Thanks to the Internet and a cable TV program, consumers became aware of the practice of “extreme couponing.” Savvy shoppers were bragging about how they could go into a store and walk out with a month’s groceries for the cost of a few dollars. In some cases, the store would end up owing the shopper money!
While many people were fascinated by the couponers, others weren’t so crazy about the trend. Reasons varied, but often included:
- Extreme couponing often worked best for people with large families, as the strongest savings were often found by buying in bulk. Bulk buying isn’t always practical for singles, couples or small families.
- Bulk buying requires the consumer to have enough space in which to store the products.
- Couponing discourages brand loyalty. While some people don’t really care about the brands they buy, others swear by specific brands and are dissatisfied by the taste or performance of competitors’ products.
- Stores began to crack down on couponers. They often did so by establishing policies that restricted item quantities, eliminating double-coupon days, limiting the number of coupons that could be used by one person on a single shopping trip or giving store credit for a negative balance.
- Manufacturers began to reduce the number of coupons offered, the value of coupons and to place additional restrictions on coupon use. For example, a favorite extreme couponing trick was to find coupons that were good for a product of any size, including trial sizes. Some coupons offered a greater discount than the entire cost of a trial size. Some stores would issue credit to the shopper for the negative balance.
- For many extreme couponers, couponing is a full-time, or near full-time job. They spend hours each day looking for coupons, printing/clipping them and then matching them to store sales and specials. Many people don’t have the time for this kind of work and/or could make more money with a job or home business than they can save via extreme couponing.
Despite the modest backlash against couponing, as well as the increased difficulty of getting truly spectacular deals (i.e. buying hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for pennies), couponing is still a legitimate way to stretch your budget. You may not be “extreme,” but cutting 10-25% of your grocery bill each month can make a noticeable difference in your finances and lifestyle.
Here are some quick tips that can help you get started with effective couponing:
1. Get your coupons online. Coupons.com and RedPlum are just two services that regularly offer coupons for nationally known brands. These sites are searchable. You can print the coupons you need and want.
2. Product manufacturers often offer coupons on both their corporate websites as well as through social media accounts. In addition, the manufacturers will often announce when they plan to offer coupon booklets and flyers in Sunday newspapers. These newspaper coupons often offer huge savings. If you know people who still get a Sunday newspaper, and know that they aren’t into couponing, offer to take the coupons off their hands.
3. Many stores now post information about weekly sales online. Compare these listings with the coupons on offer from the coupon services. Match them up for larger savings.
4. Pay attention to local store prices. Be aware that prices can vary between chain stores located in different neighborhoods. Driving an extra mile to a store that offers quality products, but at less cost, can increase your savings and keep money in your pocketbook.