Extreme Couponing. This Means War.

I’ve been hinting around this blog lately that I’ve been couponing.  My friends and family have been giving me their extra Sunday coupons and I have to say I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS SPORT.

Yes, couponing as sport.  It could happen.  It gets mighty tense in the store aisles when there aren’t any bargains left on the shelves or when the people behind you in line start sighing loudly because your damn coupon just won’t scan.  It’s competitive- just how early does one have to get up to make sure the item she wants is still there and not sold out?  It’s physical- my coupon binder weighs a TON and my hands are cramped from cutting all those coupons out.  And it’s mental- it’s all about the hunt to get the cheapest price.  I would love to see a show pitting coupon champs against each other trying to save the most money.  Throw these Mormon mommies in a store with their coupons and watch the blood run and the hair-pulling begin!

I haven’t become as bad as some of the people featured on the show “Extreme Couponing”.  I don’t have hundreds of boxes of cereal stockpiled (I have nine…) and I never buy anything that I wouldn’t use.  Seems a lot of people are doing just that- buying craploads of one item and reselling them on eBay or at flea markets.  Although tempting, I refrain.  If my family doesn’t use it, or I can’t donate it, I won’t buy it.   There’s no sense having 300 cans of cat food if you don’t have a cat.  Just saying.

Couponing isn’t just about clipping the coupons and using them before they expire.  Oh no.  Any extreme couponer will tell you how to maximize the value of the coupon so you receive the lowest price on brand name items.  Now I’m finding that I can get brand names cheaper than the store brands.  It’s all about the preparation.

First, find a website that matches up the weekly store circular ads to the coupons you’ve clipped.  My favorites (and I may regret telling some of you this) are The Krazy Coupon Lady and For the Mommas.  The brains behind these websites do all the work for you- they list the weekly store deals and let you know if there are any coupon match-ups, either from the Sunday paper or the internet.

On a side note, I had no idea the internet had so many coupon sources.  Even Target has it’s own coupon source, which is great because you can use Target coupons in conjunction with manufacturer’s coupons.  Suh-weet!

I’m fine with all the coupon prep.  I use a spreadsheet to list all the items in the various stores I’m interested in and the coupons I have (or need to print).  I usually shop at Walgreen’s, CVS, Target, Stop N Shop, Pathmark and King Kullen.  Rite Aid is too confusing (sorry Mia!) with all their UP! Rewards and the videos you need to watch before you can print out their deals.  I stay away from Walmart, too, mainly because I don’t like the clientele at my local store (there’s a REASON why there’s a website called People of Walmart) and their prices fluctuate too much across the country so what some people are getting a deal on in Utah or California, I can’t find the same price in New York.

Besides, Walgreen’s, CVS and Target all pay you to buy their items.  Why wouldn’t I want to shop there?  Extra Bucks, Register Rewards, Gift Cards- when I see these noted in the circulars it’s like I died and went to coupon heaven.

I’m usually ready to go to the stores on Wednesday, by the time my prep work is done.  Not only am I armed with my coupons, the circular and my store cards, I also have a detailed battle plan.  In order to maximize the savings, you can’t just buy everything in one big transaction.  It has to be carefully choreographed into smaller transactions so you can receive cash back (Extra Bucks, Register Rewards, etc) on the first items to pay for the next items in your transaction.  There is a time restraint in CVS- you can’t use the Extra Bucks for 24 hours (I think) but in Walgreen’s, you can use them immediately.  Last night Beena and I had a total of four transactions, using Register Rewards from the first sales to pay for the subsequent sales.

Whew.  It’s exhausting.  And this is where my stupid comes in…

I get extremely nervous the minute I step up to the register.  I don’t know, I feel like I’m doing something illegal, getting away with something.  I end up babbling to the clerk incoherently with the word “coupon” scattered here and there.  The last few times I’ve gone I managed to overlook a few crucial coupons because I put them down in the cart and forgot about them or some of the coupons didn’t scan causing me to break out in a sweat and start looking shifty and suspicious (in my mind, I’m sure).  Instead of asking for the manager, I defer to the mighty wisdom of the register and slink away.  All the organization going into the preparation is derailed by my chickenshit attitude and lack of organization in the store.

For example, these were the things I wanted at Walgreen’s, and this is how it went last night:

  • Kellogg’s cereal- buy 4/$10, get $5.00 Register Rewards (RR).  Use manufacturer’s coupon $1.00 off 3. Final price $1.00 each.
  • Coffee Mate was $1.50 each.  Use internet coupon for $0.55 each and $1.00/2 Walgreen’s coupon.  Final price $0.45 each.
  • Crayola Washable Markers- $2.00 each, get $2.00 RR.  This makes this item free!
  • U by Kotex pads and tampons- buy 2/$7.  Use (2) $1.00 off coupons and 2/$2.00 off Walgreen’s coupon.  Final price $1.50 each for 18 pack.
  • Crest Mouthwash- buy at $3.99, receive $1.00 RR.  Use $2.00 manufacturer coupon.  Final price $0.99.
  • Scope Mouthwash and Crest Toothpaste- buy 2/$6, receive $3.00 RR.  Use (2) $1.00 manufacturer coupons.  Final price $0.50 each.
  • Wisps- $1.99.  Use $0.50 manufacturer coupon.  Final price $1.49.
  • Goody Hair Clips- $2.00 each, get $2.00 RR.  Free!

Battle plan:

  • Purchase cereal, hair clips, markers, mouthwash and toothpaste first to get all the Register Rewards.
  • Next, purchase pads and tampons, coffee mate and wisps, use RR from previous transaction and pay practically nothing.
  • Beena purchases markers, hair clips, mouthwash and toothpaste for next trip to Walgreen’s.
  • Total for the night should be $45.98 (not including tax) minus $10.60 in coupons, which equals $35.38.   Take away the RR (not including the ones Beena accumulated) – $13.00- and my final outlay should have been $22.38, with $7.00 RR to use the next time.

The best laid battle plans often get blown up and shot down.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  I was totally frazzled at this point because we walked around looking for the Goody Hair Clips (they never got them in) and tried to figure out if the cereal were the right ones on sale.  Why don’t the stores mark things better?   I was trying to sort everything out on-line, when I ran into Mia and we started talking about how I broke her child (long story).  I was also letting the people behind me go first (in order not to piss them off) while corralling all the coupons together.  I cut Mia off probably in mid-sentence because it was our turn and all my coupons were scattered all over the place (sorry Mia 😦  ) and I grabbed the wrong set of markers and Beena started yelling at me and I started sweating and babbling to the clerk.  Needless to say I forgot to use the CoffeeMate coupons I printed and the Scope Mouthwash coupons wouldn’t take, even though the item and the coupon matched.

I need to get more organized in the store.  I’ve already decided to leave my pocketbook home and just take my wallet.  My binder comes with me no matter what, so I’m thinking I need to attach some clear pockets to the outside of the binder to stash the coupons in after I’ve selected the item in the store.  Maybe a few of them to represent the different transactions…

Maybe I’m sounding like a raving lunatic right now.

Lunatic, yes, but… I don’t have to buy mouthwash for a year.  The females in the household could probably go through menopause and not have to worry about running out of  feminine products.  (Dad, the Playtex sample that came to your house was NOT a sports bra…they were tampons.  Playtex makes those, too.  Thanks for letting us use your address.)  Toothpaste is stacking up like cord wood ready for a long winter and our family will not stink for quite a while thanks to all the deodorant we now have.

It’s crazy, yes, but totally worth it.  As I horde accumulate items, I don’t purchase them again until we’re down to two or three left.  I don’t even clip the coupons- I leave them for John’s family (we exchange).  Even the trips to the stores get cheaper and cheaper as I buy less and less and use more and more of the cash they’re giving back.  I envision next year just buying essentials- meat, produce, but not milk because I buy that on sale too and freeze it.

My grocery/personal care bill next year should be miniscule.  But only if I go into battle wearing full armor and an attitude.

And follow the battle plan.

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