Have you ever seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC? If you haven’t, women buy tons of items, in bulk, using hundreds of store and manufacturer’s coupons, store discount cards, and any savings program that is available to shoppers. It’s a lot of work, but sometimes they get nearly 99% off of the retail price. I’d seen the show before, but this time it left a serious impression on me. Why wasn’t I doing this? I guess part of my excuse for not couponing is that stores in Florida don’t double coupons so I can’t get the types of savings they get. After spending part of my spring break watching the show, I couldn’t help but feel like I was leaving money on the table. I swear I heard a woman say she saves 60 thousand dollars a year by couponing– and many of the women said they earn a salary’s worth by couponing for their families. Why am I paying for all of the stuff they get at a steep discount, free, or for a small profit?
I’m on a very tight budget because I won’t have substitute teaching work in the summer. So, extreme couponing has become extraordinarily attractive to me. Every dollar that I can save today, is another dollar I’ll have at my disposal this summer. And besides, saving is addictive: I made my first real couponing trip to Winn-Dixie on Tuesday saved over 50% off the retail price of household items. (Maybe that’s not extreme, but it’s pretty darn good.)
Here is my concern with extreme couponing: buying in bulk and creating the “The Stockpile.” Women on the show devote entire rooms, basements, and garages filled with all of the stuff they’ve bought. They have a convenience store in their own homes. I don’t have any room for a stockpile. I live in a tiny apartment with enough stuff as it is.
I had to set up some extreme couponing rules so saving money can fit my aspiring minimalist, slow-paced, and healthier lifestyle:
- I’m not going to buy unhealthy food. The women on the show have crates of junk food sitting under their noses to satisfy every craving. I don’t want that temptation. I’m changing the way I eat: I’m aiming to consume less processed foods and more fruits & vegetables; and one day I’d like to be 100% organic. Yes, this may make extreme couponing more challenging, but any savings is good savings.
- I’m also not going to buy something I can’t use, even if I can get it for free. That’s just consumption for the sake of it. Unnecessary!
- I won’t buy anything in extreme excess. I’m not going to buy 50 containers of deodorant, 27 bottles of dish soap or 100 razors . I will never be able to use that much. Maybe one day when I have a family and the space to store items that we can use, I’ll buy more. For now, I’m not getting excess junk. With my last haul I ended up with 4 bottles of laundry detergent, 6 boxes of tissues, 2 bottles of olive oil and it still feels like too much. I’m going to stick to having two sets of coupons (from two newspapers), so I can maximize the Buy One Get One Free Deals (BOGO).
- I’ll try to buy items at a 50% discount, but it’s okay if I don’t. I don’t know if I’ll ever get items for free, or at a profit. It would be wonderful, but I don’t want to spend 40 hours a week couponing like a crazy person. I want to live life. I feel that the fifty percent rate is attainable, and reasonable. BOGO deals are the easiest to find and combine coupons with, and still yield great deals.
- I’ll take the coupons but give the newspapers away for free. A long time ago, I tried couponing, but I always felt I was being so wasteful with the newspapers. I don’t read anything but the comics, and recycle/throw away the rest. From this moment on, I’ll take the inserts, and let the cashier give the newspaper away to people who just want to read it. Why not share the love?
- If I begin to have more stuff than space, I will start giving things away for free. What’s the point of saving ridiculous amounts of money if I can’t benefit my community in some way. If I have more than enough, I should share it.
What I have realized is that couponing may not be that great for an organic, vegetarian, soy-free, wheat-free, dairy-free dieter, but it’s great for buying toiletries and household cleaning supplies. I can use the money I save on these items to buy my healthy food.
Confessions of an Ex-Extreme Couponer