Monday, May 16, 2011

New to "extreme couponing"?

Are you new to extreme couponing?

I say "extreme couponing" hesitantly because I am by no means anything like the people on the show. I cannot buy $1000 worth of groceries for $10. And I have a full time job, so I can't spend 60 hours a week planning and shopping. I wish that I could, but I think my hubby might go crazy.

For most people, coupons come in the Sunday paper. They clip a couple they think they will use and throw out the rest Sunday afternoon. This is where I started. I never thought about couponing as  more than a little chore I did each Sunday afternoon.

When things changed for my family and I had to find a way to feed us on very little money while still putting a diaper on the babe's butt, I turned to the internet for help. And that was when I learned about extreme couponing. Well, really it was learning to be smarter with my money and wiser about how to shop.

Here are a couple of things that I learned and wanted to share with you:

1.) Couponing works when you can start to buy ahead.
     This was hard when I had no money, but here and there when I found items on sale I would buy more than we would use for the week. In fact, I tried to buy enough to last us months or atleast until it would go on sale again espeically if I was able to get it free. In my area some items go on sale in regular intervals, some do not. I didn't really know the schedule, so I would buy what would work in our budget. And of course these were items that wouldn't go bad in the pantry. So if you ever look and wonder why I didn't buy shampoo in weeks, it was because I bought a ton of it when I could get it for free. Right now I am loading up on toothbrushes, toothpastes, and bodywashes. I won't need some of these for at least a year.
    If you really honestly want couponing to save you money this is the biggest part. You stop paying full price for items you use all the time. Instead of running to the store when you run out of something you need to be able to go to your stockpile or pantry where you got your items on sale or maybe free.

2.) Sometimes buying the biggest package isn't the best deal.
   I grew up being taught to calculate the unit price and base my purchase that way. That is fine if you have one coupon and are buying one item. But to really maximize the savings I will now try to get as many coupons as I can to buy whatever size will get me the product for as close to free as possible. So somtimes I will buy 15 bottles of dish soap for free in the smallest size available are instead of 1 or 2 bottles at $3 a pop. It takes up more space and feels wasteful to use all the packaging materials, but for now it is free and that is what my family needs.

3.) Sometimes you have to buy things you won't use.
    This is true many if you're playing the drug store game. I try not to do it too much. But you may see me buy a bottle of medicine to help you sleep or baby formula. If it does help get my out of pocket cost closer to zero I will pick it up. And then I quickly find a home for the product with someone who will use it.
I often buy these items at stores that allow overage (where your coupon is for more than the price and you get the remainder to put towards your other groceries) or when the coupon will make it free and I am trying to get to a certain total like $15 so that I can use a $3 off $15 coupon. I do this a lot a Rite Aid. If my total is at $15 and some of the items are free, that $3 coupon helps pay for the items I really need but aren't free.

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