Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Thrifty Thursday" ~ Realistic "Extreme Coupon" Expectations



I have never actually seen the TLC show,  “Extreme Couponing”. I have heard shocking stories about the amount of coupons used, and I have tried pretty hard to reach those lofty savings...I think the people on that show are not as extreme as they were portrayed (it is television, after all), and the show has given people unrealistic expectations for couponing. If you factor in the suspicions of fraud and misuse of coupons, [which we would never do and will never advocate!] then the show has set people up for disappointment. 

BUT...If you want to learn to coupon and save 40% or more on your grocery bill, then I can help – and you won’t need to spend 70+ hours a week couponing!

Expectations
Please don’t expect to save 98% on your very first coupon shopping trip. Yes, it can happen, but it takes some time and work. You have to collect coupons every week and build up your stockpile. Once you’ve done that, you have the freedom to “cherry pick”. That means you only go to the store to get the free and darn near free items.

Time
Realistically I spend 40-60 minutes a week clipping coupons and putting together a shopping list. This is usually for shopping at 3 stores – 1 grocery store,  1 discount store (We just added Aldi's, because of the fresh affordable produce) and 1 drug store. How long you spend on this depends on how many stores you shop at and how long you have been couponing. My coupon grocery trips don't take longer than a trip without coupons (scanning coupons really only takes a few minutes in a normal shopping trip).
After you set up a coupon system like a coupon binder, there really isn’t that much to it! Coupon blogs (like mine) will match up coupons for you, which saves you a ton of time!  Just pull the coupons you need, print your list and go shopping!
Spending
Sure, the people on that show save a ton of money, but how much are they spending to get that savings? I do not "buy into" deals that require me to spend more to get more. Buy 2, get 1 free deals I tend to steer clear of, unless I happen to have some awesome coupons or need the item pretty bad for our house (like T.P., can't seem to get a stockpile of that going!)
You also have to consider your stockpile as an investment. If all of your money is invested in laundry soap, canned goods and bath tissue, then it certainly isn't being spent on fun family outings or a nice date or home repairs. The whole point is to walk out having spent less than you normally would have, for the same items you already use. 

Also, plan the stores you shop at based on location. We have a 5 mile radius rule, but then again...we live out in the country. The rule is simple: The store has to be within 5 miles of where you live or work, for it to be one of the shopping stops. This saves on gas (which we all know is expensive) and time (which IS worth something). 
Stockpiling
Okay, 50 boxes of hair dye in 8 colors? 90 tubes of toothpaste? That is just not realistic to me. Sales come in cycles and you should definitely buy a few months worth of the items your family will use or eat, but there’s no need to buy more than that. We buy one newspaper per family member, so when our favorite pasta goes on sale, I buy more than one box because I have multiple coupons. This gets me through until the next sale cycle, and I don't have to run out to grab a box on the fly - which leads to extra gas costs and not a great deal on the pasta. 
For our family of four I used to buy four newspapers per week. Now that I’ve been couponing for 6 months (and the cost of newspapers has gone up), so I have to either cut back to 2 papers for our family of 4, or consider a subscription (not feasible where we live at the moment). 

We have converted an extra coat closet into storage for our small stockpile (T.P, paper towels, canned goods, laundry soap) but everything else is just stored regularly in the cabinets. For instance, I store cleaners under the kitchen sink, school supplies in my home office and hygiene products in the bathroom. Nothing is in the way or overwhelming. 
I am not trying to discourage you at all, I just want to make sure you have realistic expectations!