Extreme couponing for the amateurs: How to save money without devoting all your time
Dec 26, 2011, 6 a.m.
According to Time magazine, a new record for coupon usage was set in 2010 when statistics revealed that a total of $3.7 billion worth of coupons were redeemed by the end of the year. Although the downturn of the economy can take a majority of the credit for this surge in popularity, popular television shows like TLC's "Extreme Couponing" can probably take part of the credit as well. On the show, viewers can witness incredibly successful coupon-filled shopping trips, which reveals how shoppers can cut the price of $500 worth of groceries to just $11.27. The popularity of extreme couponing has also led to multiple blogs on the subject and various newspaper articles devoted entirely to helping you save money while shopping. In the marketing world, it's virtually suicidal for a company not to offer coupons on their products.
Although many people have seen the small benefits of coupon usage, making the leap to extreme couponing seems to be a practice for only the elite few. But, it doesn't have to be. If you feel out of the loop when it comes to extreme couponing, or feel that your schedule is too overwhelming to devote a lot of extra time to clipping newspapers, consider the following important extreme couponing tips to help you save both time and money in the current dismal economy.
Begin with a plan
One of the biggest mistake beginners make is trying to approach couponing without a comprehensive plan in place. Don't just clip newspaper coupons or print downloadable coupons from anywhere and everywhere. Look for coupons from the stores where you regularly shop and the items you regularly buy. Determine exactly how much time you can devote to couponing each day and only spend this amount. Search couponing websites whenever you get free time and build your collection for your next shopping trip. If possible, get help from family and friends by having them clip coupons for you when they come across them.
Don't overdo it
Many people go into the extreme couponing process by just clipping everything they see and buying it exclusively because they have a 25% off coupon. It may be initially tempting to clip a really good deal on something like hand sanitizer, for example, but if this isn't an item you regularly purchase, then you won't be doing your budget any favors. Stick only with the items you regularly buy to avoid being counterproductive.
Most couponers get frustrated in the initial stages of extreme couponing because they feel like they aren't seeing the savings they expected. The benefits of couponing may take a little while to start showing real results, but this is because the beginning requires building up a stash that will benefit you in the long run. For example, you may purchase 10 packs of toilet paper with 50% off coupons for each and pay $25 total. This may not seem like savings since you normally spend just $5 on one pack; however, six months from now you will have saved a total of $25 on toilet paper alone.
In line with the previous tip, stocking up on a good sale is a great way to save money in the long run. This used to be the benefit of shopping at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam's Club, but with extreme couponing you can stock up on sale items in essentially any store. This not only saves you money in the long run, but also helps you save time because you'll have to shop less often.
Know where to look
Beginners to extreme couponing always ask the same question: Where do you find so many great coupons? It's really no secret -- great coupons are everywhere. If you know where to look, you can easily cut your coupon searching and clipping time in half. Newspaper inserts are a great place to start, so it's important to invest in a subscription to local and national newspapers first. You can also find downloadable coupons available to print from several different online sources, including Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, and SmartSource.com. You can also always go to the store's website to look for coupons and great deals right from the source.
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