I got infected. With the Extreme Couponing bug!!! But when you consider all the TLC shows: 19 Kids and Counting, My Strange Addiction, NY Ink, Freaky Eating, I Didnt Know I Was Pregnant, Hoarding: Buried Alive, etc. - it seems like I picked a pretty good show to emulate.
So far, i'm not off to the greatest start, and i'm certainly not extreme... but last Friday we saved about 34% off our grocery order... almost $75 saved... and i didn't buy any stuff that I didn't want or wouldn't normally buy. (I saw one woman on the show who had over 30,000 diapers or something... and she wasn't married and had no kids.)
I think what I really need is a mentor. Any coupon-nuts out there want to mentor me (especially someone from Long Island, so we have the same stores)??? My biggest problem so far, is finding the coupons! (P.S. Any readers that throw away new newspaper coupon inserts and would like to send them my way, i'd appreciate it, contact me for my address!)
So i made minor investments to start: and definitely "paid" us back already in coupons. My printer never has ink, so i had to buy a black cartridge for about $20. (And i finished it already! I need to go get a new one). And we bought a small (about 6x8") accordion folder with 26 pockets, a clasp, and a handle, so we can bring it shopping - it was on sale for about $8. And so far, we've bought one Newsday for about $3, but we think we're gonna get Sunday delivery, it's a lot cheaper. As you can see from last week's receipts (below) we definitely made that back.
So i get the basic mathematical principal behind it is stacking. Using a store coupon or store sale... with a manufacturer's coupon (in a store that doubles, ideally) to greatly discount the item. Just using a coupon on a retail-priced item won't show much savings. This week, we stacked Yoplait yougurts. They are normally $1 each. But sale price was 10/$6. And i had a coupon (printed from online) for $1 off 10... and King Kullen doubles, so we got 10 for $4. A savings of 60%. And we are a household that eats/likes yogurt anyway. So we bought 30! :) But they dont expire for a month... and there are three of us eating them, so not unreasonable. I had a $1 off Cracker Barrell cheese coupon... but they are $6. Not that great. But this week they went on sale buy one get one free... and the coupon doubled... so we got 2 for $4. (So we bought 4 total, they don't expire for months.) That is another 66% savings.
But here is where i'm running into problems:
1. Building my coupon stockpile. So far, coupons.com and Red Plum are the only main sources i've found that are legit. And... going to companies individual webpages (so far Pillsbury, Campbell's and Yoplait have had good ones on their sites). But a lot of sites seem to be fishing scams... they ask for a bunch of info, then want me to take surveys... then try to sell me something. So if anyone can help me out and point me in the direction of good sites to find real, legit coupons let me know. So far we are printing off of one computer, but in theory, i could use/borrow 3 computers total to print with. (Most sites limit printing 2 per computer, per coupon.) Newsday has an insert, but it's kinda crappy. I dont want to spend a ton of $ on buying newspapers each week... though I suppose i would if i found it ACTUALLY paid off.
2. Expiration Dates: it seems all the soupons i print online expire 1 month from when i print it. And many (not all) of the newspaper ones expire in a week! So how does one stockpile coupons if they expire so quickly? Where do people get ones with long expiration dates?
3. Store choices. I live really far away from strip-mall civilization... which i like, don't get me wrong. That's one of the major appeals of living here: i like my nature, farms, deer, beaches, darkness, and quiet. But, when it comes to couponing, it sucks. Locally we have two family owned IGAs and a Waldbaums. None of them double. IGA is expensive... but Waldbaums has its virtues... just no coupon doubling. The next closest thing is King Kullen, which is about 15 miles away from our house (but 30-40 mph roads the whole way, so almost half hour away). They DO double (with restrictions) so they are our store of choice. Beyond that, the next big chain store i think is Stop N Shop (my favorite store to shop in), but it's at least 30 miles away and they don't double either. If there are small stores anywhere in between that DO double, i don't know about them or where they are. So i know on the show, they shop at different stores on the same day - wherever the items are on sale that they have coupons for, they go there. But, we lack variety, and so we have to WAIT for the items to go on sale in our one store. Maybe in other regions, many stores double to compete, but not here.
4. Cost of Living Differences. I live in The Hamptons, one of the most expensive areas in the country. Hell, ALL of New York metro area is expensive. Cost of living here is very different than say down south or in the midwest. But coupons are the same. So on the show, peanut butter may be priced at $1.89 and your $1 off coupon gets it for you for free. But here, i wouldn't find the same item for less than $3. Elsewhere you may pay $800 rent for a 4 bedroom house, here that'll get you a bedroom sublet in a house. More like $2,000+ for the same house. And in NYC you'll get a one bedroom for $2,000... if you're lucky. Elsewhere the same one bedroom might cost you $350. And it's no different with groceries. It is overpriced here. Everything is. Even things you would think might be standard (like McDonald's) isn't. Add about 40% to the prices of the midwest/south and maybe you'll get our prices. So the coupons dont have as much value here.
All that being said, i guess it's going to be a lot of luck too. Printing/clipping what i can find, then hoping it goes on sale at my 1 store within the month that the coupon is good. And practice! But we saved about $35 two weeks ago and $72 this last week, which is certainly better than nothing. We have enough soup, cheese, and yogurt to last a month, which are things we can cross off our list for the next couple weeks, and that's savings going forward too.
I don't actually expect to get my groceries for free like these people on TV. I will not be jumping in dumpsters for circulars. And i will not be paying money for things i don't need (i dont care if Aleve is on sale for 25 cents... i dont USE Aleve, so i won't be pouring 40 boxes into my shopping cart like they do on TV. If a coupon can make it free, i'll buy a few and donate it or give it to a friend that can use it, but no hoarding stockpiles of things we won't use over here.) But for every dollar we can save, it can be $1 more put towards debts, experiences for Lily, or family vacations. So i figure it IS worth my time and effort.
Pointers/tips welcome! Coupon donations welcome too!
And if YOU "extreme" coupon, i'd love to read your blog or hear about your experiences... link me!
I'll update about this again in the future... see if i can get better at it!
This is Friday's shopping receipt, showing our discounts. We had to check out seperately because you can only double five $1 coupons, and you can only use two identical coupons, so Missy and i checked out twice so we could double seven $1 coupons. (But they'll double unlimited 99 cent or lower coupons. Neat, right??)