Thursday, June 2, 2011

The 5 Stages of a Coupon Newbie

After 6 months of serious couponing, I have come to the realization that Coupon Newbies have a very distinct life cycle. Five stages that we all go through in our journey towards shedding that newbie status and becoming veteran couponers. Here are my five stages of a Coupon Newbie. Do you recognize yourself in one of these descriptions?

The 5 Stages of a Coupon Newbie

Stage 1: Utter Confusion
The life of a Coupon Newbie can start in many ways. Maybe you saw a certain television show that peaked your interest. Maybe you stumbled across a couponing blog and were amazed by all the deals the blogger posted. Maybe a friend started telling you about their own couponing adventures. However you got here, we all start in the same place....Utter Confusion.

BOGO, Catalinas, +UP Rewards, $1/1 from 5/15 RP, blinkies, etc. etc. etc. What in the world does this new language mean? Where do people get all these coupons? How do they know about the deals? How can I save money on products I actually use?

My advice for Stage 1 Newbies: Take a deep breath. While learning to coupon can seem like learning a whole new language, you will catch on. Hang around a couple of good blogs for a while to get your feet wet. Don't expect to start saving 99% on your grocery bill from day one. Start collecting and organizing your coupons. Start with a couple of small deals and build from there.

Stage 2: Newbie Euphoria

After a few weeks or months, you finally feel confident with your newly learned skills. You have successfully completed some smaller transactions. You faithfully read your coupon blogs. You collect coupons and have them all neatly organized. And then your couponing world collides and you enter Stage 2....Newbie Euphoria.

As you are reading through one of your blogs, you spot a great deal. And it's on products that you use. And it utilizes coupons that you have. And it will either be FREE or a moneymaking deal.

With your excitement building, you gather your coupons and make your list. You head to the store and the coupon gods are smiling on you....everything you want to buy is in stock. You fill your cart, head to the check-out, complete your multiple transactions with no issues, and walk out of the store with a cart full of items for FREE.

FREE! Can you believe it? You rush home to tell your husband or call your sister with the details of your amazing deal or post on Facebook for all your friends to see. It was this sense of Newbie Euphoria that led me to start this blog.

My advice to Stage 2 Newbies: Enjoy! Completing your first big deal is such a feeling of accomplishment. You are cracked the code of the coupon world and are on your way to saving your family money. Take a minute to bask in the glow of Newbie Euphoria.

Stage 3: Coupon Frenzy
The problem with Newbie Euphoria is that is inevitably leads to Coupon Frenzy. Your confidence swells and your desire to save money and pull off great deals reaches a fever pitch.

Free shampoo at Rite-Aid! Free pasta at Albertson's! Free razors at Walgreen's! Free chips at QFC! Free hot dogs at Fred Meyer! Free deodorant at Target! Free barbeque sauce at Safeway!

Soon you are running all over town to make sure you get the best deals. You drag your kids to Rite-Aid at 8am on Sunday morning to score free baby shampoo (yes, I did this). You spend hours scourging blogs, pouring over store ads, and making endless lists for every store you can think of. You panic if you miss a deal or don't have the right coupons to pull it off.

Your stockpile is growing and taking over more space than you had intended. Your husband begs you to stop buying toothpaste and soup for fear the shelving unit will collapse under the weight. But toothpaste and soup are FREE again this week, so you run out and buy more.

My advice to Stage 3 Newbies: I wish I could tell you to skip this stage. Unfortunately, I think it is a unavoidable part of the life cycle of a Coupon Newbie. We all go through it. Finding great deals can be addicting and it can be hard to pass up FREE items. If you are in this stage, breathe. Know that soup and toothpaste will be FREE again in a couple weeks. Don't let Coupon Frenzy take over your life.

Stage 4: Battle Fatigue

Soon the Frenzy will pass and Battle Fatigue will set in. Driving all over town will become exhausting. The hours spent clipping coupons and putting together the best deals will be hours spent ignorning the piles of laundry and neglecting the yard work. You grow tired of stepping over cases of Powerade on your way to bed at night. You wonder what to make for dinner with pasta, beans, and coffee creamer.

You grow more and more frustrated when deals don't work out as planned. When you see empty shelves, you bitterly blame "new" couponers for clearing the shelves and ruining the art of couponing. Your stacks of inserts pile up, unclipped and unorganized. Couponing begins to feel like a chore. 

My advice to Stage 4 Newbies: I'll be honest....some of you won't make it out of this stage. The pressure and stress of the overwhelming desire to save the most money will be too much and you will give up on couponing all together. That's okay. While I think everyone can benefit from couponing, I know that it doesn't fit into the lives of some of us. For those of you that are determined to weather this storm, hang in there. You will come out on the other side.
Stage 5: The Zen Couponer

At last you have reached stage 5 of a Coupon Newbie...The Zen Couponer. Having spent several months (or longer) couponing, you recognize that good deals come along all the time. You start focusing on one or two stores. You pare down your blog list to the best of the bunch. You start only buying things that your family needs and uses. You start working your way through your stockpile and finding other uses for the lifetime supply of maxi pads that you have amassed.

The Zen Couponer has found a way to fit couponing into their life without making it their life. Zen Couponers know that another toothpaste deal will come along so they pass on that deal to let newer Newbies have a shot at it. Zen Couponers pay full price for milk (gasp!) because it's not worth the trip across town to save $1 at another store. Zen Couponers save money and time.

My advice to Stage 5 Newbies: Congratulations! You have successfully navigated the confusing and crazy world of a Coupon Newbie and come out alive on the other side. Take time to share what you have learned with others. Offer a coupon or two to the person behind you in the checkout line. Enjoy the extra time and money that comes from being a Zen Couponer. And know that the Frenzy will sneak in a couple times a year and it's okay to get excited about scoring a cart full of groceries for $2.50. You've worked hard to earn it.

So which stage are you in? I think I've finally tipped over to Stage 5, but I still have flashes of Stages 3 & 4. Being a Coupon Newbie is confusing, thrilling, frenetic, frustrating and ultimatley very rewarding.


  1. Wow! You are right on the mark! I am at Stage 4, slowly moving into Stage 5. Now I don't feel so alone! I felt like such a loser because I couldn't keep up anymore. Thanks for the insight! I feel confident enough to hang in there. :-)

  2. Great summary! I'm *very* new to couponing and being a single person household I managed to pass through to Stage 5 in about four weeks. I'm fairly certain it was the five stores I hit in one day -- during a two week period where I did at least 15 shopping trips -- that did me in. I calculated the other day that it can take me up to three years to go through a bottle of body wash (I usually have at least two at a time I'm working my way through) so I now have a five year supply at a minimum with only three bottles! And don't even get me started on laundry detergent...

  3. This was so great! I think I'm in stage 4 but not giving up! Thanks for this awesome post!

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