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Welcome to the 4 Day Saving Series! This series was created to help save you time and money when it comes to grocery shopping. Day 1 features my journey as a extreme couponing shopper along with 6 great extreme couponing tips to get you started!
Day 1: Extreme Couponing Tips
Day 2: Couponing 101: Beginner Couponing Secrets in Less Time
Day 3: 30 Minute Meal Planning Template for the Busy Mama
Day 4: How to Use Pinterest to Up Your Weekly Meal Plan Game
Extreme Couponing is fascinating. You can use a few coupons while grocery shopping every week, but still have that urge to take it to the next level.
Have you ever watched those Extreme Couponing episodes and wondered how in the world someone could get so much free stuff?! Isn’t it enthralling? If you’re a budget person, anything that can save you more money has you hooked.
But how do you do it? Follow along with me as see what happens when you try Extreme Couponing and look below for the best extreme couponing tips for beginners!
Here’s to Extreme Couponing!
It was the day I took the plunge. I had no idea how to do it or what to do, but I was determined to figure it out. The first thing I noticed was there were so many stores! There’s Target, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, Wegmans, and that’s just a few in my area. I am sure you could add a few more names too.
Turns out couponing has its own language. I felt like I was back in high school, except I had no idea what CW, RR, Catalina, or ECB meant. Now I was in over my head and needed to know where to start.
I Found a Support System
I joined a Facebook couponing group to help teach me to coupon (the group is not currently active anymore). The group posted deals at different stores and taught me how to find my own deals. I started with my local drug stores since they were all at one intersection about 10 minutes away. I signed up for all their rewards programs and downloaded all the apps to save extra money. To learn more about the best apps, read my Top 5 Savings Apps article. They saved me more than $800! Within a few days, I saw free deals for soap and shampoo. I knew that would be my first deal.
That first Saturday I walked into Walgreens with coupons in hand ready to score the deal. I still had no idea how everything worked, but I was going to try. No shampoo on the shelves. Isn’t that frustrating? So I walked out and figured I would just grab some free soap at CVS and head home. Guess what? The soap was sold out too. Here I drove 10 minutes to get to the stores and I went home empty handed.
I took the next few weeks trying again and sometimes succeeding and mostly failing on these deals I found on the website. Something needed to change.
Research is Key
I took some time to research each store’s coupon policy. Each one is different and some are super confusing. I learned that CW stands for Target’s Cartwheel app, which is beyond amazing. I now felt like a cool high schooler since I knew all the lingo.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm… Sometimes
Did you know weekly ads to most stores are available early online? They are! That means you can research what deals you want ahead of time. Sales go live on Sundays, so it’s important to get there first thing in the morning when they open. Even then, the store might not have the item in stock. Once I started shopping on Sunday mornings, I succeeded about 90% of the time. Turns out not all stores sell the same thing and store prices vary per location. I learned very quickly to have a backup plan. This way I didn’t drive 10 minutes to the store for nothing. I also made sure I went to stores for more than just 1 little thing. Driving 10 minutes for soap and shampoo didn’t make sense with gas costs anyway.
I Finally Got the Hang of it
It took almost the full 60 days, but I learned how to extreme coupon. I got 12 packs of diapers for $8 at Rite Aid; I got free shampoo and stocked up on toilet paper to all last more than 6 months. It was insane! I also got to try a bunch of new foods and toiletries that I would have never tried. We had snacks up to our ears. I even made my husband help me set up a pantry shelving unit in our basement.
My weekly grocery bill was about $90 while extreme couponing. I saved an average of $75 every week between 8 different stores. Crazy right? It just wasn’t worth it though.
Everything Must Come to an End
Extreme Couponing takes a lot of time. You’re researching deals weekly and spending hours inside the store. You get anxiety when cashing out at the register that something might go wrong or you added things up wrong. That can happen frequently. Plus there were plenty of times I struggled to find deals before my reward dollars expired.
There Are Other Ways to Shop
Normal couponing doesn’t have to mean extreme couponing. I changed how I shop and started to meal plan. Now I spend less than I did while couponing. Yes, I don’t save $75 a week, but I am spending about $80 a week. That is $10 a week less than while couponing. Plus I only spend one hour planning between using coupons and meal planning. In a world where time is money, it’s worth it. Here are some great tips for meal planning and stay tuned later this week for meal planning and couponing on a busy schedule. You can get access to the free printable guides for those posts now by subscribing today! Scroll down for 6 extreme couponing tips to get you started.
Extreme Couponing Tips
If you’re thinking of trying to extreme coupon, here are my tips to get you started:
Start with One Store
I started with about 6. It was a bad idea. To this day I still coupon at Target every couple weeks and it is much more manageable on time and mentally. I will, however, scour the drugstores ads for toilet paper deals when my stockpile goes down. At that point I plan to stock back up so I don’t have to keep shopping there.
Write out everything. The price of the product, the coupons you will use, and how much you will pay out of pocket at the register. You should know every item you will buy when you go to the store and have your coupons in place. I even accounted for state taxes to ensure I wasn’t thrown off at the register. Yes, you will do your math wrong, but sometimes the cash register will ring it up wrong. You need to have everything spelled out to know when to stop the cashier and look at something.
Buy Only What You Will Use
It can be tempting to get that great mascara that you can get for $1, but are you really going to use it? The first thing I think about when write my list out is will this really save me money and will I really use this? If the answer is yes, go ahead and buy it. If it’s maybe, skip it. You’ll end up spending and wasting more than saving.
Learn to Unit Price
Unit pricing is a key point to actually saving while couponing and shopping sales. I caught the hang of this around day 40 and noticed how many people overspent while couponing. They would buy a $1.99 bottle of detergent, but the big bottle that is 3 times as big would only be $4.99! I still use this tip on my normal weekly shopping trips to compare brands. My post The Simple Way to Save Money on Diapers breaks down how to unit price.
Do NOT Take Your Kids With You
This sounds like a no brain-er, but I am a stay at home mom, so my daughter is always with me. When I started, she was my little couponing side kick. She would go in and out of stores with me without complaint. One day that changed and she didn’t want to sit in the cart anymore. She kicked and screamed until I gave up. If I was her, I would’ve done the same thing. What 2 year old wants to shop all day?!
It is Time Consuming
If you are serious about extreme couponing, know that it will take about 3-4 hours to plan your trips and 2-3 hours for the shopping. Every week. It can get exhausting. Different reward programs have different expiration dates, so accumulated points will expire if you don’t pay attention and find a deal quick enough.
Stay tuned tomorrow to learn how to coupon in less than an hour!
Have you tried Extreme Couponing before? What is your experience with couponing in general?