Tips on How to Extreme Coupon

FT Contributor
A collage of coupons.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditures report for 2018, Americans spent an average of $7,923 on food, $768 on personal care items, $1,866 on apparel, and $3,226 on entertainment. That’s a lot of money. Imagine how much they could have saved with coupons.

While there aren’t necessarily coupons available for every purchase that you make, there are coupons available for a lot of them. Taking the time to find and clip coupons can help you cut back on costs for everyday things such as groceries, clothing, and personal care items.

Shopping with coupons is one thing, but extreme couponing is a completely different ballgame. Made popular by reality television, extreme couponing is the art of using a multitude of coupons to save on bulk shopping orders. It can make a huge impact on your household’s budget and overall financial plan.

If you’re interested in leading a frugal lifestyle, here you’ll learn more about extreme couponing practices with this guide to making drastic changes to your monthly budget and overall savings.

1. Gather Supplies

To get started on the path to extreme couponing, you’ll need a few basic supplies. Start by gathering coupons that you find online or in local retail store circulars, newspapers, ads, and direct mailers. You may be able to get your hands on multiple copies of coupons — this will be beneficial down the line.

A handy pair of scissors is a must-have in any extreme couponer’s arsenal. Make sure you have a sharp pair to cut coupons out carefully. Note that you can find coupons digitally on store websites and coupon apps, so don’t forget to check those as well.

It’s important to stay organized with couponing. A plastic binder with pocket dividers can be useful in this situation. Create sections for each item category or store that you shop at, inserting coupons that are about to expire closer to the front and newer coupons at the back.  

2. Stack the Deals

Stacking coupons allows you to maximize your savings by using more than one coupon to save money on a single item. You can stack manufacturer coupons with retail coupons and even digital coupons in some cases. By taking the time to go through all of the coupons you have collected, you may be able to identify multiple coupons for the same item, allowing you to save more than you originally thought.

Stacking coupons isn’t always possible. It’s important to read the terms of the coupon as well as the coupon policies of the store where you plan on using it.

3. Competitor Coupons

Competitor coupons are those coupons offered by other retailers that allow for a better deal on a particular product. Some stores allow you to use competitor coupons for your purchase at their establishment, so keep an eye out for better deals elsewhere. Check a store’s coupon policy before redeeming a competitor coupon, as not every store accepts them.

4. Get Organized

Preparation is key to extreme couponing. Before you head to the store, build your shopping list and flush out your budget. Knowing what items you need and the items that you have coupons for will make your shopping trip go more smoothly. A shopping list and budget will also help you prevent buying things you don’t need and overspending.

Regardless of how long your list is or how big your budget might be, it’s important to take your time when extreme couponing. Be mindful and respectful of the employees at the store, who have to help you ring up all of your items and coupons at the checkout.

Also, be courteous to other shoppers at the store. If someone is behind you in line with only a few items, you might consider letting them go ahead of you. Extreme couponing means a significant amount of time at the checkout, so try to shop at non-busy times to make the process easier for all parties involved.

5. Learn the Lingo and the Prices

There is a certain lingo that comes with couponing. To become an extreme couponer, it’s important to have an understanding of the language. For example, double coupon deals are when a store will match the discount of a coupon, allowing you to save even more.

Acronyms are extremely popular in the extreme couponing crowd. Here are a few common couponing acronyms:

  • On Your Next Order (OYNO): This is a coupon or deal that can be applied to your next purchase.
  • Mail-In Rebate (MIR): This is a form that must be filled out and mailed into a manufacturer for money back on a qualifying purchase.
  • Buy One, Get One (BOGO): The second item that you get is either free or at a discounted price.

Familiarize yourself with these terms so that you’ll always know when a sale is occurring and are able to get the best prices.

6. Know Your Store and the Rules

When it comes to coupons, every store has its own rules. For example, some take competitor coupons, others do not. Check your store’s coupon policy prior to shopping with a lot of coupons.

These are some standard coupon rules that stores enforce:

  • Stores may limit the number of coupons used on an item or within a single purchase.  
  • Coupons must be clear, legible, and scannable.
  • Coupons must be original copies, not photocopied duplicates.
  • Only one manufacturer’s coupon can be applied to a single item.
  • Coupons with excessive discounts (valued for more than the item’s actual cost) are typically fraudulent coupons and therefore not accepted.

7. Buy the Right Items

While it’s common to buy in bulk when extreme couponing, saving money by couponing isn’t effective if you purchase things you don’t need or won’t use. This is why it’s important to have a budget and a shopping list and stick to it. This will help prevent you from overspending and buying more than you can afford or have the room to store.

When buying in bulk, don’t forget to consider the shelf-life of any given product. If it has an expiration date that’s quickly approaching, it’s best not to buy in bulk. Non-perishable items, like canned goods and toiletries, are okay to stock up on because they don’t run the risk of going bad.

8. Forget Brand Loyalty

If you were a brand loyalist in the past, there’s no room for it with extreme couponing. It’s all about going for the best deal rather than buying a brand that you know and trust. Remember — extreme couponing is about budgeting and saving money.

9. Start Small

Couponing can be a frenzy of a process, so start small to build your confidence. Anyone can become an extreme couponer with enough planning and attention to detail, but remember that mistakes happen. The best way to handle them is to learn from them. For example, you may try to use a fake coupon in-store once, but you won’t do it again because the more you coupon, the more you’ll know what to look out for.

10. Do the Math

Once everything is said and done, take the time to review your purchases and check them against your shopping list and personal budget. Did you save as much as you intended to? Make sure all of your coupons were accurately applied to your purchases. By keeping track of the items you purchased and the money you saved, you’ll be able to evaluate your extreme couponing success.

Whether you’re on a tight budget or simply love couponing, these tips will help you become an extreme couponer and save more money.

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