Lately there has been a lot of buzz about "Extreme Couponing" - mostly thanks to the TLC program of the same name. Essentially, this refers to individuals who collect coupons like it is their job, using them to get massive quantities of food for free or for almost nothing at all - like, say, $800 worth of food for $30. It has faced an awful lot of criticism (because after all, who really NEEDS $800 of food? Doesn't keeping it all seem a little bit selfish?) Personally, I do not practice "extreme couponing" or even mildly extreme couponing, and I am of the opinion that a decent amount of "Extreme Couponers" actually donate or gift a lot of their free food to charity, shelters and the like (or at least I hope so). However, much can be said for casual couponing, which I do practice!
What is casual couponing (aside from a phrase that I just made up)? I'll explain it via comparison. Extreme Couponers collect coupons obsessively, running around town picking up Sunday papers and, in one extremely extreme case, fishing them out of dumpsters; casual couponers, on the other hand, only collect coupons that they happen to stumble across during a normal day. In the case of college students, many casual couponers find coupons in the daily school paper, plastered over bulletin boards or stacked upon "FREE TAKE ONE" tables in dorms. Extreme couponers stock up coupons for one item until they can get that item for free, without regard to what the item is exactly; casual couponers only use coupons for things that they were already intending to purchase, and ignore coupons for things that are not already on their grocery list. Extreme couponers save hundreds of dollars on massive purchases of grocery items; casual couponers save maybe $10 or so per grocery trip on a perfectly normal, average amount of groceries.
Both forms of couponng have their merits, and both can save you money. To read up on couponing in all forms, I recommend this awesome site: Grocery Coupon Guide/. But since I am a casual couponer, and I find that extreme couponing takes endless amounts of extra time, organization and effort (something which we college students are short on, let's face it) I highly recommend taking the casual route. So how do you coupon casually? It's easy! Here are some steps to get you started:
1. If you see a coupon for an item you need, clip it out and put it into a folder or container of some sort. Do this every time you see a relevant coupon.
2. When you need to go grocery shopping, take your little collection of coupons with you to the grocery store.
3. Make sure what you are purchasing matches up with the coupons (the right brands, the right amounts etc) if you want to use those coupons.
4. At the cash register, present your coupons to the cashier.
5. Watch your savings rack up! Score!
It hardly takes any extra effort, and because you're only collecting coupons for items you already purchase, you don't even have to think much about it. (Extreme couponing, on the other hand, involves math. Ew.) If you want to take it a step up, try collecting coupons online - there are tons! You can certaintly find coupons for items that you regularly purchase. Where can you find those coupons?
○ Try looking at your local grocery stores' website. Some, like Kroger, have coupons that you can load onto your shoppper's club card to be automatically used during your next purchase!
○ Some couponing websites have coupon databases, such as Coupons.com or SavingsLifestyle.com
○ Paid-To sites, such as MyPoints, SwagBucks, SendEarnings, and InboxDollars often have grocery coupons that you can print out - and as a bonus, you'll earn points/money on the site while you're saving money! (10 points per coupon at MyPoints and SwagBucks; $.10 at SendEarnings and InboxDollars). Please comment on the post with your email for an invite to MyPoints!
○ You can always write to your favorite food manufacturers to receive grocery coupons - that way you'll definitely have coupons for products you enjoy!
Have you had any success with couponing? Leave me a comment!