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

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My 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 currently lives 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.

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