Thursday, December 8, 2011

Extreme Couponing: Where to Start

I recently became interested in trying to figure out ways to cut back on our spending. With a house of nine people, we can sure rack up some weekly bills quick, for regular needs, like food, diapers and stuff like toilet paper - you wouldn't believe how much toilet paper we can use! And, who can't afford to save some money?

I was never one to spend time on clipping coupons...I figured it was a sheer waste of time, but I digress. I've recently shown myself that I can save money on items that I'm going to purchase anyways. Although I would normally "shop the in-store specials" and be proud of how much I saved, it simply isn't enough savings for me.

And, when I do research and find things that I think people might be interested in, I try to spread the information. TLC's show about extreme couponing makes going to the grocery store and snagging $1000 worth of groceries for less than $10 seem so easy! But, nobody starts up like that....

Where to Start

Here's where you need to start: The first thing you're going to have to do is start collecting coupons.,, and are some great places to start. They have online coupons that you can place a checkmark on and then print out (printer required). Also, purchase the Sunday paper in your area and scan through magazines in the grocery store for coupons that you would use. Some people will purchase several Sunday papers so that they have a bunch of coupons for the items that they normally purchase. Collect, collect, collect and then organize.

But, here's where the extreme couponer does things differently: they save EVERY coupon, even if it's for something they would practically never buy. Why? Because an in-store special of B1G1 free or 50-75% off could pop up, reducing the item to FREE or even an overage. Some stores will actually give you back the overage in your pocket (or apply it to the rest of your bill), while others will not allow overages. 

There are also some great blogs that do coupon and ad match-ups to help you figure out the best bang for your buck...simply Google "extreme couponing" or "(your grocery store) coupon match-ups". and are just a couple of places to start.

And, don't forget to subscribe to the blogs that you like, so you can get daily emails. 

Also, pay attention to coupons that are posted in the store. Some are in those machines that you pull the coupon from, while others are right on the packages of the items that are being sold.

Create a System that Works for You

For me, at least, the best way to organize coupons is by the type of coupon (baking, frozen foods, drinks, etc), then organize them by expiration date, with the one that will expire first in the front. I'm sure that, once I get more into it, I might have to come up with a more intricate organizational strategy, but for now, this is what is working for me.

Extreme couponers use huge binders for their coupons, organized with an intricate system that works best for them.

Essentially, you will need to find a system that works well for you.


I had no idea what coupon doubling meant until just this past week. Basically, if your grocery store honors doubling, they will double the coupons that fall under their requirements. For example, my local grocery store automatically doubles any coupon under $1. So, if I present a coupon for only $.50 off of an item, it will become $1 off at the register. I loved that! (I honestly thought that it meant that they allow people to present two like coupons for one item, but I happen to like this better.)

I recently had a coupon for $.85 off of a box of Cocoa Puffs. The in-store special had a sale: 2 for $4. So, with the box being $2 and $1.70 off, I only paid $.30 for the box!  I actually just found another coupon for $.75 off one box of Cocoa Puffs, so I'm going to do the same thing again!

Combining Coupons with In-Store Specials

Here is where you save more...grab the weekly ads for your local grocery stores and compare prices on items that you are likely to purchase. If you happen to only have one local grocery store, you're not out of luck. Watch the ad specials and compare them to the coupons in your coupon folder, envelope, (or whatever you use to organize your coupons in).

I was able to score a great deal on Pop-Tarts with $1 off of 2 boxes and an in-store sale of 2 for $4. So, I bought 8 boxes, got $4 off of $16 (8 boxes at $2 each) and ended up spending $12 on 8 boxes, which ended up only $1.50 per box. That's 50% off of the normal $2.99 per box price. I was proud!

The smartest couponers hang onto their coupons until there is a sale on the item and then make the purchase, which stacks the savings. They also pay close attention to how their store discounts products. There is usually a methodical way that discounts occur, whether it's weekly, monthly or every three months.

Learn and Understand Coupon Policies

As I mentioned above, I didn't even understand what coupon doubling meant. Now that I do, I can get some great savings with coupons under $1 at my local grocery stores. This leads me to my next point: you can look online or inquire at the service desk of your grocer about their coupon policy. Knowing the policies will help you get the best out of your couponing.

I'm only just starting out, so I don't know everything. I'm still working on strategies and perfecting how I save money. I haven't hit a FREE deal yet, but I can't wait to start! Everyone starts somewhere - you can't expect to perfect your system the first time that you shop, or the second, and probably not by the third. However, through your own trial-and-error, you will find better ways to manipulate coupons, in-store deals, and will eventually get better at putting them all together to create fabulous savings!

Don't give up on if you can't get the hang of the EXTREME couponing early in the game. Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned...if you are saving ANY money clipping coupons and are able to keep that money in your pocket, rather than spending it on the essentials of life, you're doing good.

Hey, if you have any cool tips to share with me, let me know!

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