The new show ‘Extreme Couponing’ on TLC has gotten a lot of attention lately, and I admit, I have watched a few episodes.
Extreme Couponing features individuals that are ‘gifted’ at the art of getting a good deal at the grocery store. No, not a good deal, but an unbelievable deal. I saw one shopper have a retail cost of $1800 for her items at the grocery store, and it was reduced to $103 after sales and coupons. Many others on the show have had similar success on their shopping trips. However, not all purchases seem to make any sense. For example, one woman bought 62 bottles of mustard, and her husband muttered ‘but I don’t even like mustard’.
How much mustard can one family use?
We are a family of 5, and we use maybe 2 bottles of mustard a year. Not to mention that when I do buy mustard, I always have a coupon and I buy it on sale, so it costs about a nickel. I have never run out of mustard, and I don’t have to worry about storing 61 bottles of mustard somewhere.
On the other hand, I do stockpile some items.
If I can buy an item for next to nothing (usually because I have a coupon and it is on sale), I will buy as many of that item as possible, within reason. Ideally, I only buy as much of that item as we will use until it goes on sale again. If the item is totally free, I will get as many as possible and donate what I won’t use. However, I refuse to buy just because I can. There are a lot of people out there that really need to get their groceries at a low price, and I can’t justify grabbing every last bottle of something when I don’t need it. Plus, I don’t have unlimited storage space, and if I am not going to use something, it is still a waste of money no matter how cheap it is.
Savvy Shopping, Or Hoarding?
When you see inside the homes of these extreme couponers, you will notice that shower stalls are stuffed floor to ceiling with toilet paper products, kids have toiletries stored under their beds, etc. Every spare inch of many of these homes are used like a pantry. One family had hundreds of boxes of cereal stored on shelves. Who can eat that much cereal? Instead of making room and shelving these items, these people should keep what can be reasonably eaten before the expiration date, and immediately take the rest to a food bank.
Many of the shoppers on Extreme Couponing are absolutely obsessed with grocery shopping, and couponing takes up a big part of their lives. Some people even involve their friends in their obsession. I saw one episode of Extreme Couponing where a woman had to call and ask 5 of her friends to come up to the store early on a Saturday morning because she misunderstood the terms of a ‘spend 50 dollars, get 10 dollars back’ deal. Each friend had to come up to the store and represent a fifty dollar transaction so the couponer could receive the ten dollar rebate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could ask my friends to get out of bed at 7:00 am on the weekend so I could save ten bucks.
Watching these episodes makes me wonder how much money these people could make if they put an equal amount of time, energy and planning into a job or home-based business. Saving money is great, but when so much effort (and space) is put into such an endeavor, it may not be as worthwhile as it seems.
My Approach To Grocery Shopping
Saving money is great and so is having food on hand. However, I don’t think saving money has to be a full-time job. I follow a more balanced approach to grocery shopping, which I developed when I became a stay at home mom. Since I was not actively earning money, I felt my job was to stretch my husband’s paycheck as far as it could go. The following are my tips for grocery shopping:
- Pay attention to prices. If you don’t know what an item normally costs, you won’t know a good deal when you see it.
- Pay attention to sales cycles. Learn how often items you usually buy go on sale.
- Scour the weekly grocery store ads
- Do not assume that an item on display is actually on sale. Quite often, the items at the end-caps are displayed that way to trick you into thinking they are on sale!
- Be willing to shop at more than one store. For instance, I buy a lot of health/beauty items at CVS because they have a lot of great deals. I have saved a ton of money buying many items at CVS instead of at the grocery store. Again, you gotta know your prices.
- Clip coupons, but only for items that you would normally buy. If a Sunday paper comes out that has a lot of coupons that you would use, go buy a couple extra copies of that paper to get the more coupons.
- If possible, do not be brand-loyal.
- Look at the per ounce price of items when you shop. Bigger is not always better. Also, if you buy a smaller item and use a coupon, it may cost next to nothing.
- Combine store sales with coupons.
- Stockpile items that are a great deal. Buy as many of that item as you will use until the next time it normally goes on sale.
As you can see, it takes time to become an expert shopper. You have to learn prices, figure out which stores offer the best deals on certain items, and more. However, the tips provided above allow for a balanced approach to grocery shopping. No, you won’t save 95 percent at the grocery store, but you also won’t have to treat your house like a giant pantry. Also, your friends will still like you and won’t avoid your phone calls. :)
So, do you use coupons? How much do you usually save at the grocery store? I have been off my game for a little while now, but ordinarily, I save between 45 and 55 percent. Even though I am not saving as much as some others, I am still happy with what I am able to bring home from the grocery store for the money. Also, if you are or know an extreme shopper, I would love to hear about it in the comment section!