(Not Extreme) Couponing

Regardless of your opinion of couponing, it is a notable ‘trend’ recently. Yes, coupons have been around forever, but with the TLC show ‘Extreme Couponing’, there is a lot more attention on it. From local church seminars on couponing to mom blog tutorials to CBS’s show 2 Broke Girls, couponing is more present than ever.

While I can’t imagine anyone being opposed to saving money, some folks are going to the extreme. Have you actually seen ‘Extreme Couponing’? I’ve seen a couple episodes and am equal parts impressed and appalled. These people have figured out how to get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and supplies for tens of dollars. Sometimes free! Impressive. But they’re buying things they don’t need. I saw an episode where a guy had converted his entire garage into aisles of shelving for hundreds of bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste, and dozens of other items he will never use. The episode did show him donating a few hundred packages of diapers or something that he managed to get for next to free – which is fantastic. But, for the most part, he was essentially hoarding. He had a collection of things he’ll never use. Honestly, I find it a bit disgusting.

With all that said, coupons have their place, and I do use them. The trick is to use coupons for things you actually use. Every week, most of us get a flyer with coupons in the mail. Occasionally, you’ll get a booklet from a local drug store, the monthly Val-Pak envelope of coupons, or grocery coupons.

Here are a few tips on how to use coupons effectively, without them taking over your life (or your garage!)

Easy Couponing Tips

  1. Take a few minutes to go through any coupons you get in the mail. No need to go crazy, but at night, when you’re watching TV, spend a few minutes looking through the coupons. If you see a coupon for something you use regularly, cut it out.
  2. Skip over the coupons that are for things you don’t use, or if the coupon will expire before you can use it. If you just bought a bottle of shampoo, you won’t need another for a few months. Unless you have enough storage space to store an extra bottle of shampoo, wait until you need it. Odds are good that you will find coupons when you actually need it.
  3. Often, I skip over coupons for things I use because I know I can buy the generic store-brand for cheaper than the name brand, even with the coupon. And I will nearly always go with the store brand if it’s cheaper.
  4. Get a small file sorter. One that can fit in your purse or your car’s glove compartment. You won’t use the coupons if you don’t have easy access to them. Label the dividers by categories you use most often to make them easier to find.
  5. Some stores have ‘double coupon’ days, where you get double the coupon value. Honestly, I have no idea what stores near me do this. That’s too ‘extreme’ for me. Smile But if you know of a place near you, it never hurts to save double the money!

You don’t have to be extreme to save money. For example, I dye my hair about every 6 weeks. Nearly every week, there is a coupon in the weekly mailer for $2 off of L’Oreal hair dye. Over the course of the year, this saves me $16. Sure, you’re not saving hundreds like the extreme couponing folks, but enough to justify a full-price movie and popcorn!

Another example: Quite often, there are coupons for $10 off an oil change at Jiffy Lube in the monthly Val-Pak envelopes, or they’ll send them to you after you’ve been there a couple times. Assuming you get your oil changed every 3 months, this can save you $40 in a year. It all adds up.

Couponing Resources

Here are a few easy resources for additional coupons that I use. Feel free to add additional links in the comments!

  • Target’s Mobile Coupons: Every couple of weeks, you get a text message with coupons. The store can scan the barcode directly from your mobile phone screen.
  • Target Printable Coupons: There are dozens of coupons on the Target website you can print and take with you.
  • Bed Bath and Beyond: Somehow, I am on their list twice. Once a month or so, they will send a coupon for either $5 off, or 20% off a single item. Sign up online, and be sure to click the ‘Circulars & Postcards via Direct Mail’ box. Here’s a secret many people don’t know – the coupons don’t expire! They have an expiration date, but the store will take coupons past their expiration. I’ve used them for months past with no issue. You can also use one coupon for each item you purchase in the same visit. No having to break up your purchases.
  • Joann Fabric and Craft Stores: Sign up for their twice-monthly flyers. They contain at least one 40 or 50% off coupon in each flyer, and often times many more coupons. If you sew or do any kinds of crafts, this is a must-have flyer!
  • Google/Bing Search: Anytime you are about to make a planned purchase (I personally need a new blender. And a vacuum cleaner), search online to see if there are any printable coupons. You can also visit the manufacturer’s or retail location’s website to see if they have anything. In addition, I’ve known folks to have luck with emailing manufacturers directly and receiving coupons in the mail. Obviously, this is a little more work, but depending on the purchase, it could be a big money saver!

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