Somehow, when my middle son, Alex was a wee fetus tap-dancing on my bladder, I was signed up with all of the formula companies to receive formula checks. These puppies were worth upwards of twenty bucks!

Considering I’d planned – and subsequently did – nurse the kid for a year, I was totally baffled by the coupons. It’s not like I’m particularly pro or anti formula feeding – I wouldn’t pull a PETA and throw balloons full of breastmilk at women who were formula feeding or anything – I’m neither that passionate about it nor would I have wasted the precious pumped milk I kept carefully stored in the fridge, then the deep freezer, because the kid ate. A LOT.

Anyway, those coupons (like the  got me a little hot and bothered in the same way finding an awesome new shower curtain) (mental note: find shower curtain) marked down 75% off does – I was saving MONEY on something I NEVER BOUGHT and oh EM GEE, the glory of it all!

I decided then that I would learn how to correctly cut coupons (like these awesome Vistaprint Coupons).

I’d always assumed that coupons were sort of a scam – I mean, I’d find myself cutting them, using them, only to realize I’d bought 76 bars of that soap that removes all oil from your skin and leaves you looking like a tree. I learned back then that there were a whole host of folks out there who did this coupon thing so hardcore that it made me and my piddly formula coupons look like child’s play.

I was going to BE! A! SMART! SHOPPER! I COULD TOTALLY DO THIS, I thought, AND PUT THEM ALL TO SHAME. But first, I need some kicky supplies. Off to The Target I went, armed with the notion that the next time I was there, they’d be PAYING me for my company and awesome couponing! I’d be a PRO at this shit! I mean, so what if I hadn’t slept in 95 days? I COULD BE A SAVVY SHOPPER.

I began going to my parents house under the guise of “visiting” so I could raid their Sunday papers and snitch the coupons. I mean, SAVING money by NOT buying a paper! I was winning at this ALREADY.

Carefully, with my new fancy scissors and my rad coupon binder, I began to cut out coupons for things I figured I’d need… eventually. I mean, EVERYONE needs thirty five bins of cornstarch! THICKENING STUFFS FOR THE WIN! I didn’t, of course, take into account that I used one tablespoon of cornstarch once every three months. I HAD A COUPON FOR A DOLLAR OFF TWO THINGIES OF CORNSTARCH!

And how could I forget the dog food? I could get a whole dollar off if I bought a completely different brand of food! So WHAT if that meant he’d decide to evacuate his bowels on my white (white!) carpet? A DOLLAR OFF! That was totally worth the piles of dog poo!

Except that half of the time I’d go up to the register, my cart full of crap I didn’t actually need, the coupons were expired and shit, the baby was screaming (again) and I didn’t want to be THAT person who demanded to remove all the items that were supposedly couponed.

Coupons: 1

Aunt Becky: 0

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t cut out (har-dee-har-har) to be a couponer. Not only was I too tired to be organized, the time I spent scouring the Internets for coupons I didn’t have the capacity to print could’ve been better spent, well, watching paint dry or grass grow. It’s not that I needed more practice, it’s that I SUCKED at trying to keep it all organized. I’d blame that on the squalling baby, but really, it was my problem.

Any way I cut it, I was NOT destined to be an extreme couponer.

With all of the things going on in my life, I realized that it was probably time to start really learning how to use coupons again. Half the reason I put that widget on my blog was to remind myself to actually learn to properly use coupons to save money. Without a dog to poo on my new white (white!) carpets or a squalling baby to keep me all night, every night, I anticipate that I can (probably) do a little better this time around.

Which is why I’m asking for your help, Pranksters. YES YOU.

Any advice or suggestions for about extreme couponing? What do I need to know? Where are my pants? Do you have a coupon for my pants?

————–

I’m going to combine what I learn over here, on my Life on the Frugal Side blog, where I keep tips and deals for living more frugally (mostly for myself since I lose stuff all the time).

If’n you have a good idea and want to write a guest post for the Frugal Side, don’t hesitate to email me becky.harks@gmail.com.

P.S. Sorry my site is so janked up – I’m trying some different stuff to see what looks good and apparently, I am NOT someone who should be doing that. Kinda like couponing. EXCEPT I WILL LEARN YOU, COUPONS.

Comments are love, or some bullshit like that. Either way, they make my heart happy. You should leave (or at least THINK about leaving) a comment and SUBSCRIBE to my RSS feed or I will send my Chicago "friends" after you, yo.

32 Responses to Exxxxtreme…Couponing?

  • Mayor Gia says:

    Coupons always best me. I can’t. just can’t.

  • Grace says:

    I dream of being one of those extreme couponers. Not happening anytime soon, but I TOO WILL LEARN!! I look forward to seeing what good advice you get.

  • Chelle says:

    Check out thekrazycouponlady.com. Everything you need to know is there, in addition to a list of almost all the coupons there are available at any given time in alphabetical order. I save a ton of money on things I do actually use. Well worth it.

  • swalumni says:

    I’m not “extreme” by any means but have a few tips:

    1) Those formula coupons can earn you money! Put them on eBay and watch them go. I sell formula coupons all the time and make like $10/mth. They were free in the first place, free to list, and that little extra adds up. Just be sure to charge the cost of a stamp for shipping.

    2) Refer to above and sell any other coupons on ebay that have a high dollar value or you have multiples of.

    3) Find out which stores do the following: double/triple coupons, rewards cards, and weekly circulars.

    4) Match coupons to ads. This will feel completely ridiculous at first with your 12 coupons from the paper and all you can get is dog food for an arthritic pup but you’ll get there.

    5) Find websites that show you which coupons to use at a certain store (i.e. http://wildforwags.com/).

    6) Start a coupon train. Get some friends to fill one envelope of coupons and mail it to each other. Replacing only what you take and sending it on. (Think: chain letter format)

    You totally got this. Didnt mean to go off on a rant but after I had to leave work to be a SAHM, I’ve learned some tricks. Good luck, AB!

  • Dawnie says:

    I always say I’ll use coupons, because why not, but then never do. They always expire before I need them. The best ones I use come from the check out line. You know, the ones that print out at a machine after your purchase. At least those are directly related to the items just purchased. I find most of my savings come from the discount cards for stores. I just look for products/brands on sale and compare to what I would have normally bought. That seems to work best for me.

  • Carol Anne
    Twitter: NJdreaming
    says:

    For us, there’s only 2 of us, coupons don’t work to our advantage. A lot of coupons want you to buy a larger size or multiples of a product. Before you actually use a coupon look at what size it is for and how many it is for. Most of the time you’ll end up spending more money than you need to just to get the coupon deal. For example, we don’t need 2,, 40oz bottles of ketchup and there’s just no reason to buy that 2nd bottle it only adds to the grocery bill. So I’d say sometimes the best use of coupons is to not use them.

    • Pete In Az says:

      On a related note:
      Make sure you are actually saving money with a coupon. I got a coupon for a dollar off a thing of butter. The butter was eight dollars.
      Eight -one = seven.
      On the other side of the store they had butter for five dollars.
      It only took me twenty minuted to figure out that 8>5, so I tossed the coupon and went back to the less expensive butter. When I got there I noticed the store brand was even cheaper, so I bought that.

  • melanie says:

    walgreens and CVS is where I always get the best deals, use their ads plus any coupons you have, taking care to take advantage of the spend $10 get $$ back and then the next week you use those money back coupons on their receipts with coupons from the paper to buy that weeks deals… I think I saw yesterday that walgreens has my laundry soap for $1.99/bottle… I have sucked all summer at clipping coupons, but the last time it was $1.99 I had .50 coupons so I was able to get like 4 bottles (smaller 33 load bottles but still) for $1.50 each… I have often noticed that many of the deals I get regularly (i.e. free toothpaste and mens deodorant) I can only use so much of… makes me mad that I cant seem to ever get my deodorant or shower supplies as inexpensively as the male versions (and I just cant bring myself to use “sport scent” body wash!)…. so I stock up when I see a really good deal and then sort of ignore the next deals until my husband uses up most of what I accumulated the last time. Feel free to email me if can help any other way

  • Delfin Joaquin Paris III
    Twitter: tfpHumorBlog
    says:

    I’m a dude, and as a dude, I have no idea what this post is about.

  • Linda Sand says:

    Most coupons are for the more expensive brands of stuff. Sometimes you can save more by just buying the store brands. But, I agree with the above poster who said Walgreens was the place to save the most. I was surprised to learn how many groceries my local Walgreens carries and what great deals they offered in their Sunday ads.

  • Vanessa says:

    Just last Thursday I sent my kids out to steal flyers from peoples yards. There was a $1.00 off coupon for toothpaste that was on sale for $1.37. We will have nice clean teeth for a while.

  • liz says:

    I agree with thekrazycouponlady.com but beware, she is pretty hard core. Find a local coupon blobs that talks about deals specific to ur area. You’ll find that they do all the work for you, including links for the printable coupons. I usually save about 50% on groceries and get a majority of toiletries for free or really cheap. I buy only what I use and stock up so I can go weeks with only buying essentials (milk, eggs, produce, etc.). I find that with the money I save, I can then splurge on stuff that we eat but don’t normally get coupons for. Baby steps and good luck! Email me if u have more questions :)

  • liz says:

    Oh and beware: selling coupons is illegal, but people get around it. Do ur research

  • Cindy DuBois says:

    Your coupon fail starts out the same way as mine. “But first, I need some kicky supplies. Off to The Target I went,.” We are already in the hole $7-10 bucks before we even cut the first coupon. It will take several weeks to repay the loss. But I do love the smell of new school/craft supplies in the morning.

  • Dana says:

    My suggestion is that you start slow and find an organizational tool that works well for you. I use 7 envelopes marked MEAT (my favorite), DAIRY, PERSONAL CARE, PACKAGED GOODS, PETS, CLEANING/LAUNDRY and PAPER. I have yet to find a local grocery store chain in Illinois that doubles coupons (it’s a CONSPIRACY).

    I do purchase the Sunday paper and I print coupons from coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com. I write out a shopping list and pull all relevant coupons for the items on my list.

    I also go through my coupons weekly to pull out all of the expired ones.

    With my minimal time investment (maybe 1 hr/week) I saved 8% on my grocery bill last week and didn’t buy anything I didn’t need.

  • The Mommy says:

    I can really only comment on two things: A) Only cut coupons for stuff you would normally buy or are planning to try – this should be obvious, but I’ve gotten sucked in by cute puppies and smiling babies before and ii) the best supplies for me were those baseball card sleeves that fit in a 3-ring binder. They’re clear and you can make the coupons fit and then see them at a glance. I also got a little crazy and bought tab dividers and labeled ‘em – food, home care, health&beauty, whatever. Yes, I actually have a tab labelled “whatever”.

  • Jackie says:

    Aunt Becky,
    I just dicovered your blog and I Love it. You are so funny then a couple lines later so moving. I was so knocked out by your post about becoming a mother, wow. You write so well.
    I’ve never been a coupon gal but I do careen around grocery stores seeking out the 10 for $10 and love some of the rewards like CVS extra bucks which actually work, just got 20 free prints and $7.50 off my bill and I only had to remember to keep the extra bucks coupon.

  • Ewokmama
    Twitter: ewokmama
    says:

    On the few occasions I’ve managed to get some coupons for things I actually buy and tuck them into my purse, I forget to use them!

  • Becky, I’m a Moderator over at weusecoupons.com – we’re one of the largest couponing forums on the Net.

    I want you to come over to the forums, read the articles about learning to coupon our members and staff have written, start looking at the coupon matchups for the stores you shop at, and get links to hundreds of coupons you can print from home. There’s also a lot of info on how to get organized – it is the #1 thing you have to conquer in order to be successful!

    Let me know if you have any questions; PM me over at weusecoupons; I’m the Moderator Mavourneen :) I’ll be happy to help you if I can!

  • killjoie says:

    I’m probably an ass, because I DON’T coupon. That’s one thing I decided long ago just doesn’t work for me. Coupons are generally for name brand items, and things I don’t often buy (like prepack meals/convenience foods). I do hit our local discount grocery stores (I know which one of the 3 is best for whatever I may need to stock up on that week. One’s great for bulk stuff, one’s awesome when I need cereal, and one’s good for staples, meat, and dairy.) and try to keep a running log of what I generally pay for stuff in my head. This way, if I see a good deal on something we use, I can pick it up.

    I also make a lot of our food (bread, yogurt, baby food, regular meals), but I swear I’m not some cracked-out hippie. I work full time, and wrangle a 7 month old. I try to do a few hours at a time on a day when my husband’s around so I can get things in the fridge/freezer to last us a little while. I totally recommend the book “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter”, by Jennifer Reese. She gives easy recipes, and tells you what’s a total pain in the ass to make/not worth the cost (butter) and what is way tastier when you do it yourself (and often cheaper.- like bread and peanut butter)

    Good luck, AB!!

  • Cristine Clarke says:

    Aunt Becky we are so in the same place in our lives…divorcing and couponing. I cannot keep a running list of what things should cost so I use the Price Book on this website http://www.wral.com/5onyourside/smartshopper/
    to let me know if I am paying too much coupon or no coupon

  • I have totally tried, and I always lose. LOSE LOSE LOSE. Coupons can go f themselves.

  • Melissa says:

    I do coupons ONLY if they are actually a better deal than the store brand. When it comes to stuff like eggs, bread, dairy etc. there is no beating Aldi’s or Sav-A-Lot prices, if you have those where you are. The trick really is to only take/print coupons for things that you will actually use, which is way easier nowadays with all the printable coupons out there. I have found that a lot of them expire faster than they used to, so I usually make a list first, go to http://www.sundaysaver.com (this website has links to flyers for a ton of stores), and then finally go to the coupon sites. It only actually takes about an hour a week, and it can make a big difference – especially if you have a local grocery store that matches ads. Oh, one more thing – make sure you have freezer storage bags or a vacuum sealer to store all the great deals you get on anything fresh.

  • Anna says:

    So I am pretty bad at couponing. I always either forget to bring them with me, or (more often) have them with me and forget to use them at the checkout. However, one thing that has been working for me are the coupons you put directly on your Dominick’s card. You go to their website and find the coupon area (I think it’s called “Just 4 U”). Then you register your Dominick’s card, and each week you go online and add the coupons you think you’ll use directly to your card. The best part is no coupons to remember – you just have to give over your Dominick’s card to be scanned at checkout, and the cashier always asks for it, so it’s foolproof! Good luck!

  • Elaine says:

    Since you shop at target a lot, do you have a redcard? They have credit and debit cards and will save you 5% every time. In Virginia, that pretty much covers the sales tax.

    Target also has coupons on their website. coupons.target.com. Check it out. I can usually find a few to use each trip. Also, if they total your order before you give them your coupons, they will open the order back up and give you cash for the coupons! That really feels like free money!

    • Elaine says:

      I forgot to mention – but most of target’s coupons are for their own brand. Up and Up, Archer Farms, etc.

  • tallymomma says:

    I use Totally Target.com for my Target deals. :)

  • If you have an iPhone (or I think it’s available on android as well) I recommend Checkout 51. It’s an app that gives you rebates on various products, and when you’ve accumulated $20, they’ll send you a check. All you do is upload pictures of your receipts. I only use it on things I was going to buy anyway. The good part is, they don’t care where you bought it, or if it was on sale already, or if you also used a coupon, as long as the receipt shows the name of th product and the date. I’ve bought juice at the Dollarama for a buck and gotten 50 cents back.

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