Extreme Couponing 101: How to Save 84%+ on Groceries
With gas prices rising, high unemployment, and inflation poised to spiral out of control, your talent for cutting household expenses is becoming more and more important. You can slash services like yard landscaping and premium cable channels (e.g. DIRECTV), and you can reduce your utility bills by using electricity, gas, and water more sparingly. But what about everyday necessities like feeding your family and operating your home?
The average American family spends between $500 and $1,100 every month on groceries, toiletries, cleaning products, pet items, clothes, and simple entertainment costs. You know you can make some sacrifices to get from the high-end of that range to the low-end. But can you really reduce or even eliminate some of these costs without giving up on good nutrition and hygiene? You absolutely can!
I still shake my head in disbelief when I look at what my family has saved in just the first three months of this year.
January: We paid $474.59 for $2,088.27 worth of products (groceries and toiletries), saving $1,673.70 or 77%.
February: We paid $402.85 for $2,369.40 worth of products, saving $1,966.55 or 82.99%, and we’re awaiting $305.94 more in rebates.
March: We paid $361.19 for $3,122.63 worth of products, saving $2,767.44 or 88.43%.
That’s a total of $1,238.63 that we’ve spent on $7,580.30 worth of name brand groceries, toiletries, and cleaning products. We saved 84% ($6,341.67 in savings) in three months without sacrificing quality using discount grocery coupons.
With the tips outlined in this article, it won’t take extreme time and effort for you to become an extreme couponer too.
Before I get into an awesome step-by-step guide to extreme couponing, let’s first take a look at the different types of couponers and assess which category you currently fit into:
The 4 Levels of Couponing
I love snacks, so I recently printed out a coupon for $0.55 off of one Chex Mix 4.5 oz bag from Coupons.com. Now with coupon in hand, I’m ready to go save some money. But how much money I save will now depend on what level of couponing I’m at. Recent experience has shown me that there are essentially 4 levels of couponing that range from casual to extreme. Levels 1 and 2 are well known, but levels 3 and 4 are starting to become more popular. If you haven’t heard of these couponing strategies before, you could be missing out on a whole world of saving.
Level 1: The Casual Couponer
This is where many people find themselves today. Most of the time, a person will pay for a whole cart full of groceries while handing over less than 10 coupons. They end up normally saving a few bucks off the entire order. In the simple example of the Chex Mix coupon I have, I could walk into a grocery store or drug store and find the Chex Mix for $2.99 and hand them my coupon, allowing me to spend $2.44 after the 55 cents in savings.
Level 2: The Generic Brand Store Shopper
Many people also find themselves in this category. They’ve figured out that they could save more money overall if they buy the generic brand over the name brand even if a coupon was used on the name brand. By doing all their shopping solely for generic brands, they can easily save $200-$300 per month without clipping a single coupon. I can save more than $0.55 on my snack run if I throw the coupon out and buy Generic Mix at $1.49 a bag. In this example, the Generic Mix costs me $1.49 and saves me $1.50, a significantly better deal than if I were a Level 1 Couponer.
The problem for me here is that I prefer the name brand over the generic – it just tastes different to me. So are you out of luck if you’re in the same boat as me and prefer name brands? Don’t worry because there are still 2 levels left to go.
Level 3: The Coupon Deal Shopper
Believe it or not, when the circumstances are just right, people can save even more money buying the name brand stuff than the generic brands. Items frequently go on sale, and when they do, the Coupon Deal Shopper capitalizes on the opportunity. They’ll combine a store sale with a manufacturer’s coupon, and get the item for pennies or even for free.
You know what happens when you align the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon all in a line? You get a solar or lunar eclipse, right? Well, that’s exactly what the Coupon Deal Shopper does. They set up little eclipses all over the place at different stores and walk away with items for pennies on the dollar. So if I wait for a sale, I can save even more money than buying generic.
For example, I happen to know that Walgreens frequently puts Chex Mix on sale for $0.99 approximately once a month. During this sale week, if I walked in there with my $0.55 cent coupon, I’ll pick up the item for $0.44 instead of $2.44 on a $2.99 item. That’s an 85% savings and way better than buying the Generic Mix!
The Coupon Deal Shopper saves 70% to 95% on everything they buy, because they follow two rules:
Don’t buy it if it’s not on sale.
Combine the sale with a coupon.
Saving at this level requires a little bit of effort. You must clip and organize your coupons, and be patient. By spending about 2-3 hours per week, you can save 70-95% on everything you buy at the grocery store and the drug store. Can’t do better than that, right? There’s still one more level to go!
Level 4: The Extreme Couponer
Did you know that you can use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on the same item? Well, you can. Did you know that you can use two coupons on a buy-one-get-one-free sale? Well, you can.
Setting up bigger and better deals is what the Extreme Couponer does. They take the same measures as the Coupon Deal Shopper but then they look for multiple deals. Why get just one deal when you can get three or four all at once? To this end, it’s not unusual for an Extreme Couponer to have 4 Sunday newspapers delivered to their home. Let me give you an example to explain why:
At my grocery store, Ken’s Steakhouse Ranch Dressing costs $3.29 for a 16 oz bottle. Sometimes it goes on sale for $1.65 per bottle. So what I do is use my four $1.00 off coupons from the Sunday newspapers during the sale, and get four bottles at $0.65 a pop. That’s how I combine two big deals at once and walk away with 80% savings multiple times. If you can get your hands on more coupons, go back in the store and do it again! The idea here is to stockpile your deals and get a lot of each item because it might be another month or so before this item goes on sale again, so buy a month or two’s worth at once.
Lastly, Extreme Couponers make good use of store coupons as well (i.e. the ones that say $5 off a $20 purchase). So you could walk into the store, buy at least $20 worth of great deals like these and take another $5 off the total. This simply makes a sweet deal even sweeter. It’s almost like you’re buying individual items in bulk at prices that are even better than buying in bulk. The ultimate savings scenario is to combine 3 types of coupons: store coupons, manufacturer’s coupons, and store sales all at the same time. Yup, that’s why we call this person The Extreme Couponer.
Now that you know what all the levels are, what level of couponer are you? Is it worth your time to become an Extreme Couponer to save 90-100% on everything you buy? If your answer is a resounding “Yes!”, read on for a step-by-step guideto learn the ins and outs of extreme couponing.
Going to Extremes: An Example
“Extreme couponing” isn’t as crazy as it may sound. You don’t have to let coupons dominate your life, and you don’t have to be embarrassed at the cash register. You just need to find the right moves to use coupons in conjunction with store sales and promotions, and then enjoy the satisfaction of getting items for free or close to free. It’s about timing, and not necessarily using a particular coupon just because you found it in that week’s Sunday paper. Instead of using it immediately, you’ll hold on to coupons until items go on sale, maximizing your savings and becoming an extreme couponer.
For example, suppose that Butterball Turkey Bacon normally costs $3.29 at your grocery store, and you find a $2 off coupon. If you used your coupon right away, you’d pay $1.29 and leave the store patting yourself on the back and thinking, “Not bad.” But you can do even better!
If you wait for a store to have a sale, you can really win out and find yourself saving much more. Imagine that you held on to the coupon for three weeks, and after the initial rush when everyone else used the coupon, the store is still trying to move more turkey bacon. Now it’s on special, with a two-for-$5 deal. That means the price is only $2.50 each, so you can use your $2 coupon and pay just 50 cents instead, saving $2.79 just by holding out.
That’s tough to beat, but this example can go even further. Suppose that the store issues a general coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase. Sound familiar? If you collected a few extra copies of that original $2 coupon, say ten of them, you could follow this simple math for incredible savings:
Buy 10 Butterball Turkey Bacons on two-for-$5 special: $25.00
Use your 10 manufacturer’s coupons: -$20.00
Use the $5 off $20 store coupon: -$5.00
Your total: FREE
You had $25 worth of coupons, but your receipt will show you the truly good news that you saved $32.90, since that’s the full retail value of the bacon you got for free. That’s the kind of thing that extreme couponing families do everyday. They’re not covering the kitchen table with coupons and letting their lives get taken over by newspaper inserts. They’re just using coupons and store deals together to get the best discounts, and they’re walking off with at least 90% in savings.
There’s no magic to it, but extreme couponing does require a bit of patience and some trial and error. Use this step-by-step guide to reduce the “error” part of that equation.
5 Steps for Extreme Couponing
Storage and Distribution