Extreme Couponing One Year Later

BlogHer Original Post

On January 18,2011, I saw a post by Family Frugal about Mr Coupon and his appearance on TLC's Extreme Couponing special. This piqued my interest, and I started exploring the world of coupon bloggers. After a week of digging around in their part of the blogosphere, I had a brilliant idea -- I would become an extreme couponer and I'd blog about it! I was picturing a funny series of three or four posts, most of which would be rambling funny pieces about not being able to manage a complete grocery shopping trip (20 minutes in a grocery store and I was ready to ditch the cart and leave) or public arguments between me and my partner about stockpiling. I was going for humor. Or I thought I was.

Turns out extreme couponing is interesting. It also turns out extreme couponers are interesting and very friendly. Before I knew what had happened, I was nodding my head and saying things like, "This is so easy, why doesn't everyone shop this way?" and BAM! -- I was an extreme couponer.

I wrote my first extreme couponing post on February 3, 2011 -- a year later, I'm still an extreme couponer but it doesn't feel extreme, it feels normal. Going to a grocery store without a list, without a deal in mind, or without coupons is WEIRD, and we don't do it any more, but that's not the only thing that's changed.

When I started, I swore I would not become a stockpiler! I was the one who freaked out if my partner put three cans of tomatoes in the cart when we already had two cans at home. Today, I not only have a stockpile -- I have a stockpile room with a special can dispenser (OK two special can dispensers) to help keep my cans organized. The stockpile has grown so much that we've had to reorganize it three times in order to stay organized.

Because we have a stockpile, we rarely run out of anything -- and we rarely have to pay full price for things we use regularly. We also don't have to worry as much about skyrocketing prices for things like peanut butter. (How much are you paying right now? I have a stockpile of 12 jars of peanut butter, and I didn't pay more than .75 for any of them. Yay stockpiling!)

Besides my initial fear of the stockpile, organizing coupons was the biggest problem I faced. I started out clipping most of my coupons and putting them into little pouches in my coupon binder. That got old faster than I'd like to admit and today, my binder is pretty empty. I just don't need it.

I've moved to two expandable file folders for my coupon inserts and a manilla folder for the uncut printables. I'm using plastic envelopes labeled with the store names on them (and have a couple for free products and coupons for trial-sized products, too) and another catch-all for coupons I've clipped/found at stores but haven't used yet. This is working really well and saves time -- I don't worry about my messy coupon binder any more!

Because I'm not using a binder, I am not dragging my binder around to stores for those just-in-case moments. This does mean that I've missed out on a few potential deals, but my stockpile is such that I don't have to catch every deal anyway. I've learned that another deal always comes along, so if I miss one -- it's really OK.

Some of you may remember that I watched every episode of the first season of TLC's Extreme Couponing (and live Chattered/Tweeted them) -- I'm glad I watched those episodes. There are two huge lessons to be learned from those shows. First, the simple one - nobody really needs to buy 100 bottles of water or 100 individual candy bars unless they're trying to make a splash for TV. Second, and most important, coupon fraud hurts everyone.

I obviously knew that decoding coupons and coupon fraud were illegal and that stores and brands lose money when dishonest people do these things. But, I hadn't really stopped to think about how coupon fraud can affect those of us who use coupons properly until I watched a few episodes of Extreme Couponing.

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