Less-than-Extreme Couponing

Let me take this opportunity to share a recently formed mild obsession. In March of this year, I had cable installed for the first time in my adult life.* During those first weeks of delirious normalcy and vegging, I happened to catch an in-progress marathon of Extreme Couponing on TLC. I had heard of the show but never seen it, so I folded laundry and half-watched in mild disinterest as the couple onscreen filled five grocery carts with piles of candy bars, hand soap, and pasta, among other things. When they got to the checkout and everything was rung up before coupons, the total came to around $600. As the unfortunate cashier began to scan hundreds of coupons, I mused to myself about what the final total would be. $100? Surely it couldn’t be any lower than $50. Imagine my surprise when the narrator announced that it was only $2.14.

Mesmerized, I watched in awe as story after story aired. Each extreme couponer had a different method, a different philosophy if you will, of organizing, stockpiling, and doing the shopping itself. But they all had one thing in common: they were getting stuff for free.

I have always had a deep and abiding love of free stuff, so of course I was immediately hooked. But it didn’t really seem plausible for me to try it at the time. I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Fast forward a few months, when my sister came for a visit. She revealed to me that she was itching to try couponing too, so we decided to give it a go. As with our prior experiments (which, incidentally, have included a disastrous attempt at candle-making, among other things), we took a scientific approach, which in this case meant taking copious notes and keeping detailed records of our trials. Day 1 of The Couponing Adventures of Jackie and Laura was only marginally successful, and Day 2 wasn’t much better. Though we’ve each continued with our own individual experiments and leave each other excited, dorky voicemails every time we get a particularly good deal or make a couponing breakthrough.

For instance, there was the day I spent 49 cents at CVS and got three candy bars and a pack of pantiliners. Or the day I bought Cover Girl mascara and lip gloss for under a dollar each (also CVS). Or the day I got Cottonelle 2-ply toilet paper for 20 cents per roll at Walgreen’s. Or the day I made money buying trial size Tide at Walmart.

I certainly haven’t figured out all the tricks yet. So far I have two coupon organizers: one standard size for clipped coupons and a large one that’s big enough to fit entire circulars and coupon inserts. I know I won’t be considered hardcore until I invest in one of those coupon binders with the baseball card holders. Or I could throw all caution to the wind and invest in one of these bad boys. But I’m okay with taking things at my own pace.

There’s a lot of helpful websites out there that are of invaluable help to a couponing newbie like me. I use Coupon Mom the most often, because they make it easy to sort through the fluff and get straight to the awesome deals. When I have more time to paw through a massive amount of information, I like to visit Krazy Coupon Lady. I find that one a bit overwhelming at times, just because there’s SO MUCH to wade through. Though it can be worth it sometimes, because you can find some krazy deals on there that Coupon Mom doesn’t always have. I have a friend who swears by My City Mommy, though I haven’t been able to use that site, because they don’t have any Pennsylvania cities featured yet.

So yeah, couponing is fun, and I’m not very good at it yet. But I think I’ll get better with time. As long as it continues to hold my interest, that is.


*What I really mean is, my husband had cable installed. But for the purposes of this blog, and to feel better about myself, we’ll pretend it was my doing. It was really doubly his doing, because he’s the one that made the actual arrangements and also the one who finally landed a full-time job in the throes of a recession, making the celebratory cable installation possible in the first place.