Is Extreme Couponing Right For You?
With all the hype surrounding the TLC program, Extreme Couponing, it’s no wonder I get weird looks at the store when I go shopping with my coupon binders (yes, that is plural – I have 2 coupon binders).
I’ve received countless emails from people all over the country, begging me to teach them how to be an extreme couponer in Canada, and one of the first things I ask them is – are you sure that extreme couponing is right for you?
I don’t mean that in a rude, “you can’t handle it” way, but more of a “are you sure you want to deal with everything involved?” way.
Extreme couponing is hard work. It is not easy. Granted, in my opinion, the hard work is well worth it – but it’s worth it for me. It may not be worth it for you. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of extreme couponing before you take a stab at it.
If you’re interested in becoming an extreme couponer, consider these points:
1. It takes a lot of time
Couponing in general takes time (I’d say at least 1-2 hours per week, not including actually going shopping), but extreme couponing? That takes a lot more time.
Personally, I spend a minimum of 5 hours per week on couponing. Searching for coupons takes about 2 hours (I do a little bit each day, and sometimes I will walk to the grocery and drug stores in our area and search for tear pads), clipping and organizing takes at least 2 hours once per week, planning my shopping trip takes about an hour and my shopping trip is always at least 1 hour.
That amount of time is only if it’s a slow week for deals. If there are tons of deals one week, the amount of time I spend on couponing can easily balloon to 10 hours or more.
2. You will probably be criticised
People who have never used coupons before often call extreme couponers “crazy” and “hoarders”. If you choose to become an extreme couponer, this is the type of feedback you have to expect.
Of course, there will be people that will congratulate you on your deals (they may even ask you to show them how to do it themselves), but keep in mind that you will get your fair share of negativity too.
If you want to give extreme couponing a shot, you will need to have thick skin so that the negative feedback doesn’t bother you.
3. You need to be organized
If you’re not a very organized person, extreme couponing is going to be extremely difficult. Not only do you have to organize all of your coupons, but you have to organize your shopping trips (this is what takes quite a bit of time), your stockpile and your list of available coupon sources (online companies, stores that have tear pads, printable coupon websites).
When I first started using coupons, the hardest thing for me was preparing my shopping trip. I had to make very detailed shopping lists that included all of my price matches, coupons I was going to use and then I had to watch the checkout screen to make sure things were ringing up correctly.
It was very difficult, stressful and time consuming, but in the end I was usually able to walk away with a cartful of groceries for a few dollars. Therefore, for me, the work is worth it.
4. You need a large stockpile area
When you’re an extreme couponer, you often get dozens of items for free or very cheap every single week. In the course of one month, I would say I add a minimum of 50 items to my stockpile.
That’s a lot of stuff taking up residence in your home. Determine in advance if you have the space to store these items, and always remember to only stockpile what you know you will be able to use before the expiration date.
I’m not saying that extreme couponing is a bad thing (not at all!), and I’m certainly not trying to imply that you shouldn’t do it. I just want to stress that it’s not for everyone.
I encourage you to weigh the pros and cons before you decide if this is the right decision for you (and if it is, you’ll get lots of support here. I have plenty of couponing guides that can help you!).
I started collecting coupons a couple of months ago, and it has been going well. Not amazingly! I have a coupon binder and it is well organized, the only problem I have is finding good enough deals to get thigns extremely cheap. I’m always looking through the weekly flyers and trying to match it up with all my coupons so that I can get it for free or super cheap, I just can’t seem to do it. And then when I do end up finding something once I go shopping it still seems like I’m spending a fortune. Gah, I’m so lost with this stuff!
Yep, you are right about being tough skinned. My couponing really bugs my children & husband because they think it’s holding other customers up (but they don’t realize how much we’re saving & how they are benefitting from it). To make sure I’m not more than 10 min. handing out coupons, I organize them before I get to the store so that all I have to do is hand them over before I pay. Maybe the critics should try it; then they’ll be hooked like me!!
@ Tyrae: Waiting for sales to use the coupons? Sometimes it takes a lot of patience on your part to wait for them (I’ve waited for 6 months or more for the right price that I want to pay). You have to know your prices on most things before you pounce on what you think is a sale. Sometimes store sales are regular priced & not a sale at all!!! Good luck!!
I’m fairly new to couponing too but what I have found is that while I don’t always use a lot of coupons I am finding better sales becauase now I am scouring the flyers much more carefully and shopping at stores I didn’t use to. I look at how much I got compared to how much I spent.
I don’t have a huge stockpile and probably never will as we just don’t have the space but I do have enough to last me at least a month probably two. I’ve reached the point now that I only have to shop the sales (except bread and fresh veggies and fruit), there’s nothing I need that I can’t wait until it is the price I am willing to pay for it and I have been able to set a budget and am able to stick to it.
BEST BEST BEST PART, my husband is right on board with me, he checks out the sites, scours the isles at the stores and is my checker, he makes sure that what I pick up matches either the sales price or the coupon I have.
I agree it’s a lot of work. When I first started couponing and building a stock pile I definitely spent at least 10 hours a week on it. Now that I’m set for a lot of items it’s much less. We’ve been looking at homes to buy and one thing we have to consider is where would we put the stockpile?? It becomes a part of your life!
I preferred to do small coupon trips and get everything for free or under $1 so I don’t take my binder into stores with me- just what I’ve planned to use. I find this helps with reduce impulse shopping as well.
Tyrae- I agree with the other person who said you just have to be patient in fact I find that the best sales are often just the week before the coupon expires.
I’m lucky…my DH couponed before I started…it helps that I’m OCD…he has access to various WMs/NF/SDMs/RCSS’ during his lunch…with both of us doing it…it’s kinda like a hobby…saving for our family…shopping smarter…making more bang for our buck etc…BUT YES…it takes time and patience…but we think it’s worth it too
We have a system…since he has more opportunity to find coupons (tearpads/booklets)…he picks some up and brings them home…I will be the one to sort and organize the coupon binders (btw Cassie…we have 3 binders now…one for food…one for health and beauty…one for cleaning supplies/household items/pets…which you know we don’t have any…but I still have coupons for)…I clean up the local newspapers each Thursday that arrive at our building…and take two copies…one for DH (so he doesn’t ruin my pile of flyers)…and one I use to mark up and tab (yes…I tab what I consider deals and cross reference them to my “deals of the week” print out)…and file each flyer in one of the binders…yes…PRETTY OCD…but it works for us/our family!
My family and friends and co-workers know we coupon…so they save me any insert and/or coupon they aren’t using!
I was timid before about SCOP and using coupons…not anymore…grew some “thick” skin :P…I do warn people behind me if I have a lot of coupons…if they don’t mind waiting…I will often coupon fairy them…
I think the first thing people need to realize is that you cannot, in Canada, get all your family’s groceries/H&B items for nearly free as they do on the show. Certainly not if you eat real food as there are rarely coupons for that here.
We also can’t double coupons, which is how one would get enough overage to pay for some real food. You can get overage occasionally, though less so now that most coupons have “excludes trial size” on them! It still would not pay for much real food unless you bought a boatload of certain products–some stores just won’t have the stock or coupons are one per customer.
I cringe watching that show and seeing their stockpiles-most ARE hoarders. Some do just buy what they will use in a reasonable time, but not the vast majority. Yes, some give to charity-I respect those couponers, even the fellow early on that bought that mountain of Total for his local foodbank….but he built a new “room” for his toothpaste–he and everyone he knows, will never, ever use up 1500 tubes of toothpaste!!! Or 150 years of deodorant!!! And how much mustard do you really use that you need 200 jars of it??? Most foods they have I would consider junkfood anyhow.
The biggest key, I think, is knowing the sale prices and holding on to a coupon until the right time. Heck, just knowing sale prices and stocking up then would make a huge difference in most people’s grocery budget, even without coupons! For instance: We like the PC white mac and cheese. The prices lately? Went from .89 to 1.29 in the past few months. Outrageous! I will only pay .50 for KD to start with (which is so bland in comparison) and it has been many, many years since I picked up the PC white for .67. KD makes me wheeze so I shouldn’t even eat it! I was in No Frills on Monday and they had the cases of 12 PC white on for 6.99. Never seen it that cheap, ever. I bought 6 cases. Never seen a coupon for it and won’t ever likely, so strike while the iron is hot!
There is work involved. I do miss some deals due to disorganization-though with gas prices, it must be worth the $5 for me to drive into town…oftentimes it isn’t for one deal. Most of my couponing has benefited our local foodbank…I’m waiting for the latest tally, but I’m up to over 700 pounds donated this year. I need to do a total tally, but this last donation cost me $84, over $50 of which was tax. It will be at least 150 pounds. During the same time I think I’ve only used coupons for crackers and dishsoap for me! There are rarely coupons for what I buy for our family.
I am a work outside the home mom with 2 extremely active children in sports and we remain a one car family. I love couponing, but I know myself well enough to know that I am not an extreme couponer. This being said, I have developed my own system of coupon organization that suits me. Each night before I go to bed I go to Cassie, Simply Frugal and Right at home and review the day’s articles/coupon offers. I receive all of my flyers electronically and when possible I use the stores online printable grocery list and attach the coupons to that list. My words of advise are to not try to do everything at once. The mistake I have seen my friends make is that they try to go from not ever using coupons to trying to be the extreme couponer. This is not going to work because it is overwhelming. The other thing I had to let myself be ok with doing is that if I need an item and I don’t have it in my stockpile, and it’s not on sale, my coupon for that item still saves me money.
Not gonna lie, I would be too embarrased to carry a binder around. That being said, I do use coupons and price match without caring what others think. I saw a lady at NoFrills with a binder and I was proud of her. But for myself….nope, not gonna happen. My husband would be mortified. I am all for saving money, but most coupons are for things I don’t use. I use the ones for toothpaste, bodywash, laundry detergent. I don’t buy things just because I have a coupon, because unless it was free, I would not save money.
I admire you though. I cheer for your great deals. You are my go to source for all things coupons and ad matching. I never price matched until I found your blog and I have saved lots. Thanks for that! 🙂
Betty…my husband always worries I will hold up the line too. I use the express lines at walmart because then I am not holding anyone up.
Ha, never thought of the word crazy or hoarder. My mom, and I’m sure others think people who use coupons are on Social Assistance (welfare). I use coupons and my husband has a great job. When I ask why mom to use a coupons, her reply ” Do I look like I’m on walfare”. Though after watching extreme couponer many on there, are in financial situations so I can see where she gets it from.
I too carry two binders around, but they are each 1″ (one grocery, one non-grocery) and they fit in a cloth tote bag with the week’s flyers (just exactly, it isn’t a huge tote bag). I also like to have the coupons pulled for what I know I will be buying and have them in one of the myriad of junk mail envelopes and carry them in my purse. As I put items in my cart, I pull the coupon and put it in my pocket–that way I don’t waste any time at the register. I like having the binders with me in case I see an unadvertised deal since I wouldn’t waste the gas for another trip. I keep thinking one of those cloth coupon organizers would be great…but then I’d have to put my flyers in my reusable bags…I guess it could work!
My daughter thinks I’m nuts…though I believe her opinion softened the day I handed her $17 in coupons for the 7 items she was buying! Just today she was heading into town to clean at my mum’s and I told her to take the Shoppers flyer and the coupon and price match at Walmart for the Lion King Blue Ray…we already have the dvd so I didn’t think we needed to upgrade…but she did…she took the flyer, and the coupon, and pricematched!!!! Guess she has her price…
I’ve only ever had pleasant comments at checkouts thusfar. Most cashiers are amazed at the savings as are customers behind me. The few that looked a bit miffed (though said nothing) changed their expression when they see my bill drop by $50! Most often I hear “I can’t be bothered” to which I reply “my husband works hard for our money, I figure I should too”. It usually garners a “I never thought of it that way” comment back!
@teachermum: I don’t like kd or any other manufactured mac & cheese (to me it tastes like cardboard with no flavour). I prefer my Mom’s version (I’d never heard of KD until I moved out of my parents home & moved to the big city!!!). All she did was cook some macaroni, drain it, put mac in a big bowl. Then she add, margarine or butter (couple of tablespoons), 1/4 cup milk, and processed cheese in a jar or cheese slices & stir it up to melt it into the macaroni. Course you can use whatever cheese you love. Sounds gross but we love it!!! Makes for cheap, great food when your kids go to college. Sometimes in the winter after I’ve made the mac & cheese I’ll add it to Cream of Tomato Soup & put lots of pepper on it (seems to get rid of my cold & I feel better immediately it seem). I guess that’s why they call it comfort food.
I am reading all these comments, and have a question. Do other stores take the tear pads you get from particular stores. I have been told no, only our store will accept them. Also, just found out this week, at a pharmacy in Canada that offered double couponing, that you have to pay the “befor coupon price” in taxes, that doesn’t seem right. Any comments.
Loblaws, superstore, Zehrs (any Weston owned grocery store) have their own tear away coupons BUT Wal-mart accepts other store’s coupons so far. So either I have been lucky & the cashier didn’t realize it came from Loblaws, or they do accept other store’s coupons just to stay competitive. I’m not going to argue with the cashier if she gives me the cents off though.
Tyrae: Keep at it! It doesn’t happen overnight, you need to just stick with it and get lots of practice. 🙂
Debra: Unless the coupon states that it can only be used at a particular store, you can use it anywhere. Also, yes, you do have to pay tax on your total before coupons.
Thanks to those who answered my questions. I was so discouraged when I had to pay the taxes on the total, but now know that is normal. I will also start paying way more attention to the tear pads in my local grocery store!