Life With Ladybug: Coupon craze

By Shannon Magsam

Well, some of you probably heard my big talk on Magic 107.9 last week about getting into couponing. Well, the truth is, so far I suck.

Maybe that’s too strong a word, but I’m not exactly walking up to the checkout counter with $248 worth of groceries and paying only – gasp! – $26.48 after redeeming all my coupons!

Of course, I realize I’m not going to be racking up deals like the chicks on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, but still. I’m having trouble finding a manufacturer’s coupon to “stack” with a store coupon (which is one of the best ways, according to the experts, to get products at rock-bottom prices).

My first real trip to the store with a folder full of coupons didn’t go as planned last weekend. I know that planning is a key component so I made sure to separate out the coupons I’d been collecting into the appropriate categories: pet stuff, groceries, household items and personal items (I really wanted some cheap razors).

Then I made sure the coupons (gathered from websites, FB pages and the newspaper) were clipped and assembled in my folder. Then I drove to the store, by myself, so I could really focus while shopping.

Note to self: Do NOT go to the store on a Sunday. Bad idea. Standing around in the aisle trying to figure out if your coupon is for the 12-count sausage biscuits or the 24-pack tends to make fellow shoppers crazy when the store is packed.

And the other thing? One of the whole strategies of couponing is to get EVERYTHING you need in one shopping trip so it will last a long while. That’s because when you stop by the store for one little product you never leave with just that product. So if you cut down on the shopping trips, you cut down on your grocery bill for the month.

So while I was racking my brain, trying to remember everything on my list, I apparently caught the attention of another mom who was shopping next to me in the dairy aisle. She saw my little folder and the multiple products in my cart that apparently screamed COUPONER.

“Are you into couponing?” she asked. “Well, I just started so I’m not sure what I’m doing yet,” I admitted. We commiserated that we didn’t need to add another part-time job, which is what it had sorta started to feel like.

I  handed her a Motherlode business card and told her to look at the radio post from last week to see a few of the sites I’m learning from and about the book I’m reading, BeCentsable.

Then I went in search of the $3 off cat food brand that apparently didn’t make it on this store’s “must-have” list. I grumbled when I put the full-price cat food into my cart. That’s one thing about couponing – it feels wrong when you have to pay full price. Seriously.

I finally made it up to the checkout counter after spending nearly two hours at the store. Sigh. As I stood in line, my eyes rested on the humongous bag of dog food in the cart behind me. I literally screamed. And scared the heck out of the shopper behind me AND the checkout lady. After apologizing for my outburst, I told them the source of my distress: I had forgotten to grab the dog food that I had a coupon for. And that my hungry dog at home was expecting. So I had to get out of line and go find the dog food. Luckily my sanity was saved when the store did indeed have that particular brand of dog food.

In the end, I saved $10. Ahem. Well, that’s a start.

Then I went home and started a new list: “Things I forgot at the store”.

So, a question: How much do you spend on groceries per month? I’m trying to spend under $500, but I’d love to hear what other people shell out — and how I compare.

Shannon Magsam is mom to 9-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here. Leave a comment!


  1. I’m always apprehensive when I reach the checkout, because I never know if I’m going to get a coupon friendly cashier. I have some that say, “that was a good deal!”, or “you saved a lot of money!”. But I had one that scolded me because I didn’t place coupons by the corresponding item on the belt. And another who was clearly annoyed that I called out an item that rang up wrong and I wouldn’t back down. There were about 30 rollback signs all over the shelf! She proceeded to scrutinize every single coupon I had to make sure they were valid. Saving money is hard work!

  2. It is absolutely a 2nd job! I am by no means a great “couponer” but I have figured out a few things. Very seldom will you get anything free at WM…you have to go to a store that doubles manufacturers coupons (Harps). That’s why you’ll never see the “extreme couponers” at WM. I love that Target has their own coupons so you can match that with manufacturer’s coupons. The problem I have with couponing is the amount of time involved. I have 3 kids 10 and under and just don’t have that kind of time; but I know it can be done. My family of 5 (husband + ages 10, 7, and 5) has a weekly grocery budget of $170. I wrote on my blog about a coupon excursion I did last fall at WM.

    Best of luck to you!

  3. You saving $30 makes you a great couponer to me! 🙂 I’ll have to go shopping with you next time. I think if I keep at it I’ll be able to start saving more. I’m not going to drive myself nuts, but saving just a little each trip is better than none at all. It adds up, right?!

    Thanks for sharing your grocery budget. And for all the tips!!!


  4. I use coupons, but I usually don’t get stuff free. I almost always shop at Walmart because we get a discount there. ahem… About 4 years ago, I had one “extreme couponing” run at Walgreens, but it took hours of time and a whole week to complete it all. Not to mention foraging the recycling bins for all those coupons. In the end, I had a huge stash of “free” razors, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. I actually still have some of it! But, in the end, I decided that I just didn’t have the time or energy to do that every week. I just use my coupons at Walmart and consider that good enough.

  5. Corey, too funny. Yeah, sometimes you have to think about how much your time is worth. I think it also helps that I’ve cut my eating out budget by A LOT, so if I have to spend a little more on groceries I can handle that. It’s still way cheaper than what I would spend eating out. But I love my restaurants, so I have to splurge occasionally 🙂


  6. This post made me chuckle because it really hits home. I have found myself watching the show Extreme Couponing and have even gotten my husband to watch it with me weekly. After watching about 10 shows…this is what I have concluded:

    1. JL (our son) is on a special diet, so I have googled specific products he uses and eats and have used those coupons at ONF.

    2. Because of our limited coupons for the kinds of foods he eats and only a few places to use them, I decided to focus my rendition of extreme couponing on items that we already use.

    3. I do not buy an extra paper, but have asked our parents to keep the coupons and we get them when we see them. I am not picky about brands when it comes to razors, shaving cream, or paper towels if they are going to be cheaper or FREE! So I have focused my coupons that I cut to items that we already use.

    4. I keep my coupons on me at all times so that if I find myself out running errands and have some extra time, I pop them out and scan them for what I might could ‘grab’ quickly.

    5. Lastly, because I work, I dont have the time to put into the research it would take to make this a completely free shopping trip, but have made peace with the fact that I AM saving money with the time I am investing at this point.

    Loving couponing so far!

  7. I have worked with coupons on and off since 2008. If I find that I have more time (or more need) for couponing, then I will devote it. I’ve had completely free shopping trips, but those are difficult, and not necessarily worth my time. HOWEVER, I noticed that there are certain coupons that are put out periodically that I take advantage of as much as possible.

    Ex. Suave puts out a .50 coupon for deodorant, and I get six or seven copies of the coupon and stock up on deodorant at Harps. Also, Johnson and Johnson put out a $1 off coupon that I use for their small pack of q-tips at Walmart. These are free, too (and come in a convenient little package)!

    Lastly, any dollar saved is better than spending it needlessly. I tend not to coupon groceries (wholesome foods seldom have coupons), but I can save $40 or more a month on household goods, which is worth the time and effort.

    Keep trying! You’ll get better at it. Also, if you’ve stopped, you can always pick it back up this Sunday!

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