Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Coupon Site Face-Off: CouponMom vs. Krazy Coupon Lady

Couponing is one frugal-living skill I've never really mastered. As I wrote recently in a Dollar Stretcher forum thread on the topic:
The thing about extreme couponing is that when it works, it's like magic. I have found some rare, amazing deals in which a sale price stacks perfectly with my available coupons, such as a 4-for-$6 sale on cereal, plus two 75-cent coupons and two 50-cent coupons, all of which double, so that I end up walking out with four boxes of cereal that would normally cost over $4 each for only $1 total. It's an incredible thrill.
The problem is, deals like that are few and far between...Most of the time, the coupon inserts I get delivered with my local grocery store fliers have only one or two coupons each that are even worth clipping--and most of the ones I clip end up going unused because they expire before a sale comes along to stack with them.
Considering how rarely these "stacked" deals work out for me, I've never really found it worthwhile to put in the time and effort that true extreme couponers devote to collecting coupons and scouting out the best deals. Instead, I coupon the lazy way. First I check the weekly sale fliers to look for good deals; only when I find one do I check to see whether there's any way I could make it still better with a coupon.

For the past couple of years, I have been relying on CouponMom.com to make this part of the process easier. Before a shopping trip, I check the list of "Extreme Deals" for my state, and it shows me which store sales in my area can be stacked with coupons to maximize savings. Unfortunately, as I've noted before, the deals this site lists aren't always accurate. Sometimes, for instance, it will tell me I can stack a sale with a coupon for a specific product, but when I read the fine print in the flier, it turns out that particular product isn't included in the sale. Also, it occasionally tells me I can find coupons for specific items in the SmartSource or Red Plum coupon insert for a specific date, but when I check, the coupons aren't there. Still, I've figured, the site does have the advantage of being free, unlike many similar sites (such as The Grocery Game), so I shouldn't look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. If I have to do a little double-checking to make sure the CouponMom deals are accurate, that's still less work than hunting them down myself.

Today, however, that thread at the Dollar Stretcher inspired me to do a little searching, and I came across another free coupon site called "The Krazy Coupon Lady." I'd visited her site before, but only for general couponing tips. This time, I decided to check out some of the actual deals on the site and see how they compared to the ones I usually find at CouponMom.

The Krazy Coupon Lady site (I'll call it KCL for short) is organized a bit differently from CouponMom: instead of searching for deals by state, you have to click on the name of a specific store, and the site will pull up a list of all the deals in that store's flier. (CouponMom can be searched this way too, but it also gives you the option of looking at "extreme deals" available across all stores in your state.) At first, this seemed a lot less convenient, since I couldn't compare deals for all my area stores at a glance. After looking at the deals for my local Stop & Shop, however, I had to admit that there was one advantage to KCL's format: it's a lot easier to read. CouponMom compresses everything into one long list, so each specific deal gets only one or two lines devoted to it. To achieve this, the site sums up the details in a shorthand form that's often hard to follow. The Krazy Coupon Lady, by contrast, goes through each deal in detail, listing the sale price for each item and all the coupons that can be combined with it, along with their sources. If they're online coupons, a link is provided; if a coupon expires, the site strikes it out to show that it's no longer applicable. At the bottom, the site lists the best possible price you can get through stacking. Thanks to this easy-to-follow format, I was able to quickly spot two useful deals and link directly to the appropriate coupons at Coupons.com.

Another advantage of the KCL site is that it includes a lot more than just grocery deals. CouponMom covers some drugstores, warehouse clubs and other big-box stores, but the specific items it lists for these stores are basically the same ones you'd find at supermarkets. The Krazy Coupon Lady, by contrast, can help you find special prices on websites, coupons for restaurants, and even freebies available both online and in stores.

However, KCL does have one distinct downside compared to CouponMom: it doesn't allow you to select the deals you want and print out a shopping list to take to the store. Each deal listed for a particular store has a check box next to it, but ticking them doesn't seem to do anything; if you select "print," it just prints out the entire page, with all the deals you didn't want as well as the ones you did. And since KCL lists those deals in long format, you'll end up printing out a whole lot of pages you don't need.

As for accuracy, the two sites seem to be about on a par with each other. When I compared the listings for Stop & Shop across both sites, both sites steered me to a sale on Fiber One 90-calorie bars, and both of them claimed that one of the coupons you could stack with this sale was in the SmartSource insert for September 28. However, when I checked that insert, the coupon wasn't there, and I clearly hadn't clipped it already; there was no place it could have been. Perhaps the problem is that the version of the SmartSource flier these sites use is different from the one I get with my grocery store fliers, but whatever the reason for the discrepancy, it's clearly the same across both sites. So no matter which one I use, I'll have to be prepared for the occasional bum deal.

So which site is better overall? Well, I'd have to say both sites are useful, but for different things. For a quick overview of available deals and where to find them, CouponMom is definitely better. It's the one I'd use if I wanted to figure out which stores were worth shopping at in a given week. However, if I already knew that I wanted to visit one particular store, I'd turn to The Krazy Coupon Lady to help me spot the best buys there and find the necessary coupons. The lack of a shopping list feature is a slight disadvantage, but it's not too big a hassle to just write one out by hand. Or, I suppose, I could just identify the deals I want at KCL, then pop over to CouponMom to find those same deals and make a printable list.
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