Making extreme bank with extreme couponing

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A stockpile of cleaning and hygiene products that was worth $450 but only cost the buyer $20. Extreme couponing allows users to get large amounts of products for little money. (Annmarie Moore)

Allie Erler stands in the grocery store, a binder full of coupons in her hands. The customers in the long line behind her begin to get frustrated as the cashier scans dozens of her coupons, making sure not to miss a single one. She watches the screen as the price falls further with each scan.

Clipping coupons and creating product stockpiles has turned into its own extreme sport, and Erler has the same goal as all extreme couponers: to get lots of product for as little money as possible.

“I do it because it’s fun, and I just get the joy out of getting free stuff from stores,” said Erler, a 23-year-old BYU–Idaho graduate from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “I also do it as kind of a stockpile. I feel like just having a great storage like that will help a lot in the future. The prophets have commanded us to have a storage, so I am doing just that.”

Extreme couponing was popularized by the hit TLC show “Extreme Couponing” that debuted at the end of 2010. People were amazed by the shoppers on TV and the amount of product they got for the small price they paid.

A Cascade manufacture coupon for $1.00 off makes this 97-cent dish detergent free. Extreme couponing isn't as difficult as it may seem. (Annmarie Moore)
A Cascade manufacture coupon for $1.00 off makes this 97-cent dish detergent free. Extreme couponing isn’t as difficult as it may seem. (Annmarie Moore)

Erler learned about couponing from the show and was so impressed that she wanted to teach herself how to do it. She went online, looked up extreme couponers’ blogs and started reading their how-to pages. She began buying newspapers and matching up deals on her own.

Couponing has a stigma of being only for penny-pinching old ladies who carry around binders full of coupons. But couponing and saving money can be for everyone, especially college students.

“I think couponing is very beneficial for college students because, let’s be honest, most college students are poor and they are budgeting,” Erler said. “Some of them are married, some of them are single, but regardless you have to budget your money. You don’t have enough money just to blow on shampoos and conditioners and toothpaste all the time. So why would you buy it full price if you can get it for free?”

Joanie Demer, creator of the blog “Krazy Coupon Lady,” said she believes couponing comes even easier for college students because of their familiarity with smart phones and technology.

“Not only does it set a great foundation for frugality; couponing is easiest for the tech savvy, thus well suited for the younger generation,” she said.

She suggested coupon apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51 as a great place for college students to start couponing.

Buying lots of product for little money sounds good, but how does one actually start extreme couponing? Erler said it’s as easy as starting to collect coupons, which come out every week in the Sunday paper.

This stockpile of personal care items and dozens of Lysol wipes is worth $325 but only cost the buyer $11. Extreme couponing helps you stock up and prepare for the future at a cheap price. (Annmarie Moore)
This stockpile of personal care items and dozens of Lysol wipes is worth $325 but only cost the buyer $11. Extreme couponing helps you stock up and prepare for the future at a cheap price. (Annmarie Moore)

It may take several weeks for a coupon to actually be used. It’s important to collect and save the coupons until there is a sale that will produce a good deal.

“A ‘krazy coupon lady’ never buys an item just because it’s on sale or she has a coupon,” Demer said. “She waits for the perfect storm when the sale and the coupon align.”

Blogs and websites such as The Krazy Coupon Lady, Living Rich With Coupons and My Litter are good resources for hopeful couponers. They will post when the sales are and when to best utilize the coupons.

“I would recommend going on Krazy Coupon Lady. She has an excellent blog that teaches you extreme couponing 101, and she also breaks down the stores and the deals that are happening every week,” Erler said. “Then from there you can start how to coupon, and then when you go into the stores, you can actually figure out your own deals by looking at the items and the coupons.”

A 2011 article from the Universe revealed some stores have limited the use of coupons and changed policies because of “unethical couponing.” But extreme couponing is still possible, and stores will continue to allow it if couponers follow correct policies.

Extreme couponing takes some practice, but those who are interested could be saving hundreds of dollars in no time and soon become that person holding up the grocery store line with a binder full of coupons.

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