Friday, April 15, 2011
Tips for the Aspiring Extreme Couponer
I've been getting alot of questions from readers and friends about extreme couponing, especially since the show has begun airing in a regular time slot. I get asked, 'Is that how you do it?', 'What are your favorite sites?' and 'Teach me to coupon please!' Lets start at the beginning.....
Couponers first commandment, "Thou shall not pay retail" Remember that!
Also remember, its not about what you get for free, or the dollar amount that you spend at the store, its about how much you can SAVED off the bill. I don't ever get out of the store for free, ever, even with coupons. I always have to buy produce and meat, and there are no coupons for that. The store I shop at doesn't do overages, so I can't apply any extra savings toward items that don't have coupons. However, I routinely save around 70% off my bill every week. And there are weeks I don't even have to shop because I have enough on hand to last me for a few weeks, or until the next sale.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you want to become an extreme couponer, you'll have to do a little bit of work. Its not going to just start out that you'll just clip some coupons, get a bunch of stuff for free and be done with it. Lets remember the old saying, "you have to spend money to make money", that's true here too. The first time you'll spend money is to buy the paper. Its suggested that you buy a paper for every member in your family, that's up to you. I don't do that. Also, the coupons are free in the Sunday paper, however every good couponer knows that you never take the inserts out of unpaid for papers, that's stealing. Don't do it. How would you like to be the next couponer to come and buy a paper and the coupons are missing?
One thing any good couponer knows is to always have a good stockpile. This helps with spending less at the grocery store, because if you already have a good supply of an item, there is no need to buy more, esp if its full price and you have no coupon for it. Shop in cycles, shop according to the sales. Shop to replenish your stockpile, NOT for stuff you need. You will see the savings in your stockpile, not what you spend at the store. If the store is selling cereal for 1.99, and you have the .75 coupon that doubles, you pay .49 for a box of cereal. If you have 6 coupons, use all 6. Put the cereal in your stockpile, so you aren't rushing out to buy cereal every week.
Toothpaste is an item that is always pennies or free. When the Colgate coupons come out, I save them until the store runs their sale where the Colgate is less than $1 and I buy as many as I can for free.
Other items that I routinely get for pennies or cheap and stock up on are Bread, ketchup, mustard, relish, salad dressing, bbq sauces, coffee creamers, Peanut butter and Jelly, and tuna. I keep a large freezer in my basement and in it I have chicken I buy when its less than 1.99 lb, pork that I buy for less than 1.79lb, and ground turkey that I was able to get at .99lb. (Among other things! LOL I have a healthy supply of ice creams too that I was able to grab at .99 each! Plus my bread and rolls I always buy off the reduced bakery rack and freeze till I need it). I've even hit some great sales on coffee and I'm able to get my favorite brands, Maxwell House or Folgers for around $1 for the 1lb can.
Here is another question I get alot: Where to all those people on TV get all their coupons??? Answer: They buy them. A hidden cost that is not told to you. And lets be clear, buying coupons is NOT legal. Coupons have no monetary value. So what they ARE doing is paying for the time spent clipping, the supplies and postage. Add that cost into the final grocery bill and its not $10, its $310. Its still a savings compared to the retail value of all the product, which is generally way more than that. Have I ever bought coupons?? Once, I bought some from ebay. I did a random envie and was pretty disappointed. SO I've never done it again. But, honestly, I'm not that type of couponer. I enjoy the savings, I get what I can get, I stockpile, and that's about it.
So that brings up the next question: I always seem to have a bunch of coupons, where do I get them all?? I have good friends and family that actually save them for me. If they are just going to throw them out anyway, they give them to me. I'm on 2 coupon trains through mommysavers and have gotten a few that way too. And finally, I have 2 computers in the house I can print off of. When I've printed my limit off one computer, I move to the other one and print off that one. I can usually get 4 coupons, as opposed to 2.
I know this seems like alot of information, so here is my top tip.... Just take it slow. You can't just clip 100 coupons and go to the store and think you'll walk out for free. You are just gonna stress yourself out. So what I like to tell people is, don't overwhelm yourself. Just start out slow, clip a few coupons for items you know you will use, and try to match them up to a sale. Once you get the hang of it, you can start to clip more and save more.
In another post, I'll discuss doubling and coupon rules, but I think I've covered what I can for now. Please comment and let me know this was helpful, or you need more info!! I'll do the best I can at answering any questions you might have! Couponing is not hard once you get the hang of it.