Oh, I’ve never had a complex about using coupons, nor have I understood people who think that using them in public is a sign of poverty. (Little known fact: frequent coupon users tend to be affluent, making $70k/year or more, which kind of raises the chicken and egg question, doesn’t it?) In fact, I’ve clipped coupons on and off throughout my life, just like my mom did and her mother before her, to save $0.25 here and $0.45 there. That’s the kind of couponing most of us think of when we turn up our noses and proclaim, “But I can save more by just buying the store or generic brand.”
If nothing else, TLC’s Extreme Couponing disproves that notion. The ladies and occasional gent featured on the show have ignited a couponing craze after viewers, including me, watched them take home literally thousands of dollars worth of groceries for less than the cost of a movie ticket. “Why,” the thinking goes, “if they can do it, so can I!”
Or, at least, that’s how I got hooked into serious couponing. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not racking up their kind of savings. I’d go so far as to say few people ever really do, and that even the people featured on the show don’t routinely score those kind of deals, either.
With cameras rolling prior to their trips, each and every one has confessed “I’ve never tried to make this big of haul before”, or some variation on that theme. The honest ones admit to using ‘extreme’ tactics to gather the hundreds of coupons they’ll be using on their trip, whether through buying up every copy of the Sunday paper in town or using coupon clipping service. One even went dumpster diving (with her kid and pregnant best friend, no less!) Yet another, Jaime Kirlew, went so far as to ask her store for an alphabetized list of every product they sell, and which aisle it’s located in, so she could prepare her coupons in advance. As to her “preparations”, well… let’s just say she’s been widely accused of coupon fraud, and it’s not the first time, either.
Point is: like many other people who tuned in, I’d hoped to walk out of the grocery store with cart after cart full of groceries, all for a mere $5. When that didn’t happen, my first instinct was to blame myself. Fortunately, my second instinct was to do some research on the matter and, like millions of other viewers, I came to the conclusion that this is just another ‘reality TV program’ that has very little to do with reality.
But I didn’t stop couponing. In fact, I’ve stuck with it and, through trial and error (and a couple of tricks I share below), I’m getting pretty good at it as you can see by the pictures of my receipts up there! So, without further ado, here are my five best tips for cutting your grocery bill with coupons… realistically:
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