For the average family in America, it’s not the big stuff — car payments, TVs, furniture — that makes the biggest dent in the household budget. It’s groceries, laundry detergent, or diapers that really have a huge impact on how much a family spends every month. Founders of Krazy Coupon Lady, Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler, were struggling to make their families’ incomes stretch as far as they needed when they decided to give serious couponing a shot. It worked.
More than a decade later, the duo has transformed its couponing blog into a go-to resource for money-saving, created an app, published a best-selling book, and become regulars on the talk-show circuit for their life-changing advice on getting the absolute biggest bang for your buck. Now, Demer and Wheeler are talking about how saving with coupons has changed over the years, and how the savings can be life-changing.
In an interview with Mediaplanet, Wheeler says she was first encouraged to try couponing by an aunt who lived in a different state. “She would call me when she got back from the grocery store. She knew that my husband and I were trying to pay off a bunch of debt, and we didn’t have a ton of money coming in. And so she would call and say, ‘Seriously, Heather, you have to try this.’” So Wheeler began collecting unsold newspapers from her dad, who owns a gas station. She printed off coupons from Coupons.com. She called Demer and the two of them went to the store where they wound up saving somewhere in the neighborhood of $700. They were hooked.
Back then, this took a lot of planning and time. Demer and Wheeler had to painstakingly search for coupons and plan various scenarios by matching up all the coupons they’d gathered. They would collect Sunday newspapers from wherever they could, from coffee shops to recycling out of the garbage.
Demer and Wheeler say a lot has changed since this era of coupon-collecting, but committing to it can actually have a way bigger impact on the budget than people think. Take groceries, for example. “Because they’re all so little, people think it’s not worth the effort,” Demer says, pointing out, “But when it comes to buying a car or any big purchase… everybody shops around and does that research.”
She continues, “When you actually look at a household budget, any financial expert will tell you the groceries are going to be in the top three of most households,” saying that from an accumulative perspective, couponing is one of the best ways to save household money. “The coupon might be worth a dollar and that just doesn’t sound that exciting. But the fact of the matter is if you’re saving 50 dollars on every shopping trip and that’s once or twice a week, that’s serious savings and that’s gonna add up and really change your bottom line and create more flexibility in your family budget.”
Couponing in today’s age
The way coupons work in 2019 is different than when Demer and Wheeler first got started over a decade ago. For one thing, the fine print on coupons is a whole new ballgame. So while at one point it was possible to collect dozens of coupons in a giant binder, run to a Sunday sale, and save hundreds by buying up an entire aisle of laundry detergent, there are now restrictions on bulk-shopping like that. While you might not save $700 in one go, you can still be saving 20 to 50 percent on every shopping trip. And this adds up.
The other biggest change is the internet.
Having access to a Sunday paper is definitely still helpful, they say, but now couponing is most effective through apps. The Krazy Coupon Lady app matches coupons to sales, basically eliminating the time-consuming planning stage, and allows users to set alerts for coupons on essentials (like diapers), and offers tips and tricks. Retailer apps allow a customer to upload a receipt, and the store will then credit the customer the value of whatever rebate is available. There are other tricks too, like stacking up digital coupons and promo codes at places like Gap or Kohl’s, or taking advantage of Amazon’s automatic reordering feature — if you automatically reorder your groceries from Amazon, the site will give you between 5 and 20 percent off.
If all of this sounds intimidating, Demer and Wheeler know that it does take some work, but their goal is to lower this hurdle. “The advice that we give to brand new people is start small,” Demer says. “Download three apps. That’s all you have to do.” She recommends the Krazy Coupon Lady app, one rebate app like Ibotta, and one retailer app such as for a local drug store like Walgreens or CVS. “Like anything else that you’re trying to adopt, it’s so much easier with a friend,” Wheeler says.