I’ve watched the Extreme Couponing show a few times on the TLC Network. Although I’m leery of any show titled “extreme” as it seems like hyperbole, I feel that Extreme Couponing is appropriately titled. Over and over you see families dropping their grocery bills from hundreds of dollars to nearly nothing or, in some cases, a positive amount to which the store must give them credit for.
But would the techniques shown on Extreme Couponing work for an ordinary family like yours and mine? It’s not to say that the families featured are completely out of the norm in America, but there are some characteristics and situations that may make extreme couponing easier for them as it would be for us. Let’s examine some of the common features and techniques the Extreme Couponing families have that may or may not work for you and me.
Family Size. The Extreme Couponing families tend to be six or more members. If the family is smaller, they have extended family members in need as well. A bulk deal is only worth it if you regularly purchase the item and you can get a deep discount that day. Getting bulk deals on cheap food, however, can backfire. You could end up purchasing additional, regular-priced food just because you’re getting tired of your off-brand instant noodles. Our family eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, and it’s hard to find good coupons for those or other healthy foods.
Resourcefulness. Extreme couponing requires resourcefulness beyond picking up a Sunday paper. They pick up newspapers every day and some have papers delivered from out of town. Family members on Extreme couponing even roam the downtown streets, searching for additional inserts or leftover papers that give them multiple coupons. Extreme couponing also relies on online coupon hunting.
This is something totally doable for an average-sized family IF you make time for it. The families on Extreme Couponing often have one otherwise unemployed person who can take the time to hunt for these extra inserts, organize them, store them, and plan the grocery trip that can take hours and hours per week. It’s like a job in itself. But if the financial gains outweigh the money not being made in the workforce, then extreme couponing is worth it.
Timing.Extreme Couponing families also time their purchases to coincide with store specials. We’ve done this ourselves at home. Look for temporary price reductions on meals or items you use. Then look online or in paper inserts for manufacturer’s coupons and do a bulk purchase on those items that day. Online coupons will require you to install a special coupon printing program so that the manufacturer’s bar codes show up properly for scanning. Be sure to check the dates and look for the manufacturer’s watermark on the coupon!
Profiling. It’s very helpful to profile a store’s coupon policies and willingness to work with you before going in and making the big deal. Although stores get paid back for their coupons, you may be doing them a disservice by running out their supplies and irritating their other customers. Ask the store about what couponing techniques are usable and let the cashier know ahead of time what you plan to do since sometimes you can only use certain coupons during a single transaction. Multiple transactions can equal multiple headaches. Also ask if they accept printed coupons. Some stores refuse them due to dealing with fraud attempts.
Storage Space. It’s also important to buy things that you need or else you’ll be wasting storage space. Extreme Couponing families often have to build extra room for their coupons and large purchases. One family bought over 100 boxes of headache medicine for virtually nothing. They had the storage space for it, but how often will they need it versus saving space for something that will be used on a more regular basis? Those are things you’ll need to negotiate.