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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#ExtremeCouponing ? -- Get Started Saving with Realistic Couponing

I don't watch TV (we don't get cable), so you might be surprised to know I have never seen Extreme Couponing, nor do I have much of a desire to. From what I have heard about the show, it exaggerates a lot of aspects of couponing and creates unrealistic expectations.

That said, it has created an increased interest in saving money, being frugal, and getting the most bang for your buck. If you've landed at Full Cart Full Wallet looking for a frugalista who has a stockpile of 500 ketchups, you're not going to find her. But, I can and will teach you how to coupon sensibly; how to live within your means; and make the most of what God has given you.

Realistic couponing means recognizing you can't do every deal and you don't need to hoard to excess. We should be good stewards of what has been given to us, and that means taking only what we need. I love that realistically couponing has allowed me to expand my ministry. We have had many people we have helped personally or through our church's food pantry that we couldn't afford to help prior to couponing.

Here are some basics to get you started: 

  1. Start by buying newspapers. Try a variety of different newspapers in your area so you can get to know which papers have the best coupons. Try not to let your excitement get the best of you--just buy a couple papers for now. My article, How Many Newspapers Should I Buy?, will help you decide how many papers are right for you. General rule of thumb: buy one paper for each family member.
  2. Choose one store in your area and get to know their coupon policy well. Keep a printed copy of their policy with you every time you shop. Use it to refresh your memory if a conflict arises, but don't wave it in the cashier's face. If there is not a printed coupon policy for your store, try emailing the company or talking to your local store manager to try and get a clearer picture of what your store's policy is.
  3. Begin organizing your coupons. I've discussed the coupon binder here. You might want to also check out the envelope method, the box method and the clipless method.
  4. Take baby steps. Find one deal you want to do at your store you're now familiar with. Try out that one deal and see how it goes. Iron out any kinks (misunderstandings of the coupon policy, organization of coupons at checkout, etc.) and then try another deal. The most important thing is to take it slow.
A lot of couponers have a love/hate relationship with Extreme Couponing. So which is it for you? Love or Hate? Both? Tell me what you like or dislike about the show in the comments below.

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