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It’s been 10 years (WHAT!?) since I began couponing, and nearly as long since Heather and I officially founded The Krazy Coupon Lady. And, girl! Things have changed. Makes me feel old.
1. New coupon limits mean I stockpile more slowly.
One of the biggest changes I’ve had to make in the last decade is slowing my roll on stockpiling. Coupon limits nearly always restrain me to buying no more than four like items at a time. Sometimes I can only by one or two of each item.
A decade ago, I was buying up multiple copies of the newspaper just for the coupons and then special-ordering cases of breakfast cereal — enough to last me (and my entire church group or extended family) for an entire year. Today, the verbiage on most coupons prevents me from buying in bulk all at once. It means I have to make more frequent trips to the store, which is a bummer.
2. But I never run into empty shelves like I used to.
I used to have to shop on Sundays — the day new sales went live — to find the week’s hottest deals in stock at any of my local stores. Infamous “shelf-clearers” would buy up all the freebies, leaving nothing for other shoppers. Thanks to the new coupon limits, it’s impossible for shelves to be emptied the way they used to be, meaning I can be lazy and shop later in the week.
3. And I can shop — and sometimes even coupon — without going into the store.
In order to compete with Amazon’s convenience factor, more and more supermarkets are offering free grocery pickup. And some stores, like Kroger chains, even accept coupons on grocery pickup orders.
Place your order online, then drive up to the pickup spot and call the store to let them know you’re ready for them to bring out your order. On that call, they’ll ask if you have any coupons (unless it’s Walmart). Then, the delivery person comes out, takes your coupons, charges you for the order and loads the groceries into your car. Come on, people. How easy is that?
4. In fact, I get things for free without leaving my car during Kroger Mega Events.
Kroger may go by a different name where you live. Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, King Soopers, City Market, Fry’s, QFC, and Harris Teeter are all Kroger family stores. So, when I say Kroger, if you live in Southern California, you can just read the tips as if I’m saying “Ralphs.”
During a Kroger Mega Event, when you buy four or five or ten items (depending on the sale), you’ll instantly save $4 or $5. You can use manufacturer coupons on those items and still get the full value of the instant savings. And, you can load Clicklist-specific coupons (those coupons reserved exclusively for grocery pickup customers such as $10 off your $50 order or free turkey with a $50 order).
Grocery pickup can cost $4.95, but there are also coupons for free pickup, which I obviously use. Duh. Tally up all those stackable savings, and you can get some items completely free!
Seriously, where was this 10 years ago, saving 50, 60, 70% on groceries without pausing the Spotify jams in my car?
5. But nobody doubles coupons like the good ol’ days.
It was 2012 when stores started changing up coupon policies in the wake of Extreme Couponing. Today, double coupons are like an urban legend. Some stores used to automatically double the value of any coupon $0.99 or under, meaning a $0.50/1 coupon would save you $1.00. Other stores like Kmart would run week-long double coupon events where any coupon worth up to $2.00 would double in value. So a coupon for $2.00 off 409 cleaner would suddenly be worth $4.00 off.
Truth be told, I may have helped push Kmart over the edge toward bankruptcy.
6. And newspaper coupons just aren’t the same.
I’m not saying newspaper coupons aren’t any good. They are. But, there are fewer of them, and the values aren’t as good as they used to be. Ten years ago, you couldn’t coupon without the newspaper. Today, you absolutely can.
7. You need a smartphone to really coupon in 2019.
What we lost in newspaper coupons, we gained in rebate apps. Ibotta, Checkout 51, SavingStar and Fetch Rewards are all required downloads for any couponer. These apps all track your purchase through your receipt or loyalty card, so there’s no action to take at the register. You won’t even have to hold up the checkout line!
8. Compared to 10 years ago, it’s easier to save a little money and harder to save a lot.
All of the changes in the last 10 years have made it easier to save a little — every store app is putting instant savings in the palm of your hand. Save 15% here and there without any planning.
If you want to save $100 or more per month, you’ve still got to work for it. The deals are still there, but because of limits, you’ll have to use the KCL app and shop more frequently to save 60, 70, 80%.
9. The Krazy Coupon Lady app is the undisputed No. 1 couponing tool.
Maybe 10 years ago you and your girlfriend could comb through the Sunday paper to find the weekly circular and put together deals with matching newspaper coupons. Or maybe there were a dozen local coupon sites in your community you could follow to stay in the know.
No longer. The Krazy Coupon Lady is one of the only remaining sites publishing hundreds of hot couponing deals every week. And the free app allows you to curate deals by store or set up deal alerts by brand. It’s maintained a five-star review since launch, and if it’s not on your phone, well, that makes me sad.
10. Store apps contain digital coupons you can redeem instantly without printing anything.
The next app you have to download is the store app. Whether it’s Target, Kroger or CVS, nearly all store apps contain digital coupons you can redeem with a scan of your phone or a phone number after loading coupons to your loyalty account through the app.
11. I still occasionally get free toothpaste.
I swore I’d never pay for this crap again and for the most part, I’ve not broken that promise. Every month, toothpaste is free somewhere. While it might not happen as often as it did in 2011, I pride myself on grabbing those deals when I can.
12. And I make money, especially at Walmart and Rite Aid.
Rite Aid and Walmart are the two places I routinely shop Moneymakers: deals that earn me more than I spend. For example, Walmart will still pay me the difference if I buy a $0.45 taco seasoning mix with a $0.50 off coupon.
Rite Aid operates a little differently. They don’t hand me money from the register. They load the balance as Bonus Cash to my Rite Aid account, and I can track my savings in the Rite Aid app or at the bottom of my receipt. Bonus Cash works similarly to Plenti Points, and you can redeem and earn Bonus Cash in the same transactions. Bonus Cash even covers sales tax, and it’s valid for two months.
13. Drugstores remain the best place to get things nearly free.
The drugstore game is the thing that’s changed the least in the last decade. Every major drugstore chain has made policy updates, even changed loyalty programs in the last 10 years, but the shtick is the same.
You join a free loyalty program and then every week, buy participating items to earn “store dollars” to use on a future purchase. When you combine manufacturer coupons with those loyalty gimmicks, you end up saving 70, 80, 90% off retail price.
14. Target coupon policy changes have robbed it of its crown as the best store for couponers.
Target long held the title of being the best store for couponers — especially newbies. And while it’s still one of our favorites, coupon policy changes have muddied the waters, particularly around the handling of BOGO coupons and gift card promotions. Here’s one example of something that used to be simple, but now is more complicated
Ten years ago:
Buy 2 Items, $10 each (subtotal $20)
Buy 2, Get $5 gift card
Use BOGO free manufacturer coupon (saves $10)
Pay: $10.00, Receive $5 gift card
Final price: Like paying $2.50 each after gift card savings
Buy 2 Items, $10 each (subtotal $20)
Buy 2, Get $5 gift card
Use BOGO free manufacturer coupon (now saves $7.50)
Pay: $12.50, Receive $5 gift card
Final price: Like paying $3.75 each after gift card savings
The cash register today will adjust down the value of any coupon used with a gift card promotion to prevent the customer from earning a gift card that exceeds the value of what they paid out of pocket. There are no more Moneymakers at Target.
15. Ditching store and brand loyalty is still the best way to save money.
I’ve been saying it for 10 years straight: To save the most money, throw your brand loyalty out the window.
If you love Finish tabs, but Cascade is 70% less this week, go Cascade. If you typically buy Charmin, but this week Cottonelle is half the price, buy the cheaper brand. When you’re couponing, you’re typically buying top brands anyway, so make sure you’re open to the best deal, even if it means trying something new.
Same goes for stores. If you’re willing to add one more store in your monthly rotation, especially if it’s a drugstore, you stand to save a lot more than the cost of the fuel it takes to get there — maybe even as much as a car payment.
16. Couponing at self-checkout is the introvert’s cure for performance anxiety.
Today, most stores will accept coupons at self-checkout machines, making it entirely possible to coupon without holding up a line. After you scan your coupons, a cashier will come to approve the transaction before you pay, but it’s pretty painless. What I would have given for this back in 2009. . .
17. Instagram is the new couponing social platform.
The coupon game has moved to Instagram. Follow hashtags like #couponcommunity #couponingcommunity #coupondeals #extremecouponing #rundeal #krazycouponlady … and for store deals: #targetdeal or #targetclearance, etc. for the hottest deals in your Instagram feed.
And don’t forget to check out KCL’s Instagram stories where you can swipe to quickly access our favorite deals.
18. Kohl’s and Lowe’s clearance deals are my latest obsession.
Couponing used to mean never paying for body wash or shampoo and paying pennies on the dollar for all my toiletries. Now, I have to cough up fifty cents or a buck for the things I used to get for free.
But what I’ve lost in free razors, I’ve gained in free small appliances like blenders, Crock-Pots, and grills at places like Kohl’s, thanks to coupon and rebate stacking.
And the real deal hunt has moved to Lowe’s and Walmart, thanks to clearance tracking from Brickseek.com, a website (free to use, with an optional paid membership) that tracks clearance inventory by store.
19. Krazy Coupon Lady deal alerts are the best thing to happen to deal finding in a decade.
The worst part about couponing has always been missing a great deal. I die a little inside every time. That’s why we came up with deal alerts by brand, so you can subscribe to push notifications for the stuff you need and then toggle them back off once you make your purchase!
Deal alerts are a free feature in the latest version of the Krazy Coupon Lady app. Look for grocery store brands to be added in March 2019.
20. And Heath and I still act like an old married couple.
Couponing was her idea in the first place. I’m just along for the ride. Make finding your couponing buddy your No. 1 goal in 2019.