Guest Blogger: The “Not-so-extreme-extreme-couponer”

Cathleen Green is a stay at home mom and a self-proclaimed Extreme Couponer-Extraordinaire. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting, she is always looking for the most cost effective choices with the best value. She lives in upstate NY with her daughter, Jasmine, and her husband, Chris.

I am a “not-so-extreme extreme- couponer.” Basically, what that means is that I extreme coupon but on a scaled down level that fits my family. I don’t have 2 years’ worth of toilet paper stockpiled in my house, but I do have a couple months’ worth.

I didn’t always use coupons and once I started, it didn’t always come easy.  It started about a year ago when we relocated upstate due to my husband’s job. We had weighed our options and based on a pay increase and the amount of money we would be saving in child care and expenses, we decided that I would be able to stay at home and be a housewife. One thing we didn’t take in account was the cost of living being higher, and we soon found that out in our first few weeks.

We were spending about $200 a week in groceries and it seemed like we still didn’t even have food in the house to eat. After 2 months of these horrendous shopping bills, as well as my dwindling bank account, I realized I really needed to make some changes and figure something out to save us money.

That was when I began the couponing process. I started out with just buying the Sunday paper and using the coupons in it. My 1st shopping trip was a disaster. It took forever and was a hassle and I didn’t really save all that much money to make it worth the while. I knew that I must’ve been doing something wrong because people would brag about cutting their bills in half, or even more!  So … I looked to the internet for answers. I came upon a blog that was called something like “couponing for Dummies” and it walked me through how to get the most ‘bang’ for my buck and gave all kinds of tips and pointers for starting out.

From there, I also found out that there are coupons EVERYWHERE! I get them from online websites such as:

Another HUGE source of coupons is Facebook. Companies use Facebook to try and attract new customers and also promote new products so many times they offer coupons and samples to people who “like” them.

Slowly, things began to click and all of a sudden, I was cutting my shopping bills by 60%. I also wasn’t stocking up on junk food and filling my cabinets with dozens of bottles of mustard (as seen on the Extreme Couponing show). I was able to get healthy foods and snacks to feed my family at a fraction of the cost as well as getting most of my health and beauty items for free.

So by now you are probably asking yourself, “But HOW does she do it??” Well, the secret for me is matching up your coupons to the store sales to get the lowest possible price. Most stores have sales that cycle every few weeks or every few months.  For example, the 3 big coffee creamers rotate being on sale; one week it may be International Delight, the next Baileys, and then Coffeemate, but they always cycle back around.

Sales also cycle around the seasons. The upcoming season we will see lots of candy on sales and then around November, we will see tons of baking sales. Last year, I was able to get 6 bags of flour for about $0.25 each while they normally can be anywhere from $1.50 to $5. I just took my last one down from the closet so I am ready to stock back up. I also shop for my meat in cycles. Meaning, when chicken is on sale for $1.99 a pound, I buy enough to last me to the next time it is on sale, which is usually about 3 weeks away. That way, I am only paying about $1.99/lb versus $2.59/ lb when it’s not on sale.

My other secret is my local  store. I shop at ShopRite and they do a lot to save their customers money. Some things include offering coupons online that you can send to your priceplus card:  they have a Family Rewards program that basically says spend $XX amount and earn different rewards such as coupons for money off of future shopping trips; they have a Baby Bucks program that for every $100 you spend on baby items, you get a $10 off your next shopping trip coupon, they have holiday promotions where you can earn free turkeys or hams just for spending a certain amount, and they also double manufacturer coupons.

The double coupons are what I like best. This is where you can oftentimes see free or super cheap items! One of my favorite examples is a $0.75 off coupon from Earthbound Farms and it comes out every Tuesday on their website. Most times their organic romaine hearts (3ct bag) go on sale for $2.50. After the doubled coupon, you are only paying $1 for organic lettuce! Also, their regular sized carrots in a bag are normally $0.99 so they turn out to be free! You really can’t go wrong with free organic produce!!

My advice to anyone starting out is to start slow and don’t get discouraged. It takes time to see the patterns in the stores and coupon releases. Also, find a coupon blog and follow it (one of my favorites that I still subscribe to is http://livingrichwithcoupons.com/ ), get a Facebook account if you don’t already have one so you can take advantage of the coupons, and lastly, sign up for an alternate email address that you can use to sign up on company websites so that they can send you coupons. I can say from personal experience that it is worth every minute that you invest into it. My weekly food bill is now about $30 – $50 a week and that includes meat, produce, k cups, etc.  I can’t ever imagine going back to not using coupons!

You can find Cathleen on WordPress http://mommacat06.wordpress.com/about/.