Extreme Couponing 101

There are so many people talking about "extreme couponing" ever since the TLC Network started a show with just that name, Extreme Couponing. I caught the couponing bug in November, just a few months back. It was before the show started though. I would like to give some feedback and tips from what I have learned regarding couponing. The shows, blogs etc make it all look so easy. I am sorry to say this but its not that easy. It takes work and time! I found that out right away. Here is what I have learned:

  • The people on the show and on the internet have to spend a lot of time and work to save money. You have to find ways to get extra newspapers for the coupon inserts (either buy extra papers, ask friends and family for their coupons, head to libraries and other places to see if you can score coupons from those papers or you can do some other alternative ways (dumpster diving etc). You will be spending money on papers and gas. You will also have to bring your kids with you or find a babysitter while you are out scoring your coupon inserts. You also can print coupons from the internet but will need lots of ink and paper for that. Oh and some companies put limits on how many internet coupons can be printed.
  • Ok, you got your papers and internet coupons, what's next? Well now you need to clip ALL the coupons. Yep, get those fingers flexed, its going to take awhile. Or you can not clip the coupons and keep them intact. But you will have to file the full inserts by date and source (Red Plum, P&G, Smart Source etc). So, stock up on lots of file folders. 
  • Now, you got your coupons all clipped or filed the full step? Go to a coupon diva site (there are tons out there) and see what they are talking about to do for "transaction savings scenarios". You pick whatever scenario you want according to what you are looking to buy or save on. Make sure you copy & paste the scenarios that you want and then print them! Because there is no way that you are going to remember which transactions to do first, which coupons to stack etc. So, again, stock up on printer ink and printer paper. 
  • Ok, you have your scenarios in hand, you are ready to run out the door... STOP!! You need to find all the coupons that are needed for your scenarios... so pull out the coupon file or coupon binder. Get what you need and organize them in order of the scenario transactions. Put your shoes on, grab your coat, get the kids (if you have kids) and rev up the car!!! 
  • You go to the first store on your list to do your first savings scenario transaction... you rumble through the store with your cart, kids in tow and you are so excited that you are almost drooling LOL. You frantically scan the aisle signs to find the products that you are looking for. Off you go to aisle 12 for the dish soap! As you turn the corner into aisle 12 you see 4 other women hovering around the dish soap....grrrr. You wait patiently for a few minutes then decide to go find other products on the list. Off you go to aisle 5 for the feminine products. You scan the aisle for the sales tags and find the right tag! Score!!!. As you look at the spot, they are all gone!! Oh no!! Out of stock!!
  • Ok you say to yourself, no big deal. You head off to the other aisles for the rest of the items. A few items you find and place in your cart. Some other items are out of stock or not the right scent/ingredients/flavor that you were looking for. You head back to aisle 12 for the dish soap and unfortunately there is only 1 lone bottle left on the shelf. You grab it like its a prized possession. Feeling good, you roll up to the front of the store, you get out your paper that has the scenario savings transactions on them and are eager to start. Upon glancing at the paper, you realize that 4 of the items in the scenarios you don't have. This will mess up the whole transaction scenario process. This will cause you to not save as much money as described or it might not save you any money. 
  • You decide to get rung up anyways. You produce your store savings card, your coupons and you smile as the cashier scans your goods. The total comes to $15.68 and your jaw drops, how can this be? It should have only come to $3.54!!! You ask the cashier to go over the costs of each item while the people in line behind you grunt and tap their feet. The cash register is right, the total is correct. What do you do? You hurriedly hand the cashier the money or debit card as thoughts are running through your head. You take your bags to the car, its snowing and you almost fall because you aren't paying attention. You are too busy thinking of what went wrong. 
  • In the car, you take out your receipt and the transaction scenario paper and compare the two. You realize that the items that were out of stock (prerequisites) were needed in order to save on the rest of the stuff . You also forgot to do separate transactions which is needed as well. So, you are miffed that you messed it up, spent more money than you planned to, went out in the snow for 5 items that cost $15.68 that you could have gotten for $8 at the store down the street...and you wouldn't need coupons, store cards, separate transactions etc. 
  • Driving home, you notice how quiet it is and realize that you forgot the kids at the store, yep they are still in the toy aisle!!! 

Think this won't happen? It can and has happened to others! Yes its funny to read but to go through this, its NOT funny. This has happened to quite a few women, well not the exact way but very similar. So, my advice to everyone, if you new to couponing, you need some prerequisites....which are:

  1. You must be organized
  2. You must have time every week to devote to couponing 
  3. You will need initial start up investment money (to buy and stock up on things that you will use in the future). You will be buying a lot of things for future use. So, if you have a limited budget and can only afford to buy what you need right now, then extreme couponing may not be for you.
  4. You must not get easily frustrated. You will be experiencing "out of stocks", "limited buys", internet coupons being denied by a store, rude cashiers, unhelpful managers, competitor extreme couponers and the weather. 
  5. If you plan to use a transaction savings scenario as recommended by coupon divas then be sure to do it EXACTLY as they say to do it. If you don't, then most likely you will not save the money that they state you will and you may spend more. If an item on the scenario is out of stock, then DO NOT do the scenario. Go home and focus on how to repair the scenario with another item if possible. Or you can go to another store in hopes that all of the items there are in stock. 
  6. Be aware that this easily becomes an obsession. You will be neglecting tasks, errands, household chores, family etc. In order to extreme coupon, it takes time as I said before, and you can't pick extra time off the magic time you will have to use the time that you once devoted to something else and use it now for couponing.
  7. You must not be a "brand princess". This means that if you only like one particular brand product then you will have a hard time finding steep savings for it. This is because many off brands or less expensive brands are the way to steep savings. So, if you refuse to try other brands then you will never be an extreme couponer. 
  8. Keep in mind the costs that are incurred when being an extreme couponer: gas, printer ink, printer paper, buying extra newspapers, extra wear and tear on your vehicle to travel to different stores, finding a babysitter and paying one so that you can shop in peace, buying file folders & other organizing products, the extra electricity you will be using for being on the computer longer and also for using the printer... I can list more but I will stop there. You have to factor in all these 8 facts when extreme couponing before you decide if its for you and if its worth the time and hassle.
I am not trying to be a party pooper but I wanted to get this out there to hopefully save someone their sanity and pocketbook before starting the extreme couponing journey.

From my experience with it, I have learned that in my life extreme couponing is not for me and I don't even have children. I also only work part time. It took up too much time and caused too much frustration. So, what I do now is what I call humble couponing. I use coupons but I do it at a pace that fits my life and I no longer travel to more than 2 stores. I do not have a coupon binder or tons of file folders (like I thought I was going to do in the beginning). I read a few websites for scenarios. Most of the time I don't bother printing the scenarios because its really not worth it. My "stockpile" doesn't consist of more than 3 or 4 of each product, sometimes less. Now I cringe when I hear the word "extreme", I wonder if it has caused post traumatic stress disorder?

I got burnt out in 2.5 months from extreme couponing. I have no idea how some of these women do it (and they have children!!). God put it upon my heart to calm down the coupon obsession. I have found other ways to save money with much less hassle and time. If you want to see how I am doing it then check out my new blog:

I just started the back to basics blog but I really enjoy it already. Its about living simple...getting out of the rat race as much as possible, living with less toxins and embracing what is important and slowly letting go of the rest.

No mo' extreme for me!


  1. Anonymous11:15 AM

    Hi Rena, thank you for that post! After, yesterday which was a long day, of printing coupons, which did use lots of paper and ink....and a long list of questions sent off to Mavis the Krazy Coupon Lady, I've resolved to save as much as possible at the usual stores I shop at. I do not have the time available that it takes to be on the computer or out running around town. In a way that may be foreign to some, we are home all day, everyday, doing school. The times that I have available for errands are usually late in the evenings and weekends- and I'm good with that. I like your term "humble couponer", it works very well for me, my word of the year is "humility". I've already discovered that much of humility is realizing my limitations. Your post was lovely, thank you again. Kimberly <><

  2. Some of those stories sound like things I've gone through before. :P Good post!

  3. EXTREME couponing! Wooo, sounds like a reality show! ;)

    I used to be a rabid couponer, when the kids were young. But I rarely use coupons anymore because I don't buy name brands anymore, and I rarely get packaged food. IF ONLY there were coupons for broccoli!

  4. I agree Becky, I wish there were coupons for produce!


I look forward to your comments!