Friday, July 8, 2011


 My daughter and I watched the "Extreme Couponing" reality series on TV a few weeks ago, and it made me feel pretty wimpy for saving a few dollars every week with coupons, compared to the grocery store warriors who buy shopping carts full of products for a few pennies on the dollar. 
But I also noticed that they devote many hours every week to clipping and downloading coupons.  One woman had several computers just to download and print them out. It was practically a full-time job for several family members.
Another thing I noticed was that a lot of the stuff in their carts, such as fruit snacks, potato chips and bottled water, wouldn't be on my shopping list in the first place. When I look through the Sunday insert coupons, I seldom find any for fresh fruits and vegetables.  I'd rather not buy a lot of stuff I don't need or want, just to save money on it.     
Since "Extreme Couponing" began airing, some grocery chains have revised their coupon policies, so that you can't use more than one coupon on a sale item and so on.  But there are a few things you can learn from coupon queens and kings.
1. They don't just use the coupons; they go through the store's weekly sales insert, and match the coupons up with on-sale items so they can maximize their savings. 
2. Use resources such as, the Grocery Guru at, or, which help you to coordinate coupons with sales at local grocery stores. 
3. Multiply the savings. Some people take multiple Sunday newspaper subscriptions for the coupons, and you can also ask your neighbors or relatives for the coupons from their paper.
4. Check other sources for coupons: the "blinkies" in the red boxes on grocery store shelves, home mailers, "peelies" that are peeled off the product itself, printables off Web sites, and coupons that can download directly to your store's loyalty card.
5. Sometimes a brand name with a coupon is still more expensive than a generic brand. And resist buying things you may not use, just because you have a coupon.
6. Some grocery stores match competitor coupons or sales if you have the advertisement with you.
7. Organize your coupons so you can use them efficiently. I found a little coupon organizer that's about as big as my small day planner, with pockets to hold the coupons for various categories such as breakfast and cereals, frozen items, and personal care.  I customized a few of them — for instance, I don't need pet food. Once I started using it, I found that I was saving $10-12 per shopping trip, simply because I was able to easily find the coupons!
Some people use a three-ring binder with clear photo pages or baseball card pockets. Others use a filing box and take out the coupons they will be using and clip them to their shopping list on their way to the grocery store. I guess it's all about what works best for you.
8. Rebates are another form of discounting; but I haven't had a lot of luck with them. It seems they operate on the same premise as health insurance companies; they do whatever it takes to keep from paying up.  We bought a sectional sofa partly because of the healthy $150 rebate offered.  But when I filled out the cards and sent them in, I got a form letter saying the form wasn't filled out right -- two months later.  I filled out another form and sent it in, and the envelope came back saying the addressee had moved with no forwarding address! 
Now when there's a rebate offered, I don't mentally subtract that from the original price when I'm making a decision on whether or not to buy. If I do manage to get the rebate, it's just a pleasant bonus.
Any great ideas on frugal shopping? Comments are always welcome! 

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