So, I have a confession. I want to be a couponer. I am fairly sure nothing I ever do will be defined as "extreme"—so, I'm thinking that "moderate couponer" may be more up my alley.
I can't get enough of Extreme Couponing (which just had a second season added to Netflix, thank you very much), and halfway through one specific episode, it really had me thinking. The episode featured a woman whose family eats exclusively vegan—not typical of the people they usually feature on that show. I had started thinking that couponers were up to their elbows in soda, cookies and Tic Tacs, but I realized that there are so many other things that are out there to get for incredibly cheap. Now, Jay and I are nowhere near vegan (cheese is my favorite), but seeing that different view of couponing made me eager to see where I could go with it myself.
And thus began the madness. Or goodness, depending on who you ask.
I've always been someone who buys things on sale as much as possible, but up until the past couple years we never used any coupons. We finally started getting the Sunday paper, which meant I typically dove in looking specifically for the Target ad and Michaels coupons, bypassing everything else. (Hey, a girl has her priorities.) I'd use a coupon here or there, but nothing that really made even getting the coupon inserts worth while. In the past couple weeks, I decided to actually start paying attention and coming up with some sort of game plan for coupons. Once I started actually paying attention, here are a few things I discovered:
- You shouldn't use a coupon to save money on the regular retail price of an item. Wait until it is on sale (or magically on clearance) and then use the high-value coupons you have floating around in your purse (or pretty coupon folder). I recently found several items marked down to clearance prices, which meant I scored some juice that is normally $4 for only .50, and a box of tampons (sorry, gentlemen) for .37 after using the $1-off coupons I had. Maybe this rule is common-sense for some, but for me it never clicked until now.
- Buy certain things in advance of when you need them—such as shampoo (or dry shampoo, if you're an addict like me), face wash, body wash, deodorant, and so on and so forth. I used to always put those things off until the last minute and would over-spend. Now, I refuse to pay more than $1.50 for shampoo! It's possible, people.
- There are many couponing blogs that I would have previously viewed as crazypants, but now I've stopped being judgy. They're a good place to go when I don't have time to sift through the ads and coupons myself (which is, let's be honest, ALWAYS). They break down the deals by store for each week, so, where is my excuse now? Here is the one I use most.
- Always bring your coupons with you. I used to just bring a handful of coupons that I knew I wanted to use during a specific shopping trip, leaving the others at home. But I've found that there are so many unadvertised deals in most stores (clearance items and such), and it's maddening when you see something you need that you forgot the coupon for.
- Vons (or Safeway, depending on where you live!) is my friend. I've started actively using their website to find deals, which offers e-coupons, exclusive deals for me based on things I buy (called "just for U"), and sometimes free items. There are items I've bought that come to such a low price because I'm able to use the club discount, an e-coupon, and an additional discount I found in the "just for U" section.
In an effort to become a bit more organized (yes, organization makes me swoon), I purchased this accordion envelope from Target for just $1 last week. It's bigger than typical coupon envelopes, so it has rooms for my receipts and extra shopping lists in the back. (I wish I could remember where I found the template for my shopping list—but if you Google it, there are many free printable lists, some of which are customizable!)
I have a feeling Jay is going to get very tired of my running commentary on anything he finds in the fridge, freezer or cabinets.
"See those popsicles? Extreme couponed."
"Hey, see this shampoo I bought you that would have been $8? Free. BOOM."
"I'll have you know those chips you're eating only cost me .80."
We don't spend a crazy amount on food, but we've been looking at cutting back on certain things to make room for others. If I'm able to consistently cut back our weekly grocery bill, then at least that's something. It's also crazy addictive to see the savings add up; I'm not going to lie. Yesterday's receipt made me want to bust out a happy dance at the register:
I wanted to high-five the cashier when he told me my total savings for my shopping trip was $56.55. But I decided to let him be, because he didn't seem nearly as enthusiastic as I was. But next time, dear Jonathan, you'd better be ready for some serious fist-bump action from this crazy couponer. It will happen.