Coupons give me panic attacks. They seriously do. Just the thought of taking a cart full of groceries, and a fist full of coupons up to the cash register makes me ill. The checkout lane suddenly becomes a battleground. Fighting tooth and nail with a distraught, overworked cashier just to save 30 ¢ off my box of Capn’ Crunch makes me want to pull my hair out and run screaming in the other direction.
Nevertheless, I like my money, and I have no desire to spend more of it than I have to. After all, I don’t want to make Proctor and Gamble rich, I want to make my family rich!
So the idea of learning to use coupons correctly has been “sharking” me for a while. (Do you know what “sharking” is? It’s when you get an idea into your head that you’re not quite comfortable with. You really wish the idea would go away, but there it is…swimming around in your brain, circling you, accompanied by scary music… until you just know it’s going to pounce on you and rip you to shreds.)
Well, that’s me and coupons. I know I can save my family money by using them. I know that it really shouldn’t be all that difficult either. I also know that the amount of money I’ll save might actually make it worth my time.
So, in an effort to believe that coupons are not, in fact, intended for use in psychological warfare, I sat down and read the “Greatest Secrets of The Coupon Mom” by Stephanie Nelson.
There were some really good, and really bad parts to this book. As far as the really bad parts, there were two.
- The book was basically a large advertisement for her website - No, don’t click away yet! There were some redeeming qualities. (I’ll explore them in detail just a little further down)
- The examples she gave within the book might as well have been in Swahili - They reminded me of those aptitude tests that we all had to take in school:
Mary had 7 apples. She split three apples in half and gave two apples plus one half of an apple to John. Then Mary gave 3 half-apples to Margret and one more apple to Sam. How many apples did Mary have left?
No, that’s not real example from the book, (thankfully). But the books example’s were all like that: Just this side of being immediately understandable. You can figure them out, with a little thought and patience. Just like I know I can figure this whole coupon thing out, with a little thought and patience.
So, that’s the bad stuff. Let’s talk about what the Coupon Mom did right!
- She gave excellent, clear resources to sites besides her own too - Instructions for where to go to get printable coupons, a brief overview of UPromise, BoxTops for Education, and tons of other ways to stretch your dollar ever further are covered.
- Waiting for a “sale price” and then using your coupon is clearly explained - If you save 50 cents off of a $1 item, great! But if you wait until that $1 item is on sale for 60 cents, and then use your 50 cent coupon, even better!
- She spends a lot of time explaining why you need to know your store’s policy on coupons and sales – She gives a list of simple questions that you can take with you to ask someone at your store. Then she goes on to show how knowing each of the answers will help you save even more money on your everyday purchases.
- Nelson (The Coupon Mom) does not believe that you should change what you shop for in order to save money - Instead she believes that you should change how you shop, and when you shop for those items. That was good news for me, since I’m a little bit snobbish about my “choice” brands. I like what I like!
The thing that I liked most about this book wasn’t that it made me any more comfortable with coupons (because it didn’t). No, the thing I liked most is that she spends the entire last half of the book talking about how you can food for pennies and donate it to a local food bank – to help out in your own community.
As it turns out, The Coupon Mom.com (her website) is completely free to use. She has created a charity called Cut Out Hunger where she’s taken the food bank donations to a whole new level.
So, I have to admit, the thought of cutting as much as 50% off my own grocery bill, and being able to give to charity at the same time – without paying for her service – well, it sounded too good to be true.
“I’ll just see about this!” I thought. And like a good little lemming, I went to check out her website. I just wanted to see if she was the “real deal” or if there was some sneaky back door subscription service she was trying to wrangle me into.
And there it is – the front page of her site. Hey! She’s been on Oprah! She must be legit!
Uh-oh. I have to sign up to get to see any of the “deals” in my area. Ok. I signed up, and immediately had to click through three affiliate offers. Right now though, I am still giving her the benefit of the doubt. She does say in the book that they way she keeps her website service free is by placing ads on her site. So…let’s press on.
Hey a free E-book that tells me how to cut my grocery bill in half. That’s a nice bonus right off the bat! I’ll have to save that one for another review, but it’s a nice freebie!
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here. What exactly is the service that the Coupon Mom offers? And is it really free?
What’s the deal?
Well, with two quick clicks of my mouse, I got a list of every item that is on sale right now at the Kroger stores in Nashville, TN. The list also specified any coupons I was supposed to use along with the sale price in order to get the best deal. Pretty cool! And it was actually free.
Unfortunately, there was a tiny problem:
I live in Louisville, Ky, not Nashville TN. My city and state did not return any “deals” for me to look at. (Meaning that they have not yet been added to her database. ) There are a lot of places represented though – you may want to check to see if yours is.
The nice thing about having a list of what’s on sale is that it lets you make out your shopping list and prepare your coupons before you go to the store. Since you already know what’s on sale (including the “unadvertised specials”) you can plan to combine coupons with sales so that you save more money in less time.
So, eh, really cool feature! Wish I could use it. The good news is, that’s only half of the free service she offers.
The second part of the service:
The second half of The Coupon Mom’s free service is a real winner in my book! It’s a searchable coupon database! Basically this means that when I get my Sunday paper, I pull the coupons out, but I do not cut them out. Instead, I write the date on the front, and put the whole thing into a file.
Then, when I make out my grocery list, I go to her site, log in, and search the coupon database.
Let’s say I wanted to popcorn:
I would search “popcorn” in the database. I would then be shown a quick list of every popcorn coupon available in my area – the same coupons that arrived in my Sunday paper. If I see a coupon I like, I go back to my folder, pull out that circular, and only clip out the popcorn coupon!
Yup, I’m sold on that one. No more time wasted cutting out hundreds of coupons that I might never use? I can just take two seconds to search a database, grab the coupons out of my file, and only cut out what I really need right then. Yes! That I’m sold on. And I don’t even have to pay for it!
So, to finish up the review…would I recommend this book? Sadly, no. But I wholeheartedly recommend the website! And I am excited to check out that free E-Book. Even being a coupon novice I don’t really feel like I learned all that much from this book. The features I mentioned above; references to money savings sites, and a list of questions to take to the grocery store to clarify their policy, those I will use.
I will also definitely consider donating to a food bank with some of the money that I save, if I ever get over my fear of using coupons!
All in all, “Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom” was a quick inspiring little read. Just not one I would pay for again if I lost it…
For those who do want the free information and access to the sale and coupon databases, you can visit the Coupon Mom homepage. The website definitely will not disappoint you.
And for those of you who excelled on your aptitude tests….how many apples did Mary have left? Leave me a comment below!