Extreme Couponing?

It’s Sunday morning, and you know what that means…COUPONS! It’s a time to grab your paper and pray that the coupons that you saw forecasted online are actually IN your area’s paper (since many offers are regional, and I often don’t live in the right region apparently).

Once you have seen what coupons you have, it’s time to hit the match-up blogs and sales papers to plan your shopping adventure. Plan, organize, clip as necessary, print online coupons, strategize, anticipate stock shortages and create alternate plans…

That’s what I did every Sunday for the several months that I now reflect on as my “extreme couponing” experimentation period. I was good at it too. I would often come home with 75% savings or better. My husband was in awe of my savings skills. My children detested shopping with me.

I had the binder. I knew the rules. I was rocking the shopping scene.

I was also making about 15 trips to different stores every week. I would often visit multiple stores in the same chain to get all of the deals on my list because of stock shortages. I was obsessed with getting good deals. My mind and day were consumed with planning and executing detailed shopping plans to avoid missing out on unbeatable deals.

Was it worth it?

I had a very well-stocked pantry. I had a stash of toiletries that I had purchased for little or nothing.

So why have I not rushed out today to get my 4-6 copies of this week’s coupons? Why do I have absolutely no idea what is on sale this week at the local drugstores? Why is my printer silent?

Here is my take on the pros and cons of extreme couponing.

Positives of Couponing:

  • I saved money on things that we use a lot like mayo, salad dressing, sauces for cooking, etc.
  • I saved money on toiletries. I haven’t bought razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, or deodorant in over a year.
  • I increased my awareness of price cycles, sales gimmicks, marketing strategies, and real prices.

Negatives of Couponing:

  • I spent money on things I didn’t really want/need or never used.
  • I spent time and money on couponing outside of the products I bought (buying papers, ink, etc.).
  • I made extra trips to the store and had the extra stress of trying to shop with my kids without messing up my deals.
  • I had the pressure of making sure that I didn’t violate any ethics issues in the execution on my awesome deals.
  • Couponing consumed my mind.
  • Buying things that I didn’t really need or use led to additional clutter in my home.
  • The time and energy that I spent couponing and shopping reduced the time and energy that I could spend on my home and family (cooking, cleaning, and parenting took a backseat to deals).

For me, the cons outweighed the pros. I returned to shopping without a binder of coupons. I stopped stalking savings blogs for freebies and money-makers. I didn’t leave everything behind though.

Here are the things that I took away from my venture into the “extreme couponing” world:

  • Extreme ANYTHING is usually not a good idea. Moderation is key. Shop smart, but don’t obsess on deals, prices, sales, and stockpiles.
  • Pay attention to sale cycles and base prices for the products that you buy often. Shop ahead when you find a great price. Tomatoes for $0.52/can? Stock up! Just make sure that you only buy what you will USE. It’s not a good deal if you don’t use it up before it goes bad.
  • Don’t waste your time obsessing on the prices of things that you buy infrequently. Does it really matter if you save $0.50 on something that you only buy every 6 months?
  • If you don’t buy it regularly already, don’t buy it…no matter how good the deal! Spending $3 on a $15 product is not a good deal if it then sits in your closet because you didn’t need it to begin with (not that I have an automatic air freshener sitting in the bottom of my pantry or anything…).
  • Check deal-matching blogs if you want, but don’t obsess over “missed” deals.
  •  There’s a price for every coupon you use. Just use what you can easily get and forget the coupons that were in the paper that you didn’t get last week. The paper probably cost more than you would have saved!
  • Make sure you’re not sacrificing a clean and orderly home for a stockpile of “deals.”
  • Put your family and their happiness before shopping trips. Necessities are different—sometimes we HAVE to go to the store amidst protests, but if you’re just trying to “score” the great deal on deodorant…listen to the cries of your children.
  • If you’re too wiped out after shopping to cook, clean, love, or care for your family, you have things backward. Step back, reassess, and reorganize those priorities.
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6 thoughts on “Extreme Couponing?

  1. Mere, I’m so glad to read your take on this. Since extreme couponing has gone mainstream (Does it count as mainstream if it has a TLC show?), I’ve considered giving it a try. We’re not smarting, but the more money saved, the more we can pay off other bills, take vacations, etc. Your cons list is a great summary of the reasons I decided not to try, though. Thanks for validating me!

    • Cagle, I bet you were drawn to it because you’re a lot like me too. I loved the strategy and challenge of it as much as the savings. 🙂 In the end, it just wasn’t a wise use of my time, energy, and money.

  2. I basically had the same experience as you, and I couldn’t agree more. The savings during my “extreme” months last summer were NOT worth the time spent bouncing around to different stores trying to find the best prices and the items in stock. I shudder to think about it now. I call myself a “casual couponer”. I’m content to save 30-40% on groceries. I do have a binder, but I get coupons from one Sunday paper and occasionally print from the internet. I hate having to drag my son to the grocery store more than once per week, and I hate letting sales dictate what my family eats. I know other bloggers who make big money selling their crazy lifestyle (they never tell the whole story), so I’m always happy to find people who have their priorities in order and are honest. Kudos.

    • I like “casual couponer” much better! That sums it up quite well. I’ll use coupons when I find them, and I’ll even make sure that I’m pairing that coupon with a store sale whenever possible. I just won’t obsess over it.

      I was thrilled to get my baby’s almond milk for $1.23/half gallon a few weeks ago when I usually pay at least $2.50/half gallon on sale. I grabbed four because I know that they have a long shelf life, we have the space to store them in the fridge, and we’ll use them quickly. I am going to have to buy some more almond milk this weekend, and I know that I won’t be able to repeat that deal. I’m ok with that, and I think that’s what separates the “casual” from the “extreme.”

  3. I tried the major couponing for a while, but ended up with a bunch of stuff we never ate, that wasn’t healthy for us and it just took way too much time. I found that spending a few minutes meal planning and making a list while taking advantage of sales worked better for me.

    I don’t know if you are still doing the purging projects with Janey’sRoom and repurposedKate, but here’s my project for this week: the hall closet.

    http://minimalismjourney.blogspot.com/2012/06/hallway-closet-that-has-no-purpose.html

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