In order to be able to save money buying the foods that you like, you need to look for all the savings opportunities available for your favorite brands. Strategic shoppers use three principles: they know their items’ prices, they know their stores’ savings programs, and they know where to find coupons for their favorite items.

But let’s face it; most shoppers don’t like coupons. At the mere mention of the word, I have seen people tense up, shake their head and say, “I know I should use coupons, but it just seems that it takes forever to cut them all out, then when I need them I don’t have them, and when I finally find the coupon it’s expired. They aren’t worth the trouble just to save a few cents!” What I hear in this common refrain is that we need to find easy systems for using coupons and we need to educate shoppers on the real financial opportunity of using a coupon system that works for them.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of disillusioned coupon users over the years, and that has led to my work in trying to make using coupons easier for people to use. Most people would agree that they would like their share of the $318 billion in potential grocery coupon savings, if coupons weren’t so difficult to use. So in order to spread the coupon wealth around, we need to begin by overcoming common myths and then teach shoppers easy tricks to use coupons efficiently.

Coupon Myth No. 1: “It isn’t worth using grocery coupons because they are only worth 20 or 30 cents. I don’t have time for that.”

In reality, the average face value of grocery coupons in 2004 was 94 cents. Many grocery stores double coupons, which could increase the average coupon’s value to $1 to $2, depending on the store. Once shoppers begin using grocery coupons regularly, they tend to find more than one coupon a week they’d be likely to use, saving far more with several coupons. Overall, coupon users report saving 10-50 percent on their total grocery bill with sales and coupons, which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. When viewed on an annual basis, the savings potential of grocery coupons is much higher than 20 or 30 cents. For many regular coupon users, their savings per hour of time invested is higher than the hourly wage of a part-time job without the commute, childcare expenses, wardrobe expenses or performance reviews!

Coupon Myth No. 2: “Our family doesn’t eat the kinds of foods that have coupons. We don’t eat processed foods.”

There is definitely a perception that you cannot find coupons for healthy food. I agree, there are many coupons for convenience foods, frozen meals, and snack foods that may be perceived as less healthy than their fresh counterparts. However, you can find several coupons for “healthy” items like dairy products including cottage cheese, cheese, eggs, yogurt and milk. You can even find coupons for organic foods as they become more popular. There are also many coupons for common household foods like cereals, crackers, rice, pastas, baking ingredients, healthy snacks, soft drinks — the list goes on and on.

I do admit that I buy (and enjoy) several processed food items with coupons like ice cream, cookies and snack foods, but according to their sales figures it appears that other shoppers do as well! So if you’re buying those items already, you might as well pay less for them by using coupons that are readily available.

Finally, over half of grocery coupons issued last were for non-food items such as paper products, cleaning products, diapers, bath tissue, pet food, and personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Every household could save by using coupons on those items when they are on sale, paying less than half the regular price for their favorite products. Last week, I paid 50 cents for toothpaste, 17 cents for waxed paper, and paid nothing for good quality toothbrushes that were free after I used a coupon. I hope everyone uses toothpaste and toothbrushes!

So take a second look at the coupons in your Sunday newspaper and see if there’s some free money you could use there. Spend your savings on holiday shopping!


Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” You can find more of her savings tips in her book “The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom” and on her Web site at She can be reached at

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