Crystal Collins began TheThriftyMama.com in 2008, where she writes about living a healthy and natural lifestyle while saving money. Topics she covers include online deals, coupon tips, green tips, organic deals, craft tutorials, freebies, recipes, money saving strategies frugal living tips and much more.
1. How did you become interested in coupon clipping and when did you start?
After my husband and I both lost our jobs and our home at the beginning of the recession, I knew we had to make some changes. I learned about couponing and cut our grocery bill down to under $40 a week and, on average, save anywhere from $200-$600 per month.
2. What’s your most embarrassing coupon moment?
I remember it was when I was first starting out and tried to use more coupons than I had items for. I had forgotten to sort out my coupons and just handed everything to the cashier. Obviously, the coupons wouldn't scan because I didn't have those items and I was mortified because I think the cashier thought I was trying to be dishonest.
3. How much time per week do you spend coupon clipping, searching for deals, etc.?
When I'm planning a shopping trip with coupons, it usually takes about an hour, and then I am in and out of the store in under a half hour. But I don't do this every week because a lot of my shopping is now done online. Online stores are trying to compete and offer better deals than grocery stores with coupons, so I enjoy getting items delivered straight to my door.
Sites like Alice.com, Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and many more are offering sales and coupon codes for groceries. Combine these deals with free shipping to save even more. I hardly ever shop online without getting free shipping. Alice gives you free shipping when you buy at least six items, and Amazon provides free shipping on purchases over $25. And, if you've been smart and have earned up some free gift cards with places like Swagbucks or Irazoo, your groceries could end up being free.
One other way to get a deal on your online grocery shopping is to watch the deals on daily deal sites like Groupon, Eversave and Living Social. I've grabbed vouchers that saved me 50% or more on my organic groceries from places like Nature's Prime Organics and Abe's Natural Market. With a little ingenuity and keeping an eye on the daily deals, shopping online for groceries can be the easier, healthier and cheaper way to save.
4. How do you organize all your coupons?
I use an expandable file to sort my coupon inserts by date, and then have a small couponizer to organize the specific coupons for my shopping trips.
5. Where do you find most of your coupons?
I use more printable coupons than anything else. They are easy to print out and just run to the store.
6. How has couponing affected your family and friends?
Couponing has done a drastic 180-degrees with our finances, as well as my emotional health. I'm not as stressed about money as I used to be, and we are paying down our student loans. I've saved so much money that I've converted a lot of my friends and family. So many people wondered how I was doing it, so I started TheThriftyMama.com to help others.
7. What is the biggest tip you can give to someone interested in becoming a couponer?
I would tell anyone just starting out to shop the buy-one-get-one-free sales at their local grocery store. If you shop these sales, you are instantly saving 50% without ever using a coupon. It's when you add in the coupons that you'll drastically reduce your spending.
8. What is the best shopping trip you ever had? How much were you able to get for what price?
It was the time I purchased $500 worth of groceries for $.36 cents. This stocked up my freezer and refrigerator for two months.
9. What’s your favorite store to shop using coupons and why?
I always find this question so difficult to answer, because a significant savings can be had at pretty much any store. But if you are just starting out with coupons, I would say start with CVS. When I shop there, I can walk out with free stuff every single week because of the Extra Care Buck program.
10. Do you ever find yourself buying things you don't need just because you have coupons? If so, what do you do with those things?
I used to be this way a lot because it was exciting and I felt like I had to get it because it was free. I don't do this anymore, unless the free item helps me get my pre-coupon total up to use a total purchase coupon (ie. $5 off $25). Or I will pick it up if it makes a great donatation item.
11. Do you think you’ll always continue to live a "coupon lifestyle?"
In the past year, I've been using less and less coupons because I found that I was always bringing home junk. I still use coupons at the grocery store, but I make sure I am getting something healthy for my family. More than ever, I'm shopping online for my groceries, using coupon codes, and checking out local outlets that get organic items. I also like shopping at Costco and using the coupons that come in their monthly booklet. Costco carries many organic products, and most of them are cheaper to buy there than at the regular grocery store with coupons.
I'll always be thrifty, but I'm always looking for new ways to achieve saving