Your family can get $1000s in free groceries every month.
You have probably heard anecdotal stories where people walk out of the grocery store with carts full of merchandise for just a few dollars. These coupon mavens are able to take advantage of sales, double up on coupon deals and save hundreds of dollars on every shopping trip. The good news is that these stories aren’t just urban legends. With the right strategy, you can also become a coupon expert and become a savings hero.
It all can be done, when you learn how to Extreme Coupon.
Below is our beginner’s guide that will walk you through every step of the extreme couponing process. Make sure to bookmark this page as a reference to view later, as you prepare your first grocery conquest.
Here’s what you can expect to learn:
- How to change your shopping mentality to a savings mentality
- How to find the coupons Extreme Couponers use
- How to breeze through checkout by getting organized
- How to time your shopping to coincide with the best deals
- How to master the couponing lingo used by Extreme Couponers
- Learn the store policies that will enable you to extreme coupon
- How to apply coupons during the checkout process
- How to build and manage your stockpile of free groceries
- How to continue to learn and hone your couponing skills
- How to share this craft with your friends and family
Step 1: Save Money by Changing the Way You Shop
The first step to taking full advantage of coupons is to change the way you think about shopping. For years, you have been employing your own shopping strategies, but it is time to break out of those old habits and embrace a whole new way of saving. Don’t be afraid of change. In this case, it is the start of something better that will ultimately improve your life. If you want to save money, you will have to say goodbye to:
- Endless grocery lists that don’t factor in prices
- Meal planning that doesn’t involve first taking a look at the store’s weekly ads
- Stocking up with massive shopping trips to wholesale clubs
- Late afternoon trips to the grocery store
You will be replacing these habits with:
- Visits to several different stores in order to maximize savings
- Meal planning that is based on sales
- Using coupons while a product is on sale
- Stocking up on products while they are cheap
These simple adjustments can make a huge difference at the checkout and that is just the beginning. Keep reading for even more tips that will have you skipping through the aisles.
Step 2: Find the Coupons: It is Easier Than You Think
If you haven’t used coupons in the past, it is all too easy to simply overlook them, but the truth is that they are everywhere. All you have to do is open your eyes.
The Sunday paper is still the best source for coupons. Every paper will include the same three inserts: Smart Source (SS), Proctor & Gamble (PG) and Red Plum (RP). In order to become a true master of couponing, you will want to secure two to four copies of each insert every Sunday. While that might sound a bit excessive, one of the best ways to save is by stocking up on items when they are available for cheap.
2. Printable Coupons
Ah, the internet! The perfect place to find great opportunities for saving, including printable coupons, which are steadily increasing in popularity. Part of the draw is that these coupons are essentially free. Sure, you will need a printer and some ink and paper, but there really isn’t a safer or easier way to find coupons for all the products you use and love.
3. Mobile Coupons
If you already spend a lot of time browsing through your phone, why not use that time to find mobile coupons? You can use apps like Ibotta, Cartwheel, Shopium and Checkout 51 to locate and download coupons directly to your phone. In some cases, these apps work by providing cash back after you have purchased a particular item.
Electronic coupons or eCoupons are a great way to enjoy additional savings at stores that already utilize loyalty cards. The idea is simple: all you have to do is visit the store’s website, register your membership card and choose from a long list of coupons that can be directly uploaded to your card. You don’t have to worry about physically clipping coupons. When the cashier swipes your card at checkout, all of your discounts will be automatically applied to your final amount.
Step 3: Get Organized and Save Time and Money at the Register
How can I keep all those little pieces of paper organized?
Another key to mastering the art of couponing is to stay organized. Not to worry. We have you covered when it comes to keeping track of all those little pieces of paper and making sure that you don’t lose out on an opportunity to save.
The Good Ole File Box
This tried and true method is still around for a reason: it works.
- Purchase a folder that comes with dividers and tabs so that you can separate your coupons.
- Collect all your coupon inserts and place them in your handy file folder.
Be sure to label each tab with the names and dates. That way, you can easily match up sales store sales with specific products and dates for extra savings.
The Binder Method
For those who are naturally a little type-A and tend towards organization in the first place, the binder method may not seem too extreme. It will take more time upfront to categorize everything, but it will make things much easier at the store.
Organize Coupons by Category for Quick Reference
Remember when you were a kid and you collected baseball cards in thick binders with plastic pages and pockets for each card? Well, now you are an adult and you can use that same binder to collect coupons. If you are willing to spend a few hours each week clipping coupons, and organizing them according to a table of contents, shopping will take on a whole new meaning for you. Retrieving the perfect coupon from its plastic sleeve can be surprisingly satisfying.
Once you have chosen your organizational method, clipped, downloaded, printed and categorized all your coupons, it is time for the real fun: learning exactly how to use them and maximize savings.
Step 4: Perfect Your Timing and Exponentially Increase Your Savings
Can I really save money with couponing? YES!
Now that you are armed and ready with your own personal coupon folder it is time to learn the next step to coupon success: timing.
1. Coordinate Coupons with Sales for Added Savings
Sure a coupon will provide you with some great savings if you just use it on its own, but imagine the possibilities if you wait until that item goes on sale. Suddenly, you are able to exponentially increase your savings just by waiting a few days.
2. Discover Stacking for Incredible Deals
Stacking is one of those key couponing terms that you need to insert into your vocabulary. It refers to the art of using a manufacturer coupon in conjunction with a store coupon: essentially stacking up on coupons. Many of the nation’s major retailers are more than happy to honor these discounts.
3. Double Coupons for Double the Savings
Be on the lookout for double coupons days at your favorite stores. Periodically, stores will actually double the face value of any coupon you present, turning 25 cents into 50 cents just by showing up. This is a rare a beautiful opportunity, so don’t pass it up with it comes along.
4. The Mother of All Savings: Capitalizing on the Perfect Storm
Once in a great while, the universe will come into perfect alignment and you will have the rare chance to enjoy triple savings. This is the stuff legends are made of. Imagine being able to combine a BOGO promotion with manufacturer coupon and an Ibotta offer. All those stories you heard about people actually being able to walk out of a store with free merchandise: this is how it happens. Pay attention and you could use timing to your advantage.
Step 5: The Coupon Lingo Dictionary: Become a Savvy Shopper
If you have friends who are avid couponers, or if you’ve spent any amount of time looking over couponing websites, you might have noticed speaking in a bizarre language that seems like English but nonetheless totally escapes you. What the heck is a “blinkie”? The term “peelie” might even sound weird out of context. Don’t worry, you aren’t going crazy. What you are seeing is the language spoken by the couponer. Read below to see their terminology explained!
$1.00/1, $2.00/2, etc. – This is an easy one, and means one dollar off of one item, two dollars off of two items and so on.
$1.00/2, $2.00/2, etc. – This means one dollar off of two items, two dollars off of two items, and so on. The purchase of two items is required to use these coupons, and you will not be able to redeem the coupon for half off of one item.
BOGO – This stands for “buy one, get one”, and means that you will, upon purchase of the featured item, receive another of the same item for free or at half price.
B1G1, B2G1 – Just another fancy way to write “buy one, get one.“ B1G1 means “buy one, get one.” B2G1 means “buy two, get one.”
Blinkie – If you have been to a store and seen those little boxes with blinking red lights attached to merchandise shelves, congratulations, you just found yourself a blinkie. These are machines that dispense manufacturer’s coupons at one-time intervals, and are placed near the items that the coupons relate to. These can be used almost anywhere, not just at the store you found the coupon at.
Catalina – Sometimes referred to as “CAT” machines, these are coupon printers that are located by the checkout register. They print out long collections of coupons that don’t look altogether dissimilar from regular receipts. these can be either manufacturer or store coupons, and are either advertised or generated based on a shopper’s buying patterns.
Coupon Insert – Smart Source (SS), Red Plum (RP) and Proctor and Gamble (PG) insert coupon circulars into the advertising section of your regular Sunday newspaper. These are invaluable money-saving coupons that totally justify you purchase two to four of the Sunday edition of your newspaper on a weekly basis, and are often simply called “inserts.”
Coupon – The very foundation of the couponing frenzy, these are notes from the store or manufacturer that offer savings on particular products to customers. They can be found anywhere and everywhere in newspapers, magazines, online, stores, smartphone apps and email!
Couponer – A person such as yourself that saves and uses coupons in stores. Welcome to the couponing movement!
Double Coupons – Many stores offer double coupons up to a certain value, usually up to fifty cents. The way this works is that if a store indeed does double coupons, then any coupon you have under fifty cents will be doubled in value. You won’t need to have two coupons for one item in these cases. Some stores do this on slower days such a Tuesday, whereas other stores might offer coupons physical “twice-the-value” coupons. Moreover, select stores might offer double coupons o a weekly basis and feature such circumstances in a weekly advertisement.
eCoupons – These are electronic coupons that can be to your smartphone or directly to your store loyalty card. Many smartphone apps allow you to pull up a coupon on your screen that you can show to your cashier. Coupons that are placed onto your loyalty card are automatically used when you check out, easy-peasy.
Extra Bucks – This is part of the CVS Rewards program, and was once referred to as “ECBs”. These print out according to a store’s weekly or monthly deals, and are produced when a purchaser buys an item featured in the promotion at the time. These are like the Catalina coupons, but they are printed at the bottom of your receipt.
EXP – the expiration date of a coupon.
Handling Fee – This is the amount a manufacturer reimburses a store for offering their coupon, and generally falls right around eight cents. The fee is used to pay a service for sorting, organizing and billing a manufacturer. When a store sorts the coupons themselves, they keep the handling fee.
MIR – This stands for “Mail-In-Rebate”, and refers to specials that must be redeemed via the mail. These are fairly old-school in the way of deals, and require you to send in your receipt and proof of purchase to receive the rebate.
MFR – An abbreviation of “manufacturer.”
Manufacturer Coupon – These are coupons produced by a manufacturer or a marketing company acting in the interest of a manufacturer. These coupons are created to compel shoppers to buy a given manufacturer’s products. When this coupon is used at a store, the manufacturer will reimburse that store for the total value of the coupon, and a handling fee which was mentioned above.
One Coupon Per Purchase – This means that you can only use one coupon per item, limiting you from using two coupons for one item.
One Coupon Per Transaction – This limits you to using only one of a certain coupon in a given transaction. You can ask that your visit be divided into separate transactions to work your way around this limitation if you have more than one of these coupons.
Peelie – These are manufacturer coupons that are pasted onto a product using an adhesive. They often refer to a wide selection of products, so it’s worth your time to read the fine print to see how you can get the best deal for your buck.
P&G – Say hello to Proctor and Gamble. As one of the largest manufacturers in the world, these guys own a number of brands including Bounty, Dawn, Gillette, Always and several other well-known names you have no doubt heard of. You’ll find their inserts in your Sunday newspaper.
Purchase – This is the act of buying an item. if you were to buy five products at the store, then you would have made five purchases.
Purchased-Based Coupon – These coupons offer a dollar amount off of a minimum dollar future purchase, and can often be used in addition to store or manufacturer coupons.
Raincheck – A written slip that a customer can request from a store in the event of an item being out of stock during a sale period. It guarantees that you can still purchase a product for the on sale price when it is back in stock, even if that given sale has ended. Rainchecks are offered at the customer service desk, and will sometimes limit the number of an item you can buy. They will often include an expiration date as well.
Rebate – A rebate is a refund for part or all of the amount paid for an item, and are sponsored by the store or a manufacturer. Rebates involve you mailing or emailing your proof of purchase, and then receiving your money in the mail later.
RR – This is a Walgreens rewards program, and stands for “Register Rewards.” very similar to Catalinas, Register Rewards are printed out at the register during purchase. These can’t be “rolled” like Catalinas, however.
Rolling Catalinas – This is the practice of spreading your purchase out into multiple transactions, using the Catalina coupons from the first transaction to help pay for your second, and then using the Catalinas from the second transaction to pay for the third and so on.
RP – Meet Red Plum. Part of Valassis Interactive, they offer coupons online and in newspaper inserts from a number of manufacturers.
SS – Smart Source, another friend of couponers the world over, is a marketing company similar to Red Plum. Their coupons can also be found in newspaper inserts and online. They are a part of the News America Marketing Company.
Stacking – This is the act of combining two promotions at the point of purchase.
Stacking Coupons – This refers to using both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same item in a transaction. Pretty much every store will let you do this, but only one manufacturer coupon can be used per item.
Stockpile – This is the basis of couponing, buying several of the same items while they are on sale so that you may use them in the future, thus adding to your inventory at home. For example you will always need toilet paper, so why not buy all the toilet paper while it’s on sale and save yourself tons of cash? Buy it and add it to your stockpile!
Store Coupon – Coupons created by the store to get you in the door and get you to buy a particular product. These can be found online, in your email, or in newspapers and can often be brought up on your smartphone or put on your store loyalty card. Stores receive no reimbursement for these coupons from manufacturers.
Transaction – A transaction is your entire purchase and payment.
Tear Pad – looking a lot like a post-it pad, this is a pad of manufacturer coupons found in a store, typically along the product isles. They can be used at any store.
WAGS – An abbreviation for Walgreens.
UPC – This is short for “Universal Product Code.” It’s the barcode found on products that is scanned at the register.
WYB – This means “when you buy,” and refers to a purchaser needing to bu
y more more than one of an item for a coupon to take effect.
Step 6: The Principles of Policy
You’ve learned to talk the talk and walk the walk, but you’ll find of that will be meaningless without a proper understanding of a store’s policies. To keep yourself from a frustrating situation in the middle of the checkout lane, there are some things you’ll want to do.
1. Choose Your Store Wisely for Better Deals
This whole couponing thing can seem a little daunting when you first start out. As you are getting comfortable with your new set of skills and knowledge, make it easier on yourself by getting familiar with just one store instead of taking them all on at once.
2. Find Your Store’s Policy and Learn the Loopholes
Now that you’ve found your target, find that sucker’s policy. Go to the store’s official website, and look for their coupon policy via the site’s search engine. Once you have found it, read and familiarize yourself with it.
3. Keep the Policy on You
Arm yourself with that newfound policy. It might just come in handy.
4. Get to Know the Boss for Insider Information
Go ahead and take the time to set up a meeting with the store’s management team. You’ll probably end up speaking to one or all of them eventually anyway, so you should get it out of the way now in a more friendly environment….as opposed to meeting them during a heated conversation with the store’s cashier.
Step 7: Your Checkout Strategy: How to Survive the Register
The checkout process can be daunting for even the most seasoned veterans of the couponing community, and especially nerve-racking for those just starting. If you follow this simple plan of action, you can alleviate a lot of the worry and stress!
1. Organization is the Key to Maximum Savings
Create a list of everything you are planning on buying before you leave the house. Include the prices and quantities for each item, and then separate everything into different lists for each transaction you plan on having.
2. Go at the Right Time and Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Crowds equal stress for you and the store’s staff. Going shopping in the early afternoon and morning, or late at night, will reduce that frantic feeling in your stomach as you are navigating the sales.
3. Corralling the Kids for an Enjoyable Shopping Experience
A large portion of couponers are moms trying to save money. If this is you, and you have to bring the little ones along, do it when they will cause the least fuss. Try going in the morning or just after their nap, as a cranky child can ruin your trip for everyone involved. Make sure to bring something to keep them entertained and to keep their tummies happy!
Step 8: Managing the Stockpile
If you are stockpiling while things are at the lowest price possible, you can avoid paying the regular price were you to run out of something and absolutely need to grab it. A little preparation can prevent you from ever running out of the essentials!
The Heart of Stockpiling and Why You Should Be Doing It
Have you ever bought a swimsuit in the fall, knowing you would use it in the summer? By purchasing it in the off-season, you easily saved sixty to seventy-five percent of what you would have spent if were to have bought it in the summer or spring. A little forethought left you with extra cash in your pocket. Use that mentality with your grocery shopping! Why wouldn’t you stock up on a few bottles of mayonnaise if you knew you would need them in the next few months? Why wouldn’t you buy all of the paper towels when they were at rock-bottom prices? By using the stockpiling method, you save yourself oodles of cash, and you’ll be infinitely better prepared in the home than you would be if you bought things on an as-needed basis.
Control your Spending and Listen to your Instincts
Be reasonable with your stockpiling habits. Buy the things you will use and the things that won’t spoil within a reasonable amount of time. You aren’t saving money if you are being wasteful with what you buy.
Step 9: Keeping the Equilibrium to Master Couponing
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the excitement of savings that you might feel like you need to take advantage of every super-sweet deal that is advertised. You may be tempted to scream from the rooftops, mad with couponing power. “I will go to all the places! I will buy all the things!” Don’t overdo it. You have to find a kind of balance to really take advantage of couponing.
Baby Steps Will Help You Become an Expert
Once again, learn the ins and outs of one store at a time. Start with the one that is closest to your homestead, the one you frequent the most often. It’s the easiest and most sensible way to begin!
The Circle of Sales: Staying on Top of the Best Deals
All sales tend to move in a cycle, so there is no need to rush into buying something right this second if you don’t really need it. Remember, it will be on sale again in just a matter of months.
Grab the Essentials and Don’t Waste Money
Buying something just because it is on sale defeats the purpose of smart couponing. Only get what you need and know you will use often.
Limit Your Trip
Set some goals for your shopping excursions. Give yourself a time limit, and figure out how to set that to a weekly schedule. Don’t let the sales control your time!
Enjoy Your Success
When you do it right, couponing becomes both a thrill of a hobby and a way of life. Remember to take some pleasure in the game and how great you’re getting at it!
Step 10: Share Your Success: Paying it Forward
There are multitudes of ways that couponing will enrich your life, and there are ways your triumphs can be shared with others!
Giving Back: How Couponing Can Help You Help Others
You don’t have to shop for yourself alone. If you have it in your budget, or you have enough extra in your stockpile to share, your local foodbank always appreciates donations. You don’t have to limit your goodwill to food either. If you find yourself with extra clothes, blankets, or other necessities, a number of organizations can use them to help those in need. You can help yourself, and your community through the power of savings.
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Spread Your Wisdom and Share the Wealth
While it is one thing to help someone by giving them what you have to offer, it is an entirely different and altogether better thing to show someone how to do it all on their own.
Couponing has the power to change your life, and by sharing what you have learned, it has the power to change other people’s lives as well. Don’t be stingy with your knowledge. Share it with the world!
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