thoughts on extreme couponing

>> 3.17.2011

In case you haven't see it: watch this.

If you want to become an extreme couponer because you need a new hobby, go for it! I don't have anything against what these men and women do in their free time. I can just imagine the rush they get from picking the perfect match up of store sales and newspaper coupons!

If you want to "save" hundreds of dollars a month on groceries, I'd probably start looking at other options (home improvements, travel, utility bills, etc). For us, no matter how many buy-one-get-one promotions we find, the change in our already low $200ish monthly grocery budget wouldn't impact our lifestyle in any major way. Based on the amount of fresh fruits and veggies (that don't usually take coupons) we buy, I'm not sure there's too much wiggle room in the budget at all. Don't get me wrong, I still think coupons are great and totally worth clipping. Over a year after creating an organization goal, you definitely won't find me shopping without my organizer by my side...

 My basic categories: use ASAP, weekly grocery, grocery etc, retail, restaurants and services, receipts

-BUT- in my opinion, that "coupon savings total" at the bottom of my grocery receipt doesn't mean anything unless I've accomplished at least one of three things:

1. Saved money - in actually spending less than budgeted. Buying an unplanned for ice cream or bag of chips for $1.50 off  does not equal saving.

2. Found savings for my favorite foods or brands- Fiber One is actually my favorite cereal (yes, the original flavor that most people think tastes like cardboard... and yes, you can add that to the list of reasons why you'd hate my life). I would buy and budget for Fiber One with or without a coupon so I'm usually on the lookout for a way to save on this specific cereal (speaking of).

3. Bought something I would not have otherwise been able to afford- As I've mentioned on the blog before, I'm a pescetarian (yes to fish on occasion/ no to meat). Because I don't eat chicken, beef, pork, etc, I always have to look for other sources of protein. While I would looove to fill my diet with the yummy faux meat substitutes (did anyone see the vegan Oprah episode?), they do get really pricey so I usually mix in a lot of beans, dairy, and high protein grains instead.... or go crazy stocking up on the frozen meat substitutes when I find a good sale:

I do love my Veggie Patch Chick'n (for $1.50 after coupon)!

What are your thoughts on extreme couponing?
What couponing rules do you like to stick with?


Comeca Jones March 17, 2011 11:02 AM  

Im a little disappointed at myself because this is one of the things that I said I would do to save my household a lil extra money.Sadly I have not and it does make a difference for me on household items.You have given me a push to start from today and USE THOSE COUPONS thanks for inspiring!

Kim @ NewlyWoodwards March 17, 2011 11:23 AM  

I so agree with this. I have tried couponing, but I found it to be really time-consuming and not super helpful for us. We also stick to mostly produce, meat and some dairy. Most of the coupons I came across were for boxed stuff, which we rarely buy. So, I guess I just need to look at sales more often and try to save that way. I agree though, I think there are other ways to save big money beyond groceries.

Graydens Mama March 17, 2011 11:34 AM  

I completely agree with everything you said. We buy fruits and vegtables from something called Green Bean Delivery. It utilizes mostly local organic produce and ships it right to your house! After that, I only buy meat, dairy, and grains at the grocery. I try to stay away from processed foods and I never go down isles like the frozen food section. Mostly becasue I will be tempted to buy things like icecream and pizza that I DON'T need! And, Coupons are not usually for the things I shop for.
I have a friend who is a CRAZY coupon clipper and she is all the time talking about the "savings" she had at the store. But I promise you she wouldn't have even bought that stuff if there wasn't a coupon for it. And she has to go to 10 stores to find the deals and it takes her hours to put together her coupons and store lists. Just doesn't seem worth it to me. I would rather spend that time making healthy meals and sharing them with my family.

Wow, I feel better about venting :)

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog March 17, 2011 11:43 AM  

@Graydens Mama~ Haha, vent away! And next time your friend starts bragging about savings, let her know you're happy that she found herself an inexpensive hobby ;)

Kate@TwentySixToLife March 17, 2011 11:54 AM  

I've tried couponing a few times, but it never takes and doesn't seem worth it for us. There are never coupons for most of the things we buy and it takes a long time to clip them, organize them, remember to bring them with us, etc. If you regularly buy stuff that there are coupons for I can see it being worthwhile for someone, it just doesn't work for our household.

Although, I will say, I did have one shopping trip when I saved 50+% with coupons once. That was pretty exciting, haha. I can see how saving that much could be addictive.

Laura March 17, 2011 4:47 PM  

i love couponing, i'm a student living on my own now for three years, i'm nearly obliged to look out for reductions and so on, but unlikely, in Belgium it's not so common to use coupons and it's often not a big reduction =/

ashley @ March 21, 2011 1:01 PM  

If I find a great deal that I can't pass up (ie. something is free) then I go for it. I always get my Sunday paper full of coupons ... why? Because it's FREE money. Why not? Sometimes I use the coupons and sometimes I don't but I'd rather have 50 cents off an item that I will be buying than not save that money at all. is a great website and will even post how to score amazing deals at your basic retailers like Target, Walgreens, Walmart, for cheap sometimes free items when combining sales and coupons!

Tanja @ Postmodern Hostess March 21, 2011 4:03 PM  

I agree with a lot of this, but two things that are great for everyone to know: 1.) you can find a surprisingly large selection of coupons for real food and even produce (check out this post at Peas and Crayons for a current list), and 2.) stuff that is free can always be donated to charity (check out my post on how to do that really easily, and give to those in need).

The biggest money saver I've found -- a REAL money saver, that is -- is the principle of stocking up. Not stocking up like the folks in the show, who devote whole rooms to things and drop plans to go shopping. But if you know you're going to buy a certain brand of cereal even without a coupon, why not buy a six-month supply (or as much as you have room for) when it goes on a crazy good sale, combined with coupons? We've been shopping this way, and the savings really add up!

BTW, so impressed that you keep your monthly grocery budget to $200! That's legit. :-)


Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog March 21, 2011 4:26 PM  

@Tanja~ I'm right there with you on stocking up (see freezer above)! I promise, I'm not anti-couponing, just not that into extreme couponing. Oh, and major props to the people who spend hours couponing so that they can find freebies to give to charity!!

LizzieBeth March 21, 2011 6:31 PM  

I agree with everything you said and I would like to add one more:

If I have to buy 3 of something to save $.75, I am not doing that. I don't need 3 jars of mustard.


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