Extreme Couponing for Newbies: 10 Basic Strategies
Epic stockpiles are the stuff of extreme couponing lore. In order to be a legend in the ever-growing couponing game, you must have a stockpile worth its salt.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of stockpiling, here’s a brief overview.
A stockpile consists of all the items a couponer has acquired by using coupons. Technically, a stockpile can just be a few items in a pantry, but it traditionally consists of hundreds or even thousands of products.
The most prolific stockpiles often take over entire garages or rooms. There are many examples where the stockpile has more items than the local market. Think 500 bottles of shampoo or 300 bags of pretzels (or much more).
So now that we’ve established what a stockpile is, the question becomes: How the heck do extreme couponers build their stockpiles without going broke?
The answer comes down to several different factors, which are broken down below:
The most important element to building a stockpile with coupons is dedication. Plain and simple. In order to execute the following strategies, extreme couponers make couponing a central part of their lifestyle. There is no other way.
In order to maximize their coupons and start building a stockpile, extreme couponers turn to elaborate organizational systems. Those systems typically start with a file cabinet of coupons that are sorted by product and date.
Any time extreme couponers get their hands on a new manufactured coupon booklet, they clip all of the coupons they want and sort them by product and date, before filing them.
The coupons that are going to be redeemed in an upcoming shopping trip are then transferred to a coupon binder or accordion for easy use while at the store.
This is just the beginning, however. Once the coupons have all been filed, the next step is to scan the circulars (the store sales brochures) and match the best sale prices with the best coupons in the file cabinet that are expiring soon. This part of the process is called stacking.
Stacking is when all discounts and coupons are combined to get the best possible price. Once the sales and manufactured coupons have been matched, the next step is to see if there are any store-specific coupons or catalinas (coupons that come at the end of a receipt) that might provide extra savings.
Finally, extreme couponers go online for even more potential discounts. Target, for example, has its own coupon app called Cartwheel that contains mobile coupons that can be added to any existing manufactured coupons or sale prices.
Store Loyalty Programs
Many stores offer incentives to encourage repeat customers. CVS for example often hands out 25% off coupons to people with a CVS Extra Care card and sometimes even gives ECBs (or Extra Care Bucks), which is basically just store credit.
By combining stacking with store loyalty program discounts, extreme couponers regularly bring the price of items down to just pennies or sometimes even free.
A lot of coupons are required to build up a large stockpile. Some extreme couponers go to great lengths to acquire their coupons. Many buy dozens of newspapers just for the coupons or ask their friends and family that aren’t couponers to give them all of their coupons.
The most aggressive extreme couponers will also buy or trade for coupons they want (there can be legal issues with this practice if not done very carefully). Many also find printable coupons online to add to their files.
Many stores only allow a certain number of coupons to be used at one time or have limits on the number of the same product that can be purchased using coupons in one trip. To get around this, couponers study their favorite stores’ couponing policies closely and go in prepared knowing exactly how much they can get at each store.
For example, if an extreme couponer has a large quantity of coupons for a particular hair color product and a store has a great deal going on for that hair color product, they will go to all of the locations of that store within a comfortable radius and buy as many hair color products as allowed at each location.
Need Doesn’t Matter
Extreme couponers don’t shop because they need something. Unlike the average consumer who tends to buy products when a need arises, extreme couponers rarely consider anything besides price when building their stockpiles.
If an opportunity to get Colgate toothpaste for 10 cents apiece arises, they will get as many as possible, regardless whether they actually need 100 tubes of Colgate toothpaste. This is the fundamental philosophy behind building a robust stockpile.
Not every cashier is educated on the store’s coupon policies and sometimes even the store manager might not entirely understand the store’s coupon policies. This can lead to problems when checking out, but real extreme couponers don’t let this deter them from sticking to their guns and demanding their coupons be accepted. They have studied every inch of the couponing policies, after all.
There are also instances where other customers give extreme couponers a hard time, because they are holding up the line. Those uncomfortable little confrontations are not nearly enough to slow down persistent extreme couponers, however.
Let’s face it … building a stockpile isn’t possible without the backing of the people who live with the extreme couponer. Between the time it takes and the space required to house the stockpile; there must be acceptance from the extreme couponer’s housemates for the process to work.
While not all extreme couponers make donations from their stockpiles, many do. It’s a great way for them to give back to the community and provide local shelters with free food, household items and more. It also allows them to help friends or family in need.