Real Life v The Show Extreme Couponing
I've worked as a grocery store clerk and have had many men and women come through my line with their coupons asking the same question, "Have you ever seen that show Extreme Couponing?"
"Yes." I tell them... "I used to do the same thing."
It's actually the truth. I see it in their eyes that they are so impressed with these women on TV getting one hundred deodorants for a nickel. Some of my customers were actually disgusted with it.
"Did you see those ladies that got all those diapers and they don't even have children?"
Many have commented on the apparent greed that is associated with this type of bargain shopping. They just cannot believe that someone would get so many of an item that they 'couldn't use in twenty lifetimes.' Then, one of us would comment on the man who gave so much to charity and we would all consent.
However, the other side of the show Extreme Couponing is not a show on TLC, but what we as shoppers are doing when we search out coupons. Are we buying ten Sunday papers for the coupon inserts? Are we collecting from friends? Are we trading them or getting deals sent to us online? Are we buying them from others? (This voids them, by the way), or are we using other ways to gather these tender goodies? (couldn't resist the pun as they are used for 'tender' or moneys paid towards our groceries.)
Let me tell you a couple of the best ways I've learned to save money and a couple of the worst. One of the most awesome ways I've saved with coupons was when there would be coupons in the items I was actually purchasing. For example, if my butter had a '$1.00 off your next butter purchase' coupon inside of the package, I would immediately go use that coupon at the store on my next butter. See, I would be buying it usually on sale at $1.99 for a pound. This would make it .99 if I could find more with coupons, searching for the package with another coupon inside and repeat this until I had an ample supply of butter.
Many of the times, these coupons are extremely desirable, so utilize those as often as you can. The most beneficial part of doing this is the item is something you actual buy and use. If a box says there are $5.00 worth of coupons inside, then take it home, remove the bag (you could set the bag in a zipper seal-type bag for freshness) then open that box up and look at those coupons.
Another super way I saved money was to purchase one Sunday paper and look at the inserts. If the savings was substantially more than the $1.50 it cost for the paper then, and only then, do I purchase more. And the amount of papers I would buy directly depended on the value and necessity of the items I would be stocking up on. Just an FYI, coupon inserts hardly ever run on Sundays that fall on holidays, so you may want to glance inside to see if there's one or not.
The best tip always worth trying is to check your stores clearance shelves and compare to your coupons. You just may be going home with some 'designer' groceries for nickels on the dollar this way. It's always nice to cut coupons for items you want and usually cannot afford, just in case this happens. Things get discontinued in the stores all the time. On that note, I bring my final really good tip and the most helpful.
When choosing which coupons are going to be taking up valuable real estate in your coupon box/book, select the ones that are the most general in their descriptions. This will help in two ways:
For one, this will eliminate the coupon being rejected because you didn't buy the specified flavor or size the 'too specific' coupons detail.
Secondly, this opens wide the possibilities of incorporating that item into your menu and household. Let me give an example. If the coupon says one tube of Creamy White Toothpaste, any size, any flavor, then when Creamy White goes on sale, you grab the cheapest one, slap down your coupon and you're golden. If the coupon says, one tube of Creamy White Whitening Toothpaste Maximus, then you'd be hoping against hope that that flavor would be included in the lower sale prices. The very best coupons I've ever used were the ones that said "Any Size". Of course, they all specify that you cannot use them on the trial sizes, but those are overpriced anyway.
Now, for the no-no's of extreme couponing, in my experience. It is nice to stock up on items we will use, but sometimes we can use our today's grocery money for tomorrow's items and get a little lost in the process. Making a menu and shopping the outer perimeter of the store is going to save you the most money. (Meat, Dairy, Produce). In general, couponing will bring you inside the isles to the pricier items. If you need other groceries, then focus on them first because money spent is money spent.
If you find a deal on small bottles of Worcestershire sauce at ten cents a bottle and buy twenty bottles, you have now spent $2.00 on Worcestershire sauce and may have not even needed it. You, for example, could have just bought a big bottle for $1.49 if that was something that you had on your list. Sure, you have twenty small bottles of the stuff, but what about that $2.00? It would've been better spent on the outer perimeter of the store or whatever was on your grocery list. This is a common pitfall you may not see on the TV show because it shows them getting the items for free! In the exciting world of couponing in the real world, items are going to cost a quarter each or fifty cents. Maybe a dollar. The decisions have to be made. Is my money spent best here?
Another realistic tip is obvious. It's most tempting to stock up and go crazy. I remember some financial adviser once telling me that what we spend money on takes away from investments we could be making with our money. So, spending twenty dollars on soap today may have been better invested somewhere else in your life.
Okay, so you must decide about how much you should stock up on for each of your items. This is just a rough estimate as the items you are purchasing should be having a long shelf-life, anyways. Then, if you have one of that item at home, then only wait for the very best deal to buy others. When you've reached your maximum, then quit worrying about that item. Focus on others and you will gradually build your stock this way.
My last tip when you are pursuing this type of couponing is to be honest. If the coupons are not to be bought from others, then don't support the dishonest people selling them. This is no way for you to be helping your family. You are still learning and you should be well on your way to having more than enough for your family to live on with plenty of savings.
I would like to also say that if you find some really good deals that are free or almost free and you don't need them, please purchase some anyway and drop them in your local food bank's Red Barrel. These, or a version of these, are usually located inside the grocery store.
Also, please recycle as you may be going through plenty of papers and smaller containers.
(By the way, the best I did was $520.00 worth of groceries for $90, and believe me there were plenty of Worcestershire bottles in there. Ugh!)