In an economic downturn, people start coming up with creative ways to save money. One of these is couponing. Couponing can be a great way to save on necessities. And some folks even turn it into a hobby. A couponer who spends a lot of time hunting down coupons and getting huge discounts is called an extreme couponer.
Extreme couponing is a specialized form of deal hunting. It is the practice of gathering, clipping, and organizing coupons to save money on your purchases. With coupons, you can save money on groceries and household items and have extra money left over for other needs.
While the hobby of extreme couponing isn’t new, it is rising in popularity. TLC even has a television show based around it! So, exactly what is extreme couponing? Let’s look at what it is and how it’s done.
Getting Started With Extreme Couponing
Before you dive into extreme couponing, you’ll want to gather some supplies. You’ll need more than just an envelope in your purse—although that’s a good way to begin. But with extreme couponing, you need a more sophisticated system. Here is what you’ll need to get started:
Printer – Many websites offer printable coupons. As an extreme couponer, most of your coupons will come from these websites. A plus is that most printers can connect directly to your phone.
Binder – Organizing your coupons is a huge part of extreme couponing. Get a binder and clear insert sleeves with pockets. Typically, you can find these in hobby shops or office supply stores. Most couponers prefer the ones designed to hold baseball cards.
Where To Find Coupons
Now that you are ready to start extreme couponing, it’s time to search for coupons. But where can you find them?
First, make sure you are signed up for weekly mailers from your local stores. Many of them will send you their weekly flyers, so you can see what’s on sale. Occasionally, you’ll find coupons in these mailers. You can also grab a flyer at the entrance of many stores and get coupons from those.
One of the best ways to quickly find hot deals and collect hundreds of coupons is to go online. There are dozens of websites devoted to couponing. Those, along with the websites of your favorite stores, can be a great starting point to becoming an extreme couponer. In addition, there are plenty of sites to find the best coupons. A few of these include Ibotta, Coupons.com, and Groupon.
You can also go the old-fashioned route and get coupons from your Sunday paper. Most newspapers still include coupon inserts, and these are a great way to save money. However, you’ll want to ensure you aren’t spending more than you save. Newspapers have gotten more expensive than ever. If you really want to save, ask your friends and neighbors to save you the inserts from their own weekly papers (that is, if they are only going to throw them away).
Contact Manufacturers Directly
Another way to get coupons is to contact product manufacturers directly. Those toll-free numbers on the packaging? That’s one way to get in touch. The other way is to visit the company website directly. Often, manufacturers will offer high-value coupons you can print from the site. Or they may provide you with coupons if you join a mailing list. Again, this is a great way to get coupons for the specific products you use regularly.
*Pro Couponing Tip: Use a separate email address just for your coupon-related stuff. That way, your regular inbox won’t get cluttered with ads and spam.
Organize Your Coupons
Once you start collecting coupons, you will notice how quickly they pile up. Organizing your coupons will save you a lot of time and give you peace of mind. It is the best way to ensure that you actually use them and that you can always find them.
Always organize your coupons by category. For example, you can separate your coupons into categories like dry goods, condiments, dairy, meat, paper products, etc. Your categories can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Keeping your coupons separated this way will help you easily find what you need and save time when you are in the store.
Most extreme couponers use a binder with clear inserts. This allows you to flip through the pages so you can easily see each coupon. Yes, you might feel a little weird at first carrying a huge binder into the supermarket. But any awkwardness you experience will quickly disappear when you see how much money comes off your total bill.
Remember to purge expired coupons regularly. This will allow you to keep your coupon binder kink free and make it easy to add new coupons. Unfortunately, most stores will only take coupons before the printed expiration date.
*Pro Couponing Tip – Learn the specific coupon policies for each store you frequent. If you use a binder for organization, print out the store policies and keep them in a section in the back.
Look for Sales
A considerable part of extreme couponing is staying on top of sales. The best way to do this is by reading the weekly grocery ads and relying on coupon matchup lists like those found on couponing websites. Many websites, such as Hip2Save, are excellent for this.
Use Receipt Scanning Apps
In recent years, receipt scanning apps have emerged as a novel way to save money on groceries and other items. These apps allow users to scan and digitize their paper receipts for record-keeping purposes. These apps use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to extract information from the receipts, such as the store name, date of purchase, and an itemized list of your purchases.
Using a receipt scanning app can save you money at the grocery store in several ways:
- Cashback and rewards: Many receipt scanning apps offer cashback or rewards for scanning your receipts. These rewards can be in the form of points, which can be redeemed for gift cards or other cash.
- Price comparison: Some receipt scanning apps can compare the prices of items you’ve purchased to other stores to ensure you get the best deal. This can help you identify when certain items are on sale or if there’s a cheaper option at a different store.
- Automatic coupon matching: Some receipt scanning apps can automatically match coupons and deals to items you’ve purchased, giving you additional savings without the need to clip and carry coupons.
Three of the most popular receipt-scanning apps include Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Dosh. But there are many others. Additionally, your local supermarket may have its own similar app. If you have patience, you can take advantage of multiple deals on the same item and save even more cash in the checkout line.
Things To Watch Out For
While extreme couponing can be a great way to save money and even score some free stuff, there are some negatives to it as well. Don’t get us wrong, we are all for extreme couponing, but it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t tell you what to watch out for.
Extreme couponing can result in a stockpile of unneeded items. This can leave you with an overstock of stuff and little cabinet space. Make sure that when you are looking for deals, you only buy things you need. Just because you can get tuna for ten cents a can doesn’t mean you need to get 40 cans of tuna.
Remember that manufacturers want you to buy their item and to buy a lot of it. The main objective of offering coupons is to get you to buy something you normally wouldn’t. When extreme couponing, stick to items you need and will use within 60 days. If you do find yourself with a stockpile of items you won’t be able to use, consider donating them to your local food bank or shelter. This is a great way to give back to your community.
Another problem with extreme couponing is the time it takes. Between searching for coupons, organizing them, and shopping at different stores, you can spend a lot of time on this hobby. Allowing yourself a specific amount of time each day or week is a good idea. By limiting the time you spend on extreme couponing, it will remain a fun, rewarding activity rather than a chore.
Let’s be real. When you get to the register and pull out your large binder (or handful of coupons), the cashier probably isn’t going to be overly ecstatic. Nor is the guy waiting behind you. So here are a few tips to make the process less painful for everyone.
Remember when we wrote checks back in the day? We can still hear the grumbles of everyone in line while someone started to fill out a check after their items were scanned. Don’t be that person. Before you get to the register, get yourself organized. Choose an empty aisle or out-of-the-way spot, go through your coupons, and double-check your list. This way, you can make the checkout process as seamless as possible.
Looking for the shortest line is overrated, especially when it comes to extreme couponing. Instead of being in a rush, pick a line with a cashier who seems to be enjoying their day. Someone genuinely happy to deal with their customers will likely be more accommodating and helpful about your wad of coupons. On the other hand, an irritable cashier can really put a damper on your shopping trip.
Lastly, always be considerate of other customers. You are going to be at the checkout stand for a bit longer than someone who is not couponing or those with only a few items. So if the store is packed, offer to let someone go ahead of you. It’s going to make their day better and foster goodwill. And it will end up being a happier experience for everyone.