Amanda is a budget-conscious shopper and cook who likes to save time and money by using coupons and meal planning.
Why I Stopped Being That Person at the Store
I love love love to save money. It is probably my number one passion after my family. There is something so great about not paying full price for something. I get a "high" after I only pay pennies on the dollar for a product. Again, I love to save. But in loving to save money, I let my couponing get out of control.
I started couponing in 2013 after the TV show on TLC became really popular. I would drive an hour each way to get to a store that doubled coupons every day. Sounds crazy, right? Even though I drove two hours just to use a bunch of paper barcodes, I would save 80–90% off retail.
No lies here—I worked the system. I would do multiple transactions or go to different stores one right after the other to take advantage of the sale and my coupons. I was that person that I loved to hate—that person that saved so much money at the grocery store it was sickening but put so much time and effort into it that she was getting burnt out.
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I decided to stop extreme couponing in 2017. I was pregnant and so sick for most of my pregnancy that I did not have the energy to cut coupons and go to multiple stores in one day. It took me 15–20 hours a week to do the level of extreme couponing I was trying to accomplish. I was officially burnt out!
Couponing without being Extreme
I still love saving money of course, but gone are the days of clipping paper coupons. So many stores have come into the digital age that it makes couponing to save money so much easier. Here's how to be a coupon queen without the paper and time commitment.
- Download your favorite stores' apps: my two favorite are CVS and Target. Why? Digital coupons—they are the lifeblood of my newfound couponing success. CVS specifically has many manufacturers' coupons inside their app that are the same or better than the paper versions. They also offer store coupons and percent-off discounts that can be used with manufacturers' coupons and Extra Bucks.
- Store Loyalty Programs: Continuing with CVS (it is similar with Walgreens and Rite-Aid), they have an amazing store loyalty program. It is called Extra Bucks. Extra Bucks are dollar-off rewards for buying certain products in the store as well as filling prescriptions. Oftentimes, you can view the ad on the app to see which products are on sale and offer Extra Bucks and save the digital coupon to your card straight from the ad. It's genius.
- Stack digital coupons, store rewards, and weekly ads for super savings without clipping a single paper coupon: The benefit of going all-digital is that you can do most things (like saving manufacturers' coupons and store coupons) straight from the ad. CVS, like most stores, directly advertises that there will be an extra store reward for buying a particular product. If you catch a sale with an added store reward (in this case, Extra Bucks), and there is a digital coupon, then you're in for a great deal! As a bonus, you don't have to hand the cashier any paper unless you have Extra Bucks from the last time you were in the store!
Be Realistic About the Stockpile You Keep
Once I was pregnant I knew that I couldn't keep a massive stockpile like I was used to doing. Instead, I took a step back and looked at what we really needed.
- Take note of what your family uses most: Things like deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper, and shampoo are at the top of my list to keep well-stocked. The faster your family goes through a product, the more often you need to purchase that product.
- Only purchase what your family will use: If they won't use it, donate it! I am a firm believer that if you just really want to get those 90 free bags of croutons, then be my guest. But are you going to eat them all before they are stale beyond belief? Probably not. Keep a few to eat and then donate the rest to the food bank, homeless shelter, or a women's home. They always appreciate donations! If you do eat salad more regularly than a rabbit does, then you may use all 90 bags. Just be realistic about everything you purchase and keep in your stockpile.
- Inventory Regularly: Believe it or not, shampoo does go bad. By regularly checking the expiration date you can avoid the runny shampoo that I've experienced in the past. Either rotate your inventory so your family grabs the oldest first or make bi-annual trips to charity to donate goods that are close to their expiration dates.
Being real with yourself about the time and effort it takes to be a true "extreme couponer" will save you the heartache of being overwhelmed and giving up. With the new all-digital platforms that stores offer and taking a hard look at what products your family uses, you too can be a coupon queen (but not extreme)!