Sunday, January 8, 2012
So You Think You Want to Be An Extreme Couponer?
Who doesn’t love a deal? Or a steal? Ever since TLC’s show, Extreme Couponing came out, I’ve been challenging myself to some trial-and error with coupons. You’ve heard of the saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, but I think of it more as “a dollar off coupon is a dollar that I get to keep in my pocket for other things.
With a nine person house, dollars just don’t stretch as far as they used to. Nine mouths to feed, nine bodies to clothe, nine people using toilet paper, toothpaste, dish detergent and laundry detergent. That’s a lot of stuff weekly, never mind monthly and yearly! And, then, of course, there are children who use Way.Too.Much laundry detergent, toilet paper and dish detergent. (Sigh)
When I saw people walking out of stores with carts full of hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for less than ten dollars on that television show, I knew I wanted in! But, I came to realize that it’s just not that simple. Extreme couponing, that is. You have to start slow. There is really no way of just jumping into it. Here’s how I began my journey into the Coupon World.
It’s pretty simple. You can’t use coupons if you don’t have any. You have to start collecting them from wherever you can find them. Some great sources that most extreme couponers use are the RedPlum and SmartSource inserts in the Sunday newspapers. Extreme couponers purchase several of the same local newspapers each week to have multiples of the same coupons, just in case there is a great in-store special.
More places to get coupons? Online. There is a commercial for printing coupons that says, “It’s like printing money”. And, it is! I absolutely LOVE it! My favorite is coupons.com. You simply put a checkmark next to each coupon that you want to print, then click the button, and VIOLA! You just printed money.
Many stores also have Catalina coupons that print out at the end of a purchase. Also, drug stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid has programs that print off Extra Care Bucks (CVS) or UPRs or +UPs (Rite Aid) for extra savings on the next trip. Extreme couponers use these to secure FREE items.
Also, extreme couponers don’t throw out coupons for items that they would normally never buy. Why is that? Because they know that there just might be that mark-down that makes the items FREE and then they can use the items as gifts or donate them to charity.
An extreme couponer will avidly watch in-store ads and surf their coupons for match-ups to create spectacular savings. Today, I went on a very small grocery shopping trip and spent $55 on an $80 grocery bill. I used 11 coupons in total and only purchased items that I had coupons for. Most of the items on my grocery list were on sale in the in-store ad.
One of my prized purchases was a box of Cocoa Puffs. They were on sale for 2 for $4. An $.85 coupon (doubled, per the store’s coupon policy) became $1.70 off the box. I ended up paying $.30 for the box!
Another great deal was the Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice for Christmas. I had a $1 off 2 bottles coupon and the bottles were on sale for 2 for $6 in the store. There was also a $1 off 2 bottles on one of the bottles. So, 2 bottles ended up costing $4. That’s $2 per bottle. And, my kids were excited to see their “wine bottles” for Christmas Eve.
There is a method to the madness. Most extreme couponers have a binder with a well-organized, expansive collection of coupons that they take to the store with them. Planning is a big part of the shopping trip – you can’t just walk in and wing it if you want to get great deals. You have to sit down and carefully match up store circulars with the coupons that you have collected, in addition to watching all of the different stores that are local to you.
Now, if you’re not into extreme couponing, you can still save some money by clipping coupons for the items that you would definitely purchase. It only takes a moment to clip the coupons that are normal purchases on your shopping list and it will save you money, which will help you survive the cost of living.
Definitely take advantage of extra perks. I do most of my grocery shopping at Tops Friendly Markets and they also do a gas promotion. For every dollar you spend and every coupon you use, you get points toward a certain amount off of your gas purchase. You can let the points up to earn substantial savings. Last month, we were able to rack up $2 off per gallon for one fill-up of gas. So, be sure to sign up for those in-store cards.
I’m just starting up with couponing, so I’m extremely excited about today’s grocery trip, which I only paid 69% of regular price on. That’s $25 saved for me today! Now, if only I can figure out how to reduce a $1000 grocery bill to $55!