy. My best friend tells me that she just doesn’t have the time or dedication to mess with coupons like I do. For me, it’s not about time, it’s about money. With two kids in diapers (only one of whom is on baby food, thank goodness), I’ve spent less than $1200 on groceries, cleaning supplies, and personal stuff (shampoo, soap, etc.) this year (that’s a little over $100/month). My closets are full; if I had to, I could just buy milk and bread for the next three or four months at least. That gives me a sense of security that more than makes up for the time and effort I’ve put into my coupons.

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