How to Extreme Coupon
If you are on a tight budget, love hunting down bargains, and you’re extremely well organized, extreme couponing might just work for you. You will need to be prepared to substitute items for your usual brands and you’ll also need to have the time to search for the coupons that are useful for your needs.
Note: This article is applicable to the United States. Coupon usage varies from country to country, with retailers in some countries not even being aware of what a coupon discount means.
- Decide whether extreme couponing is likely to fit with your personality. Extreme couponing requires certain things of you that might not suit you, your lifestyle, or may just not seem a worthwhile use of time to you. Moreover, it might be something you want to do for a set period while you’re paying off something, or trying hard to make ends meet during harder times, before returning to your less intensive method of shopping, in which case viewing it as a temporary change in your usual way of doing things might make it more palatable than otherwise. To be successful with extreme couponing, here are some things that might help you to decide if it will work for you:
- Be organized and methodical. You need to go through coupons at least weekly, if not more often. If you don’t like the thought of tying up your time with such minutiae, it probably won’t work for you. Also, you need to have the time to do this; it is more likely to fit in with a lifestyle where at least one person has home duties and has the time to spend going through coupons and chasing up the bargains.
- You need to be prepared to spend time checking the specials against your needs. For some people, that’s too finicky and confining while for others it gives a sense of comfort and reassurance knowing what can be purchased for a good price.
- You will have to be firm and polite. Extreme couponing can bring out the worst in some of the people you deal with, including cashiers, store managers, and other customers, so being able to maintain a smile, a friendly attitude, and yet remain resolved that you are entitled to use the coupons will be required of you. For some people, that kind of confrontation during shopping is the last thing they feel like encountering after confrontations everywhere else in life!
- You need to be able to see the savings and value for you and your family. If you think use of coupons is petty, leads to purchases that are pointless, or that it curtails your joy of shopping or forces you to eat things you hate, it won’t work. Moreover, if you’re of an accounting type of mind, you may feel that your time is worth more than the coupons and dismiss extreme couponing outright on that ground alone. On the other hand, if you really are able to see the savings mounting up, that’s a huge incentive!
- Read about the experiences of existing extreme couponers. There are many extreme couponers sharing their stories online in blogs, forums, etc. Some love it and others tried it and loathed it. Read widely to get a feel for what works and doesn’t and for what keeps those extreme couponers who actively pursue it so convinced it’s a worthwhile thing to do. Which of the stories about pro- or anti-extreme coupling convince you best?
- Understand how coupons work. There is a wealth of specific terminology and policies related to coupons that an avid coupon user needs to know in order to get the best deal. Keep in mind:
- Know if your coupons are stackable: This term relates to whether or not it’s possible to use the manufacturer’s coupon with the store’s own special at the same time, making for even greater savings.
- Be aware of specials days: Some stores have specific days for specials and some will offer double or triple values for coupons. Knowing which stores do this, and when, will require some research beforehand, so look online and phone them to find out.
- Learn the acronyms. There are numerous acronyms applicable to coupons that will help you make the most us of them. Some of the more common ones are listed below under “Tips” below.
- Know the store’s policy and have a copy of it with you. This is simply a safeguard against cashiers who aren’t aware of store policies themselves and don’t really want to have to deal with your extreme coupling. It is far easier to say “we don’t accept that” than to go to the effort of ringing it all through, so be prepared to politely but firmly clarify the appropriateness of your coupon actions by pointing out the store policy. You will often find the policy online; if not, ask the store manager for a copy.
- Be aware of the matching price deal and the wrong price deal. Some stores will match and even undercut the price of the same product sold in other stores (you’ll need to show proof), and sometimes you can even get an item for free if the store charges you the wrong price from the one marked on the shelf or if the advertised price doesn’t match the price showing up on the register. However, unless you point it out, many cashiers won’t simply give these deals to you!
- Source your coupons. Obviously, you need coupons and the best place to source them is from advertising. Check out several weekend newspapers in your locale that have quality advertisements and coupons and be sure to check all supermarket and hypermarket fliers that carry specials (usually published weekly). Also check out online sites and coupon forums for coupons that you can print. The entrance area of many stores will also have advertising material with coupons and sometimes local tourist marketing information will have coupons of which you can avail yourself.
- If you want more than one coupon from a particular publication, ask friends and family to keep copies for you. If you’re friendly with a local business that sells the newspapers, they might also let you have unsold copies for free. You could also call in at hotels, hostels, and cafes that throw out their newspapers at the end of the day and ask to collect them on weekends.
- Learn which of your favorite stores regularly update their online coupons. Get into the habit of checking them when you know they’re being renewed. Also, check out the sites of your favorite brand names for possible coupons.
- Quite a few blogs have coupon deals or at least provide round-ups of relevant deals for the topic they cover. Some of the more common blogs doing this include mommy blogs, frugal/simple living blogs, blogs focused on particular products, shopping blogs, and coupon blogs.
- Don’t neglect the coupons found on the shelf with the product or those printed or stuck direct to the product itself. These provide an excellent additional source of savings.
- Read How to look for coupons, and How to find grocery coupons for more ideas.
- Use price comparison websites to check that you really are getting the best deal. Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily to best available price for the item you’re planning to use it for. Price comparison websites can allow you check the current price and sales at numerous stores, to find out where the absolute best deal is. This is probably best for big ticket items, trips, or for items you would like to get in bulk because comparing the price for every single can of tomato soup is not going to be a valid use of your precious time! Also, if you find a store that specializes in always discounting all of its products, you may find it cheaper to just go there than to bother with coupons; don’t become enslaved to the coupons to the point where you overlook easier solutions to saving money.
- Organize your coupons. The more successful coupon shopper places coupons in an order and a carrying device that makes them easy to get. A common device used by dedicated extreme couponers is to buy a large binder and to fill it with trading card plastic sheets. You can label the folder A-Z or put it in date order, whatever works best for you. Date is good because it means that you will be forced to use up coupons due to expire before forgetting about them but you need to regularly shift older coupons forward to ensure you see them and discard of them in time. The A-Z filing makes it easier to find things as you’re perusing the shelves and aisles. Another important aspect is that you take these sorted coupons with you everywhere; for some people, that is a daunting prospect!
- Another method for using coupons in a not-so-extreme way is to write your shopping list out and to indicate on it which items you have a coupon for. As you walk around, you can place the relevant coupon into a small envelope sitting in your bag or in the cart, in readiness to hand over all coupons for items you found to the cashier.
- Read How to organize your coupons for more ideas on good organizing methods.
- Plan your menus around your coupons. It can be a good idea to spend a little time assessing the coupons you have before you against the meals you’d like to prepare for the week following. This way, you can make the most of the coupons without stocking up on what could well be useless items (in which case, you won’t have saved any money).
- Be aware that grocery items go on sale in rotations, usually of about 12 weeks and they’ll often be on sale in several stores.
- Be brand flexible. Extreme couponing means that you need to be prepared to try a range of brands or store labels that you might not have used before. In many cases, the difference in taste or quality may not be perceptible but it might be wise to know for sure before buying in bulk and being stuck with something that nobody in the family will eat!
- Be polite and be considerate. Extreme couponing can drive the cashier and other customers to extreme annoyance because you are effectively holding up people by drawing out each coupon for each item in your cart. Some ways to help reduce the annoyance factor include:
- Shop at a time when the store is less crowded. This means avoiding extreme couponing at meal times or when workers are heading home from work in droves.
- Shop at stores where the people get to know you and are happy to help you out with all your coupons.
- Look for parts of the store where there are likely to be less customers at any one time. A good example is the beauty counter of a drugstore; this is less likely to be as busy as the front counter cashiers. As an added benefit, this increases the sales of underused counters, so they’re probably going to be more than happy to serve you with all your coupons!
- Be kind to people in your line and warn them that you’re an extreme couponer and that your line might be slower than another one.
- Be super polite and complimentary to the cashiers and anyone else helping you. Sometimes people will get very frustrated and you’re going to have to know how to handle this without getting irritated or rude.
- Buy only what you need and will use. A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t need it. Keep that motto emblazoned on the front of your binder and heed it!
- Acronyms often found on coupons include:
- AC: After coupon
- AR: After rebate
- BOGO: Buy one, get one (free)
- BOLO: Be on the lookout
- B1G1F: Buy one, get one free
- C&P: Cut and paste
- FAR: Free after rebate
- IP: Internet printable coupon
- MIR: Mail-in rebate
- NAZ: Name, address, zip code
- NED: No expiry date
- OAS: On any size
- OOS: Out of stock
- OSI: On single item
- OYNO: On your next order
- Peelie: Peel off the coupon from the product
- POP: Proof of purchase
- PP: Purchase price
- RC: Raincheck
- Stacking: Allowance for store coupons to be used on top of manufacturer’s coupons
- TMF: Try me free
- WPN: Wine purchase necessary
- WSL: While stocks last
- WYB: When you buy.
- There are coupon binder organizers available online that can be downloaded for free. Just do a quick online search for terms like “coupon organizers”, “coupon categories”, etc.
- Don’t assume that store brands are cheaper than brand name items. Once coupons are taken into account, the brand names can sometimes be a lot cheaper.
- If you can’t be bothered cutting out the coupons to insert into separate card slots in a binder, simply hole punch the page and attach a pair of small scissors (such as a child’s safety pair) by a string to the binder. That way, you can cut it out as you find the product!
- Be prepared to buy in bulk and to have to store your items. Don’t buy perishables in bulk unless you know you’re going to be able to use them in time.
- Coupons don’t necessarily encourage healthy, basic purchases of food and beverage. Do a trial and shop at the outer aisles of your supermarket (fruit, vegetables, unprocessed produce) and any other unprocessed items on other shelves and don’t buy anything processed. See what the cost is in comparison to filling your basket with coupon processed foods. While it might require a little more time to turn your non-processed foods into meals, the longer-term health benefits are enormous, and you can also bulk cook and freeze to save yourself additional efforts. Be savvy about what is really causing the costs in your grocery cart; it may simply be a diet that is way too processed, sugary, and fat-laden.
- Consider donating excess bulk items you’ve been able to get through extreme couponing. This is such a lovely way to give back to your community.
- Don’t neglect department store credit cards; these can also provide great specials from time to time.
- Many credit cards offer store vouchers. If you are disciplined at paying off your credit card regularly, use it at the stores you shop at most and redeem your store vouchers to cover more shopping. Check if you can still use a loyalty card when making a voucher purchase, to get even more points toward another free reward.
- Ask your favorite supermarkets if they have supermarket club cards. Join up whenever the membership is free and offers great deals.
- Don’t forget restaurant, entertainment, and trip coupons. These can increase your savings on doing things you’d love to be doing instead of shopping!
- Post season sales can be far better deals than coupons for many items from clothing to outdoor gear. Be sure to compare prices and stock up at these times.
- Get extra coupons by writing to the manufacturer direct. Be sure to explain why you love their product!
- If you have friends, neighbors or family who are also extreme couponers, organize a swap meet with them now and then.
- It is possible to print coupons here at DailyDollarCoupons.com
- Often grocers offer significant discounts on gasoline for purchases made at their stores. Don’t miss an opportunity to save a dime or more per gallon of fuel by grabbing deals at a reatiler you don’t normally visit.
- Extreme couponing can really annoy the cashier and other clients. Sometimes people will be rude to you and sometimes they may stubbornly refuse to serve you with the coupons. Be prepared to stay sweet, polite and be prepared to affirm the authority that allows you to use the coupon.
- Not all coupons will be honored, for various reasons. This means that you should know the store’s policy, read the fine print on the coupon and be aware of any possible problems before trying to use the coupons.
- Stockpiling can save money but it can also create its own form of burden in your life. Stuff takes up room. It is also stuff that needs to be used by a certain date or that needs to be used even when much nicer and newer items hit the market. Stockpiling against a rainy day can also lead to neuroses about never having enough, or fears of being short of items even when you’re tripping over them. And if you already have obsessive tendencies, this can soon turn into yet another obsession coupled with hoarding. Balance your extreme couponing with the need to keep a tidy and workable living space, and the joy of shopping for fresh items on a more regular basis.
Things You’ll Need
- Sunday papers, advertising material, store promotional material, etc.
- Large binder or similar for holding coupons plus scissors for cutting and trading card plastic pockets for fitting in coupons
- Good date and place tracking system (your phone might be a good tool for this)
- Ability to resist purchasing things simply because they’re on special
Sources and Citations
- ↑ http://consumerist.com/2011/01/doing-extreme-coupons-at-walgreens-check-out-at-the-beauty-counter.html
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