When my husband deployed to Afghanistan for a year, I was busy, overwhelmed, and lonely. I had a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old who demanded most of my attention, I was just finishing up my bachelors degree online (back when it was ALL writing papers), and we had a new puppy that needed potty training. Again, it was a very busy and yet lonely time. I needed a hobby – something to focus on at night besides the fact that one of the toothbrush holder holes was empty and that hubbs’ pillow no longer smelled like him (because after holding out as long as I could, I finally broke down and washed my sheets).
My cousin had raved and raved about how great and easy couponing was. She loved to talk about her couponing “scores” and would even share pictures of her hauls. So when she invited me to a coupon party where a trained coupon expert (yes, apparently this is a real thing) teaches you how to coupon, I thought…why not? It’ll give me something to do until Hubbs gets home.
The “coupon expert” it turned out, was a newspaper peddler. I’m not sure if she made a commission or not, but she did offer us a subscription to the paper at a discounted rate. Which was cool because one of the things you will quickly notice in extreme couponing is…YOU MUST HAVE ACCESS TO THE SUNDAY NEWSPAPER TO BE SUCCESSFUL. And here’s why:
- To coupon (as taught in this class anyway), you go to a website called GrocerySmarts, you select your state, and then you can either see all deals or filter by whatever store you are shopping at. Here is a snippet of deals in Utah this week (I chose Utah because there is where I learned to coupon, and because Oklahoma doesn’t have many extreme coupon opportunities – more on that later):
The first column denotes how good the savings are, the second column is what the product is, the third is the original price, the fourth column is the coupons required, and the final column is the final price paid.
- Now this is where access to the paper, or at least access to the coupons that come in the Sunday paper, are necessary. Notice the line for Arm and Hammer Laundry Detergent (3rd entry), at the end of the 4th column it states “SS-2/5.” This means Smart Saver February 5th. Unless you get Smart Saver as a mailer (we don’t where I live in Oklahoma) you need to get it from the Sunday paper.
After my couponing class I did sign up for the Sunday paper, much to my husband’s irritation, and by the time my hubbs got home from his deployment, I had so much toothpaste, tampons, maxi-pads, floss, pencils, notebook paper, etc. (that I either got for FREE or seriously cheap) that I ended up storing it in the tops of kitchen cabinets! My husband would go to get a dinner plate and a box of Playtex would fall out from the top of the cupboard…ha! But, to get to that point is very time-consuming so I didn’t stick with it after that year. Here is what I learned about extreme couponing:
- You must have the Sunday newspaper (or at least access to the coupons in that paper) to really be successful.
- It is extremely time-consuming.
- You must keep your coupons organized. RP (Red Plums) by date, SS (Smart Saver) by date, Proctor & Gamble by date, etc. And if you want to look really cool, you need a fancy binder complete with baseball card type pocket pages for your coupons.
- Getting the weekly mailers helps – we don’t get the coupons in the mail in Oklahoma. I don’t know why, but it is a bummer.
- Following the site krazycouponlady is helpful for more than just grocery shopping. They post about online deals too and I’ve used more than a handful of their promo codes during the holidays.
- Bradsdeals is helpful too, especially during the holidays.
- Not every state is as “couponer-friendly” as the other. Utah has a lot of stores that favor couponers while Oklahoma doesn’t seem to have as many.
- Several stores will allow you to stack coupons, meaning you can use a store coupon and a manufacturers coupon for double the savings. For instance, Target might have a store coupon for Country Crock Margarine and Country Crock may also have a coupon out there. Every store is different so you have to read each store’s policy.
- It is really easy to start buying crap you don’t need just because it is “almost free.” I found myself buying birthday gifts for my kids’ fictional future friends, just because the stuff was cheap. Most of it was either sold during a yard sale when we moved or donated to Goodwill.
- It becomes more of a game to see what you can get and for how cheap, than actual grocery shopping.
Does anybody else have any tips about couponing???