I actually remember when I was first introduced to coupons. I was 16, and my friend Sara and I were at the laundromat. There was a box full of coupon inserts that people could peruse while waiting for their whites. I'd never really 'seen' a coupon until then, because growing up my mother bought nothing name brand. Sara explained the seemingly simple process of how you give the cashier a coupon that matches up with the item you buy, and they take some money off your bill. Sara told me of her aunt, who used tons of coupons and saved tons of money. I took a coupon for Wrigley's gum from that box, in much the same way one buys a lottery ticket after hearing about a friend of a friend winning.
I shortly lost the coupon. I guess after that I figured extreme couponing was some fabled activity, and I hadn't consider it much since.
Until today, that is, when I went to an Extreme Couponing Class held by Arizona Republic (our major area newspaper.) After the demonstration ended, I left realizing extreme couponing isn't the mystical 'lottery game' it used to be. The demonstrator presented a unified method of how to locate the sales at stores and match them to coupons, how to collect and organize coupons, and how to stock up on items to last until the next sale cycle. She also shared with us how she personally shops, and gave tips and information that would allow anyone to do the same.
Finally, anyone could take on the intricate and obfuscated world of coupons and come out on top!
Part of this magic is in the promoted website, azsmartbuys.com. AZsmartbuys.com, the Arizona area site from Grocerysmarts.com, does all the homework for you, providing sales from area stores (think those with their own flyers) and coupon match ups with those sales, all with an excel table format with 'discount' ratings, list making and print options. This site is like talking to 8 great couponing friends, each with their favorite store to shop at, and being given the inside scoop on the best deals from each of them every week. By unifying all the information into one site, it takes almost no time to locate super sales.
The organization method offered during the class was simple. The website refers to coupons by which of the 3 coupon flyers they are in and the week they were sent out. By using a simple 3 folder system, one for each flyer type, all you do is stash the coupons. When the website says "use this coupon", you search just that flyer and clip away!
The aspect of stocking up for the sale cycles sounded like the hardest part, as space in a house is usually at a premium. However, it will save you money. By couponing on sales and buying enough to get you to the next sale, you save the most money per product. In explaining the concept to my S.O., I came up with this example:
Let's say at the start of the year you buy your favorite brand of peanut butter on sale with a coupon for just $0.25 a jar. You now have payed only $0.25 per jar for your favorite peanut butter! But then you eat it. If you only bought one, you now have to go to the store and buy more of your favorite peanut butter, but at full price, about $2.00. Well, $0.25+$2.00= $2.25 / 2 jars = $1.13 per jar. Your cost per jar just jumped by four! Now I, the non-couponer, go to the store knowing I can't store 3 months of peanut butter (though in truth, I would MAKE room for peanut butter) and I don't have any coupons. I buy two of the $1.25 jars of store-brand peanut butter, and average $1.25 per jar for the same number of jars. To summarize, this is what we pay:
Extreme Couponer - $ .25 per jar of favorite brand peanut butter
Couponer - $1.13 per jar of favorite brand peanut butter
Non-couponer - $1.25 per jar of store-brand peanut butter
So, while extreme couponing may not be for everyone, the math supports that if and when you get it working, you can have a lot of fun with extra money, surrounded by your super-affordable goodies. The only things you need are a source of coupons, storage space for stocking up on goods, and organization skills to keep track of your purchases (to make sure food doesn't go to waste). I won't be playing this game myself right now, as I cannot physically store the goods that make extreme couponing extreme, but I found the event entertaining and informational, and came away with some great ideas.
If your family uses packaged foods and goods, you should check this out. If your family uses a lot of name-brand and packaged foods and goods, you have to check this out. It will be worth your time. Free seminars are being regularly scheduled in the AZ area. Just go to AZsmartbuys.com, and click on your area to see if there are any upcoming events near you! The classes are free to you, and there are dozens of tips and tricks I learned that will aid even my not-so-extreme shopping. If you decide to jump into the Extreme Couponing, the AZ Republic is able to offer you, at these classes only, a special multi-paper subscription to get the multiple coupons.