“The recession has affected every aspect of American life,” proclaims USA Today in one of its articles. Fewer people are moving, couples are delaying marriage, and more people are working at home than at the office.
Food prices are rising too—a reality that is not lost on most Americans who have gone into a mad frenzy to cut down their grocery bills. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the revival of interest in a previously much-ignored facet of American shopping: coupons.
Grocery coupons, from once becoming a waste of trees, have all of a sudden become a goldmine for bargain warriors out to spend their money anywhere but at the supermarket. In TV land, no other show has single-handedly brought the lowly grocery coupon to such heights of popularity and glory as the TLC reality series Extreme Couponing.
Each week, millions of Americans tune in to Extreme Couponing to watch “everyday” Americans demonstrate the most outrageous things they do to save, such as diving in dumpsters for coupons or filling a two-car garage with boxes of deodorant and other coupon-sponsored steals.
However, for all the realism it supposedly presents, we at Recessionitis can’t help but raise our eyebrows. Seriously, who buys 125 boxes for each type of pasta in the name of great value? More importantly, why would you even do that?
Extreme couponing coupled with smart shopping—that’s what we’re all about. In this guide, we’ll show you realistic and creative ways of putting coupons to good use.
It needs no mentioning that coupons are the building blocks to extreme couponing. Newspaper inserts are a good way to source coupons. If you go online, you’ll find plenty of printable coupons from coupon websites, or from manufacturer and product websites (even Facebook pages). To score free coupons, look to your local supermarket (or your mailbox) for coupon booklets, “peelies” (coupons attached to product packages), and coupons inside the products you buy.
Going through coupons you need for your upcoming shopping trip can be time consuming if you don’t organize. There are a myriad ways to do this, and documenting all will probably merit a separate discussion. You don’t need to organize according to the Dewey Decimal System; as a cardinal rule, choose an organization method that’s simple and works for you.
“Time is money,” so the adage goes. Spending all of it obsessing over coupons is definitely not spending time wisely. If you’ve been watching Extreme Couponing, then you’ve heard the story of one couponer who devotes 70 hours a week on her hobby. Or the other one who spends more than 4 hours raiding the supermarket aisles—and another 2 hours checking out. You don’t want to be that person.
Extreme couponing dictates that to make the most of a single-item coupon, you need to buy lots of one product. While that’s a great rule to live by for most grocery items (such as toilet paper, laundry soap, and other household cleaners), it certainly does not apply to all—most especially to whole foods and other goods that spoil easily, like meat, dairy products, and fruits and veggies.
That said, purchasing a dozen per transaction is acceptable; hoarding and clearing an entire supermarket’s stock of detergent is not cool (and will only earn you dagger looks and death curses from other shoppers).
Also consider that grocery items will take up space. Some very hard-core extreme couponers make it their life’s work to build stockpiles that can sustain the entire population of a small island, but do so at the expense of leasing more floor space.
If you are a fan of Extreme Couponing (the show), it can be easily disheartening how little you actually save, compared to the hundreds of dollars the pros on TV are able to achieve. Don’t throw yourself a pity party. Know that television shows often play for the ratings game, and that anything can be easily manufactured or sensationalized.
Some moderate couponers even argue that due to the extreme couponing phenomenon, most drugstores, supermarkets, and manufacturers have begun wising up by reducing discounts on coupons. Some stores no longer allow store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons to be used on one item.
High-sodium snack chips, pancake syrup and frozen waffles, sugar-loaded cereals and drinks, microwave dinners. These are most often the items you see featured in coupons. Not exactly items you’d see at the bottom of the food pyramid. Would you really want you or your family subsisting on these kinds of food regularly? By buying these items in unreasonably large amounts, you could be setting yourself up for a world of cardiovascular hurt.
It’s hard not to be lured by the magic of grocery coupons. But being focused too much on what you can save might lead you to ignore what you’re actually spending on. The ink, paper, and energy you consume printing out coupons, the extra copies of Sunday papers you buy just to get multiple coupon inserts, the gas money you spend for the two pick-up trucks you need to bring with you to the grocery store—if you add these all up, you’ll realize the $100 you save weekly doesn’t really amount to much in the long run.
The whole point of using coupons is to save. Don’t make it anything other than what it is by turning it into a consuming hobby—or worse, an obsession.
If you wanna take your Extreme Couponing to the next level, I’d recommend Power Couponer: Secrets of Real Power Couponers. Watch a short clip and see how much money you can save:
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