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Contrary to Popular Belief I Am Not An Extreme Couponer

Thanks to J.D. of Get Rich Slowly I received a HUGE number of hits on Tuesday’s post titled I Am Not Stealing. In that post I mentioned that I do not consider myself to be an extreme couponer despite the fact that I can walk into a store with a wad of coupons and walk out with two or three bags worth of free items.

A few commenters said they disagreed with my classification of extreme couponers, so without further ado here are the reasons I don’t think I fit the category.
I watched the premiere episode of Extreme Couponing and in my humble opinion the individuals they interviewed were obsessed with clipping coupons and searching for sales. One woman confessed to canceling time with family and friends so that she could drive to nearby sales and another asked her child and pregnant friend to go dumpster diving in search of coupons. I don’t do anything like that.

At most I receive coupons from two newspapers. I buy one copy of the Sunday edition of the Washington Post and every so often my mother-in-law gives me her copy. I clip coupons on Sunday mornings while I eat cereal and watch Aarti Party or Cooking for Real on the Food Network. I also follow a number of blogs that list drugstore deals where I learn about additional coupons I can print from home.

I’ve never paid attention to the exact amount of time that I spend clipping coupons, looking through the circular and searching online for deals, but I’d estimate it’s less than thirty to forty minutes. I primarily shop for bargains at CVS and Rite Aid. There are two CVS stores and a Rite Aid within a mile of where I live. I do all of my bargain shopping on Sunday mornings, which is also the day I typically shop for groceries.

Because all of the stores are located so close to where I live and so close to one another I do not spend a significant amount of time driving from store to store. I circle the items I want on the circular, arrange my coupons by store and head out the door.

I try my best to shop for things that my family will use. My parents and grandmother are on limited incomes and I like picking up additional items so they won’t have to pay for them. I think it’s easier to give them something when I can tell them I got it for free. They are very proud individuals and somehow it’s easier to take something from me when I tell them I didn’t have to pay much for it.

I won’t allow myself to buy more than a certain number of free items at a time. I won’t, for example, purchase twenty tubes of toothpaste or fifty bottles of shampoo. I will buy only one or two of these items when they are free or practically free. If I already have a number of those items at home I simply won’t buy more. There is no sense in stocking the shelves of our home with a bunch of products we’ll never use. I am a minimalist and a clutter-free-fanatic at heart so I keep my bargain shopping to a minimum.

If I have a small stockpile of items left by the end of the year I’ll create gift baskets and give them away to friends, families, strangers and charities. It’s a great way to give back to those in need.

Since I started bargain shopping I have paid pennies on the dollar for just about every type of personal product available. I can’t remember the last time I paid full price or even close to full price for toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, dishwashing liquid, detergent, etc.

If you have drugstores in your area it’s not difficult to get items for free. There are a ton of blogs devoted to helping you shop, locate coupons and get great deals. I let those bloggers do all of the work for me. I match my coupons to their sale lists and buy stuff for next to nothing. I don’t shop for deals every week and if I’m not in the mood to go shopping I don’t.

The trick is not to become obsessed with bargain shopping and not to spend hours of your life trying to get great deals. There are many ways to spend your hours and days and I for one don’t want to waste time loading my shelves with products that will take me fifty years to use.

Anonymous

Sunday 30th of January 2011

I live in Canada where the kind of deals that allow you to get things FREE via coupons are just not permitted by law. Sigh.

BUT, although I agree that it is greedy, cluttering and downright silly to collect stuf you don't need simply because it's free, I wonder whether you could think about homeless shelters when offered more than you need or want. It won't apply to all products I'm sure, but for toiletries like soap, toothpaste and shampoo, I know that shelters really value donations of these products...

One Frugal Girl

Sunday 23rd of January 2011

@Sense - Thanks for all the coupon clipping kudos.

@me in millions - I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be a bargain hunter without those blogs. Thankfully with them I save a small fortune.

@Donna - No worries on providing the link I really enjoyed reading your post. I love giving away the extra products I don't need!

Donna Freedman

Thursday 20th of January 2011

I use coupon/rebate deals to get toiletries, OTC meds, vitamins and other products free or nearly so.I give away whatever I don't need. Previous/current recipients include family members, a struggling grad student, a tent city encampment, a social services agency and families for whom I anonymously buy Christmas presents (you can fill in the corners in the flat-rate shipping box with toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.).I'm not extreme. I think of it as stretching my dollars in a way that, you note, is not only perfecting legal but initiated by the store.I agree with Sense: Coupons are available to everyone. What we are doing is not against the law or even vaguely shady. Manufacturers wouldn't offer coupons if they lost money on the deal.I wrote a piece about coupon attitudes called "Don't hate the payer, hate the game." If it's kosher to post URLs, here it is:http://www.donnafreedman.com/2010/06/30/dont-hate-the-payer-hate-the-game/

me in millions

Wednesday 19th of January 2011

I agree. I use coupons and have gotten quite a bit of stuff for free, but I don't consider myself an extreme couponer either. I definitely pass over plenty of deals and I take someone else's work (love the blogs!) to find most of them. I really don't feel like I do a ton of work to coupon. And I like saving the money! It's such a rush :)

Sense

Wednesday 19th of January 2011

I don't think you could be categorized as an 'extreme couponer,' --what is the definition of that, even?!--but even if you were, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, what on Earth is so wrong with it? it boggles my mind that you'd even have to defend yourself like this!

The stores and manufacturers would discontinue the programs if they didn't turn a profit from it somehow--making money is their number one priority, after all. It isn't illegal, it isn't 'gaming the system', it is being smart about using your money. coupons are available to EVERYONE, they are not a secret.

Using coupons certainly doesn't give anyone the right to be rude to a someone, or bash someone who is being smarter about how they use their money. And employees of these stores should be expected to know the policies of their store and follow them, therefore easing the time spent dealing with any issues that arise. I don't think that couponers should just 'suck it up' when the employee (and sometimes, the store) is the one at fault, either. Yes, couponers are getting items for free, in exchange for matching up items and spending ~30 min. a week or so looking at the deals. THAT THE STORE OFFERED. it's not a five finger discount, yo! You can do that, too, so what, exactly, is the problem here?!

there. that's my 2 cents, with 2 more for free. :)p.s. not a couponer as i live in NZ, but i have gotten a free toothbrush or two back when i lived in the US.