Observations and Oddities

Not so extreme couponing

The combination of my recent Facebook posts regarding my couponing habit and the season premiere of TLC’s Extreme Couponing has generated several questions from my friends about how exactly it is I manage my “personal savings program”.  While I have no intention of turning this into a couponing blog, this is a subject that I do have some true passion for, so I think a post or two may be in order.

To those who prefer my sappy, silly and sarcastic content, I promise to get back to basics soon. However, today the tone will be a bit more instructional in nature.

To keep myself on track I think we’ll give a Q&A format a try.

Q. Are you like the crazy people on TV who spend hours and hours on their couponing and have shelves and shelves of stockpiled items?
A. Yes and no.  Yes, I do spend a decent amount of time clipping, planning and shopping. Yes, I do stockpile some items. No, I am not like the people on TV. 

I promise this is not a statement of denial.

 I spend about 2-3 hours a week clipping coupons, organizing them, searching the ads and making my lists. I then spend a about another 2 hours shopping.  This is generally a Sunday afternoon activity.  I clip coupons over lunch with my family, then organize and plan after that.  I spread my shopping out over the course of the week.  (To give you some perspective, I spent a least an hour or two planning even before my couponing habit began. My old style was to explore cookbooks and build out detailed meal plans before writing my shopping list, so the amount of time I spend now is not a big stretch).

My stockpiling is relatively minor. My linen closet holds a collection of body washes, dental care items, shampoo, conditioner, soap and deodorant- enough to last my family a few months.  A storage cabinet in my basement holds a few weeks’ worth of dry goods and a shelf in my laundry room boats an ample supply of household cleaners.

I do not own a second refrigerator or a deep freeze and have no intention of obtaining either.

stockpiling doesn't have to be extreme

Q. Why do you stockpile?
. It’s a matter of simple math.  If you can purchase something for pennies on the dollar (or get it for free) why not take advantage of the deal while you can?  It saves you in the long run.

Q. How much do you really save?
A. Admittedly, I used to be the person who scoffed at the people using coupons in front of me in line at the grocery.  I wondered how much difference a 25 cent coupon could really make.  After being properly indoctrinated into the couponing society, I now save 50-60% off my monthly grocery bill.  Others do much better.  I really am a very moderate player in this game.

Q. I’d like to try couponing, but I’m not organized enough.  How do you it?
A. I am, by nature, an organizer.  However, I don’t believe that you have to be as OCD as I am in order to be an effective couponer.  The “secret” is what you see on the TLC show or in the hands of a shopper in your local store- THE BINDER. 

Coupon binders are as varied as the individuals who build them.  Mine is a simple three-ring binder filled with clear baseball card sleeves. Each card slot holds a collection of identical coupons.  My binder is also divided into 25 sections, such as dairy, produce, frozen, laundry, H&BA, paper goods, pets, etc.  In this instance I am pretty extreme.  Most people I know have far fewer categories, but as I alluded to before, I’m a bit of an uber organizer.

In addition, my binder holds my shopping list, labeled envelopes for each store I will shop at, copies of the related store ads, a print out of any electronic coupons I’ve added to my store shopping cards and a pair of scissors.

I shop primarily from the envelopes which I fill with the coupons I plan to use prior to going shopping.  The binder is along for the ride so I can seize any additional deals I may stumble upon.

the essential tool- the binder

There’s a lot more I can say about the process, but I really want to build some suspense into this intriguing series of posts, so I’ll just leave you hanging for now.  I promise at least one more post in which I will offer more details on what got me started, how to find deals, what stores are the best for couponing, introduction to coupon vocabulary (terms like “stacking” and “Catalina” are key), which items I NEVER pay for and more.   If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to offer my best answer. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I love saving money and will gladly help you do so too.  Just leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll either respond back to you directly or include the answer in a future post (or both).

In the meantime, start scouting out binders, cleaning out closets and storage rooms to make space for stockpiling and sharpening your scissors.  There is some saving to be done!


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