What Is Extreme Couponing? How Can I Get Started?

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Extreme couponing. It’s the new catch phrase that’s hitting the television market like MAD. I was watching Dr. Phil on Oprah’s OWN channel and he had an entire episode dedicated to people who are saving big while cutting coupons. Some of their tips were a bit severe, but I took what I wanted to from the episode and applied it to my own life.

I actually enjoy cutting coupons and finding a good deal, so I started to put more effort into it. I’ve been tracking some of my purchases here.

Just in case you haven’t heard about extreme couponing, I thought I’d give you a quick rundown!! If you want to take this journey with me, start saving your inserts from your Sunday paper. You need them ALL.

WHAT IS EXTREME COUPONING?

To REALLY get into extreme couponing, you have to be willing to store items for a rainy day. You don’t buy shampoo when you NEED shampoo. You buy it when it’s on sale and then you stock up. That’s the point. In theory, if you buy shampoo with a coupon, you are doing a good thing. BUT if you buy shampoo with a coupon during a week when it’s buy 1 get 1 free — you are REALLY saving.

Timing is everything. You have to be patient and you have to work a little at getting organized.

extreme couponing binder

extreme couponing binder

EXTREME COUPONING ORGANIZATION:

Yesterday I went to Staples and purchased one of their “HUGE” binders. They are three times the size of a regular binder. I also picked up a pair of small scissors, a coupon plastic envelope, a hole puncher, a pad and a black marker. Staples’ HUGE binder has inside pockets so you can keep everything together.

EXTREME COUPONING TIME COMMITMENT:

To really get the true benefit of extreme couponing, you have to spend a little time looking through the circulars. Truthfully, it took me about an hour to work through CVS and Target. HOWEVER, the good news is there are PLENTY of sites that will do this for you. These women DO THE CIRCULARS so you don’t have to! I know a coupon blogger who pays $75 to someone just so they can write up those posts for her. They take a LONG time. Why not use the sites and save yourself  the effort? I did it because I wanted to understand the process a bit. Moving forward, I am going to lean on coupon bloggers for the flyer breakdowns. But truth be told, I did have fun searching out my extreme couponing deals.

LETTING GO OF BRAND LOYALTY WHILE EXTREME COUPONING:

Here’s the part that my husband is NOT going to be happy with. If you truly want to be successful with extreme couponing, you have to let go of your brand loyalty. I’m not saying you can’t continue to buy your favorite coffee beans or yogurt. If you TRULY LOVE IT – then of COURSE stick with it. HOWEVER, every other product has to now be opened to sales and coupons.

So, no more staples. CVS had a sale on Wisk this week. I bought it last night during my 10PM run. I got 2 Wisk HE detergents (32 loads) for $10 but then I also incorporated 2 $1 off coupons. In the end, I paid $4 each. If you look at the green box, you can save even more by purchasing $25 worth of items. CVS will give you $10 in extra bucks that you can use during your next purchase. This is how it begins to add up. So, why not buy 4 Wisks and some paper towels (with another coupon) and then get that $10 bucks for FREE. In the end, the second set of Wisk bottles were FREE because they gave you $10 towards a future purchase.

EXTREME COUPONING TIPS:

I can be a bit manic, so extreme couponing can get dangerous for me. I might one day come home with 56 tubes of Polident just because it was on sale! So, I’m taking deep breaths and I am TRULY only buying things that we need.

EXTREME COUPONING Tip 1: Don’t purchase things JUST BECAUSE they are on sale.

  • I’m not going to start buying potato chips because I can get them for a true bargain. That would defeat the purpose because then I will be spending more money than I would have if I was just shopping like a regular consumer.

EXTREME COUPONING Tip 2: Be smart about the timing of things.

  • We didn’t particularly NEED dish soap, but CVS was having a sale on Palmolive and I got 2 for free and one for $.49 because I used the right coupons during the right time. YES – I got 3 bottles of dish soap for $.49 – all because I was careful about when I used the coupons.

EXTREME COUPONING Tip 3: Don’t clip coupons out of the flyers when you get them.

  • Instead of making yourself a HUGE piles of coupons that you have to sort through, keep the coupons in their pamphlet form and punch holes in the paper. Store everything in your binder. This way you can easily flip through your coupons and cut them out when needed. Remove pages that have items you would NEVER EVER BUY – for me that was diapers, cover up, senior citizen items etc.

EXTREME COUPONING Tip 4: Shop AROUND

Here’s the thing with extreme couponing – you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You have to be able to go to a few stores to really see results. I’m not saying I’m going to drive to another town to find a Pathmark, but I am saying that I will hit up Walgreens, CVS and Target once a week if I get a big enough bargain on an item my family uses.

Every store has sales that are meant to draw customers in with the hopes that they will purchase other items. Well, that’s for the rest of the world. Don’t get suckered into full priced items just because you happened to be walking around Stop and Shop!! Buy what’s on sale and then go home. Everything will eventually be marked down. There’s no point in wasting your money – especially in this economy.

PHEW!! How was that? Not too painful right? Do what you can and save where it’s possible. That’s all I’m saying.

Let’s save together in 2011. That’s my mission. I want to see how much I can save by the end of the year. Again, if you want to play along, start saving those coupons from the newspaper. There are also a ton of sites where you can print coupons — here’s one to get you started.  And please check my Extreme Couponing section so you can see what I buy each week from CVS.

UPDATEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

I wanted to add a few more extreme couponing tips because so many people are trying to get started.

Where Do You Get Coupons from?

I buy 4 newspapers a week in order to clip coupons. I just started to do this a few weeks ago because I wanted to take advantage of multiple deals at once. When you only get one newspaper, you are limited to just one coupon. I spend about $2.50 on each newspaper, so that’s a $10 expense. BUT WORTH IT!

I get Newsday because I found it’s the best one available by me for extreme couponing.

Other Places To Get Coupons:

  • Ask your neighbors to save them for you
  • eBay
  • Drive around on recycle day and grab them – as per Extreme Couponing Show – I wouldn’t really do this
  • Dumpster Dive – as per Extreme Couponing Show – I wouldn’t really do this
  • Write to the company and request them
  • Facebook Fan companies and wait for them to offer some
  • The INTERNET! Once a day I post links to all the hottest coupons online. Yes, I do all the hard work for you.
  • Each store has store coupons specific just to their brand. Visit each individual site OR get their flyer.
  • Mobile Coupons – stores also offer mobile coupons and sits like CellFire and ShopKick have some as well
  • There are also coupon clipping services that are available. For example, if you want 100 Vitamin Water coupons, you can BUY them online. Handling fees are required.

Are those reality shows realistic? How do they save THAT MUCH MONEY?

Is it possible? Yes, it’s possible. HOWEVER, these people are extreme. Get it! They spend 40 hours a week planning trips like that and most admit that those $1000 for $.67 trips are a once in a lifetime sort of thing. Don’t aspire for that. Are you willing to give up your entire basement for some BBQ sauce?

Also NOTICE what they are buying. Do you really want 87 jars of honey mustard? Not really! Couponing for your family should never be THAT extreme.

It also really depends on where you live!! I live in NY and you better believe that those sort of deals don’t EXIST. Sure, I can get my bill down to HALF – and when I do, I’m jumping up and down. But it’s an $88 dollar bill brought down to around $40. NOT $800 down to $.50!! Be realistic. Don’t get disappointed if you don’t reach their level. You aren’t spending the 40 hours a week that they are. Remember that.

How can I start stockpiling?

You just do. As you can see, my stockpile focus mainly on cleaning and beauty supplies. I really don’t do food except when the pasta coupons come out because you can always get that for free.  Here is my mini stock pile. I don’t want it to take over my life. I want to save money for my family. When I see a good deal – I go for it! I don’t compare myself to anyone. I just try as hard as I can to save for my family. This also includes my extended family. My mother always comes over and gets stuff for her and my grandmother. Spread the love if you start doing this. Everyone can use the help.

For example, last week Wisk was on sale at Stop and Shop for $3.99. I had a $2 off coupon. Well, I had 4 of them since I get 4 newspapers. I went and I got them. Did I need detergent? NO! But for $1.99 – you better believe I’m going to buy it. Did I get it for FREE or did I make money on the sale? Was it truly extreme couponing? No. But I’m still happy with my bargain.

This stockpile was accumulated over 10 months. I buy about $40-70 worth of goods a week and spend under $5 for them. Slow and steady.

Which Stores Should I Use My Coupons In?

All of them. I will go to Walmart to buy 1 deal and then run to CVS to get another. I watch all sales. You can’t go to just one place anymore. If you really want to save, you have to go to where the sale is. Luckily, I live in a town that has EVERY STORE ON THE PLANET. Seriously. We have three MEGA MALLS within a mile from each other. It’s insane. So, it’s no big deal for me to head around and shop in different places.

Don’t go crazy and drive 50 miles for a sale. You have to count GAS in all of this.

Every Week I End Up Throwing Away So Many Unused Coupons!

Me too. I only use coupons when they are paired with a sale and really make sense. I used to be so upset about throwing them out – but now I realize it’s just part of the game.

And just a heads up, I heard there are government sites that actually take EXPIRED COUPONS for soldiers! I’ve been meaning to look this up because that is SO WONDERFUL.

But I Really Want To Coupon Like The People On Extreme Couponing!!!

I can’t help you with that. All I can do is show you every day what sales I think are worth your time. I hope you won’t get discouraged because it really IS worth your time. Saving money is ALWAYS worth your time.

Click here to check out my Deals and Steals Section to get started.

118 comments

  1. Sam

    I live in Canada but recently went over to the States to coupon. While I got a 45% savings with online coupons I would still like to do better. I am looking for tips on where to get coupons other than online…are there any newspapers that have the best coupons, or are there days that have the most? I am looking to come across again in November and will be couponing in Niagara falls, Buffallo, Erie PA and anywhere in between. Please help!

    • Jasmyn

      hey sam…I live in Ontario too, and we have recently started couponing here and we are now starting to venture into Buffalo and NF…do you have any tips??? J

  2. pennie huggins

    i would love to get started, but honestly don’t know how. i already clip coupons, but i want more. i was wondering if there was a way for literally, step by step instructions.

  3. Anonymous

    i once in a while watch the show extreme couponing and its actually very smart. i would like to start but i think it is a little ambarrasing but i want to do it. so can someone please help me get through it

  4. David

    You all realize this isn’t sustainable? The ROI on your time is less then a part time job and if everyone did it it would just drive up prices.

    • Not really David. In 2009 I saved over $52,000 using coupons and rebates. Let me be more clear, due to using coupons in conjunction with rebates, I made more than most people make with a full time job. It’s more than possible. I’m living proof. Oh, and I’ve been doing this for 14 years. So, yes. It’s sustainable. ;)

  5. Kris

    David – you realize the ROI on your taking the time to read this and then post a comment is pretty low as well. Get a grip dude. If we want to use our spare time to get a good deal for the hard earned money we bring in then that’s our right. Go watch some football.

    • Anonymous

      lol right on!! i bet these haters wouldnt be complaing if they could have 500$ worth of food and supplies for 5.00$

  6. I just started couponing a few weeks ago and it was driving me crazy trying to find them in my coupon divider and then I stumbled on to your website , I have all these coupons that I cut up already ,what do I do now keep them in ziplock baggies till next month and start over ?

    • Tekekwitha

      Go out and buy a really cheap binder. The bigger the better if you want to keep track of all your coupons at a glance. 3-hole punch the new circulars if you chose, but keep some 9 pocket (or any other size that fits your needs) coupon (baseball card) sleeve protectors in the binder as well for coupons that you cut immediately. I do NOT save the full circular & 3-hole punch it. I just have a binder w/MANY sleeve protectors in all different types (9-pocket, 8 pocket, 6-pocket, 4 postcard-pocket, 4 currency-pocket, 3 currency-pocket, 1-pocket [sheet protectors] sleeves & even a couple of 12- & 20-pocket sleeves for miniature coupons). If you chose to keep the circulars in tact until you need a specific coupon, it would likely still benefit you to get a few 9-pocket (cheapest you can buy) sleeves just to help keep track of the loose coupons you may get in the mail, from the blinkies @ the stores, etc. Hope this helps! =)

  7. Heather

    I just want to say thank you for making such a sensible blog about couponing. I just started watching the show “extreme couponing” and think it is really neat…but a little unrealistic at times. I am eager to start couponing…I am just getting going this week. Thank you for such a down to earth, easy to understand look at couponing Vera!

  8. Aaron Bethard

    I just wanted to add to the Coupons for soldiers section.

    I am in the air force and learned a little about couponing for saving money. Any Commisary (grocery store for the military) accepts coupons that have been expired but only for up to 6 months. That with tax free shopping can really help with couponing.

    So if you know anyone that is in the military and would like to donate coupons to them. Do it. We could always use a few more dollars and savings.

    Thanks for the tips and tricks.

    • Patty

      Just wanted to let you know of a website that I stubbled upon in regards to sending coupons to a military facility; the site is OCPnet.org There you will find in details how to send the coupons.

    • Armycouponmom

      I am married to a soldier in the US Army. We have two kids and I work part time as daycare in our location is expensive and Army daycare is very complicated to get into. I am hoping to get in the groove of major couponing to help offset our expenses further. However, after reading your entry, I tried using expired coupons at our commisary and was told by management that they do not accept expired coupons in my location. What’s worse, we live in Hawaii where cost of living is VERY high ($5 a gal for milk, etc) and they include on average 8-10 coupons total in the newspaper here. I am a little lost as to where to get coupons and inserts. Can anyone help with a little more specific instruction on this?? You can email me directly if you do not wish to publically post such instruction. Thanks!!!

      • Lindsey

        Hi there.
        I know how hard it is to get coupons when you’re just starting out! I currently live in Okinawa, Japan where my husband is stationed., I had NO idea where all the ladies where getting their coupons from! Well with a little googling I found a site, and a local group that collects, and receives coupons from Mainland States, and send them to Troops stationed overseas. No, even though Alaska and Hawaii are considered to be Overseas, unfortunatly they, like you mentioned, do not allow the expired coupons, like they do here. ….But I did some googling for you, and I found one site dedicated to those in Hawaii. And maybe with some more research, and questions to them, you can find where to get coupons in your area. Good luck!!! :-)
        http://hawaiishopaholics.com/archives/category/military-stores-coupon-policy

  9. Mainhia

    Thank you so much for keeping things realistic. I’m looking to save – not be a crazy couponer buying things irrelevant to what my family’s needs are. I enjoyed reading what you have on here. I will definitely be more in touch!

  10. You are right: in NY (in my case LI) 30 to 70% savings is more realistic. Today I bought 8 cans of Glade for fre but I will likely just drop the off at my church since I have no issue for them anyway.

  11. Amber

    Let me start by saying that you have one of the clearest explanations on how to start that I have found.
    You mentioned throwing away old/expired/unwanted coupons. Military families that live overseas can use coupons up to 6 months after they expire at base commissaries. I have been collecting coupons and shipping them overseas to 2 bases for the last year. I just went to http://www.commissaries.com and emailed a couple of the store directors and asked them if they could use the coupons. Some said yes, others said they already receive enough. I usually use a standard priority mail flat rate envelope and send what i have once a month or whenever I fill an envelope. If you use usps.com you get a discount on the postage price. Just remember, to think about the types of coupons you are sending. I don’t send coupons for alcohol (I don’t think they can use them), local items, store specific coupons (like target or walgreens) or items that military families can’t use.
    Now I’ve decided that since I cut the coupons out anyways I want to try and see if I can get some stuff for a good deal. If it’s stuff that I can use then great, but if not I want to be able to donate it cause there is always someone that can use it.

  12. ash

    I.m new to using coupons. Started watching the extreme couponers on TLC and decided to try it out and get more info. I came acoss an article where this woman describes how to use one coupon ment for a specific item on a different cheaper item. She paid just a few dollars for 800 dollars worth of P&G products. Theres a thousand comments on the article saying thats fraud. I dont really understand all the rules and want to know if this is okay or not? Here the article http://gomestic.com/homemaking/how-i-paid-just-36-00-for-800-worth-of-downey-tide-dawn-and-other-pg-products/

  13. ben

    how can i hire one of these remarkable ppl to shop for me. It is an art that would consume me so I’ll leave it to someone who’s already been bitten.Can you connect me?

  14. renee wardlow

    i am brand new with coupons. where do you get all your coupons, besides the sunday paper. can grocery stores send you the items that are on sale for the week/month if youask them to
    it would take a lot of computer ink to print off coupons all the time is there other ways. im brand new at watching extreme couponing.

  15. hey guys im living at south africa and i watched the show extreme couponing . i want to start but i dont even know if couponing is allowed in s.a .i dont know where to get coupons can you please hook me up

    am frm s.a can i coupon .is it allowed in every country

  16. Brandy Nicholas

    how do you know how many coupons you can use on any certain product? please let me know the girls at work and i are desperately wanting to know!

  17. Donna

    I recently started couponing. My binder is bulging, but I don’t find great deals. Where do you get store coupons. Walgreens has a coupon book, but it doesn’t coincide with the sales. The best I do is B1G1, where it might be $5.00 for one and I have only a dollar coupon. So I only save 25& I live in Rhode Island. Any tips?

  18. Donna

    Well that’s better than 25%, but my usual savings in a transaction is about that. I’m frustrated. When I get 10 for $10 I can never find a coupon for the item. Recently Manwich was 10 for $10. I searched high and low and couldn’t find a coupon it. I always get redirected to coupons.com. On most sites I am unable to print coupons. What’s up with that?

  19. heather

    Yes there is a place called coupons to troops that give u names of soldiers so u can send the old expired coupons! if you dont wanna send urs plz plz plz let me know! i will gladly send them for u! my email is sdmomof5@gmail.com

  20. Olympia

    i wuld like to learn how to couponing to help my family save money. if someone could help i would greatly appreciate it :D

  21. steve and christina thomas

    we live in waynesville, ohio and was wondering if there was anyone in this area who would be willing to come to our home and teach us how to extreme coupon, we would be willing to pay for the services. stevechris23@hotmail.com

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  23. Jennifer

    Military families in overseas locations can use coupons that are expired up to 6 months…not in the states though. I am an Army wife of 10 years and no stateside commissaries accept expired coupons, and Hawaii is considered stateside in this issue. We are currently stationed in Hawaii and it has certainly been a change to try to shop here. Our commissary has the cheapest prices, by far, over local stores. Produce is the worst priced and that is something you can’t coupon for. I tried local farmers markets, but I fear they are geared towards tourists, so they have higher prices than the commissary.

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  25. i live in elizabeth pa outside of pittsburg pa looking for a group or church thats has classes for beginners but had no luck maybe some of your couponers may live close to me,and could help me my eyesight isnt that great anymore thank you

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  29. Cami lyell

    Do u know if there is anything for Coleman al i want to get started. i have to kids and five dogs i have to take care of plus go to college and work