Practical couponing

by lisacng / 17 comments / Read comments or add one!

One of the first blogs I subscribed to was Common Sense with Money. She’d post deals on CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens for free, or close-to-free, body wash, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc. The first time I went to a CVS, armed with the coupons she told me to bring and my CVS card, I was nervous. Would they really let me walk out of the store with these products for free? Indeed, they took my coupons, I got Extra Care Bucks, and essentially got products for free. The adrenaline from getting free products sure was awesome.

A few months later, TLC debuted Extreme Couponing and everyone, including me, thought they could save 99% at the supermarket. I ordered the Sunday paper (just one, ok?), I….can’t believe I’m about to admit this…please don’t judge…on recycling day, would casually walk around my neighborhood collecting coupons people had discarded so I could have multiples of coupons. I put the date on each coupon stack and put them in a binder. I also had an Excel sheet to keep track of each coupon in my binder — the source, the date, the product, and the expiration date. Every week I’d look at my local supermarket circular to see if I could match-up any of my coupons to their sale items. And of course, check Common Sense with Money for CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens deals.

BUT even with ALL that work, I NEVER saved anywhere close to 99% at the supermarket. I’d be lucky to save $0.99 on a single trip. So…wanting my life back and some sense of dignity, I decided that extreme couponing would never be for me, and I’d be happy being a “practical couponer”. So, here’s how I’m  practical couponing:

1. I only clip coupons that I’d actually use.

To be extreme, you gotta clip every coupon known to man because you never know exactly what’s going to be on sale. To be a practical couponer, save your energy and only cut coupons for products you’ll actually BUY and USE. Some products I wouldn’t buy even if they were free, such as Hot Pockets or Glade Sense-n-Spray. Nothing wrong with these products but I don’t eat Hot Pockets and I have a sensitive nose. Look at how small my coupon binder is now! It used to be as big as my recipe binder as shown for comparison below.

2. I no longer keep an Excel sheet but clip coupons weekly.

One reason I kept an Excel sheet was I had so many darn coupons. How would I possibly remember if I had a coupon for a sale item? And even if I remembered, where would it be? I wasn’t about to flip-through every single stack of coupons to look! Now that I’m a practical couponer, I spend about 30 to 60 min a week clipping coupons and putting them inside trader-cards sheets. When I put them in my binder, I am reminded of the coupons I have. And since I’m doing #1, I know if I see an item on sale, and it’s product I use, I know where a coupon might be.

3. The Sunday paper and the free paper delivered to my door are enough coupons.

Some extreme couponers go door-to-door asking for coupons. Some dumpster-dive. No joke. Saw it on an episode. And some, like me, just take them from their neighbors’ recycling bins. *Sigh* Anyways, being a practical couponer, I’m ok with just 1 or 2 of a certain coupon. The Sunday paper and the free paper are just fine with me. I don’t go to extra lengths to find duplicates. I don’t print coupons anymore unless I’m going to use them right away. I don’t want to waste paper and ink anymore.

If you’re interested, I’ll post next week on where and what I save-on most. If not, I’ll leave my couponing advice/experience at this :).

Do you coupon?
Got any couponing tips?
Other thoughts on couponing, extreme or practical?

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