There is no doubt in my mind that Stephanie Nelson, the whiz behind CouponMom.com, is one of the savviest spenders I know. Her site lists coupon deals at 43 different stores across the country. When I talked to her recently, she revealed the secret behind saving 86% off her grocery bill, the downsides to coupons, and what she actually pays full price for.
When did you clip your first coupon? 1992 would have been when I started doing it out of practicality. I had my first baby and I wanted to quit working so I started budgeting across the board. Couponing is one of the easiest ways to save, so I started doing grocery coupons.
How do you organize your coupons? I do the no-clip system. I just put the date on the coupon circular and save the whole thing. Then I use coupon websites to find the best deals for my stores. Then I just clip out the coupons I need. I save the whole circular because a few weeks away something goes on sale and shoot, I wish I'd saved the coupon.
What are the downsides to clipping coupons? Some people will buy an item just because they have a coupon, even though it might not be the best deal. Some people don't want to spend the money buying the newspaper.
Coupon naysayers argue that coupons are largely for highly-processed items they don't eat. What do you tell those folks? First I go on the other side of the court and say that more than 50% of grocery coupons are for non-food items. You can save a lot of money on cleaning products, personal care products, razors, and then you would have more money for fresh fruit and vegetables and meat, which don't have coupons. There are actually lots of coupons for healthy food like yogurt and cottage cheese and margarine, cheese and and frozen vegetables.
In your video, embedded below, you save 86% off the retail price of $100 worth of groceries, paying just $14. Is this typical? I'd say that for a family of four, typical would be 50%. This was a "let me get everything that has a coupon." If you were to include milk and produce and meat, it is realistic to save 50% and that is using coupons and sales.
Why are there so many coupons for toiletries? That's a good question. I'm not sure why there are so many coupons for toiletries other than there are, so let's take advantage of them.
Does saving money extend to other areas of your life? Absolutely. It's the starting point. For example, I have a "don't leave home without a coupon" mentality. It's a habit to look for a coupon for anywhere I am going.
Is there anything you pay full price for? [pause] I hate to even admit this but I have to have one Diet Coke a day. I don't drink. I don't smoke. If I'm out of Diet Coke, I have been known to get the 12-pack of Diet Coke full price. But not very often, Julia!
Your site is free to use. How do you make money? From advertising. 3%-4% of people click on at least one ad and that pays for the site. We have a data entry team of 11 people and the advertising pays for all of them.
Your book, The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half, is a NY Times Bestseller. What's next: a TV show? [laughs] I don't know what's next. I get excited when I think about doing something like more television. We did a series where we helped real families. I learned their situation and helped them. It's rewarding working with these families.
Clip and save this interview: Coupon secrets with the Coupon Mom