I began using coupons in November, 2004. I was seven months pregnant with my Emma when I did my first coupon transaction at Walmart. My first coupon deal was buying Huggies diapers for 75% off and I thought it was the greatest thing on the face of the planet. It wasn’t long before I was using coupons heavily. If I could find a deal that had a coupon. I would use it, and most of the time I didn’t buy a deal unless I had a coupon. I didn’t get into stockpiling until several years later. My family and I went through a flood that caused our water to be shut off for almost 7 days. It was then that I realized that having very little food (i.e. no more than a couple of days of food stored) and no extra water could really put a family in a bad situation. So as soon as the water came back on, I began to build my stockpile. I would go to the store and buy 10, 15 or even more of a single item just because I needed to add it to my stockpile. Freebies were plentiful and couponing wasn’t as restrictive then as it is now. Before long, I had a very impressive stockpile that I could sit back and admire.
Somewhere along the way, though, I got burned out on couponing. I burned out bad. I actually stopped using coupons all together until late 2010. It happens to the best of us. No one said that couponing is easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a lot of work. It’s time-consuming and it can be mentally draining if you let it be. Add stockpiling to that and you’ve got a hobby that suddenly is creating a lot of stress for you. When I picked couponing back up in 2010, I picked it right back up at the pace I had been doing before. It also wasn’t long before I started to burn out again. It was then that I realized that there had to be a balance between not couponing at all and what is now known as “extreme couponing.” So one day I simply made a decision and I stopped extreme couponing.
Please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t say that I stopped using coupons. What I said was that I stopped extreme couponing. I used to go into Walmart and shopping alone would take me four hours with two of those hours spent at the register checking out. I am one of those people who has hit the line limit on the Walmart registers. If you’re not familiar with what that means a cash register can only take a certain amount of items in one transaction. Once you hit that number of items, the register will lock in force you to cash the transaction out. In the case of Walmart registers their line limit is 200 items in one transaction. I wasn’t done using my coupons when I hit it, so customer service cashed in my coupons for cash since the register wouldn’t take them. (Yes, this was valid. I had the items that I needed within the limits that I was given on the coupons, the register just wouldn’t allow anything else to be scanned period.) I would spend hours upon hours upon hours clipping and sorting and filing only to go to the store and spend hours upon hours shopping. Then I would come home and have to spend two or more hours putting it all away. It just became too much. It became too tiring.No one said that couponing is easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Click To Tweet
So I stopped practicing the extreme couponing principles. I stopped buying 30, 40, or even more of the same item. I stopped pre-ordering. I stop spending hours upon hours focusing on nothing more than coupons and deals. I stopped letting it run my life. I stopped letting it be a chore that I hated.
What I started to do was practice realistic couponing. Yes I like having a stockpile. My income is very unsteady sometimes and I like knowing that no matter what my family will be fed for a few months, however, the extreme couponing principle is not based on stockpiling for any realistic amount of time. It’s simply based on buying as much as possible for as little as possible. There is no rhyme or reason to why extreme coupon or shop the way they do, they have not set goal in mind (as in, they’re not stocking to have a year supply or a six-month supply or even a five-year supply). They are simply stocking to stock and a lot of the time are simply getting the deal just to get the deal. Realistic couponing, however, has a goal in mind. My goal is simply to feed my family for as little as possible. I like to keep a 3 to 6 month supply on hand. That way if my income tanks. I don’t have to worry about food and instead can focus my efforts elsewhere.Realistic couponers have a goal in mind on how much they want to stock and WHY they are stocking up. Click To Tweet
Take my most recent trip to Target, for example. In that trip, I saved 63.4% I paid $70 out-of-pocket for $193.76 worth of groceries. I bought strawberries, milk, peanut butter, eggs, cheese, bagels, cooking oil cereal, and more. The nine boxes of cereal that I bought will last my family approximately 3 months. The eggs will last us two weeks. The peanut butter three weeks, and the cooking oil, well, a couple of months. I spent an hour putting my list together and 45 minutes in the store. I did it all, quicker and more efficiently by using a more realistic couponing model than I would have had I still been trying to extreme coupon…and I STILL saved the same amount of money that I would have had I done that trip to the “extreme.” I could have stayed in that store doing transaction after transaction after transaction (my record was 15 different transactions in 1 shopping trip) and rolling gift cards over and over again, but I didn’t. Why? Because I don’t NEED 100 boxes of cereal. I don’t NEED 50 bottles of cooking oil. We don’t use oil very often and had I bought more than what I did? It would all be rancid before I even had a chance to use half of it. My more realistic 2 transactions took me less time, less frustration and still saved me a pretty good chunk of change.
Now let me ask you something…how tired are you of the extreme couponing game? If you’ve been doing it for any decent amount of time, I’d be willing to be you’re pretty tired of it. If you are, I’m going to suggest you give a more realistic couponing approach a try. If you aren’t sure how does get started, here are a few tips and:
- Realistic couponers have a goal in mind on how much they want to stock and WHY they are stocking up.
- Realistic couponers don’t buy in excess. The only by what they need to meet their goal.
- Realistic couponers don’t allow the coupon game to take over their life.
- Realistic couponers are okay when they don’t save as much as they would like to.
- Realistic couponers follow all store coupon policies and all coupon limits. The realistic coupon or has no need for coupon fraud because they’re not buying in excess.
- Realistic couponers don’t waste. Because they’re not buying more than they need or more than they can use, there is no waste.
- Realistic couponers realize that they don’t need to get every deal, every single time.
Realistic couponers are okay when they don’t save as much as they would like to. Click To Tweet
So have any of you given up the Extreme Couponing game like I did? If so, I’m curious as to what your own reasons are. I’d love for you to leave me a comment and let me know why!