Cherry-Pick Coupons to Maximize Savings

coupon insertsI confess–I’m not the best coupon organizer. I am good at clipping them, but bad at filing them, and even worse at remembering to use them in the store. However, I recognize the savings potential for using coupons, which is especially important in the current era of rising food prices. But, there is a danger in using coupons.

Often times we found ourselves buying things we didn’t really need just because there was a great coupon deal. We decided to focus our coupon strategy, taking advantage of store sales, coupon-doubling and eBay to maximize savings on the few items we actually used.

How it Works, a Recent Example

Our family likes adding I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray to vegetables such as corn on the cob. It has zero fat, is calorie free, and is generally healthier than real butter alternatives. It is also expensive, especially in the spray bottle packaging. Our local Kroger store recently offered I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter 2/$3.00 dollars. The $1.50 price was competitive with other stores, including Wal-Mart and another smaller, regional grocery store. The deal also included larger 16oz. tubs, and smaller double packs of 8oz. tubs.

eBay to the Rescue

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any coupons for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Luckily, there are many people out there making a small living as “coupon clippers,” selling their time to clip coupons on eBay and other coupon exchange sites. It is important to emphasize that selling coupons is technically prohibited according to the terms of use on most manufacturer coupons.  However, coupon clippers make the distinction that they are merely selling their time to clip them, not selling the coupons themselves.

A quick search on eBay shows several auctions for a lot of 10 $0.40/1 coupons for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, expiring at the end of June. The buy-it-now auction price is $1.00 with $0.42 shipping. I ordered a lot of 10 coupons and they arrived a couple days later. Our local Kroger store doubles up to 3 manufacturer coupons per item per transaction up to $1.00, so we will actually save $0.80 on each product we purchase. If we buy just two products the coupons will more than pay for themselves ($1.60 in savings versus $1.42 cost). But the savings don’t stop there. I picked up three spray butters, and my wife picked up another one along with two large tubs that we will use in recipes. Total savings, $4.80 off the retail price. Take away our $1.42 cost to acquire the coupons and we saved $3.38, or roughly 37.5% off the sale price.

Check the Expiration

Notice in the explanation above we only used 6 of the 10 coupons I bought from the eBay coupon clipper. I could have gone back in for a separate transaction and purchased three more units, but based on our average length of use for each item they probably would have expired long before we could have used them up. The $0.70 spray bottles we did buy, and both tubs, will keep in our refrigerators until ready for use, but it is a good idea to check the expiration for any perishables when stockpiling food in the manner I’ve described. After all, the point of being frugal is to eliminate waste from our lives, not add more to it!

Do you have a similar coupon strategy?

photo by: ninjapoodles

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  1. i’ve done the same thing, although i’ve used clipping services rather than ebay. i look for coupons for things i buy every week, like salad in a bag and bread, that i can’t stockpile during sales. that way i always know i’m saving a little extra.

  2. I have not tried eBay yet with coupons but may have to check it out. How do you ensure you will receive the coupons on eBay before the sale runs out? For example, your Kroger deal was probably good for one week. Did you have concerns that you would not get your coupons until after the sale was over?

  3. @Passive: That is a concern, but fortunately I’ve never missed a sale because of a shipping delay. I try to order on Sunday morning or early afternoon, immediately after looking through the Kroger ad. One hint: look for clippers in your state, or neighboring states to reduce mailing time.

  4. I love that you posted about this! I have become a coupon maverick in the past 9 months, developing a stockpile of items to create my own home “store.” I ordered coupons once from ebay but they went to waste as the item I purchased them for was suddenly taken out of my local stores. I am lucky enough to have found a group of fellow clippers and we do our own coupon exchange. This helps me get the best amount of coupons for my small family and to stock up on items that I have room to stock. Also, lots of coupon forums offer trades for coupons you may need and you can get rid of the ones you will not use, instead of throwing them in the trash.

  5. Seems like a lot of time and energy to save 35% on some butter. I would think that one would value their time more.

    • Butter was just one example. Multiply those savings by several other products and it does add up. After all, 35% off a $100 food bill is $35. Don’t know about you, but that’s certainly worth a few minutes of my time.

  6. wow! What else will people sell on eBay?!?!

    Sometimes, coupons are in or on the packaging of the product you buy. They also have generous expiration terms. This is an easy one.

    Rarely will a coupon make the national brand cheaper than the store brand. Fortunately, Publix brand products have rarely disappointed me, and occasionally, I prefer the Publix brand. Occasionally, the name brand product will be superior and I keep an eye out for those coupons.

    If the Sunday paper yields a particularly bountiful clip-fest, I’ll sometimes buy another Sunday paper. I’ve even been known to pick up discarded newspapers on the bus and in airports to clip coupons.

    Sometimes, your (free) neighborhood newspaper includes a P&G BrandSaver. Let’s just say I grab more than one off the newsstand…

    As for organizing coupons, it’s real simple. I put them all in chronological order and separate groceries, restaurants, and the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.

    BTW, BB&B coupons don’t expire (despite the fine print) and you can use up to 5 in one transaction. The cash register automatically computes the best possible savings for you too.

  7. I take 10 Sunday papers – well worth the investment at $1.50 each. I just bought 10 mustards for 9c each, Suddenly Salad mixes were 50c each (we don’t use, but great to bring somewhere as a side dish), 10 pounds of a variety of pastas for under $5. Great to stockpile.

    Something else you might want to do is check Ebay for gift cards. People get gift cards to stores they don’t use, and sell them for 10% less than they’re worth. 10% savings for you, voila!

  8. I like the concept of using coupons but my wife and I are vegetarians and 75% of our weekly grocery bill is produce. I can’t seem to find many coupons for that aisle of the store. Any thoughts?

  9. Love couponing!!! I buy from ebay all the time! I order through Big Crumbs and get cash back for all my purchases too – even better!

    And, you can usually get the national brand cheaper than the store brand with the q’s. Don’t forget to find the printable coupons and see if your store will accept those. That’s a great way to get more coupons and more FREE stuff!

    It does take a little time each week, but with the money I save buy using coupons, it’s completely worth it for us! Plus, it’s a great hobby now too – see how much I can get for little OOP and stock the Mommy Snacks store 🙂

  10. About the I-Can’t-Believe…. have you tried freezing the spray bottles? I was wondering about that…. I got a great buy at the Grocery Outlet for 79cents each, no limit. I stuck them all in the refrig, but was wondering if they’d work well after freezing.


  11. @Marci: I haven’t tried freezing them myself, but I think it’s possible. I would be worried about them cracking due to expansion.

    @Shane: Tough to find deals in the produce section. Occasionally I’ll receive a store coupon from Kroger on a few dollars off in the produce department, but other than that you are pretty much stuck paying full price.

  12. Nice post. I haven’t used eBay for coupons but The Coupon Master I’ve definitely used multiple times. And I primarily buy coupons for items I know I need. For example, CVS had Skintimate shave gel on sale a month ago for $1.78 so I bought 10 $1/1 coupons from The Coupon Master so it was just $.78 for each can. Actually it was less since I had a coupon that took roughly 20% off the total price. It was so worth it too b/c in my newspaper the Skintimate coupon was for only $.50/1 rather than $1/1. It’s so odd how ad inserts can vary like that. I’ve found that I most often buy coupons for personal care items (mouthwash, toothpaste, razors) and boy is my linen closet stocked.

    I’m with you on being good at clipping, bad at organizing. I’ve started making files to stash ad inserts in each week. Plus I’ve started cutting out the coupons I know for sure I’ll use. Otherwise I do totally forget about them. Then I keep the rest of the ad insert for when sales pop up such that using the coupons creates a money-making opportunity, usually at CVS.

  13. LOL, after I was on your blog I clicked on over to the Frugal Georgia Mom blog, and what does she have up today…$.50/1 printable coupons for… I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter spray. 🙂

  14. You sure can freeze those spray bottles. Once you take them out just make sure you shake them up before each use. I have done it many times.

    I agree that clipping coupons can save thousands of dollars. That is why I have only spent less than $100 on my family for groceries for the year…yes year. I have over $4600 in coupon savings to date!

    I have never bought coupons off ebay but will trade with other couponers locally or on They have feedback rating like ebay without all the fees.

  15. I like to request potlucks of coupons on coupon message boards. Then pick out everything I want and pass the rest onto friends. This way I can get them super cheap, usually just the cost of a few stamps, and also help my friends to save money tooo

  16. Seeing that we already happen to be discussing points regarding Cherry-Pick Coupons to Maximize Savings, Use coupons when available. Take the time and have the patience to clip and organize coupons. When added together, savings from using all coupons in one trip can be huge.