Saturday, October 30, 2010

Extreme Couponing Part 1

As promised, I will now begin a series of posts on how to do "extreme couponing." Extreme Couponing is NOT just cutting coupons and saving a few cents on your favorite products. It is being able to buy $200 worth of groceries for $40 (or less)! It can be done! But it does take some serious time and effort. So let's get started!

First, you need to subscribe to the newspaper. Typically, coupons come on Sunday and Wednesday. But I have heard of them coming on Thursday instead. In your average city the newspaper costs about $1.25 a week. Trust me, you'll save so much on the coupons that the paper pays itself off for the whole year with just two shopping trips.

I was able to subscribe to the Roanoke Times from a man selling them in my local Kroger. As an incentive for signing up on the spot, he threw in a $10 gift card to Kroger. Which I then took right back into the store and spent on items on sale with my Catalina coupons. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll explain Catalina coupons later this week.

In your Sunday/Wednesday papers you need to be on the lookout for 3 things- #1 the grocery store circulars, #2 the Red Plum coupons, and #3 the Smart Source coupons.

We're going to skip to #2 and #3 and come back to the grocery store in a bit.

The first real step is to cut out the coupons! (Duh!) Don't waste your time cutting out coupons for products you will never buy. DO cut out the coupons for products you are currently stocked on, but will buy some day in the future.

First coupon myth debunked- Do NOT plan your meals around your coupons. This is a terrible method, and you will likely end up paying MORE for your groceries with it!

What we are going to do instead is cut out the coupons for things you need. One important tip here is try and leave your brand loyalties behind. I know we all prefer one brand over another on certain products. But you have to make a choice- brand loyalty or saving money. You might be able to get your favorite brands, but sometimes, you might want to go with the cheaper brands.

So here's the big insider's secret to extreme couponing-
After you have cut out all of the coupons for products you want and use, pull out the grocery store circulars. First, look to see if any of the stores are holding double coupon days. If so, look no further, because that is where you will be going! Double coupon days vary greatly from town to town. Expect to see them just before a major holiday (for instance, Thanksgiving!!). These days are what they sound like- the store will honor manufacturer's coupons at double the rate. In some towns, (for instance, Roanoke, where I live) where one chain dominates the other chains (within 3 miles of my house there are 4 different Krogers), look around to see if one store has continuous double coupon days. Of the 4 Krogers nearby, 1 does double coupons every day, and there is no need to wait for a special sale.You want to save your coupons for double coupon days. This is when the very best prices and deals can be made!!

Every store  has their own policy regarding double coupons which can change frequently. It’s important to keep your eyes open for coupon related changes that may happen. The coupon policy can even vary between grocery stores from the same chain. If you have any questions about a store’s coupon policy, be certain to contact the local grocery store manager to verify it.

Now for some picture examples of what we are looking for-
Here we have Progresso Soup coupon for $1 off 4 cans. In addition we can see that the soup is on sale 4 for $5. Normally a can of Progresso costs over $2 each. But when we combine the coupon with the sale, we will be getting 4 cans for a total of $4. So a 50% savings, before we even add in double coupon days. Assuming Progresso really is just $2/can, I will be able to buy this for "free." But my guess is that nothing ever costs a flat $2, and it will be more like $2.35, and I'll have to pay about 35 cents per can. Not too shabby!
This is where abandoning favorite brands becomes important. Normally I don't buy Progresso, but I will buy it for a good deal to put in my food storage.

This is one of those deals that puts the extreme in extreme couponing. Jello gelatin or pudding boxes are on sale for $.60. And there is a coupon for $.50 off. That's just 10 cents a box! But don't forget! We're going to use double coupon days! Which, yes, means that I can possibly get up to 40 cents back on each box! Not every store is willing to honor that. But I'm looking forward to going to my local store this week to find out if they do it! Even if it is just 10 cents a box, its a steal, and a great time to stock up on it! (Especially with all of the pudding pies coming up in the near future!)

Pet owners get the best deals out of couponing I think. Here's another great example why! Purina One Cat Food is on sale for $4.99. I have a coupon for $2 off. And again- we have double coupons coming into play. $.99 for a bag of cat food?? Yes please!

The real trick to couponing is patience and spending time going through the circulars. You have to watch and see when your products are going on sale. It is the coupon/sale combination that makes it worth it. My favorite deal ever? A $10 bottle of Tide (which I rarely ever buy because it is so expensive) for just $2, thanks to double coupons and a $3 off coupon and an in-store sale. I bought 4 bottles of it, and didn't have to buy laundry detergent for months.

The manufacturers put out the coupons to promote their products. They want you to buy them. So they will also put those same products on sale to get your attention. The real savings come when you catch them at the same time. And they will overlap! But just because you got the coupon today doesn't mean it will go on sale today. Keep everything organized and keep watching a few weeks. I promise, it will go on sale somewhere. You just have to wait and watch!

Later this week I'll be posting on what a Catalina coupon is, and where to find the best savings online.
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