Reality tv shows have hit a brand new low… Extreme Couponing. We’re all familiar with the fact that grocery prices are rising, (truly, when have they ever gone DOWN??), but this new “Reality Show”, is anything but a reality for the average consumer. Suddenly we’re receiving hundreds of emails from frustrated “new” couponers who don’t understand how and why they aren’t saving thousands of dollars. Well folks, here’s the truth, the whole truth . . and Nothing but the truth . . .
If you’ve missed it, here’s aBrief Video Clip of the Series:
This new series (which recently debuted on TLC) provides a nearly impossible perspective of coupon use, here’s why:
First and foremost, the majority of folks featured on the show have 1,500+ inserts. That’s not just individual coupons, that is multiple copies of a newspaper insert which contains 60+ coupons.
Folks, let me explain something, I’ve been using coupons for YEARS- one does NOT get 1,500 coupon inserts. Yes, it is possible to purchase individual coupons through “Coupon clipping services” (because it is ILLEGAL to Buy and Sell Coupons!)- however, it’s very difficult to buy 50+ of a single coupon, let alone 1,500+ Complete INSERTS!
Most newspapers come with a couple inserts at best. It’s possible that your friends and family may save them for you, it’s also possible that you purchase 10 papers or so each week, but to receive the number of full inserts that they stated they used on the show, one would have to have MAJOR connections or be dumpster diving in the back of the newspaper printing office (illegal in every state that we know of).
Store Coupon Policies:
Most stores have limits on coupons which can include the following:
- how many coupons you can use- some stores won’t allow over 40 coupons at a time. So in order to use all of these coupons, you literally have to go out of the store, put your purchases in the car and then back into the store and start all over.
- minimum purchase guidelines- some stores require that you have a minimum purchase amount AFTER the coupons, which means, you would be spending $25 or more out of pocket EACH transaction. (See previous limit)
- Stores limit how many coupons can be used on double or triple coupon days.
- Many stores don’t allow double or triple coupons at all.
Every store has it’s own coupon policy, actually, some larger chains have a corporate policy but in addition to that policy allow INDIVIDUAL store Managers to interpret that policy. Which means- Just because a large chain store accepts certain types of coupons doesn’t mean that your local store WILL.
Basic Coupon Rules & Etiquette
We all want to save money, but like everything in life, there are basic rules, common decency and Etiquette protocols to be followed when couponing!
- Store Cards– You’ve seen them, heck, the ignition on my car is ready to fall out from the weight of them on my keychain (which incidentally- it really CAN damage your ignition- an article I promise to delve into another day!) If the store policy is to have only 1 card per family, than that’s all you’re supposed to have. These so called “Extreme” couponers are creating multiple accounts in the family, signing up their spouse, kids, perhaps even fido or fluffy to gain a few extra bucks.
- IP’s – which means Internet Printables are only supposed to be printed twice. Yes, it is possible to trick the software at times, etc, but creating multiple accounts for the purpose of printing more than the allotted amount per household is generally frowned upon. IP’s have different redemption allowances which may include the following:
- 1 Per Transaction– which means 1 coupon can be used for your entire transaction (everything that you purchase at once)
- 1 per order (seen less frequently, see above)
- 1 per person– means exactly what it states, you can only use 1 – if your spouse wanted to use one, your spouse would have to go through the checkout line to use their OWN.
- 1 per Household– means your spouse CANT go through the line and use their own if you already did
- 1 per purchase– each item you buy is considered to be a “purchase”. One per purchase means you can use 1 coupon per item purchased.
- Unfortunately, many cashiers are NOT trained on basic coupon lingo and the transactions you see move so smoothly on Extreme Couponing is NOTHING like what you’ll likely experience in the store. This, to me, is probably the most egregious omission in the show. They neglect to mention the following things that you will most likely, at some point of coupon use, be forced to endure
- At some point you WILL have people who will roll their eyes you
- Cashiers will scrutinize your coupons, the dates, the amounts, the lingo
- Other customers who are frustrated at the amount of time they have to wait while you redeem your coupons, (no matter how perfectly organized you are!)
- Insensitive cashiers who will make you feel like a crook or thief for shopping smart and getting deep discounts- they may say things like, “You’re a thief”, “You’re committing coupon Fraud” (this one occurs when using IP’s- particularly if you choose to save ink and print the coupons in only black and white. You’ll more than likely have to be prepared to explain what verisign is and how it works. You may need to show the cashier that each coupon has it’s own unique id that prints.)
- Rude Comments (From customers, store managers who are ill advised as to their own coupon policies, ill-trained cashiers)
- Shelf Clearing- there is nothing more aggravating than taking the time to organize your coupons only to discover that someone has wiped out the entire stock of 40+ packages. No, folks, you really don’t need 100+ boxes of pasta, 90+ rolls of paper towels, or 60 bottles of laundry detergent all at once. Stockpiling is a wonderful thing- when done properly. This however, is not what good couponers consider to be stockpiling, this is what we consider to be hoarding- which is an issue in itself. It is common courtesy to purchase a few of an item, not to wipe out the store and assume they’ll restock- or to hope that those coming along behind you can get a raincheck.
Budget101 Bottom Line on Couponing: Coupons are an excellent resource if used properly. They’re wonderful for getting dirt cheap cleaners and paper products, frozen veggies, condiments and processed foods. While they’re becoming available more often, coupons for fresh fruit, produce and meat are still scarce.
Rather than fill your fridge and freezer with sodium laden processed foods in massive quantities, why not use coupons to reduce your household expenses on paper & cleaning products and use the savings to purchase Real foods – whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh veggies.
- Yes, You CAN Save hundreds of dollars per year by using coupons, if you use them properly.
- Using Store Savings Cards can & will save you money. Creating multiple accounts to beat the system = theft by deception.
- Using Coupons to stockpile 4-6 months worth of products that you use regularly when the sales & coupons permit is good shopping. Remember, sales typically run on a 12 week schedule. If you can’t remember what is on sale and during which month, check out these seasonal sales trends.
- Cutting thousands of coupons each week (like the folks on the show) takes considerable time and effort. The average family does not have this kind of time. Extreme Couponing like you’ve seen on tv is a full time job & requires considerable storage space. Couponing for decent savings only takes a couple hours a week.
- Ask you store for their coupon Policy & follow it to the best of your ability. Each time someone abuses the system, more rules and policies are put into place making it more and more difficult for the average family to save money.
- This show is based on very very EXTREME circumstances. I have NEVER seen a store accept coupons as easily as these in the show, it would appear that they had special provisions in place for them. I’ve personally been in stores that balked at 42 coupons and required me to not only break it down into small transactions, but to get back into line (at the END) for Each and Every transaction.
Please don’t begin your couponing experience thinking that this is a normal, every day occurrence, because It isn’t.
By the way, if you think you NEED coupons to spend under $250 a month on groceries, you may be surprised to learn you don’t. Here is one family’s grocery ventures for only $50 per week.