I am both fascinated and repulsed by the concept of extreme couponing. On the one hand, IT'S FREE STUFF. On the other hand... it's free stuff I generally don't really need. While the idea of getting $600 worth of groceries is appealing, how many bottles of barbecue sauce does one really need?
If you've ever watched the show Extreme Couponing on TLC, you know what I'm talking about. These people proudly walk through their homes displaying their wares as if they were the crown jewels. Toilet paper is stuffed under their kids' beds. Closets are converted to storage areas for Chef Boyardee. Basements hold practically an entire supermarket's worth of canned goods and toothpaste.
They brag about how many hours they spend clipping and organizing their coupons; it's essentially their full-time job. The whole family, kids included, is gathered around the table setting up coupons for mom (or occasionally dad) to cut with industrial-sized paper cutters. I remember one woman, who I thought was particularly sad. She made a big deal out of how dressed up she got every time she went shopping, because she didn't want people to think she was poor or that she needed to use all those coupons. She then did her hours-long shopping trip in knee-high stiletto boots and full makeup. I don't know about anyone else, but I generally don't give a second thought to anyone I see in the grocery store (although I do occasionally wonder about those who shop in their pajamas...).
I have better things to do with my time then spend it cutting and organizing coupons, planning out shopping trips and searching for deals. When I get deals at the grocery store, I want it to be on healthy foods my family can eat. Have you ever noticed that coupons are always on processed stuff? How often do you see a coupon for fresh fruit and vegetables?
I do like coupons for household products. But since I'm now making my own cleaners (and I'm having a crack at making laundry detergent tomorrow -- I'll let you know how it goes!), that's one more area I really don't need coupons (unless I can score one on Borax).
I do still clip coupons. But here's my couponing technique:
- I only clip coupons for stuff I will actually use. You shouldn't feel obligated to buy a product you wouldn't otherwise purchase.
- I only clip coupons that come to me. I don't spend a lot of time scouring the internet. I get inserts every Wednesday in the mail and I go through those. I clip coupons in magazines I have. I use the store coupons in the weekly flyer and that print out at the checkout.
- If a coupon expires, I throw it away. I don't buy a product just to keep the coupon from expiring.
- Even with a coupon, I still check to see if the store brand is cheaper. With a really good coupon, sometimes the brand name will be cheaper, but that's not a guarantee.
- I use coupons for the following products: soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, night pants, frozen vegetables, cheese, canned vegetables, pasta and cereal. I check the weekly ads for items that match my coupons. I have caught some good stock-up moments that way. I was recently able to snag two bottles of name-brand body wash for 50 cents each. That's about as extreme as I get.