Not that long ago, I was coupon shopping and was waiting behind a coupon newbie at the register. She had lots of problems with her transactions and went from smiling and laughing, to total full-blown meltdown with sobbing and hysterics all in the course of a few minutes. While I’m always glad to see someone “see the light” of how much coupons can make a difference on your bottom line, this gal was not just struggling, but also making a huge scene worthy of a clip on reality TV.
The truth is, couponing is addictive. The “coupon high” as many call it is that you get from scoring really great deals is amazing, and it keeps you searching for the next opportunity. The key is not to let it rule your world. If you’re thinking about trying couponing out, or just getting going, here are a few tips to keep you from getting too carried away.
1. Easy Does It. While Extreme Couponing might make for big ratings on TV, in reality, it’s not for most people. What that TV show doesn’t show is the numerous hours that goes into the planning and the truth is, most of us just don’t have that kind of time. Instead, do what you can with the time you have, and be proud of your savings whatever they are — you’re still saving money which is a great thing!
2. Start Out Small. You don’t have to buy 10 cart loads on your first coupon adventure. The reality is that things go much smoother with smaller transactions. You’re less likely to forget coupons, and the cashier is less likely to make mistakes. It’s also easier to make sure all of your match ups and pricings are working properly. Very seldom do I buy large multi-cart orders. Instead my husband and I do smaller transactions where we can keep an eye on things and not totally piss off everyone in line behind us. You’ll have more success keeping things small scale until you get more comfortable.
3. No deal is worth extreme drama. I’ve seen couponers at the checkout go from calm to crazy in 30 seconds flat, and do everything from break down in tears to yell, scream and throw things at the cashier. Is getting a free razor or saving on shampoo really worth that? To quote my two year old’s favorite saying right now — ”No way!”. If things go a bit south at the register and your deal isn’t gonna work, the best thing to do is to gather your coupons and walk away.
Nearly all couponing has the clause of YMMV – or “your mileage may vary” which means that while this deal may have worked for me or for others, there is always a chance it might not work for you. It might be a bad coupon, a bad cashier, or a manager who doesn’t know store policies. Or maybe Saturn didn’t align with Jupiter properly before you left the house. Who the heck knows, but sometimes deals just don’t work. If it doesn’t work for you, just walk away. I’ve left cart loads at the cash register on more than one occasion for staff to put away, and then come back later for a different cashier or taken my business to a store that is more coupon friendly.
4. Don’t blow your budget. I’m a big supporter of stockpiling when you get a great price, but sometimes it does mean investing a little bit of money now for bigger savings down the road so that you don’t pay full price later. This newbie extreme couponer was buying 20 body washes, but told the cashier she wasn’t going to have money for food until she got paid later that week, including for formula–which she was totally out of. Yes, you want to stock up – but do so within the restrictions of your finances, and make sure your family’s immediate needs like food, shelter, formula and whatever are covered first. Don’t let your family or your kids go hungry to score a deal. Body wash can always wait –will always be more!
5. Stock up, but don’t hoard. Sometimes it is kind of ironic that the hoarding TV shows tend air after the extreme couponing episodes, isn’t it? The truth is, that unless you have some extreme medical condition that’s worth of a reality show by itself, you’re never gonna use 480 years worth of toilet paper by yourself. If you do score an amazing deal in quantities that you or your family could possibly never use — please consider sharing the wealth. There are so many people in need that can benefit from your smart shopping skills. We share and donate a LOT of purchases and it’s always been greatly appreciated!
6. Reality Means Stores Run Out. Ever gone to the store at opening on the first day of a big promotion only to have the already sold out? If a deal is REALLY hot, truthfully you probably won’t go to the store and find shelves, and shelves of the item available. Instead of having a meltdown in aisle 6 with your fist full of coupons, if a store is out, just merely go to customer service or grab a manager and ask for a rain check. You’ll still get the great price — it’ll just be a few days later when the craziness has died down and the inventory is back in stock.
7. A little manners go a long way. Unless you live in an enormous city with endless shopping options, chances are you’ll have to be able to return to a store again sometime in the future. If you don’t want to be totally banned (yes it does happen!) be sure to behave yourself and show some manners. Be nice to managers and cashiers even if things don’t go your way, and show respect and courtesy for other shoppers. That way you’ll be able to show your face again at their checkouts sometimes soon.