Couponing is Missing the Point

I talk about why couponers who ignore the miles, points, credit, and deals game are settling for low value picking up proverbial pennies when they could instead be having massive victories.

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Rough transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals! 

Thanks for joining me for podcast Episode 67: Couponing is Missing the Point. I’ll talk about why couponers who ignore the miles, points, credit, and deals game are settling for low value picking up proverbial pennies when they could instead be having massive victories.

The war against couponers, you may have guessed, was inevitable. Listeners asked for roasting and more entertainment, so let’s give it a shot Tommy. Friends, Romans, Credit Men lend me your ears. Some, not knowing much about the miles, points, credit, and deals game, let’s call it ‘the hobby’ for the rest of this show, lament ‘the hobby’ comparing it to couponing. Couponing, though, pales in comparison next to ‘the hobby.’

Critics absolutely get it right when they argue that couponing is probably not worth the time, but this slander that ‘the hobby’ is not worth the time, especially from couponers, will not stand. I will fight the good fight versus those waging the war on happiness whether they be Dave Ramsey and his followers recently saying, “If you use a credit card, you do not want to be rich” or lowly couponers. For criticism of Dave Ramsey, see my previous episode ‘Dave Ramsey Misses the Point.’

My first issue with couponing is significant limitation. Couponers must settle for the Old El Paso taco shells and barbecue sauce, for example, rather than my method of using credit to purchase gift cards at grocery stores and redeeming grocery rewards for almost anything I want including printer paper, office supplies, and even clothing. I pay off my credit cards in full and, in the process, also get 6% cashback, 4x American Express Membership Rewards, 3% cashback, 2x MGM Rewards and tier credits, work towards high spend goals that give bonuses like hotel free nights, and so much more. Couponers don’t get much spend in and, if they aren’t into ‘the hobby,’ will very likely get minimal, if any, rewards using their random debit card for 0% back or garbage credit card for only 1-2% back if that.

Is a perceived deal on Old El Paso taco shells really a deal if you had little to no desire for the product? Beware of buying things because there is a discount or rebate when you didn’t even want that thing. Surely many will think, “Good deal!” but is that spend worth it even with maybe a dollar or so off or back? More importantly, many items will expire and you may suffer complete loss on what you thought was a deal. 

About a week ago, in one couponing group, I saw quite an amazing post from someone who purchased four large jars of mayonnaise to save $5 on a $20 purchase, but two of the jars expired earlier than the suggested expiration date. The person oddly then posted about wanting a refund and included pictures of the gross mayo with, to quote the poster, “green stuff.” A long comment thread then developed in which people said she should take the mayo back to the store. Total bizarro world in my opinion…gamer got gamed?

My method of getting almost anything I want, especially when it comes to non-expiring printer paper, is far less prone to error. I have had the first-world problem of, wow, I have about $1000 in grocery rewards that will expire, but I solved this in many ways especially since the points came from a humongous edge of about 5-10%. If the promotion were not available, I would still buy some cards with a small edge, but not get the bonus grocery rewards.

I donated food to friends and family. I also ate freshly prepared avocado cucumber sushi, oddly named HELTHEE ROLL (all caps), and freshly prepared Chinese food, not some random stuff sitting in bins since 10AM. I aimed to spend more on probably higher quality food rather than store brand. Organic produce took priority over the usual fare. Years ago, I said I would like to eat healthier, but eating healthy seemed expensive. Now, life has changed, thanks to ‘the hobby,’ where this is no longer an issue. Couponers outside ‘the hobby’ can’t even come close. The fresh food was such a boon as otherwise I would have spent casino comps and cash for food. I’ll hoard my comps for when there are no promotions in future months and, of course, not spend money at restaurants.

If couponers can’t handle credit and gift cards for some reason, I would suggest lower-hanging ‘the hobby’ fruit including checking account bonuses. I recently moved a direct deposit to a certain bank to get a bonus $300. It took 5-10 minutes to complete a checking application while my rice cooker meal was being made. I updated my direct deposit portal with new account information.

Can couponers even come close to an $1800 an hour proposition – that’s 300*6, America Loves Math? One may say that bank bonuses may not scale indefinitely, but the couponers would be throwing stones in their glass houses…and few things scale indefinitely. One can easily sign up for even a handful of bank bonuses per year and crush it without the time to dig through coupon inserts, compare store deals, have certain coupons not work properly, use tons of grocery apps that reward very little, and usually be limited in what one can buy.

Other low-hanging fruit in miles and points with no cash investment can be found in the assorted MyVegas games. As I’m typing this script, I’m auto-spinning several games to earn comped hotel nights, cruises, food, free slot play, table game match play, show ticket discounts, and so much more. All of this requires no actual spending – one doesn’t have to buy chips in the MyVegas games or wager real money. After learning a good strategy, the earn is mostly automated. For more information, see my YouTube channel at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast.

I’ll go to Borgata in Atlantic City almost monthly and redeem rewards usually four times per year, the maximum allowed, again the war on happiness strikes, for so much more value than couponers will likely make. Perhaps one would value a comp hotel night around $150, so this is $600 a year plus hundreds of dollars in food credits with that sweet Amphora Lounge uplift touting MGM Gold status that couponers won’t get. How about two comp nights at Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of dollars per trip in Las Vegas food credits? By the way, unlike the couponers, I got to Las Vegas for next to no cash because I used miles and points to cover my round-trip flight and that MGM Gold status gives me very low rates at MGM casinos. On some occasions, I even brought food and snacks sourced from grocery rewards with me in free checked bags thanks to credit card benefits.

Maybe one doesn’t want to travel or accrue miles and points. Focus on cashback, then, and cash out points at a decent rate. One credit card, especially when starting in the hobby with good credit, can easily give more than $500 in value for spending you’re going to do anyway. A Poker dealer at a local casino lives in the same apartment complex I live. We can both use a credit card payment portal provided by our landlord rather than mailing a paper check for example. This payment portal is such a gem – a low service charge of only $6 for a close to $900 rent payment! Even on a 1% cashback credit card, the service charge is easily offset.

This close to $2700 spend in three months knocks out a good portion of spend towards credit card signup bonuses, essentially offering a tremendous rent rebate. Consider the US Bank Triple Cash credit card I got approved for – a special offer for a $750 cash bonus after $4000 spend in four months. Three rent payments plus some other spend essentially led to one month of rent paid by US Bank. Use the no annual fee card to pay rent, pay the card off in full to avoid interest, and presto chango! Good luck to couponers generating this type of value.

Since the answer to everything is more credit cards, this won’t stop at one welcome offer. Hobby enthusiasts will sign up for multiple credit cards and keep the party going for more welcome offers, special benefits, statement credits, and much more that fares better than expired mayonnaise or even decent deals for maybe $2 off $3 papertowels. What fortune to be born in this era! Hobby enthusiasts will find many ways to spend creatively. Maybe you can’t pay rent or mortgage with credit like I can. Maybe you don’t have local grocery chains with good rewards, but people across the United States are winning daily. Some grocery chains like Kroger and Meijer might even be better than Giant at times. Either way, something is better than nothing.

But Justin, hurdy gurdy man, my friend my friend, have you actually given couponing a chance? Did you try it yourself? My most direct experience was joining Facebook groups and following couponing websites. I was very unimpressed with websites that have clickbaity misleading headlines. One such website,, is providing a great disservice to the mommas and the papas inside and outside of California dreams.

Consider a recent post titled ‘Giant Brand Baking Products ONLY (all caps) $0.50 Each.” According to, “Start your holiday baking now, Giant Brand Baking Products for as low as $0.50 next week. Starting from 11/11, Giant Brand Morsels or Giant 100% Pumpkin are priced at $2.00 and Giant Brand Flour or Sugar are priced at $2.50 each. Plus you will save $7.50 in gas reward points. That will make the final price just $0.50 each.”

The final price isn’t really just $0.50, though. This isn’t me being picky or ‘too literal’ as sometimes I am accused of being. Getting a rebate in many cases may be very close to lowering the cost, but in this sugar example, starting Nov 11, another promotion giving 5x points on most gift cards will start. Rather than paying full price for the sugar and then getting bonus gas reward points offsetting the cost of gas, why not instead just buy qualifying gift cards you’d use anyway? Then use those points to not only reduce the price of gas to $0 for 25 gallons and also get thousands of dollars in free groceries?

It’s total clown world, on my view, to focus on a sugar rebate promotion paying full price for sugar to get a rebate later when you can instead focus on gift card promotions to get gas and whatever grocery items you want. Maybe you have a tough time scaling gift card promotions? Have no fear, for of course online gambling websites are here!

Weeks ago, Giant offered 5x points on GameOn gift cards, so $400 back in GameOn gift cards would give $20 in groceries minus the $5.95 activation fee plus the credit card rewards on the acquisition of GameOn. This may also work during the same time as the sugar promotion. One can use the GameOn funds on various online sites playing through funds one time and then withdraw. 

Playing basic strategy Blackjack gives up about a half percent house edge. Learn using training apps and/or software and consult charts from the wonderful website Blackjack Apprenticeship. You can even consult the charts while you play. Start small training for free, then transition to $1 real-money bets and eventually higher bets to save time. How wonderful, too, to leverage credit to get gas and groceries while improving cash flow considering 0% apr credit card offers, 30 day grace periods, and more. Discipline here is freedom and the time you take learning Blackjack is a far more profitable life skill compared to couponing.

Might Blackjack not be your thing? How about the very likely fool-proof Draftkings Rocket game you can place on autospin risking the minimum bet or more at minimum cashout to play through GameOn funds? You give up what seems to be a 3% edge, but you are still way ahead with a 5x promotion, credit card rewards, and credit card spend. See my Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast YouTube channel for Draftkings Rocket strategy. Even if you don’t play through thousands of dollars to get all the groceries you want, you can still crush gas points much harder than couponers thirsting for sugar rebates. Additionally, online gambling sites often give deposit bonuses, bonus free play, free sports bets after gambling in casino games, and so much more.

Maybe gambling isn’t your thing at all or you lack self-control? Consider buying other gift cards and perhaps using them creatively to scale up your spend earning more points. Maybe you have friends who will make a large purchase at Home Depot or Best Buy and they’ll buy the gift cards from you at a discounted rate. Maybe you can find other ways to use or sell the gift cards. A little bit of effort can go a long way. The couponers have no ability whatsoever to reduce several gas and grocery bills to next to nothing getting whatever they want. Stepping back from couponing bizarro world, I’m getting whatever I want plus regular vacations including cruises, flights, hotel stays, and so much more that dramatically improved my quality of life. 

The wins still continue since 2018 as I recently got back from my third comped cruise in the last year, a round-trip business class flight and hotel nights in Italy, Las Vegas, and so much more. Couponing isn’t for the mommas, it’s for the birds.

It’s a disaster to think you got a good deal on sugar while I’m jetsetting, cruising, and walking out of the grocery store with Baby Yoda ornaments, clothing, frozen veggie burgers, and so much more. According to my latest receipt, I saved more than $10,000 in just ten to eleven months just at Giant and my apartment is well-stocked. I challenge representatives from ForTheMommas or other couponing sites to come close to my total. I even crush the couponers who buy for an entire family, perhaps those 2.5 kids, a dog, and the white picket fence. The fence surely needs some decorations from the seasonal aisle, too.

Worse yet, one such representative from ForTheMommas or a Facebook admin who seems to post in ForTheMommas, has been consistently waging the war on happiness moderating my Facebook posts, deleting comments, and never allowing my comments to see the light of day. 

Fear not, dear listeners, for the hurdy gurdy bard is undefeated in battle. At first, momma couponer claimed I was being “negative” when I told her that a Giant deal on Fanatics gift cards was actually not a good deal because Fanatics is almost always 20% off or better somewhere else online. Let it be known that it is poor strategy to limit your freedom, your pursuit of happiness, to just one domain. The hurdy gurdy warband will be happy to click a few buttons from home rather than going in the contested territory of the physical grocery store! 

Brave hero Stephen Pepper, past podcast guest, author of that glorious online tome, is one of the best fighters against the wretched tide of unhappiness. Stephen Pepper constantly tells us Fanatics is 20% off or better and that a new deal is boring. One day, Pepper posted, surprised that he could not find Fanatics 20% off or better and commenters quickly chimed in with links to deals. Pepper, like me, was redeemed on the field of battle. Fanatics is such a garbage brand that it became a meme. Why ever go in Giant, and I’m not talking about the Chinese restaurant In Giant, to buy Fanatics at maybe 10-15% off when you can get it online for 20% off or better? Sadly, the couponer brigade would not acknowledge this victory, so the battle waged on.

While I am poking fun and roasting the couponers in this episode, this was not the case in previous months. We tried to equip the couponer brigade with better armaments and the fullest of full plate armor, but they did not listen to our soothing songs! They instead raged with rage using their rusty broadswords and useless loincloths. We tried to save them from doom, but they were too hard-headed. Time after time, I, in a non-hostile fashion, said, hey, there is a better deal elsewhere or, hey, skip this deal because there is a better deal next week. Instead of, ‘Thanks for the information, Justin, I’m glad that you pointed this out,’ comments were deleted and couponers took it personally claiming I am ‘posting all the time to undermine posts.’

As a Poker player, I was recently humbled by reviewing some of my hand histories and watching new strategy videos. I even flew to Texas to appear in a livestreamed higher-than-usual stakes game so that I can gain feedback. 

I will assure you, dear listener, that small changes in tactics, suggested by others, allowed me to make more money. When reviewing hands with friends, to keep it simple not going into deep Poker strategy, I said that I decided to play this hand differently than I would have a few months ago. What a victory when I was able to underrepresent my hand strength and make money from bluffers vs an alternate hand history of me betting and folding out junk hands. I never claimed Poker training videos were being negative and I was happy when friends provided honest feedback allowing me to make money. Some strangers have even given me good feedback. With couponers, though, especially this admin in question, she doesn’t want to hear contrary information writing it off as me being negative. Imagine giving someone free information to save and make money and they reject it! What a disaster! 

I, as surely a gift card expert, say something is not a good deal and I’m going to be correct most of the time. Surely I can falter here and there, but am happy when people point it out. Similarly, I ask my automotive-oriented friends when I have car questions. I call a lawyer friend when I have a legal question….so why not defer to a gift card expert when you lack gift card expertise?

In the most recent skirmish, the same couponer admin I previously mentioned posted false and misleading information about an upcoming gift card promotion: quote 5x’s all gc except Giant, Mastercard, and Visa starting 11/11.” Using the word ‘all’ here is misleading and factually false because many other Giant gift card rack brands will almost certainly not work. Here are just a few: American Express, PayPal Prepaid, Go2Bank, GoBank, and ReloadIT. In the past, there was also confusion about ‘do only the pictured gift cards in the ad work?’ Sometimes this was the case, only pictured brands worked even though the ad suggested more would work.

People also found that certain brands, even of the same brand with different denominations, worked while others did not. I reported datapoints of Amazon $10 multipacks ($30 total, three $10 cards) working while Amazon variable $30 denominations were not working. It’s best to first test small denominations to see what works rather than, as has happened many times in the past, couponers complaining about how they foolishly bought thousands in gift cards and no points were awarded – completely felted on the battlefield. My comments were moderated and couponers suffered fatal blows.

When I told the admin that her post was factually false and misleading & that the promo might not work as intended, she responded saying, “I posted what is says in the ad.” This is irresponsible behavior, I think, posting information that will lead people astray, especially when, on past promotions, many others posted that the ad was wrong, the ad was confusing, and the promotion didn’t work. She then wrote, “I am really tired of you coming on my post with this GC stuff, this is not a gift card group, this is a Giant group and we post deals from Giant PA food store.” 

Interesting, she starts a thread talking about a gift card deal, so I came in to note that the post was wrong and misleading. I would not post some random deal like Texas Roadhouse bonus gift cards with purchase, but I absolutely will comment on deals in threads she started about Giant gift card deals. Anyway, why can’t the group both be a gift card group and a Giant group with focus on the Giant gift card deals evaluating whether they were good or not? Don’t post about Texas Roadhouse deals that have no relevance to Giant, but do post about whether 5x at Giant is a good deal on Xbox gift cards or not when a commenter is saying they want to buy Xbox gift cards at Giant.

She then writes, “It’s really annoying when you continue to come on my post with your GC strategy when I didn’t ask for it.” She reveals her close-minded nature and still doesn’t admit that her original post was false and misleading, completely defeated in the field of battle. My strategy is far better than hers and this wasn’t even a post about strategy anyway, she is telling people all cards except Giant, Visa, and Mastercard give 5x points – total fake news for reasons I mentioned. 

Rather than acknowledging my point, wanting to learn more, thanking me for information that maybe she won’t use, but is right, she rages on missing the point. Then she talks about how it’s Giant’s fault that the ad is misleading and that I should take it up with them. She takes no accountability whatsoever for misleading people and, again, not admitting she was wrong. 

There’s no way in the world I would post an alleged deal I knew was misleading and false and then, when people told me it was misleading and false, blame the company or store that posted the deal saying, ‘take it up with them’ not amending or deleting my original post. Total disaster for the couponers…

One member then called for me to be kicked out of the group, “Give him the boot out of here!” Yes, submit to the cult of personality of ForTheMommas refusing to yield when people provide indisputable evidence that the post was false and misleading! Yes, don’t save money, spend more money, pay full price for your gas and groceries thinking you got a deal just before your mayonnaise expired. Take no accountability when you post false and misleading information and continue with clickbait headlines about fifty cent sugar.

I hoped that the couponing faction and the hobby warband would unite. Maybe couponing can make sense if you also incorporate the hurdy gurdy strategies, but this alliance was a pipe dream, especially when the admin seemingly mocked my victories saying, “Most of us are not running around here building 200,000 points, who has time for that?” implying that my bardic inspirations were for naught. 

She acknowledges that I posted a receipt showing I can get $2000 worth of grocery items, almost anything I want in the store except alcohol, tobacco, money orders, and gift cards (one can only wish these wins were possible!) and claims it wasn’t worth my time. What deceit!

The time I spend produces a much higher hourly than she or any other couponer can produce in that or maybe any group. 

Not only am I supermarket sweeping for $2000 worth of items, almost anything I want, while she in bizarro world is paying close to full price for some reason, I’m also picking up thousands of dollars in credit card related benefits. The comparison is not even close. Couponers, once again, are sowing the seeds of deceit claiming my efforts are not worth the time, but couponing is. Amazing. Not only can I save $2000 on groceries, I can use the points for gas. Because America Loves Math, 200,000 points, assuming $4.00 a gallon of gas, would give me fifty twenty-five gallon gas fills or 1250 gallons of gas.

Indeed, I take some time to capitalize on these deals, but it’s totally worth it easily making couponing seem like a kiddie pool when I’m swimming in the Olympic games. Almost nothing comes for free, there’s usually some tradeoff, but it’s no exaggeration that the hourly return on these grocery deals are easily worth more than many couponers are likely making working a nine to five entry or mid-level type of job where their freedoms are likely heavily restricted. I especially overtake their couponing savings. 

No matter what, most people are going to have to pay for gas and groceries. This is one instance where I view saving money just like making money if I can use grocery points to save money I’d otherwise spend eating out when away from home, buying gifts, filling my gas tank, buying printer paper and so much more. With amazing deals where points are like gravy, I never suffer breakage because I would have purchased the gift cards anyway. Here’s a magic wand to wipe out grocery and gas costs, your special appearance on Supermarket Sweep, but you don’t want to take it? You cannot be inspired to take up the arcane arts? You are so close to greatness yet you squander the opportunity!

The couponers are clearly living in an alternate dimension. While the admin of this group may never see the light, I encourage people to reconsider how they use their time especially when there are better, more profitable ways to make and save money. Instead of complaining about the price of eggs and gas, something I hear almost daily in Poker rooms, take action to up your game at and away from the Poker tables to do at least some of what I do. Even if you just focus on gas deals and fill 75 gallons a month, that’s still about $300 a month and a much better hourly compared to doing nothing or doing what couponers are doing.

Some even do more than me taking the hobby to the level of a full-time hustle. I’m personally content doing this part-time and am absolutely killing it. Past podcast guests Beth King and Darren Remsburg are also crushing it hurdy gurdy style even with full-time jobs and children. Improve your financial situation, unlock travel that you previously called ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘never’ and find ways to win. With a hurdy gurdy style, something the couponing faction will never have staying in their own area, you can take lifechanging steps and have multiple lifetimes of travel in just one lifetime. You, too, can be like TC the time child. With some discipline, organization, and good strategy, you can succeed starting with small steps and leveling up as you gain experience.

As always, I’m here to help once again fighting the good fight, fighting against the war on happiness. Let it be known that couponers were resoundly defeated on this glorious day. We hope they will repent and join our ranks! Maybe couponing can be worthwhile following a better strategy outside ForTheMommas or the Facebook group I posted in, but I’m not seeing a good argument at this time. ‘The hobby’ produces a much greater return compared to couponing. I’d love to be wrong and somehow score big from couponing, but this probably won’t happen. Maybe you have some ideas about how I can use my time well to make and save money? I’d love to hear it. Couponers are defeated. Dave Ramsey was vanquished. The war on happiness will not be lost.

Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for future episodes.

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