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The Three P’s of Extreme Couponing 101 – How to Save Money on Groceries & More

By David Bibby

goldfish crackersMy kids love Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. In fact, if it’s available, that’s the only snack they’ll go for. Recently, however, our house has been without Goldfish for several weeks. The reason? In my household, we do not pay full price for things if we can help it. A 6.6 oz bag of Goldfish normally costs between $1.89 and $2.25, depending on the store. But in the past, we’ve purchased Goldfish for 45 cents a bag or even free by using a coupon combined with a store sale. Therefore, we can’t stomach the thought of paying full price when another sale is just around the corner.

Not long ago, someone in my household had their hand slapped for spending $1.50 each on two 20oz. sodas. The horror!

All kidding aside, we are a family of extreme couponers. This means we spend 70-90% less on just about everything we buy, allowing more room in our budget for other important things. Extreme couponing has allowed us to pay off debt, have a cash Christmas, and live on one income as a family.

Anyone can get into extreme couponing. Like any learned skill or behavior, it does require a bit of information, some trial and error, and what I call the “Three P’s.”

The Three P’s of Extreme Couponing

1. Purpose

As I mentioned before, extreme couponing saves you money. Why go through the trouble of getting deals if you’re going to waste that money? Instead, have a purpose behind the savings. Your purpose should be your motivator to learn about, and implement, shopping for deals in this manner. You can pay down your debt with the savings, build an emergency fund, save for a purchase, or practice good stewardship by giving back to your community. A great example of this is Couponing to Disney, a site about using money saved via coupons and rebates to fund a Disney vacation for the whole family. What will you do with the money you save?

2. Planning

Planning is an important part of being an extreme couponer. It’s not just about getting good deals. An example of this is buying clothes on sale that are a size or two too big for your kids. They won’t use them now, but they will eventually grow into them. This is being proactive with your shopping. Buying things well before you need them will save you a lot of money. It will cost you more if you wait to buy something the moment you need it, because you will pay full price. Instead, when you hear the words “these don’t fit me” you’ll be able to go to your closet and say “try these on…”

It also pays to be proactive by planning ahead for birthdays. If you have school-age kids, they could be invited to 5 or more birthday parties this school year. You can plan ahead for this and buy toys on clearance, building yourself a small stockpile. If you noticed empty clearance shelves at Target this week, it’s because they marked toys down 75% and drew a crowd like you would see on Black Friday. Once you have your box of birthday gifts, have your son or daughter pick a toy they want to give to their friend and wrap it up. No last minute craziness necessary. If some of the toys don’t ever get picked, donate them to the Salvation Army. When you are picking up toys super cheap, you can afford to give them away. You could even regift unwanted items and add them to the pile.

Grocery shopping is one area where it really pays to do some planning. Sales come and go, but are usually on a 12 week cycle. If you see something you like coming up on sale, get as many coupons for that item as you can and buy enough to last 12 weeks. Seriously, when you can get Pepsi or Coke for 20 cents a can on average, buy a lot of it! You don’t have to stock for World War III, but just have enough on hand to last until the next sale. There are many websites, like Savings Angel, dedicated to letting you know when the next sales are coming, so you never have to guess.

With some good planning and research, your shopping trips will be radically different than they ever were before.

3. Patience

Occasionally, a product won’t be on sale when you want it. Should you wait longer or are your coupons going to expire? These situations will crop up from time to time. Sometimes, not having your pantry stocked with a particular item all the time (like Goldfish), brings back that specialness when you do get it again. The important thing to remember is that you always have choices. It’s okay to let a coupon expire unused if a sale never comes around. You can always get more coupons and there will always be another sale on a different day. If you must have something that you can’t get the best deal on, get one or two, but no more. It’s happened before that we’ve bought a large quantity of something at a good price, then a better sale came along the following week.

Most of all, be patient with yourself if you are new to extreme couponing. You don’t have to go after every deal that comes along. Take it slow. Start with a couple of deals a week, then add more as you become used to the process. Before you know it, you’ll be saving tons of money.

Do you have experience with extreme couponing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

David Bibby
David Bibby is 35 years old currently living in Palm Bay, FL with his wife Catherine and two daughters. David is a Christian, writer, and programmer. He became interested in personal finance at age 20 while working for a credit union. He owns and operates numerous websites on topics ranging from finances to marriage help. His latest project CouponFedFamily.com might be his most ambitious yet!

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  • http://www.dailydealpool.com Nora

    These are all great tips to use to save on something everybody needs – groceries and food. Another way to save is to keep an eye out for daily deal sites or group buying sites that offer coupons and discounts at your local grocery store.

    • David Bibby

      Thanks for the comment. No matter how you get the coupons…those little pieces of paper really save you a lot of money.

  • http://[email protected] Marc Chase

    I just saw a video on TLC about extreme couponing – Amazing what this lady saved. SO much so that I spent a couple hours looking into the whole thing but learned there is certainly a trick to it which I still haven’t figured out.

    • David Bibby

      It’s not so much as a “trick” as it is a new buying philosophy. For instance… when we started refusing to pay full price for all our items…we “found” ways to get it cheaper. As I stated in the article, the time to buy these items is when they are at the lowest price (on sale and with a coupon) and you buy a lot of them. Then you won’t have to pay full price for it later when you run out…because you never run out!

      Just recently… My family bought Mueller’s pasta (elbow macaroni, spaghetti, penne, and lasagna noodles) for FOUR CENTS A BOX! So they bought about 40 boxes. By the time we get close to running out of pasta, we’ll have found another sale by then.

  • Dawn Allcot

    Great tips, David! I’m not into food couponing (yet), but I do buy clothes in advance when they’re on clearance for my daughter and my son on the way.

    In fact, when Children’s Place had a sale on pajamas, I bought a bunch in sizes 2T (for now) and 3T (next Spring) for my daughter. I did not make that mistake for my son because infants grow so differently, it’s really hard to match seasons and sizes!

    I also keep a stock of toys that were on sale for birthday parties OR rainy days. :) (Okay, so if I give them to my daughter, I’m not saving money, but I’m preserving my sanity!)

  • David Bibby

    Dawn,

    Thank you for the comments. We used the extra toys (the one’s we don’t donate) as a gift box for the school store. Since we home-school the kids, we give them reward bucks (Bibby Bucks) when they complete a school day with enthusiasm. Some of the toys are worth 10 Bibby Bucks but we actually got it at the store on clearance for next to nothing.

    You can get real creative on what to do with all the free stuff you get.

  • Judy Poppe

    Hi David,

    I live in Palm Bay too. I was wondering do you know of any stores that still do the double cupon days in our area? Im just learning how to extreme cupon and its been sooo much fun! I went to walmart yesterday the total came to around 65 dallors and after all my cupons it was 22. something. I was sooo thrilled. Im hooked.
    Im unemployed livivng on unemployment so I have no money for any extras. Its so awesome to get things for free or next to nothing. Keep your great tips coming!
    Thanks,
    Judy

  • David Bibby

    Judy,

    Thanks you for the comments..I’m glad this is getting exciting for you. My wife still gets excited when the deals she puts together work at the register. Soon it won’t be 22 dollars you’re spending… but 22 cents!

    You can do it!

    The best part is… you don’t even need to have your coupons doubled. In fact.. with Store Sales, Store Coupons, and Manufacturers coupons… you can get most things for absolutely nothing. Making good use of Walgreens register rewareds and CVS extra care bucks.. that makes the items free to begin with… but then when you use coupons you turn free items into MONEY-MAKERS.

    Still… it would be fascinating for us to have our coupon’s doubled, but we have never had that happen to us. As far as I know, there isn’t any place in Florida that doubles coupons. I heard that on some weekends, Kmart will do it, but we’ve not seen any good deals we could put together there.

    Keep working at and you’ll find you’re saving a lot of money. Hopefully you find employment after some point to increase your income AND using your coupon know-how, you’ll be meeting all your financial goals too!

    Thanks!
    David

    • Sandygdmn

      Hello, my name is Sandy. There is a store named Harris Teeter on Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville Florida that doubles coupons EVERY DAY!!!!!!! They even have a few days a month where they will double up to $2.00 coupons. The rest of the time it is up to $.99. I hope this helps anyone in the northeast area of Florida.

    • Christine

      I am also like Judy, just starting, my big question is these people that are at the show take tons of coupons how do they get so many, and what happens when the coupons expire and you can not find a sale on that item????
      Thanks

  • Karissa Johnson

    I am getting ready to start couponing the next coming weekend. I am reading all the articles I can just to educate myself to make sure I am doing it right. I have a few good items lined up now, I am just waiting for the Sunday papers to come out so I can add to my coupons that I have now. Thanks for writing this it has helped me alot.

    Karissa

  • Anonymous

    Karissa,

    Thanks you for your comments! I’m glad you are finding the information you need and I hope your shopping trip is a big success!

  • Ealucido68

    Hi David, It seems i havent figured out how to get free toilet paper in my purchases. I will categorize myself as a level 3 beginner but I never seem to find a coupon large enough to walk out paying 0 or under a couple of bucks….I do wait for it to go on sale but still end up paying alot for it. any advise.

    • Smleepow

      The way to do it is to wait for the toilet paper to go on sale and combine with a deal and a coupon (CVS for example). You also don’t have to buy the biggest package to get the best deal.

  • Ealucido68

    Hi David, It seems i havent figured out how to get free toilet paper in my purchases. I will categorize myself as a level 3 beginner but I never seem to find a coupon large enough to walk out paying 0 or under a couple of bucks….I do wait for it to go on sale but still end up paying alot for it. any advise.

  • Smleepow

    Hi David, I am an avid follower on KCL. I have learned so much from them. They have a beginners area for people that don’t know alot about couponing and I have read their book. Wonderful!!! I will not buy something unless I absolutely need it if I don’t have a coupon for it now!! I started watching Extreme Couponing and then started couponing myself. I really don’t know some of the stores they go to becuase, alot of stuff they do, is not allowed with the policies and by the coupon fine print. I had to quit watching it and just follow KCL. I am going to check out your recommeneded sites also, thank you!

    • http://www.moneycrashers.com/author/davidbibby/ David Bibby | Money Crashers

      Smleepow,

      We follow Krazy Coupon Lady, How to Shop for Free, I Heart Publix, Who Said Nothing In Life is Free, and many others.

      In all honestly… the Extreme Couponing Show on TLC is horrendous.. It doesn’t really show what 95% of extreme couponers do… but they take the MOST EXTREME 5% who go nuts and now the public thinks this is what we do.

      In my family.. we don’t spend HOURS at the store.. we go in, we get the 2 or 3 deals we planned on getting.. and then we leave.

      We make many SMALL trips to grocery stores and pharmacies and we usually wind up making money instead of spending it.

      I’m glad that you are doing the research and making it work for you!

      Happy Couponing!

  • Godsgraceisenough5

    Hello, I can’t get the hang of this!? can you help me out and show me how I can do this? Where do i get the Coupons from and what do you get them from?? Thank you! :)

  • Meli_163

    I am new to couponing! I am really excited and it is something we as a family financially have to turn to. I am not sure how to get started. I understand how to get the coupons, but where do you find the ads from the stores and where do you go from there? Also what store have you found to be the best with savings and coupons? Like toothpaste, deodorant etc, I have seen where people do not pay anything for these items. How do you do that? Thank you for any help you can give me!

  • Steve Griswold

    Thanks. We used coupons everyday for a few years and saved so much money. It’s just hard now with so little time, but I would love to start again.

  • colleen Burnett

    hi, I leave in west orlando fl. I need to know what stores in this area that will except exetreme couponing, more than 3-5 coupons at a time. Publix’s and winn dixie says they do not except this kind of shopping only allow one at a time

  • Sharon D. Sanders Grice

    OK..I have a question..say I have a coupon for 50cents off closeup toothpaste..do I go in an buy just one tube for one coupon. Or do I get 3 tubes with the one coupon..someone told me you get several of the same items for ONE coupon..is that so?????? Please email me at [email protected] cause once I lose this I may never find this pg again..:-) thank you

  • sharon G

    Hi My daughter and have started couponing and we get some good deals but sometimes spend more than we save so we are still trying to get the hang of it..Where can you get multi coupons at one time
    . I have seen over 100 bottles of tide go out the door at one time.. Please help

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