Guide To Extreme Couponing
Once you get the hang of it (and for some, including myself, it gets addicting), extreme couponing becomes pretty easy. There are several key steps, and once you get those down, it’s all cake (sometimes FREE cake) from there. Then it just comes down to how much time you want to spend couponing.
Keys To Extreme Couponing
Let’s start with the main keys to extreme couponing, they are:
- Getting Coupons
- Organizing Coupons
- Finding Out Which Coupons Exist
- Strategic Shopping / Deal Matchups
The best way to get coupons is to subscribe to your Sunday paper. Why subscribe and not buy it at the corner store? Because sometimes, only subscriber’s will get certain circulars. It’s like that in my area with JoAnn Fabric circulars/coupons. Only newspaper subscribers (and email subscribers to JoAnn’s website) get the coupon. If you run out and buy it, you won’t find it. Also, if there are a limited number of circulars available, subscribers get them first. This doesn’t always factor in, but it does pop up from time to time.
Another way to find coupons, is to buy them. This is a super easy way. You don’t have to clip, you don’t have to work that hard to organize them. When I shop coupon clipping sites (I recommend CouponDede.com), the coupons are usually there (as long as I order the “hot” coupons early, this is why I find sneak peek deals so valuable), and then they clip them for me. Cost per coupon usually runs $0.05 – $0.15, sometimes higher depending on the coupon value and availability. You can also order coupons from Ebay, but you have to be extremely careful, there has been a lot of fraud on there as well. I don’t even bother, it’s not worth the risk in my book. But if you know a good credible seller, then go for it!
Many people will not want to pay for coupons because they have friends, family, neighborhood dumpsters where they can go and get additional inserts and circulars. And this is great! Because they are free, and it’s always about saving a buck.
The other way, and it grows every day, is via the Internet. Sites like Coupons.com , RedPlum.com, CouponNetwork.com, Company Facebook pages (this is SUPER HOT right now) and even Target offer what are often called “Printables”. This basically means a coupon you print from your computer. These coupons are great! Most stores take them now. A few years ago they didn’t, but now a days it’s unusual for a store to not take them.
Buuuttt… there is a trick with Printables. First, the manufacturers (or store) set a limited number of prints for each coupon. What that number is, no one knows. And it varies for each coupon. So print them as soon as you see them. Don’t wait and go back. There is a good chance it will be gone. Hot printable coupons can virtually disappear within 1 hour! It happened that way for a Birds Eye Voila $3 coupon a few months back on Coupons.com. Once the $3 coupon print number was reached, they replaced it with a $2 coupon (still a good coupon). And even that one ran out in a day or so.
Second, you have to actually print the coupons. You cannot photo copy, scan, “print screen” coupons, it’s considered fraud and it’s against the law. One computer can print up to 2 coupons. (Sometimes it’s only 1). Most Printables have a unique barcode for each printed coupon (that’s why sites will require you to download a piece of small software before you can print them, this is very common). If you have 3 computers at home, you can print 6 coupons… Many people print from work (if they don’t mind) and at home to double the number of Printables they can get.
So how do you find these Printables? An easy way is to use our coupon database to search all coupons (inserts and printables) for the brands, food, items, etc that you like. And when you see a coupon that is a printable, don’t hesitate. Print it! Matchup and deal blogs will also list links to Printables. Once you get into couponing you will see Printables everywhere!
By Sunday Insert Date
Since most coupons come from the newspaper, one of the customary standards for organizing coupons is by insert / circular date and type. Many people do not clip the coupons until they are needed (this saves valuable time). When you get your inserts / circulars from the Sunday paper immediately write the date on them. There are 3 main circulars. RedPlum also known as Valssis (usually noted as RP), SmartSource (SS) and a monthly (first Sunday of the month) Proctor & Gamble (PG) insert.
Coupon blogs and deal match ups usually identify a coupon like this:
3/20 RP Kraft B1G1 exp 4/30/2011
This means that in the 3/20/2011 Red Plum / Vlassis Sunday Insert, there is a Kraft, Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon that expires on 4/30.
So in a nutshell, collect those inserts, date them and store them until you need them.
You can file these in an according file box or cabinet.
You can also store them in a binder. If you want to put them into a binder, you can use dual sided folder pockets & put the inserts in the pockets. Then place each Sunday date (as you get your inserts) on each side of the folder pockets with a sticky tab. Then when you need to locate a coupon, you do a search using the coupon database for the date and insert to find it in, and then just flip through your binder (or your file box).
If you purchase coupons , you will most likely use them right away. Any that are left over, many people tend to organize them in a pocket style coupon organizer.
There are 2 main ways to organize a coupon binder. Many people use the baseball card organizers to store their coupons. Then they divide the binder into main sections such as:
Or they organize their binder based on their particular grocery stores’ aisles. Many stores have a list of product by aisle available at the customer service desk.
How Do I Do It?
I get asked all the time how I organize my coupons. I used to use the dual sided folder pockets in a binder method and organized everything by date. I have since changed to the according file box because I am a beta tester for Online Coupon Binder. This is a new tool that has a system for filling all types of coupons very quickly. You then use their database, or the “Online Coupon Binder” to find your coupons. My portable accordion file box allows me to take all of my coupons with me to the store. If I see a good deal, I use my smartphone to access the Online Coupon Binder to see if I have a coupon, and then I just clip it right there in the store. This method has saved me a lot of time, and I really like it. You can sign up as a beta tester here
Finding Out Which Coupons Exist
This is easier than you think. We offer a free searchable coupon database. Just put in some keywords for what you are looking for, and the database will tell you what exists, where to find them, and when they expire!
Strategic Shopping / Deal Matchups
Now that you have your coupons, you are ready to start Strategic shopping. So what is strategic shopping. Well in a nutshell, it means waiting for things to go on sale and using your coupons then to maximize your savings. These are commonly called “matchups”. There are many sites and blogs that provide info on the latest matchups. Such as this one. These matchups are often how people get rock bottom prices,free items, or even money makers (see below).
The Extreme Part
So when people say “Extreme” what do they mean? Some people mean saving 50% or more, some people think it means getting an item for less than a $1, and some people think it’s even more savings than that. It really doesn’t have one single standard definition, it just means that you maximize the heck out of your savings.
OK, so once you do a couple of shopping trips, you will start to ask, so how do those people on TV get meat so cheap? While you can get deals on many things, there aren’t many coupons for meat, produce and dairy. Some do pop up once in a while, and when they do it’s awesome. So the key to getting meat, produce and dairy for cheap is using something called “overage”. Overage is when the store owes you a credit because you have combined coupons and sale items, to where the net amount is less than 0. So for example, recently at Safeway, they had 40oz Heinz ketchup on sale for $1.69 each. At the same time, Heinz had released a $2 off coupon on Facebook. Using this coupon, with the sale resulted in a $0.31 overage. Safeway doesn’t give you money back, so this amount gets applied towards the rest of your bill. I bought 2 ketchups and strawberries($0.97) on one of my trips.Buying the 2 ketchups and using 2 $2 coupons resulted in free ketchups, and a $0.62 overage, the $0.62 was applied towards the strawberries. So I got the strawberries for $0.35. This is the reason why many times on those couponing shows (like TLC’s Extreme Couponing) you will see people buy 100 of something they couldn’t possibly use in a year (like mustard). Most likely there is overage involved, and they want to generate enough overage on those items to use towards other items to reduce the overall price. Overage doesn’t happen often, but when the deals exist, you will find that coupon clipping services like CouponDede.com run out of coupons fast. So if you order coupons like me, then order them as soon as you hear about the deal, otherwise you will have a hard time finding coupons.
Extreme: Money Makers
What is a money maker? Some stores like Walmart, will give you the overage. But not many stores will do this. But when they do it’s called a money maker. You will find that some cashiers are reluctant to allow it, even though the store policy clearly states it’s allowed (ALWAYS be nice your cashiers!).
A more common money maker occurs where you get $$ towards your next purchase when you buy a certain product , or quantity of product. The $$ towards your next product is printed at the register (called Catalina’s). Stores like Walgreens and CVS that have weekly promotions offering this. Walgreen’s calls them Register Rewards, and CVS calls them Extra Care Bucks. There are restrictions on using these offers (usually you can’t buy alcohol, gift cards, stamps, etc). So make sure you know the restrictions on these offers so that you don’t find yourself with $$ you can’t use towards a planned purchase.