A reader named Kali left an intriguing comment about how she motivates herself to clip coupons, which, you may remember, is not one of my favorite activities. I talked to her recently about a growing trend called coupon trains.
What is a coupon train? It’s simple circle of coupon clippers who send their excess coupons to each other, around and around.
How much time to you spend each week on the coupon train? About an hour. But that’s not an more then I would normally spend clipping coupons for myself.
How does it work? You have somewhere between 5 and 10 coupon clippers. I know there are ones that go across the country. Smaller generally works better. The larger the train, the more coupons that get through, but it takes longer for the train to come visit each station. Everybody sends an envelope every week. The idea is you send a new one each week, and you get one envelope each week. Generally you send the coupons to the next person on the list unless you know someone is on vacation, or if someone had a baby, you can send them specialty coupons.
I’ve been in two coupon trains. One failed completely. It was a large one. It was all over the East Coast, up the entire seaboard and it took forever. People forgot. In my opinion from what I’ve seen 5-10 people works the best. It also helps if there’s wide range of people in it. If everyone is a mom with a 2 year old, everybody wants the same coupons.
Doesn’t the cost of postage outweigh the savings? It’s 44 cents to mail an envelope. Letter size envelope can only take 3 ounces. For every envelope I probably spend $1.25 on postage. I may buy a bigger envelope at the post office, which is $.50. But if I’m pulling $20 worth of coupons each week and I’m spending $2, I’m still saving. People who don’t use a lot of coupons would not be happy with this.
How much have you saved from the train? My biggest one is shaving razors. I got a buy one get one free coupon. They usually run about $7 apiece. And sometimes they stuff extra razors in the bag. I’ve gotten $4 off Claritin, BOGO free pizza. I’ve probably saved well over $100 a month.
How many coupons do you receive in your train? Probably at least one letter size envelope that has at least 100 coupons, on a slow week.
How many do you use? It really depends on the week. I pull $10-$20 worth of coupons from the envelope.
Do you use all coupons you take? Almost always. I’m very picky about my coupons.
How many coupons do you have to add to the train each week? I usually add about 100 per week. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes more.
How did you find a train to join? Through TheGroceryGame.com, but a lot of other places do it too. People form them on Craigslist, soccer moms at schools organize them. TheGroceryGame has a specific forum for it and encourages it. It does not cost money to join. Most of them are (paid) members of the site but I do believe the actual message board on TheGroceryGame is free.
Do you know the people in your train? No, not personally.
Do you have safety concerns? I did at first, but my train is very careful to only send out the addresses to the people who need them. In my train, everyone potentially only has one other person in your train who knows your address. Plus the person who receives your envelope.
Anything else you want to add? They’re not any more work – if you normally clip coupons. It’s not a huge commitment.
I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this. It’s fashionable to clip coupons.
Does anybody want to start a coupon train? Leave a comment.