247Moms Frugal Living Editor
As a long-time couponer and “Money-Saving Mentor, I have to take some exception with what is aired on the “Extreme Couponing” programs on TLC. Let’s begin with the programming schedule that sandwiches the couponers between “Hoarding” and “My Strange Addiction”.
There is a whole lot of “staging” that goes into the creation of each segment. Pertinent details are left out. What is included however, are lots eye-popping hauls of groceries for small amounts of money. In order to score these astounding receipts requires coupon policies not available to many regions in the country. In addition, these “Extreme Couponers” are usually not shopping for their weekly meals. For their television cameo, these couponers prepare to take home the most, for the least amount of cash.
“Extreme Couponing” can be inspiring and entertaining. The show has chosen an assortment of skilled coupon users. Each is a bit unique in their philosophies. I applaud those who give their loot to charities, including care packages to soldiers. However, when it comes to couponing, I have to express that TLC, being The Learning Channel, is missing a great opportunity to really help families in a time of rampant need in our country. Everyday, I am asked about the program- often from new couponers who want to know how they can get started. Here is what we can learn from “Extreme Couponing”:
1. Preparation Pays: Before you hit the store, know what you’re buying, the savings you expect to receive and have a few “Plan-B’s” ready. Expect a challenge in getting the deal and be prepared for it. If you plan to buy a whole lot of a particular product, ask to make a special order so that you know it’s available. Ordering also shows consideration; your haul does not eliminate others from getting their share of a great deal.
2. Organized – The Only Way to Coupon: Whether you use a series of envelopes, a coupon file or a binder – be organized. Couponing won’t be much fun or valuable if you’re always playing “lost and found” with your coupons. Be efficient and clutter-free – you’ll save time too!
3. A List Makes Things Go Smoothly: As you prepare, make a comprehensive list. The list should include the product, variety/size, sale price, promotions to be deducted, coupons you have and the “net” price you expect to pay. Especially for new couponers or couponers traveling with distractions, a list can help you stay on track. A good list reduces “after-receipt” surprises when you realize you’ve paid full price for something.
4. Networking is a Necessity: Make and maintain relationships with the store manager and all of the other store employees. There is valuable information to be gained when you take the time to get to know the store. Networking also includes other couponers, the websites of manufacturers, and resources in the community where you can give/gain assistance.
5. Enlist the Help of a Friend: Shopping as a team gives you the advantage of another set of eyes and ears on your side. Working together makes the “chore” parts more fun and the “saving” parts of couponing more of a celebration.
6. Cashier Friendly, Cash Out Consciously: Couponing can be more of an effort than shopping without coupons – however, don’t fall asleep or be irritable at the checkout counter. Watch the register for possible errors – theirs or yours. Maintain an attitude of “polite persistence”. (That includes those behind you in line – which you may want to let in front of you).
7. Sharing Pays Many Dividends: Just as those profiled on “Extreme Couponing” are inspiring you, pass along the love to others. Give graciously to those in need; give gifts from your stockpile to new babies and neighbors. Teach others to shop for the best deals. As you shop, practice “RAOCK’s” (Random Acts of Coupon Kindnesses”); give diaper coupons to moms and Polident coupons to the Grandmas! The store will be more fun to shop when those around you cheer you on and share in the money saving opportunities.
8. Love the Loved Ones: The couponing process takes time, energy and money. Be sure couponing is not eclipsing you from your family. Store away a few surprise goodies and give out lots of compliments when you’re supported. If you’re not, consider what motivates/concerns your family and find ways to address those through couponing.