Extreme Couponing - Part 2


Extreme Couponing

Will Extreme Couponing Ruin Coupons?

Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011 at 6:20 am
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The TLC show Extreme Couponing has certainly brought using grocery coupons to the attention of the nation, if not the world. What was once the practice of a few families trying to greatly reduce their food budget has turned into a widespread trend, using hundreds of coupons to get as much stuff for free at the store as possible.

By combining or stacking coupons with sales, extreme couponers can walk away with several carts full of food and health and beauty products that they don’t pay for. “My goal isn’t to save money. My goal is to get everything free,” one recent extreme couponer said.

We love using coupons, and we love getting great deals. When shoppers can score something like $150 worth of groceries for less than $10, they jump for joy. Extreme couponing takes a lot of work, but when everything falls into place, it is a great feeling, knowing that you saved a lot on your grocery bill.

It is nice that so many people are now getting started with coupons and learning how grocery coupons and manufacturer coupons can really save money. This show comes at the right time for many people who are struggling with their budgets. But, there may be another consequence of the extreme couponing show. It isn’t just the shoppers like us who are paying attention.

Grocery stores and food manufacturers are also taking a good look at the show. They are learning all about the practices of the extreme couponers, how they use coupons and how they get the savings that they do. They are even learning how flaws in the cash register systems allow loopholes that net shoppers savings, even if those savings were never the intention of the store or the company issuing the coupon.

The result of this is that we are starting to see many changes in store coupon policies and more “do not double” coupons. It seems as though there is a new announcement of a change every week, as stores and manufacturers struggle to close up any gaps that may be costing them a lot of money. The stores want to limit coupon abuse of course, but they also want to avoid having to excessively pay shoppers to shop at their stores.

Coupons are usually issued to encourage shoppers to try a new product, or repurchase a product. After about three to five purchases, most shoppers will start to add that product to their mental favorite brand list. They are then more likely to always buy that brand even if they don’t have a coupon.

Extreme couponers change things when they come into the store and use those coupons to buy twenty to 100 of the product, getting it all for free. Both the store and the manufacturer wind up losing money.

The store spends time and money stocking the shelves that are then emptied by one shopper. This leaves no stock for other shoppers who might have bought the product at full price or tried the product with a coupon and become loyal to the brand.
The manufacturer has to reimburse the store for all of the coupons, but they didn’t get the product into the hands of 100 different people, just one shopper, so the manufacturer loses money. The store may also lose money by doubling the coupons.

Stores offer double coupons in order to get customers in the door, with the hopes that they will buy other products to make up for the loss in the double coupons. But extreme couponers never seem to buy any other products than those they can get for free or almost free.

Because of these realities, we may see even more changes down the road that will make it harder to use coupons for extreme savings. I don’t think couponers are going away anytime soon, but we may start to have to use them differently. When stores and manufacturers see that shoppers can stock up on a year’s worth of products for free they start to rethink their promotions and offers.

What do you think?

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Extreme Couponing: How Do They Get It All for Free?

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 at 10:12 am
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Am I the only one who envies, just a little bit, the people on the Extreme Couponing show? Watching these coupon clippers get their groceries for free can be inspiring and even a little uncomfortable. My fingers start itching to clip coupons and get my groceries for free, too.

Is Extreme Couponing Misleading?

Of course, the show can be a little bit misleading. It isn’t as though the shopper makes up a normally weekly grocery list, finds the coupons afterwards and applies them all to get their free groceries. It is more like they start with the coupons and get a large multiple of very specific products for free.

Extreme couponers combine low sale prices with high value coupons and then stock up on multiple coupons, clearing the shelves of products. So while they may have five carts of free groceries, everything in those carts may be multiples of just a few items, such as 100 candy bars, 100 bars of soap and 100 tubes of toothpaste.

How it Works

Here is how it works. Let us say that those candy bars are on sale for $1 each. In the newspaper is a coupon for $1 off of that same candy. This makes the candy free. The extreme couponer stocks up on that $1 coupon in several ways. They may ask friends and family for extra coupons, they may buy extra newspapers to get more coupons, they may climb into the dumpsters to retrieve coupons or most likely, they will buy multiples of the coupon they need.

Once they have as many coupons as they can get, let us say 100 of the $1 off candy bar coupon, they head to the store. They purchase the number of products for the number of coupons that they have: 100 candy bars. Then they give the cashier the coupons, and the total winds up being zero. Extreme couponers may have several of these types of low sale products and coupons that they can combine in any shopping trip.

Are All the Groceries Free?

On their next shopping trip, the extreme couponers will focus on a different set of products for low sales and coupons. Over time, these savvy shoppers will build up a stockpile of certain items, so they never have to pay for them. That doesn’t mean that they always get everything for free. Items such as fresh produce or meat is usually harder to get for free with extreme couponing, although there are other techniques that help, such as using overages and catalina coupons, that reduce the grocery bill total.

Getting Started with Extreme Couponing

The bottom line is that there are solid techniques that currently work to get you groceries for free when you practice extreme couponing. You can learn how to combine sales and coupons and do all of the other things that will result in free groceries.

While you may not want to eat or even store 100 candy bars, you could use extreme couponing to stock up on a handful of candy bars for movie nights or apply the same strategies to get other more useful things for free, in the amounts that your family will use within a reasonable time.

I’ve written several blog posts on FreeCoupons.com that will teach you How to Coupon, How to Save and the more intense techniques of Extreme Couponing.

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Extreme Couponing: Stockpiling without Hoarding

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 at 6:12 am
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When your extreme couponing leads you to take out a $30,000 insurance policy on your mustard, well, you might just have a hoarding problem.

Many couponers feel offended by the Extreme Couponing show because it tends to portray couponing in a negative light. The people clipping coupons come across mostly as greedy. They buy hundreds of candy bars, clear shelves and hoard floor to ceiling stacks of products that they don’t even like.

If you have seen the show, you know exactly what I am talking about: the family who doesn’t eat croutons but has more stock of them than the local grocery store, the lady with enough steak sauce to keep a busy restaurant in business for at least a month, and yes, that sea of that mustard that no one in the family will eat.

You can get giddy sometimes when you are getting good deals and free products. it happens to the best of us. It is hard to turn down something for free. For some, it is a good feeling to visit your stockpile and marvel at its wealth. But there are also many consequences of hoarding, from changes in your family dynamic, to earning the resentment of others. And yes, there are extra monetary costs involved with hoarding, from storage space to that insurance policy.

Does that mean that we should never stockpile? Of course not. Stockpiling can be a valuable tool to keeping your grocery bill down week to week. By buying things on sale and with coupons, you’ll always pay the lowest price (or get it free).

The key here is to have a reasonable stockpile without crossing over into hoarding. How can you create a basic stockpile without going all extreme?

Well, most sales cycles rotate about every three months. There are some exceptions, such as seasonal items, but those are the basics. When you find a good sale, stock up on enough supply to last your family for three months, that is all. Another sale or deal will come along by the time you need to replenish, and usually it is an even better one. Your groceries will remain fresh, and you won’t have to toss things that are long expired.

Good items to stockpile are those that don’t expire anyway, such as toilet paper and shampoo, but even these items can degrade, so stockpiling 25 years worth of deodorant just doesn’t make sense.

There may be a little trial and error at first as you figure out how long certain items last in your household. How quickly do you go through a box of cereal, for example? Keep a running list of how many of which type of item you really need. I know that when pasta hits 50 cents or less per box, I should purchase enough to bring my stockpile up to 20 boxes.

You also may find that the more you have of an item, the more you consume, so this is another reason to limit the stockpile. I know that when I buy regular bags of snack chips versus the big warehouse bags, we don’t seem to consume as many chips and don’t feel a sacrifice.

Try to schedule consumption of certain items, so you neither get sick of them nor use them up before the next sale.

For freezer stockpiling, you may find it useful to keep a list of everything in your freezer, so you can easily know what you have on hand and avoid forgetting to use some of your stockpile.

By keeping your stockpile reasonable, you get the benefits of saving money on your groceries without all of the negatives associated with hoarding.

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Extreme Couponing with Kids

Posted on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 6:12 am
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Most of us need to stretch our grocery food budget, but when you have kids this need to save can become even more urgent. The grocery bill just doesn’t go as far these days, especially when there are more family members to feed. Plus, if you decide to stay home with your kids, using coupons can be a way to contribute financially to the household without working outside the home. Either way, it is extreme couponing to the rescue.

Can I Do Extreme Couponing with Kids?

Super shoppers can definitely practice extreme couponing while raising their kids. The key is to start slowly and work up to whatever time and effort that works for you and your family. Don’t compare your weekly stockpile hauls to others and don’t expect to be able to get completely up and running right away. Even extreme couponers who don’t have kids at home can take years to get to the point of saving thousands of dollars on groceries.

Plus, you don’t want to spend hours and hours a day away from your family in order to get the deals.
Incorporate the following shopping tips for extreme couponing with kids.

Get the Kids Involved in Extreme Couponing

Your kids can learn valuable money saving skills, as well as math skills such as addition and subtraction while clipping coupons. Even little ones can practice their scissor skills with coupons (start them with some extra insert pages that you don’t need). There is also sorting, writing practice and more. Plus kids can feel important and get a sense of accomplishment.

Older kids can be paid a small “fee” to cut coupons for you, or calculate how the savings will add up to a family goal, such as a vacation to Disney World or a new big screen television.

If you donate some of your haul, explain to your kids where the products are going, thanks to grocery coupons, and how they will be able to help others in need.

How to Do Extreme Couponing Shopping

While running to do a couple of small drugstore deals with kids might not be too bad, when it comes to the big extreme couponing trips, you might want to leave the kids at home, at least when it comes to any children under ten.

Young children can be a distraction in the store that can really affect the shopping results. There may be times when you have to recalculate deals on the spot, talk to the manager or visit the customer service desk. Plus doing a major shopping trip can take hours. Try time to time your big shopping deals day to a time when you can go without the kids.

How can you shop alone, you ask? If you don’t have a spouse or family member to watch the kids, offer to trade baby sitting with another extreme couponer or split a portion of your free products with a friend in exchange for child-free shopping.

If this isn’t an option and you will have the children with you, try to break up your shopping into smaller more frequent trips. Assign the kids different roles such as finding the yogurt, pushing a cart, counting out items or checking things off of the list. Hand your child a coupon that has a picture of the product and ask him or her to find it on the shelf. Some of these “games” can go a long way to helping you accomplish your extreme couponing goals while shopping with kids.

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Extreme Couponing: Finding Stores that Give Overage

Posted on Monday, April 25th, 2011 at 12:12 pm
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How do extreme couponers get their steak for only pennies a pound or load their carts with hundreds of boxes of cereal for free? The secret here is overages. Without overages, it can be difficult to get such extreme couponing results.

What is Overage

When the value of a coupon exceeds the price of a product, that is overage. For example, if you have a $.75 toothpaste coupon that doubles to $1.50 and toothpaste is on sale for $1.00, that extra $.50 is considered overage. For stores that allow overage, the extra $.50 gets applied to the rest of your order.

This is a wonderful strategy for getting free and low cost groceries. The stores are literally paying you to take the groceries off of their hands. That is what extreme couponing is all about.

How Does Overage Help Extreme Couponing?

Extreme couponers know the value of overage in their order. This is part of the reason that many of them buy so many multiples of products. In the example above, a coupon expert might buy 100 tubes of that toothpaste, winding up with an extra $.50 each or $50 worth of free credit to spend on other products at check out.

That $50 can then be used to help pay down other parts of your grocery order, such as items that normally don’t have coupons, like meat and fresh produce. Or it can be applied to the other items on your list that may already be reduced with coupons but not free.

Not All Stores Give Overage

At one time, all of the grocery stores automatically gave overage when you use coupons. I remember my early days of couponing when I would buy things to donate and walk away with cash back. These days, however, getting overage by using coupons is not that easy. Many stores have clamped down on the practice and have issued policies against using overage.

If you see anything in the store policy that says anything about the coupon amount not to exceed the product price, then you know that store won’t give overages.

Extreme Couponers Know Where to Shop

Because overage can be such an important part of extreme couponing, the savvy shoppers know exactly where to shop and which grocery stores give overages with coupons. If you do a little research, you can find out this information pretty quickly.

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How to Print Multiple Coupons for Extreme Couponing

Posted on Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 at 4:16 pm
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Coupons and Money

One of the ways that extreme couponers get such amazing deals at the grocery store is by using multiple coupons. They can get these coupons through Sunday inserts, coupon booklets and coupon clipping services. But more and more these days, couponers really need to have printable coupons to get the extreme deals.

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Printable coupons have been increasing in value while Sunday insert coupons and other already printed coupons are becoming harder to find or going down in face value. These coupons are still a very important part of extreme couponing, but it is almost impossible to get $1,000 worth of groceries for $10 if you aren’t using printable coupons.

Coupons.com, manufacturer coupons, RedPlum coupons online and other sources of printable coupons often limit the amount of coupons that each user can print. You may only be able to print one or possibly two of the same coupon. This greatly limits the amount of savings and stockpiling you can do. Extreme couponers sometimes buy hundreds of the same product in one trip. The only way that they can do this is with multiple printable coupons.

Getting Past Print Limits

So how do these extreme couponers get all of those coupons to print when the rest of us can only print out one or two of the same coupon at a time? They get around the limitation with a couple of different tricks.

First of all, most people who practice extreme couponing have invested in multiple computers. With multiple computers, they will have access to multiple ISP numbers. Since these sites tend to identify a user by that ISP number, having more than one makes you into multiple users. This way, they can get more coupons.

Another way to be able to get a lot of printable coupons is to ask friends and family for them. Depending on how many people are willing to do this for you, you can get enough coupons for your trip.

Some stores will allow you to print coupons out at the in store kiosks that are available. I’ve never done this myself, so I don’t know if there is a print limit or how the store controls this.
Finally, you may be able to pay someone to print the coupons for you.

Coupons and Ethics

In general, the more grocery coupons that you can get, the more extreme couponing you can do. This sometimes leads people to obsessive methods of obtaining coupons.

There are less ethical ways to get more printable coupons, such as printing them at work or even hacking the system to get more coupons. Obviously I don’t recommend these methods. I don’t think the extra savings is worth being dishonest, and the “tricks” often make it harder to use coupons in the long run for everyone. There are plenty of great grocery savings with coupons without resorting to some of the less savory methods of couponing.

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Extreme Couponing and the Master List

Posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2011 at 4:16 pm
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One of the best strategies for Extreme Couponing success is maintaining a master list. Creating and using a master list can help turn ordinary grocery savings into extreme grocery savings. It is a valuable tool to have. If you aren’t using a master list consider getting one started. I’ll tell you all about it and give you the information that you need to make such a list and maintain it yourself.

Why Make a Master List?

A master list of grocery products will help you keep track of store prices, cyclical sales (when things cost the least), how often their are coupons available for these products and the likely sources of specific coupons.

By having this list, you can quickly look through it each week for extreme couponing opportunities. One big benefit is that it will help you quickly see what products to target and which coupons that you will need. This way, you can make sure you find or buy the right coupons in the right quantities.

How to Make the Master List

I strongly suggest putting your list into an electronic spreadsheet. Having your master list in electronic form will allow you to sort and update it quickly. You can add additional information as needed.

If you have a smart phone, you can email the list or sync the list from your computer. By doing this, you’ll always have the list with you!

What Goes on the Master List

Start by listing the items that you use regularly in your home. For most families, this will wind up being about 100 products. You can group them by type of product, such as cereal, frozen food or cleaners, or you can group them by brand. There are benefits to both ways, and you’ll figure out which way works best for you.

To start out with, next to each item, you will want to list the following information: the regular price of the item, the lowest price of the item, what coupons are available for the item (you may have different ones to list for many of the products), how much of the item should be stocked (example 12 boxes of pasta) and notes. The notes section may contain miscellaneous information about the product such as the best store to buy the product, the best source of coupons, etc.

The list can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. Some extreme couponers even add the bar codes of some products or coupons so they can scan them to see if there is a better deal or coupon elsewhere.

Scanning Your Master List

You might find out some interesting information once you start taking a good look at your list. For example, you might see that there are certain products that never seem to have coupons. Maybe you could consider using a different brand or even a different type of product in order to get your extreme savings.

While creating a master list at first will take some time, it can ultimately save you both time and money, fine tuning your clipping coupons into the art of extreme couponing.

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Extreme Couponing Can Take Years

Posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2011 at 4:16 pm
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While the TLC show Extreme Couponing makes using grocery coupons to get free food look easy, the reality is that there is a lot that they don’t tell you about the process. One thing that is misleading is the amount of time it takes to practice extreme couponing.

Not only does this time commitment apply to the effort it takes on a daily basis but also in the amount of months or years it takes before you can get to the point where you are getting most of your groceries for free.

Most experts in extreme couponing have perfected their techniques over years. While it is true that with the Internet and coupon classes, new extreme couponers can get up and running more quickly in the past, learning the tricks of extreme couponing is just one aspect of getting the most value from your grocery dollar.

The way that extreme couponing works is by matching coupons to sales, promotions and rebates. The problem is that sales and promotions, as well as coupons, are cyclical. This means that they operate on a 12 month basis. You have to have at least a year of stockpiling to get to the point where you don’t have to shop for anything but the hottest sales plus fresh perishable items. Otherwise, you will be supplementing your shopping trips in order to feed and supply your family with enough groceries.

Adding just a few items to your list that aren’t part of your extreme shopping will up your grocery bill past the amazing totals that you see on the Extreme Couponing show.

For example canned pineapple and baking products will be at their lowest prices around Christmas and the winter holidays. Many coupons for these same products are released then as well. You’ll have to stock up on everything that you need for the entire year and have a place to store it all. If your stockpile doesn’t have a lot of variety and enough quantity of all of the products you use, then you just won’t get to the extreme savings.

Sometimes the best coupons don’t come out at the same time as the best sales. For example, there was an influx of Pillsbury refrigerated dough coupons during the holidays, but the best sales were happening in February. So, the extreme couponers who have been following the patterns for years knew enough to hold on to those coupons to use later.

While it seems very daunting, don’t despair. You can still get some of the benefits of extreme couponing as soon as you start shopping smart.

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Extreme Couponing in the Real World

Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 at 4:12 pm
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While it is amazing to watch extreme couponers get $2,000 worth of groceries for less than $100, the reality is that for most of us, all of the techniques of extreme couponing just can’t be sustained. Spending five or six hours a day working on coupons or turning your house into a small supermarket just isn’t practical for most of use in the long term.

Plus as recently come to light, some of the people who practice extreme couponing can only get the extreme savings that they do by practicing coupon fraud.

How then can you get the benefits of extreme couponing without all of the drawbacks? Taking things step by step is much better in the long run. You can decide how much you can do and are willing to do along the way when you break things down into steps.

Here are some practical tips for how to do extreme couponing in the real world.

Start with a Reasonable Goal

Using coupons and matching them to sales does save money. Don’t give up. Start with a small goal, such as saving 10-15 percent at first. Start with using coupons on the things that you buy anyway.

Increase Your Savings

As you gain experience with using coupons, start paying attention to the store sales flyers. See what items are listed on the front and the back pages. These are known as the loss leaders, heavily discounted groceries that are meant to get you into the store. Check your coupons and see if you have any coupons for these loss leader products, you’ll automatically increase your grocery savings to 20-30 percent. Doing rebates and rewards in addition to coupons and sales can gain you another 5 percent in savings.

Start Stockpiling

The next step to Extreme Couponing is to build up a reasonable stockpile of items when you match coupons, sales, rebates and rewards. As you start getting things for free or at a rock bottom price, buy enough to last you until the next sale. This doesn’t mean that you will need a storage facility for your groceries, but having a pantry and a freezer will give you an area to stock certain items.

Start with items that don’t expire, such as paper towels, until you learn how often you go through other grocery items that have expiration dates.

In order to stockpile, you’ll need multiple copies of the same coupon. Decide how far you are willing to go to get extras, from asking friends for coupons to buying them from clipping services.

By stockpiling, you’ll never have to pay full price for most of your groceries, with maybe the exception of fresh produce and dairy items. This step will increase your grocery savings to 50 percent or more.

Keep it Going

As you get used to using coupons and learn all of the tricks, it will soon become apparent how much time, effort and money to invest in extreme couponing. In the beginning, many people find themselves obsessed with getting deals, but it is much better to find a place where you can fit it into your life and save some money without going to the extreme.

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The Hidden Dollar Costs of Extreme Couponing

Posted on Friday, April 15th, 2011 at 4:12 pm
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One of the things that they don’t tell you on the Extreme Couponing shows is that very rarely are the free groceries actually free. There are hidden costs that you can incur when you practice extreme couponing, and I am not talking just in time or effort or gas from running around to different stores.

If you aren’t careful, you can spend a lot of money getting your groceries for free.

Paying for Coupons

While many extreme couponers get a lot of coupons for free, the reality is that in order to get the awesome deals, you just have to pay something for coupons. Why? Because Sunday insert coupons can vary by region. Usually the coupons with the highest values are often available to regions where the sales aren’t as good, stores don’t double, or new products are being marketed heavily. This is in order to drum up sales for particular items.

What this means is that in order to match up a super coupon with a super sale and get items for free or money back on your purchases you may have to find coupons that aren’t available in your area.

Coupon clipping services charge anywhere from 2 cents to 50 cents per coupon, depending on how valuable and in demand that coupon happens to be. So, when you see someone giving a cashier a hundred coupons, they may have paid up to $50 for those coupons.

Spending only $50 in order to get $300 or $400 worth of groceries is still worth it of course, but it isn’t as free as the extreme couponing show makes it out to be.

Printing Coupons

Printing coupons can cost money in a number of ways. The cost of paper and ink can get expense, especially if you are printing multiple coupons. Most printable coupons print one at a time on a single page. You can sometimes reuse the paper, but often you will have some paper waste associated with printing coupons.

Most printable coupons also have limits on them. it is just impossible for the average person to print 50 manufacturers coupons from the Internet.

You can often only print one or two coupons of the same kind per computer. To get around this, many extreme couponers buy extra computer equipment in order to print extra coupons. This is an added expense that could be hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Some people opt to once again buy printable coupons from others. Usually the cost of printable coupons is higher than insert coupons because of the expenses involved with printing them.

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