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Hardcore Couponing Experience: $240.64 Saved, 3.5 Hours

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Right after writing a post about hardcore couponing, reader Angie Buckley wrote to me about how she was going to try her hand at hardcore couponing. So I did what every responsible blogger does, I asked her if she’d share her experiences with me and if I could share them with you all – she agreed! Her results are amazing and her tactics seemed pretty normal to me (she didn’t do any dumpster diving or anything like that), anyone who had the desire really could start hardcore couponing with a little extra time and effort. Key to all this, and you can read it through her enthusiasm, is that she saw it as a game. Making something a game always makes it easier and ratchets up your effort and enthusiasm a few notches. Enjoy!

Hi Jim,
The results are in. I went to Martins Grocery store today. My total before coupons was $57.18. my savings were $55.35. My total due was $1.83+$2.59 for tax. I paid for it with a gift card my husband received with his pay check last Christmas. Martins also gives you bonus points when you spend. I earned $0.10 off gasoline at their gas station located in the parking lot. Right now they already have the cheapest gas in town at $2.33. So the next time I need gas I will get it for 2.23 unless I go shopping and earn more points first. The more I spend the money I get off at the pump. I spent 2 hours in the store.

I also went to Food Lion today. My total there was a little more complicated. I had a rain check for Hot Pockets so they had to manually put it in as the rain check price which was 1.00 each I bought 33 of them in addition I had 33 – $0.50 coupons for each so I paid .50 each for them. They retail at $3.59 each normally. A savings of $81.97 for 33 of them, so I will add this to my total before coupons since it does not reelect. Total before coupons was $245.18. after store card savings -$29.65 Rain check savings from previous sale – $81.97 coupons -7$3.67, Total due was $59.89 including tax. I spent 1.5 hours in the store.

3.5 hours of work total savings for the day $240.64.

If you would like I can fax the receipts to you so you can have a detailed look at them. I do not mind you using my name in this article I would be thrilled.

Thank You,
Angie Buckley

Wow, nearly $250 in savings and a three and a half hour shopping trip, but how did she get all those coupons?

I got the coupons buying Sunday papers, weekender papers,trading with friends online at the Coupon Forum, writing companies and telling them how I felt about their products. I couponed a little bit when my children were young because my Mother-in-law was always giving me diaper coupons that saved me some money, other than that I didn’t think much about it.

Then back in July of this year I decided I wanted to try my hand at couponing. It came about while standing in line at the grocery store and the person in front of me had a handful of coupons and I was educated right there on the power of coupons. I went home and started researching couponing and I was amazed at the information available. I started looking for a coupon club locally but couldn’t find one, but I did find the Coupon Forum. I registered and started reading everything. Then I started trading, and yes it is addicting. To me now, coupons are money.

I decided to start stockpiling good high dollar coupons and coupons good for free stuff or free when you buy other stuff, and then collect coupons for the other stuff, kind of like double dipping, but legal. the whole time I was collecting I was watching the sales and keeping an eye on my expiration dates, waiting for just the right time. I also was making mental notes on how cares what product and how much the product cost. Tomorrow will be one and a half month since my Coupon Forum Registration. I didn’t start thinking about this shopping trip till maybe a couple of weeks later.

While we didn’t delve into how long it took her to acquire the coupons (I’d suspect the payout per time spent would’ve been far lower than before) but you can see how it became a game to her and how she really got into it. The bottom line is with a little extra effort she was able to save a tremendous amount… and have enough Hot Pockets to last her many many months. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Angie!

{ 20 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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20 Responses to “Hardcore Couponing Experience: $240.64 Saved, 3.5 Hours”

  1. Him says:

    33 HotPockets? Seriously? Many people don’t even have the space for that much food.

    We have found that it is pretty easy to stock up on stuff like that cheaply by using coupons in conjunction with sales. The hard part is to save money on a well-balanced cart of groceries.

  2. Flexo says:

    It’s too bad we can’t run an experiment to compare the costs associated with the health effects of eating 33 HotPockets rather than healthier food. Perhaps in this instance it wouldn’t be saved money in the long run. I’m just exaggerating, but in general buying cheap food might save money now, but you can certainly pay for it with health problems later on in life… unless you eat so poorly you die sooner. That’s less time for spending money!

  3. b3406 says:

    Lets keep in mind that most kids/people don’t eat what/when they should because of the lives we choose to live in the first place. So buying 33 hot pockets all at once, or a few every couple of weeks is a no brainer if the savings are this big! Don’t loose focus on the real issue. Real people saving real money! The doctors can figure the rest out later.

  4. Elena says:

    I agree with Flexo. Our bodies are our most valuable investment. You can’t take your money to the grave, folks. Somehow we seems to keep putting ourselves (and health of our family members) at the very bottom of our investiment priorities.

    I view health the same way I view retirement: if you don’t take make regular investiments during your younger years, you better plan on serious quality of life adjustments later.

    Not all “savings” are a good idea. In Angie’s case, I think that her short-term “instant financial gratification” came at the expense of some long-term investments.

  5. Matt says:

    What people choose to eat is their business, not ours.

    I’d question the “$250 in savings” and the “only 3.5 hours”, though. She spent 3.5 hours _shopping_, but how much time did she spend scouring those newspapers for useful coupons and cutting them out? How much _money_ did she spend on those newspapers? How much money did she spend on a freezer that can hold 33 boxes of Hot Pockets? Writing to manufacturers takes time and also stamps, and while stamps are trivially cheap relative to, say, houses or cars, they’re mighty freakin’ expensive compared to the face value of the coupons likely to be sent back in response to those letters.

    I mean hell, if I happen, in the normal course of existence, to come across a coupon for something I’ll probably buy anyway, I’ll use it. It’d be silly not to. And I use my Speedway membership card every time I buy gas, since it saves me money and also time (if you have a membership card, you can pay after you pump…otherwise, you need to make two trips) and didn’t cost me a cent. But this, the most complimentary description of the hardcore-couponning life I’ve ever read, nevertheless sounds like the story of someone who values their free time at $0 (which is not a life I want to live) and fails to consider the full cost of the activity when calculating her superficially-appealing ROI.

    I don’t want to attack other people’s hobbies. Glass houses, throwing stones, pots, kettles, and all the other metaphors for hypocrisy all apply. But if this is going to be sold as a money-saving activity, rather than a recreational one, then it seems eminently reasonable to look under the hood and poke the numbers around.

    • echidnina says:

      I agree with this – she definitely didn’t save $240 for 3 1/2 hours of work. She saved all that money, but for many more hours of work. Great if it seems worth it to her, but I’d never have that much free time for getting 50 cent hot pockets.

  6. jim says:

    Personally I still see hardcore couponing as more a recreational activity that yields actual monetary dividends and less a strictly money-saving activity. If you didn’t see it as a game and enjoy doing it, I doubt that anyone would have the time or the patience to do this.

  7. Jared Allen says:

    I have tried this, saved real money, but it’s not easy. It has to be ‘fun’ or it won’t last. Coupon Sense (google it) in Phoenix makes it very easy to save by building the database of coupons available and making it searchable. I’ll leave it at that, but my sister-in-law has saved over $3000 this year on her family of 5. if you care.

  8. Angie Buckley says:

    I see this article has raised questions pertaining to my shopping trip. I want to thank everyone who has concerns for my family’s health and for my valuable time. I was so impressed by the concerns of my well rounded grocery cart that I decided to look in my grocery cart and do a little more research into the world of bad eating habits and health risks related to, since it appears Americans are not only the unhealthiest, but the number one fast food consumers. I decided I would bring this oldie but goodie link back to the surface.


    And after doing the math I would rather my three children and my husband eat a (I did say “a” not 33) hot pocket when they are in a hurry, (I think their Dr would agree) than eat at any fast food restaurant like so many people do. As for the rest of my well rounded cart, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the fruit, yogurt, eggs, bread, potatoes, milk, 100% fruit juice, pasta, lunch meat, and ice cream. This is real food that you and I buy every week, and as my husband wrote in the post a few up from this one, “real people saving real money”.

    Now as for my valuable time, I found it to be therapeutic at times to sit relaxed and have a couple of hours on Sunday morning and an hour at night after the children are asleep, while the house is quite and read the news, cut the coupons, file them away, scan the sales paper, and jump online to print more coupons for stuff that I use, then laugh all the way to the bank. As healthy as it may sound, this is my time and better used rather than sitting in front of the boob tube wasting away like so many other people do, and like so many people they also don’t always take time from their busy lives to sit back and have a few moments to relax. I will also remind you that failure to relax and enjoy the little things is bad for the health too. So if I get one too many grams of fat from eating a hot pocket, I will make up for it in good health points here. I believe someone also said something about space accommodation for all the stuff I buy. I don’t find it to be a problem with 3000 square feet of house and a custom walk in pantry along with top of the line energy saver appliances that cost me about 40% of the regular retail. As a matter of fact everything in my house right down to the light bulbs are energy efficient, talk about healthy living. 🙂 Hmmmm. How many can say they even try to lower their ozone contribution. I don’t mean to be picking on anyone, but I do pick and chose my battles as carefully as possible and hot pockets are pretty low in the health scheme of the big picture.

  9. Doogan says:

    Are they ‘Hot’ Pockets, or ‘Lean’ Pockets?? 🙂
    Either way, sounds like the grocery bill is a little leaner, even if the waistline isn’t. People are going to eat what they want anyway, regardless of the cost. I’m all for keeping $$ in my cash register for a change. Great job Angie!

  10. Angie says:

    Thanks for asking Doogan. I got a variety of lean, regular, sub and breakfast hot pockets. I am very happy about saving my hard earned money. Although the Martins shopping trip is not something I do on regular basis. The Food Lion shopping trip was. I save hundreds of dollars every month. My saving doesn’t stop at just groceries. I went shopping again on Tuesday and spent 30.00, saving 70.00, I got about a three months supply of personal hygiene items for my family of five, 20 Quaker Oatmeal single serve bowls, and some house cleaning supplies. I also have about 80.00 waiting to arrive in rebates, for things I have bought in the last six weeks. That translates in my money saving language as a free future shopping trip. 🙂 Minus the cost of 8 stamps and envelopes.

  11. Dus10 says:

    This is awsome, and health reasons aside, you saved a lot of money. But, on the health issues, I am sure that most people that are being critical of the situation don’t do absolutely everything they should about their health. And for the most part, the criticism is probably due to the large amount (33), even though you are probably not going to be eating them all within a week or two.

    Seriously, all, the criticism is probably a little much. Sometimes we need a quick snack. It is better to get some Hot Pockets than it is to stop in the drive-thru, I am sure (Especially if they are Lean Pockets, which unlike most “diet” versions of foods aren’t packed with a bunch of sodium).

  12. Elena says:

    Hmm. Ok, I will stop picking at hot pockets, but I would like to voice a concern that many children are deprived of home cooked food. Processed food, frozen dinners… It is a matter of personal preferences, I am sure, but children are learning what the food should look like and taste like at home. How can we expect them wanting to eat healthy and home cooked things later on? What will they learn from us?

    Again, it is a matter of personal preference, but I could rather spend 3 hours online searching for healthy recipes to cook for my family than trading coupons for frozen dinners and snacks. I may not save much of money on the basic ingredients that I buy (though I do buy all my meats on sale and certainly won’t turn away a sale item if it is on my list), but I buy fresh foods every 2-3 days and cook healthy (or what I consider healthy) daily, and feel much better knowing that my family eats food made of basic, simple ingredients. There is a place for a few frozen snacks in the freezer, in case of emergency (if I get hit by a car maybe), but to make them a staple is in my opinion a dime smart and a dollar foolish in the long run. Health is not something to be fooled around with. And you may say, yeah, but a hot pocket or two won’t hurt anyone. Maybe it won’t, but be careful of what examples you set for your children.

    I will get off my soup box now, thank you for your time.

  13. jim says:

    Elena – I totally agree with you on the concept of food and children, they do learn what is “good” when they are kids and that translates into adulthood. I personally found that many of the coupons available were for preprocessed foods, that’s where all the margin is in that business so they are able to give away some of that to capture loyalty and interest. Buying raw materials and making the food yourself is by far the best way to consistently save money while spending the least amount of time.

  14. Angie says:

    Hi Elena and Jim and thank you for raising this subject, as I could not agree with you more. I my self was raised on two kinds of food, Italian and Southern Country. Both from scratch. I was also taught to cook theses foods by my Mother and Grandmother. Although I was fed a home cooked meal everyday, I find it hard to always do the same for my children. Theses days are very different. I am able to cook the good stuff about 5 times a week, but there are the days between my work, and the errands and school activities that there are sometimes not enough hours in the day. Unlike the days when moms stayed at home and two incomes were not necessary. This is actually a sad change in my opinion. When I was a little girl I remember that the only thing open on Sundays was Church, KFC and the 7-11 convenience stores. What’s so sad is that we are so in a hurry anymore. I recently went from full time to part time work and we had to make financial sacrifices so I could be with the children more. Thank god for that. There is nothing more I would rather do than get back to the basics. I love the way I was raised and would love to be able to continue the family tradition. My husband and I have been trying to figure out how to do it and we may be on to something. So we will see what the next 12 month brings. The only down side is moving half way across the country and uprooting the children. Not so sure if that is a good idea, although the children are all for it. If you have any suggestions in this area I would love to hear it.

  15. marie says:

    Angie, you rock!! Your savings story is inspirational. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy 33 boxes of pockets if I could get a deal like that.

    And no, pockets aren’t the best thing for you, but they are also far from the worst. I keep pockets (usually lean) in the freezer at work. When I have one for lunch, which is about once a week, it is accompanied by a small green salad, unsweetened tea, and a fruit cup or yogurt. Admittedly, not the absolutely best thing for me, but certainly not the worst, either. It’s also healthier than some of the home cooked meals I remember having when I was growing up. 😉

    My husband and I work full-time, and pockets & breakfast bars are on our list of regular meals. We also exercise (walking, weightlifting, or doing time on the elliptical machine) at least 5 days a week. I usually manage to eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 of veggies per day, and a lot of those are home-grown organics-peppers, tomatoes, cukes, & satsumas. My BMI is 21.6%, and my resting heart rate is between 60 & 70. I am 33, can still fit into clothes that I wore in college, and am healthy enough to qualify for the lowest life insurance rate. So, I will go on record as saying that convenience foods can have a place in a balanced diet. Heck, I think you can have ANYTHING in a balanced diet-the key is moderation. Eating the whole box of truffles at once is bad, but eating one every now and then isn’t.

    Thanks again for the inspiration, Angie.

  16. Lori says:

    [quote]It’s too bad we can’t run an experiment to compare the costs associated with the health effects of eating 33 HotPockets rather than healthier food. Perhaps in this instance it wouldn’t be saved money in the long run. I’m just exaggerating, but in general buying cheap food might save money now, but you can certainly pay for it with health problems later on in life… unless you eat so poorly you die sooner. That’s less time for spending money![/quote]

    interesting..if we go by that logic.. NOTHING you buy at the grocery store today is beneficial for your health. To eat totally healthy one must buy from an organic farm.

  17. echidnina says:

    There is the downside that many coupon deals are for pre-packaged, not-so-good-for-you foods. But, you can save money on other things for couponing too. I know a lot of people take advantage of the CVS coupon system to keep them in stock with the toiletries and OTC medicines they always need – shampoo, toothpaste, razors, and so on, and never end up buying that kind of food.

  18. Jaclyn says:

    People the lady saved money bottom line! Who cares what or how her family eats? She isn’t telling you to give your children hot pockets or anything else for that matter. So really you all should back off! You know the old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all!”

  19. Lisa says:

    Angie, thanks for coming back and sharing some more details about your “Extreme Couponing” experience. As a few others have mentioned, my issue has always been with the amount of time one spends compiling the actual coupons and planning each shopping trip, and whether or not all that time is worth it. I work with numbers all day, so forgive me, but I’d really like to figure this all out!

    You mentioned that you spend about 2 hours on Sunday morning and an hour each night on couponing. So that’s about 7 hours per week. At a rate of $15/hour (about the average hourly rate a middle-class American makes,) that time is worth about about $105 dollars/week.

    Would you say all the couponing for the two trips you wrote about in the blog post took 7 hours (or less)? Because in that case, you did still save over $100…and that just might make an extreme couponing believer out of me!

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