Four secrets of couponing success

I’ve gotten quite a few new folks finding my site lately, and many questions about how exactly all this couponing stuff “works.”

Tonight, I thought I’d attempt to break down the basic principles of what’s happening when you hear of someone saving 70% or more on their grocery bill.

:: Combine coupons with sales. The secret to yielding the biggest savings is simply this: use your coupons on the best sale prices you can find. Suppose you have a $1 off rice manufacturer’s coupon. Because the savings is being issued by the manufacturer, you can redeem it at ANY store in your area that accepts manufacturer’s coupons. Let’s further suppose four stores in my area carried this item:

Store A. Rice Box $3
Store B. Rice Box $4.50
Store C. Rice Box $2
Store D. Rice Box $3

In this simple example, Store C would be your best bet. You’d pay just $1 after coupon vs $2 at Stores A & D or $3.50 at Store B.

Would you be surprised to learn that 60% of my savings comes from JUST paying attention to what’s on sale at the stores? The coupons are the icing on the cake, driving down my out of pocket cost. But just using coupons may not actually yield you significant savings!

:: Pay attention to store sales cycles. Did you know December is a good time to batteries? Or that January is National Oatmeal month and a good time to find deals on oatmeal? How about frozen food in March? Stores offer certain items at low prices at certain times of the year. Some of them will cycle around frequently (for instance cereal comes on sale every few weeks it would seem), where other items may cycle only once or twice a year. Pay attention to these cycles and you’ll have better success in determining when the items you want to have on hand will be their cheapest. The manufacturers generally oblige with matching coupons and you’ve got a win-win! You can download a FREE pdf I assembled of store cycles. Some of these are specific to the PNW. I update this list every year.

:: Stock up when you find a deal. When you’ve identified a great deal on items your family needs or uses, stock up. Please note that stockpiling is not synonymous with hoarding. Here’s the difference:

Stockpiling is aquiring items your family needs in quantities you can reasonably store and use before they expire. Hoarding is acquiring items regardless of whether or not your family will use them and in quantities you won’t reasonably be able to use before they go bad. (Quote: Angela Russell – that’s me).

Please note this may look different family to family. If you have a family of eight and go through 4 boxes of cereal per week, 32 boxes would be stockpiling. If you have a family of 2 and only rarely eat cereal, 32 boxes would verge on hoarding.

:: Gather multiple Sunday paper inserts. If you’re new, your first question is likely “where do I get coupons?” My primary source of coupons is the Sunday newspaper. I get four copies of the Tacoma News Tribune delivered to my door (I’ve got a great deal if you’re looking for one!). Four copies means I’m able to do the deal quadrupled over.

Let’s consider the example of the rice above. Suppose instead of just one $1 off coupon, I had four $1 off coupons. With rare exception, the coupon’s fine print indicate there is one coupon per purchase. Please note this is not the same as a transaction. Each item is considered to be a purchase. Therefore, I could do this:

Buy (4) boxes of Rice for $2 each
Present the cashier with (4) $1 off 1 Rice coupons
Pay: $4 total

I now will have four boxes of rice to take back home and put in my pantry. Grow your stockpile slowly over time like this, and you’ll find not only you’ve saved money, you’ve saved time because you won’t have to go shopping nearly as often.

Further Reading

I really want this to work for you, because it has for me. I launched this blog after only three months of couponing because that’s how fast I saw the savings come! I knew it was doable and I wanted other people to get the quick success I’d found too.

If you’re new, I have a few posts I’d love for you to take a look at.

Getting to know your Sunday paper. What do inserts look like, anyway? What am I looking for?
Common Sense stockpiling (webcast). In this recorded webcast (video), I share more on how to appropriately stockpile goods and how this is not the same as hoarding.
Starting a stockpile from the ground up. Got nothing in the pantry? Wondering how to start? This post is for you.
How to find coupons (webcast). In this recorded webcast, I’ll share some secrets on how to find and identify coupons.
How I organize my coupons (webcast). In this webcast, I share how I keep the coupons organized.
Making sense of coupon matchup posts. Did you know that every week, I help match coupons to store deals and save you time? This post tells you how to read these posts.

Want more? Please check out my Coupons 101 and Webcast pages.

(PS see the picture above? I actually made a PROFIT of $7 on everything pictured there. Read how. You CAN do this.)


  1. Jan says

    I have to say, it is refreshing to hear someone speak of everything in balance when it comes to couponing and acquiring a reasonable stockpile for your family. Lately I’ve been getting a little weary of all this extreme stuff I’ve been seeing on tv and some sites. Thank you for bringing us back to sensibility, Angela! Your site is so practical!

  2. Carmen Collier says

    Just wondering about the News Tribune deal you put a link to. I’m new to your blog and prior to was always getting YES (ads and coupons). The last three weeks I haven’t been receiving YES so I called on Monday to get the subscription deal you mentioned and they told me that deal was no longer available. Is this true or did I speak to the wrong person? Thanks for the wondering blog!

    • arussell says

      Oh I’m so glad you spoke up. It should still be good. I will email the subscription contact I have and put you directly in touch with her. I’ll email you privately.

    • says

      The news tribune deal is still good! I recently ordered 4 papers for $4 week total and I have referred friends to do the same! It worked great, however the customer service department is not allowed to suggest the deal- you have to specifically ask for it.

      • Carmen says

        Thanks! I did mention the blog “coupon project” but he insisted the deal was over. Hope I can still get the deal.

  3. Sue says

    Great article!! I’d like to know when eggs are going on sale–I thought around Easter but have yet to see a sale except at Albertsons as an add on to items I don’t use. I’m down to 2 eggs and can’t even get the new coupon because its not on Safari and I can only get coupons through Safari. they won’t work on firefox.

  4. Courtney says

    Thank you for this post. I was amazed at how much you can save by just looking at differant stores. Since finding your blog I’ve saved several hundred dollars and that is just 3 months.

  5. jolene brant says

    I buy my newspapers at the Dollar Tree for a dollar each. Our income is different each month so some weeks I can only afford one paper. Plus I have several people that give me their inserts because they don’t use them.

    Couponing takes a little more planning but it’s worth it. A friend of mine saw the TLC show and told me she doesn’t have the time to coupon. Several overflowing carts, five hours in one store, hours clipping coupons, if this was what couponing was I wouldn’t have time for it. I spend maybe an hour total a week clipping the coupons I know I’ll use (I file the rest away until the expire) and checking the blogs. Once I built up a stock pile I didn’t have to shop as much. I made it through the couple days of snow we had without having to go to the store. If your smart about it coupon’s give you more time to spend with your family not less. Honestly Angela and the rest of the bloggers do the hard work. (Thanks Angela!!)

    • arussell says

      That’s one of the reasons I dislike the show. I feel it plays on the misconceptions folks already have about couponing: that it takes lots of time, that we’re all hoarders, that we only buy mustard, that we steal from stores (thanks, J’aime Kirlew!), etc. If I was watching the show and knew nothing about coupons, I’d probably be thinking “no way – too much work.”

      The subscription deal is just one way you could go about getting papers. Also check with friends/family (like you’ve done), or your local library. Some put out Sunday advance copies complimentary on Saturday (just be mindful of others).

      Thanks for your comment.

  6. Andrea says

    Another coupon stocking idea…I saw a woman actually pulling coupon flyers out of the newspaper recycling bin at our local recycling center. The best days for this would be Monday or Tuesday…to give people a day or two to take their papers. ;O)

  7. Debi says

    Hi there,
    Thank you for this practical, common sensical approach to saving! I stayed away from using coupons because how much hot sauce does a girl need??? I have mastered one store with the help of the store clerk, and look forward to learning more from you about how to shop for groceries!

  8. Shea says

    As several people have already done, I just want to thank you for your website and your approach to couponing. I have been couponing for a few months now and throughly enjoy the process. I enjoy figuring out the puzzle of where can I get the most product for my money. Several of my “friends” on FB are fellow couponers and we are always posting to “not be a shelf clearer.” Happy to know that others also feel this way!

  9. Michele says


    I am excited to get started looking through your website when I have a few minutes of spare time. Do you know of anyone in Utah that does what you do? I am originally form the Portland area, but now live in Utah and would love to know about deals that are happening in my neighborhood. Thanks for your website. It makes couponing seem easy, doable, and exciting.

  10. Shanea Champlin says

    Hey I just wanted to let you know that you were the first person who explained the difference between purchase and transactions.. I couldn’t figure out how so many people were using multiple coupons at once! Thank you soooo much.

  11. says

    I live in Gig Harbor (practically neighbors), I just started couponing today! I read your blog all last week, collected my coupons and planned strategically with instore member discounts at Safeway. Saved $47.63 my first time! WOW. I can see how this gets addicting. I just got back from the grocery store so excited I’m already clipping more coupons. LOL, and just got really excited that I found my first store + mfct coupon combo where I actually get money back! HOLLAH!

  12. Michelle says

    Great Blog. Thank you so much! Just curios if you can send me the contact number to receive 4 newspaper at my door for $4 month. And is that only offered in a specific state? Thnks again. I am fairly new at this but trying my best to get it right. My goal for couponing is not to only save money but to help those in need. So any suggestions I would appreciate so much! Your blog was helpful! Thanks again.

  13. kelly says

    hi, i think california. san diego in particular is trying to end this couponing trend, by ending double couponing in almost all stores, from the big to the small, walmart target food4less all the drug stores, just about everything, ralphs and vons were the last to go, so what options are there in this case if any?
    They said they ended because people were bragging about getting stuff for free. So no two coupons, either store or manufacture coupons, but not both, and some places add to there sales signs no coupons on sales items.

    • kelly says

      is this blog still active, i noticed not only my comment but most of they others have no reply and the last reply i see is in 2011