That’s what the nice voice from the grocery store’s self-check-out register always asks me after I finish scanning my items. I usually answer, “No.” Coupons? I don’t have time to cut out coupons. And then one night I was flipping through the channels and saw the show “Extreme Couponing.” I was hooked.
People were buying over $1,000 worth of groceries for less than the price of a pack of gum – all from clipping coupons! That’s when it hit me, by being too “busy” to give coupons a second look, I was literally leaving money on the table when I left the grocery store. I vowed to become a changed person… a person who clipped coupons.
So when the Sunday paper came that week, I sat down with my scissors and began to clip. I made it a point to only clip the things that I knew I would use or that my family would eat. Surprisingly, I found a lot of coupons for things we use on a regular basis. I also found coupons for things I hadn’t bought before, but they sounded good and with a $1.50 off coupon, I was willing to give them a try. After I clipped, I organized the coupons into categories – dairy, canned goods, health and beauty, etc. – and then tried to position them in my envelope so they’d be in the same order as the store’s aisles. I even made a grocery list, also something I usually don’t do. I felt so organized, so in charge, so ready to save money. Maybe this is how those extreme couponers started out. Maybe I was always meant to be one of them.
So I arrive at the grocery store and start getting things from my list. I begin in the produce area. No coupons here, so I just grab what I need and go. The next aisle is snack foods. Let the couponing begin! I find everything I need and continue. By the time I get to the rice and pasta aisle I run into a problem. I have three coupons for something the store doesn’t carry. Bummer. I stuff those coupons in my pocket and keep going. The same thing happens in health and beauty and dairy, but I’m not discouraged. At the end of the shopping trip, I’ve used all but eight of my coupons. Sure, it’s taken me a good 20 minutes longer than it normally does to do my usual “grab ‘n’ go” shopping, but I know the thrill at the check-out will be worth it!
I get to the check-out and hand over my coupons to the cashier. Before I can even get my items on the belt, he starts sorting through the pile of coupons, putting them in categories: store coupons, coupons that double, coupons that don’t double, coupons that are buy-one-get-one-free. This goes on for a while. Finally, he seems satisfied with the pile and starts scanning my items. Now it’s time for the coupons. Bring on the savings! Then for some reason he starts reorganizing the coupons he’s already organized. This goes on for a few minutes. I’m starting to get worried that my ice cream sandwiches are going to melt (which they did). Finally he starts scanning and hits a snag immediately. My coupon for “save $2.00 when you buy two orange juices” doesn’t work. So I have to dig through the bags and show him that I did buy two. The same thing happens again with barbeque sauce, then cheese, then yogurt. We finally get on a roll and the savings start happening. In the end, I save $30 using my coupons. Okay, it wasn’t “extreme,” but I felt pretty good about it…not good enough to do this on every shopping trip, but once a month, maybe.
The reality is, while I pride myself on saving money in a lot of ways, I don’t have what it takes to be an extreme couponer. From what I’ve read, it takes a boatload of coupons, a ton of time, a high level of organization and a touch of OCD. Not for me.
But perhaps it’s more your thing. If you’d like to find some of the best deals and coupons sites, check out the list on the WiseBread website. And if you consider yourself a savvy couponer, we’d love to have you share some of your tips in a comment below by October 19. We’ll pick our favorite tip and the winner will receive a $25 Visa Gift Card to use on their next shopping trip (please see contest rules here)…and if you really are an extreme couponer, we know you can’t pass up that deal!
Update 10/21/2011: This contest is closed, but stay tuned for more opportunities to win in the future on our blog and on Twitter.