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How Extreme Couponing Works, and how to save money at the grocery store with it

Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey: Save Big Money & Make the Grocery Aisle your Catwalk!
Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey: Save Big Money & Make the Grocery Aisle your Catwalk!

If you’re like Web Watch, you watch a lot of television.  And one of the more recent interesting series we’ve caught is TLC’s EXTREME COUPONING.

You know the show – it features shopping trips by couponing fanatics who are able to save 90% or more on their supermarket bill by careful planning and using coupons.

TLC’s cameras follow these proud hoarders around the store as they fill their shopping carts with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise that they’ll pay just cents on the dollar for – and then show us their “mini-marts” of storage at home, where they have enough cereal, bathroom supplies, and diapers to last for months or years without returning to the store ever again.

While Web Watch admires some of these coupon folks for using their shopping knowledge to supply charities or care packages for overseas troops, it’s those featured on the show that end up buying products that they’ll never use that really concerns us.  One show featured a woman who had almost a year’s worth of diapers in her storage area – she’s not married, pregnant, or has any children of her own. She did this so she’ll be ready when that time comes.

Just what every baby needs to wear – disposable diapers that are five years older than they are.

    • Get the coupons – from the newspaper, manufacturer websites, back of receipts, store displays, inside other products, etc.  Coupons can be found everywhere – your job is to get them.
    • Organize your coupons – get a binder, folder, box, envelopes.  Anything you can do to keep your coupons tidy. The KCL likes to separate hers based on grocery store aisle, while others keep them based on product or date.
    • Plan your shopping – only buy products when they’re on sale.
    • Build the stockpile – because if you have items in storage that were purchased on sale, that’s less that you have to buy when the price isn’t favorable  KCL’s goal is to have a three-month supply of any given product
  • MY FRUGAL ADVENTURES agrees with KCL:  the two pieces that every couponer should adhere to are “buy low, and stock up”

So how do these extreme coupon deals work?  Web Watch has some details for you:

Pay attention to how BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE works.  When the deal is setup right, a store will advertise one item with a “buy one, get one free” sale (also known as BOGO).  Sometimes this works out to every item is just 1/2-price, for those of us who want to buy just one item.  But extreme couponers look at this as a bonus opportunity.  They’ll buy 2 items for the listed BOGO price, and then use a coupon that also offers “buy one, get one”.  The end result for the transaction is that the coupon covers the price of the two-item purchase and the item ends up being free.

Now some stores have decided to CUT BACK ON ACCEPTING SOME COUPON OFFERS, specifically to disallow this type of coupon stacking.  They’ll no longer accept a “buy one, get one” coupon in conjunction with a similar in-store promotion.  A variation on the rule is that additional coupons can only be applied to the product being paid for, not on the free item.

There are two goals with coupon shopping:

  1. To get the items for free, or as inexpensively as possible
  2. To get store credit for the item, thus lowering your overall bill due at the end of the transaction

You’ll most often see the latter at stores that offer double- or triple-coupons (and if your store doesn’t, then you should find a new place to shop).  Combining a tripled $0.30 coupon with a product that’s on sale for less than $0.90, that’s where you get some bonus cash to apply to the rest of your order.  You’ll find this most often if you buy trial size products – which is why many coupons have a restriction on minimum size of purchase. You’ll also see this if you browse the discontinued or clearance racks.

Another place for money back is by using the store’s loyalty cards.  Websites like SHORTCUTS can even load your card up with coupons so you don’t have to lug those binders around any more than you have to.

There are tons of websites out there that can help you with your couponing.  All you have to do is be willing to spend some time saving money, and dedicate some storage space to all the Maalox and diapers that you’ll be buying, just because the deal is That Good.