My close friends, family and housemates have been subject to me proclaiming that I’m an extreme couponer lately. While I may not actually be an extreme couponer (yet), with a little bit of planning I’m saving a tonne of money on groceries at the moment and it’s awesome.
Also, for those of you who don’t know about couponing (ie. most people from Australia because it’s not a thing there) it became much better known when TLC started airing Extreme Couponing which follows the, boarder line sad, lives of people who save insane amounts of money through clipping coupons, gaining points and store savings.
I thought that while we’re living in America and on a pretty tight budget I should try my hand at couponing and see if I could save us some dosh. There are a few things I will say from the onset though;
- You have to spend money to save money
- It takes much longer than normal grocery shopping
- You will save a huge amount of money
So far, I have ‘couponed’ at Target, Whole Foods and Lucky Supermarkets – all of which have been incredibly beneficial.
I get most of my coupons from catalogues that come in the mail, from coupons.com, from manufacturer websites and also the stores websites. So, for example if I were to do a shop at Target, I would use Target coupons from their website as well as manufacturer coupons from one of the above places.
Because of the nature of our current living arrangements I can’t do what many other couponers do – which is to create a space in the house for buying bulk. Many of the savings come from buying two or more products on a largely discounted rate which means there is significant overflow of ‘stuff’. For example, we currently have six boxes of cereal and ten cans of soup. If we were going to be living here long term and had the space to fully get into the couponing experience – I wouldn’t be so wary about buying a large amount of non-perishables.
One thing that I have found is that since couponing became ‘popular’, and you can now print your own coupons online (more on that later) store coupon policies have become much stricter on how many coupons you can stack. Now, you can usually only have one of each type of coupon – where as you used to be able to stack coupons of the same type. This does mean that you can’t save as much as the people from the earliest seasons of Extreme Couponing unless you study it and understand how the barcoding and ins and outs of the systems workings – which I don’t and don’t feel the need to learn at the moment.
The way that I have found to make the best savings is to shop catalogues – which is something I have never done before. For this, you need to be a bit flexible – you can’t be picky with brands and what you want to be eating that week. Therefore, I organise our weekly food around the grocery shop – and not the other way around like I do at home. By doing this – you’ll be able to see when stores have sales and good deals and also use these in conjunction with your coupons. I also do make a shopping list of essentials before I get started so that I don’t forget what we actually need from the store. An example is from my most recent Lucky Supermarkets shop where they had a sale for Pillsbury refrigerated dough products. We bought Cinnabons and Blueberry Scones at a sale price of 2 for $3 (usually $2.39 and $2.89 respectively), I had a store coupon for $1 off when you buy two or more Pillsbury products. I also had a manufacturer coupon for $1 off when you buy two or more. This means that I ended up spending $1.00 (50c each) which is a saving of $4.28.
Another thing that I I’m slowing starting to incorporate more is store loyalty cards and programs (which are all free). You can collect points which you can redeem for products, in store vouchers and other discounts. I, so far, have joined the loyalty programs with Target, Lucky Supermarkets and CVS. Because of the nature of the loyalty cards, it can take a while to develop enough points to make it worth it – which is why it’s probably best to stick to the same supermarkets. However, we like to use four different ones for different reasons – which is okay. I think if we were staying here a bit longer then we’d probably try and commit to one supermarket for the loyalty card reason.
My favourite loyalty program that I have found so far is the one at Target. Their program is called Cartwheel where you can search for different deals and offers and print off your own savings barcode. The only downside is that you can only use four item discounts from the barcode per transaction. I have however, completed three separate transactions in one shop before and they were totally fine with it. The website is also really fun with how they set up your account – it, through the magic of technology, tallies how much money you have saved over time, you can collect badges for doing cool things and if you join through Facebook you can see what other deals your friends are getting. Also, once you have been using it for a while, more spots open up you account so you can add more items that you’d like a discount on.
I’m still only learning the ropes as I’ve only been doing this for about a month now – but I’m sure if I discover anything else new I’ll let you know!
I’ll do some more posts about my couponing adventures too – outlining some of the shops that I have done, what I’ve bought and how much I’ve saved.
Bye for now!