Extreme Couponing: 45 Tips from Shopping Experts
If you’re big on saving money (and hey, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t), you’re probably a regular viewer of TLC’s Extreme Couponing. We’re fascinated with the show as well and have written a number of posts about the realities of extreme couponing, extreme couponing fraud and lawsuits and the backlash that’s resulted from the show.
We’ve also posted about the beneficial aspect of the extreme couponing trend: the charitable giving that many of these couponers do with their bounty of products obtained at deep discount. It should be noted that the TV show is purposely “extreme” (as its name suggests) and these shopping hauls of 200 cups of yogurt and 87 tubes of toothpaste costing a mere 27 cents are not everyday occurrences. But you can achieve significant savings on groceries, personal care items and other household staples by employing some savvy strategies.
We’ve rounded up a list of 45 extreme couponing tips from our Savings.com DealPros to help you save money: To begin:
- Start Somewhere. Don’t try to clip every coupon and visit every store according to Sami Cone
- Start slow! Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to grab every deal at every store. You’ll burn out or get frustrated, or worse yet, confuse yourself and spend too much money. Start with one store and only a few items, and build up from there advises Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less.
Amber of Coupon Connections echos this advice. It took her three years to build her couponing skills and be featured on the TLC’s Extreme Couponing.
- Set a reasonable budget. You must know how much money you have available to spend each month warns Dana of The Coupon Challenge.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. All families are different and have different needs. You won’t have the same grocery budget as your sister or neighbor. That’s okay! A family of 7 will have a different budget than the young family with a baby. A family that is gluten free will have different needs than a family without food allergies. Taking care of your family and being comfortable with your budget are the most important things.
She also offers the following advice:
Where to find coupons
- When gathering coupons, make sure to utilize all of your sources. These include the Sunday Newspaper, online coupons, grocery store flyers, manufacturer mailings and even gathering other coupons or extra quantities of a particular coupon from your neighbor says Money Crashers. Some sources suggested in their recent post on Coupons: From Casual to Extreme include:
- Grocery stores (in their sales flyers, on shelves or Catalinas attached to cash register receipt)
- Manufacturers (If you write a letter to the manufacturers of your favorite items and tell them how much you like their products, they’ll often send you coupons–and free samples of new stuff that you haven’t tried yet.)
- Hot Coupon World
- Consumer Queen Melissa Garcia suggests sources like: Coupons.com
- and Smartsource.com in her post on Extreme Couponing
- A Full Cup is another great resource.
- Another tip from The Coupon Challenge is to have a Facebook account. Companies are putting more and more coupons on their Facebook page. “Like” them to get coupons for groceries, restaurants and more. It is not necessary to have a full profile or friends to “Like” pages. You only need a working email account (you could set up a special email account specifically for coupons and other offers).
- Lisa Lightner of Smart Spending Spot has this tip: There are lots of other ways for people to get multiple inserts without stealing them! Libraries, schools, churches, notes up in your employee break room, ask friends and neighbors, scout troops–there are lots and lots of places that get Sunday papers and don’t use the inserts.
Deidre of Cuckoo for Coupon Deals on how to find coupons that save you money:
- Kristin Peoples of Coupon Scribbles says, “Couponing requires time. It takes time to put together your strategy for each store each week. You cannot expect to clip coupons for 30 minutes on Sunday and save 80% on your grocery shopping without a plan.” Check out her post for more tips on extreme couponing for the rest of us.
- Clip only the coupons you know you will use and file the rest for future use. Coupon inserts have the date on the binding making them easy to file in order says Marcy of Stretching a Buck.
- Deidre of Cuckoo for Coupon Deals has several great time-saving couponing tips like: “Instead of clipping all the Smart Source, Red Plum, and P&G inserts yourself, find some friends each Sunday to do a coupon insert swap with. For example, each week I clip the Smart Source coupons and one of my friends clips the P&G and Red Plum inserts. Give them back their coupons once you’ve finished clipping them.“
- “If you have three copies of the same insert to clip, make sure to stack all the individual coupon insert pages that are similar on top of each other and cut them at once.”
- Organize, organize, organize. Create a coupon binder to organize your coupons from A-Z, and to keep track of the ones with upcoming expiration dates. This strategy will not only decrease stress, but also ensure that you get the best deals and take full advantage of your hard work
- Utilize online resources like Savings Angel and The Grocery Game, which are dedicated to helping couponers, both extreme and non-extreme, track their coupons and access discounts that would not be available otherwise to them are two more great tips via Money Crashers.
Tiffany Ivanovsky of My Litter on How to Organize Coupons:
Shopping Tips to Maximize Savings
- Simply summed up by Money Crashers: Don’t buy it if it’s not on sale and combine the sale with a coupon.
- When you get the sale ads, circle the items that you want to purchase and look thru your coupons to match them to the sales says Courtney of My Crazy Savings
- Figure out which local store has the best sales and coupon policies. (Some stores double and triple coupons!).
- I always save my shopping receipts because you never know when a rebate form will appear that has an item that you already purchased on it. For example, I recently did the Coors Rebate and used a receipt for Plastic Cups that I had purchased before I even heard about the rebate. The rebate dates were so long it was easy to find receipts to make the rebate work according to Deidre of Cuckoo for Coupon Deals.
- Dana of The Coupon Challenge has more great tips like: Always check for price reductions. Stores reduce meat, produce and groceries as they approach their “sell by” date. You can even pair a coupon with a price reduction to save even more! I have picked up free hair care products, makeup and non-perishable food items for free by combining a price reduction with a coupon.
- Look for products that have a free product attached or advertise “more free” on the packaging. You will pay the same price but get something extra with your purchase. Body wash and hair care products are commonly found with a travel size of the product attached. I have also found cotton rounds attached to a Q-tips box and an 8-ct of Excedrin PM attached to an Excedrin Pain Reliever box. Get more for your money by keeping an eye out for the “extras.”
- Collaboration is key according to Deidre of Cuckoo for Coupon Deals: “If a store is far away, trade weeks with a friend to shop there. For example, Target is 25 miles away from me. I print out all the deals I want to get, compile my coupons in an envelope, and give them to my friend who picks up my deals for me at Target. I do the same for her at Rite Aid and Walgreens; they are also quite a drive away from our homes. We make sure to have everything organized for the person who is going to make it easy for them. We also get separate receipts at checkout to make paying each other back easier and so we can have receipts to submit for rebates that need to be mailed in.”
- In her post on shopping with coupons, Consumer Queen Melissa Garcia has several more ways to maximize savings including using store loyalty cards
- Shopping clearance sections
- Taking advantage of price matching
- A big part of extreme couponing is the process of doing coupon match-ups. Mindi Cherry of Moms Need to Know points out that shoppers can skip this time-consuming chore. She says, “Simply Google [Insert name of whatever store you shop at] + “Coupons deals” and you will find a wealth of blogs willing to do the work for you! Not only will they tell you the best deals with the current-week coupons, they will match up deals with coupons you clipped in previous weeks!“
- Consumer Queen advises to learn the sale cycles and purchase enough to get you through until the next sale (For example: chicken breasts usually go on sale every 3 weeks, so buy for three weeks at a time and never pay full price).
- Melissa of Stockpiling Moms offers, “My tip is to stockpile. A stockpile is a pile or storage location for bulk materials–meaning groceries, personal care or household products. The reason you should stockpile is to save money! If you stockpile your groceries by strategically using coupons, you will never pay full price or retail for your groceries and you will save hundreds every month, thousands a year! Make sure, however, to only stockpile what your family needs to last you through the sales cycle.”
- Laura of A Frugal Chick agrees with the stockpiling tip and says, “There isn’t any need to start your stockpile huge. There are small steps you can take that will allow you to build a reasonable stockpile without “things” taking over your home. Start by only buying one or two extras of things–one to use now and one to use later.”
Brittany of The Prudent Patron on stockpiling in small spaces:
Etiquette and Ethics
- Holly Syx of IGoBOGO advises couponers to practice the Golden Rule when they use coupons. “By treating others the way you want to be treated you can avoid common Extreme Couponing mistakes such as shelf clearing and holding up lines.”
- Be nice to the cashier and store employees (and other customers, too)
- Don’t assume your time is more valuable than others’ time
- Share with others: “I have people who I call the Coupon Fairies who shop at my store. They will leave coupons for certain products right next to the product, and it is SUCH a blessing to find one for an item that you need.”
- Consumer Queen warns not to commit “coupon fraud”
- “Check Store Policies Periodically” is a wise tip from Money Crashers. They say, “Every grocery chain is different in how their coupon policy works, so it’s good to stay in the know on these topics: Does your store ever double the value of coupons? Do they limit the amounts of the doubled coupons? Do they have a limit on how many coupons they’ll double? How do they treat coupons used with a BOGO sale? Do they have special discounts for seniors, students, or veterans? Do they accept (or even double) competitors’ coupons? Often, cashiers are unaware of policy changes, so they might let you use your coupons today, but tomorrow a different cashier may reject them. Some look the other way on expired coupons. Extreme couponers keep a copy of the stores policy to help “educate” misinformed employees. Don’t be rude about policies, but be aware of the rules and make friends with a store manager and some staff members.”
- Consumer Queen Melissa Garcia offers a warning about a little known ramification of “extreme” coupon usage: “I quickly learned that some of my favorite brands were disappearing simply because people were ONLY buying them when they were on sale or when using a coupon and not on a regular basis. So to make shelf room for brands that were getting sales on a regular basis they took those brands out.”
Other examples of couponing courtesy she recommends:
Final Words of Wisdom
- Kristie Sawicki of Saving Dollars and Sense says, “Be willing to miss a deal.”
- Be patient and be consistent. “It is unrealistic to expect to save 60 or 70% a week on all your groceries right out the gate. It takes time to build a stockpile of food and coupons, but as long as you keep at it, you can get there over the course of a few months. Don’t get frustrated and quit because you’re not saving as much as they do on TV. You can’t live on toothpaste & deodorant!,” says Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less.
- Jasmine of Dealicious Finds says, “It’s just as important to know how to save without coupons as it is to save with coupons. I can’t stress enough how important knowing your price points can be for your grocery budget. Most people walk into a store and simply do a quick comparison of what brand in cheaper for the item they need. They never take the time to make a list (mental or physical) of the lowest price the items they regularly buy go on sale for.”
- Have fun. Extreme couponing doesn’t have to be a horrible chore that stresses you out. Enjoy the money you’re saving and don’t go over the top or feel like you can never take a break. And reward yourself every once in a while!
And last, but not least Money Crashers has the final word with the most important tip of all: