Most of us have seen one or two ”Extreme Couponing” episodes on TLC; Where people are featured going on a huge, excessive shopping trip and getting over $300 worth of stuff for something between 20 cents and $1 after they apply their coupons. If you’re anything like me, you might have immediately thought, “I need to do that.” OR “How did I not know this was possible before?” OR “Think of all the hair products…”
Like any person whose mind is dulled by television, I forgot about my revelations; Until one day a family member posted a photo of some fresh-from-the-store merchandise (on Facebook) with the caption “I got $36 worth of stuff for 20 cents. #coupons #ifitsfreeitsforme” to which I thought retorted, “Oh, it’s on!”
After browsing a few popular coupon websites, I eagerly awaited my family’s sunday newspaper delivery. ”It will be brimming with coupon inserts,” they wrote. When Sunday came and went, I remembered that my dad stopped getting the newspaper delivered to the house about 8 years ago… ”No matter!” I thought. We still had a complimentary “Sunday Saver” with the Smart Source insert and the Red Plum insert (SS and RP for all you coupon lingo-ers). After combing through the pages for products and food I was interested in/stuff we use regularly I came up with two or three coupons. Not a good start, I must admit. But how was I going to save money if I bought things I didn’t need?
One find was a coupon for Tresemme “Buy one Get One Free.” Plus, the Shoprite circular listed Tresemme was one sale for $2.99! Two bottles of Tresemme for $3? Don’t mind if I do. ”My first deal!” I thought. “That wasn’t too bad.” Then I looked at the clock and realized I had been at it for about three hours and had to go to work.
“There has got to be an easier way,” I thought to myself. I searched the websites and blogs again. ”What is everyone’s secret?” I came to the conclusion that the secret is… (drumroll please) Every person who successfully “coupons” is a genius. Thats not even a joke! No, Seriously it’s not. The couponing world is filled with, “this insert and that insert”, “this website and that website”, “Catalinas”, “MFR Coupons” and more. Manufacturing coupons can only be combined with store coupons and store coupons can be methodically planned for with the previous purchase of products (but you better use coupons for those other products too or it won’t even be worth it). Each store has their own membership cards and their own website where you can go to watch videos and redeem more deals. CVS has something called “Extra Care bucks” which you receive when you buy a certain amount of an item or brand which can then be used as free money on future purchases at CVS. Target runs coupons that can only be used at target. Then there is the fine print. This coupon gives you a $1 off of one item and this coupon gives you $3 off but only if you buy three of the item! This coupon can only be applied once to one item but you use four of the same like coupons in one purchase. This coupon is not subject to doubling. This one says it can be redeemed at Walmart but since there is no Walmart logo, you can also use it at Cvs. ”Like, seriously!?” Can’t you just imagine me pouring over this information during my morning coffee and not understanding why I have a headache? I have a college degree (granted I graduated a Radio/TV/Film major but I am smart dammit, I have a minor in PHILOSOPHY ok!?) Oh geeze, maybe I am just over thinking!?
I won’t give up! I stuck it out and carefully planned my next attack at CVS. I would get $15 worth of Dove products and get $5 back. Then I would use my existing deodorant coupons on two sticks of degree and end up getting them for about 50 cents each. It was foolproof… and then I got to the store. All of the sales were different! I had been looking at the wrong circular. Dove soap wasn’t on sale anymore and neither was the deodorant I planned on getting. But I wasn’t about to back down. I scanned the aisles. The deal for spending $15 on dove and degree products and getting $5 back was still on. I grabbed some dove shampoo and conditioner, which was 2 for $6 (already $2 off per bottle) plus I had a Buy one Get One for $1.50 coupon. Then I got two sticks of degree for 2 for $8 (already $1.79 off per stick) plus my two coupons for 75 cents off of each one. But I still needed to spend a couple dollars more to get the $5 back. After exhausting all of the other options, I had to get two more bottles of dove hair products. (Because, of course the bars of soap weren’t included in the deal!) I ended up spending $14.40 on $31.54 worth of stuff. Plus I got the $5 off for my next purchase.
I used that $5 to strategically increase my “Extra Care Bucks.” After scoping the sales, I got $25 worth of stuff for $19 after my $5 off plus I got $9 back to save on my next purchase. Then, I went back to return a $10 tube of makeup that I ended up hating, which, I must say was pretty sneaky because I got to keep the $9 in extra bucks which means I got that whole order for free. Score!
But what have I really come away from my days as a “couponer” thinking… That I have enough hair products to wash my hair for two years.
But seriously, coupons are a very valuable resource. Now I won’t go on any big shopping trips without looking for coupons first. However, buying things just because there are coupons for them is the fault of most extreme couponers because the question is begged, “Would I even have bought that if I didn’t have a coupon?” Sure, there are ways to rig the system by getting things for free but there is also that fake feeling of savings when a box of crackers is 25 cents off when you buy two! (You don’t need two boxes of Ritz, they last literally forever.) Are the coupons really savings or are companies profiting from that false sense of savings? It isn’t an easy line to walk. On one hand you have a lifetime supply of shampoo and on the other you might be, “Getting swindled and pimped- Getting tricked by business.” Yeah I just quoted Macklemore, deal with it.