I started my coupon journey a little over a year ago now and I began as an "extreme couponer". Now what does that term mean exactly? I define an extreme couponer as one who gets 4-5 Sunday papers a week, shops at more than 3 stores per week, and spends at least 10 hours per week planning and executing :). I was drawn to the coupon world very quickly once I heard that it was a way to save a ton of money on my grocery bill. My husband had just graduated from college and we needed to pay off student loans asap and plan for the future. So I jumped in...head first! I was crazy, so crazy, that after about 2 months, I got burnt out and didn't coupon for the next 2 months! Talk about a crash course into coupons though! After my 2 month hiatus I decided to slowly get back into it, because after all, in my first month of couponing I spent $430 and saved a little over $1,000!!
I have a better system down now and I don't overwhelm myself anymore. I've always said that "couponing", or I like to call it "frugal living" is really a way of life. And just like with everything else, life can get in the way. Which means, you'll probably find yourself shopping like an extremist when you can, and other times just heading to Costco because you simply don't have time for anything else! I rarely couponed this entire summer because we were so busy working on our house. But no matter how you shop, you've just got to be smart about it in order to save money!
For me personally, I get a weekly newspaper subscription and one Sunday subscription for The Yakima Hereald. I price match at Walmart so I need those Wednesday ads delivered to me, saves me a lot of time! I will also try and grab between 1-4 Sunday Seattle Times newspapers per week. The lower my stockpile is getting, the more papers I will buy. I spend about $25/month on my newspapers. So is it worth it? Well, last week alone I spent about $60 on groceries/household items and saved around $250!! And that's just in one week. So to me, yes it's worth spending $25 and saving around $1,000 every month.
So how do I do it? I clip my coupons out every week and file them in my coupon box, which takes about 30-45 minutes. When you do this every week, it helps you remember what coupons you have. I do NOT keep every coupon. I only keep the ones my family would actually use. For example, I don't keep contact solution because I wouldn't even use if I got it for free. I go through the ads myself when they come out and circle the items I need as well as take out any coupons I have to match up. Then I'll quickly check a few blogs and see if I've missed anything spectacular. I'll spend about 1 - 3 hours clipping and planning, then I go shopping.
The biggest thing I do that has helped me become successful is that I take out cash to help me stay in my budget! I've found that with a family of 5, the lowest I'm comfortable spending a month on food/household items is $250/month (using coupons and price matching). But honestly, I like to have a full pantry and eat out (yes I add my eating out budget in with this), so I usually spend around $400. I have no idea if that's too much or too little, but it's what works for us. I have read that a family should be spending about $25/person/week on groceries. I'm very grateful just for the knowledge of knowing how to live on less in case anything were to happen to us financially. You just never know with this economy and it's good to be prepared in all aspects!
Overall, the more time you put into couponing, the more money you're going to save. It can take some time to get your own shopping style down, but it's worth it! I certainly can't complain, especially when I'm saving between $20 - $80 for every hour I put in! Want to start this too, check out my coupon 101 post!
Any questions or comments, please share below!