First off, I want to define "extreme couponing". I say that phrase and the first thing people think of is purchasing 200 tubes of toothpaste for pennies in sales tax. That's not what I mean when I say extreme couponing. What I am referring to is simply the act of purchasing goods on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis using coupons to get a discount of 60-100% off retail - regardless of whether or not you need the item at the time in an effort to amass a stockpile (or home grocery store) containing goods that you may eventually use. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll buy 200 tubes of toothpaste at one time but you eventually might get there!
Next, a little personal history lesson. I started couponing a little here and there when my oldest was still a baby. We'd go through phases where money was slim and I wanted to make sure we always had enough food to eat and could use our cash to keep the electricity on. I did not have a huge stockpile - I had just enough to last a few weeks. Back then couponing resources were scarce and I honestly couldn't figure out how to go "hog wild" with it on my own. About 4 years ago many couponing blogs started popping up with bloggers who had mastered the art of "extreme couponing" and I started following. Within weeks... I had a good hang of it! I have now reached a point where many friends come to me with questions about sales or how to use a coupon. I have seemingly all the answers and I love being helpful! I have a huge stockpile that I'm sure could sustain my family a solid year (with the exception of fresh fruits, veggies and dairy items!) and even longer than that when it comes to hygienic products. But this is also why I am choosing to quit...
Time is of the essence. Couponing takes time.
A LOT of time and even more stress. Let me paint a picture:
There are several steps that come with being an extreme couponer.
1) you must search sale ads
2) you must search couponing blogs (and you'll want to search multiple ones because one might not have something another has found!)
3) you must locate coupons and store
4) you must organize coupons
5) you must eventually cut coupons
6) you must go to the store (which can be disappointing if some items you went for are out of stock, then you must go back another day!)
7) you must checkout with a stack of coupons and hope it all rings up correctly (stressful!)
8) you must bring it all home
9) you must carry it all inside
10) THEN you have to put it somewhere. You cannot just throw it down - it needs a place. You also have to make sure that you are rotating stock so that older items don't go bad while the newer items are being used. THIS TAKES A LONG TIME.
**And you get to do this routine for EVERY STORE YOU SHOP. Because it is hard to only shop at one store for deals when you know there are deals on different things at another store.
There is loads of stress and it's for multiple things.
1) Stress if you planned to get something that is out of stock - wasted time.
2) Stress at the register trying to make sure the prices rang up correctly and the coupon deducted the correct amount from the total - and there will almost ALWAYS be errors. And it's incredibly frustrating to know that you spent hours planning a trip to find out that you overpaid. GGrrrrr!!
3) Stress over organizing the stockpile - there is ALWAYS something to put away! ...at least it feels that way.
4) Stress over missing out on a good deal - because if you don't get there first then you might not get it.
5) Stress over finding out you spent too much when you decided to stock up and you punish yourself because you could have saved another $.70 if you would have just waited!! (but note that there is NO WAY that you can see the future, but still you punish yourself...)
Extreme couponing DOES cost money. And depending on your budget - A LOT of money.
Let's say you want to stock up on three things: Canned tomatoes, salad dressing and body wash. There's an AMAZING deal! Canned tomatoes are $.35 per can, dressings are $.75 a bottle and body wash is $.75 each (after all coupons). We are going to buy a modest amount of each because you need to stock up. Let's say 12 cans of tomatoes, 6 bottles of dressing and 5 body washes.
$.35 x 12 cans = $4.20 (retail $10.56)
$.75 x 6 bottles = $4.50 (retail $11.28)
$.75 x 5 washes = $3.75 (retail $9.40)
Total = $12.45 plus tax.
Most states make you pay sales tax on the PRE-coupon amount so in my state that would be around (give or take) $3.05 in sales tax.
SO after sales tax the total out of pocket is around $15.50 which is awesome!
But what if your grocery budget for the week is only $75.00?? That's a fairly big chunk to spend on only 3 items! To get a stockpile with a wide variety of items, it is my opinion that you need to stock up on between 5-10 particular items per week. That can hit your grocery budget big time. And yes... you can get some items for "free" but you do need to pay sales tax. And let's not forget the money you spend actually buying the coupon whether it's from a clipping service or simply purchasing a newspaper. Coupons cost money unless they are given to you for free. The grocery budget can easily be thrown off course if you are buying those "good deals" every week.
Let's take a moment and talk about the mess...
Now I want to say, I'm not complaining... much. Having too much food in your house is a wonderful problem to have but it is a problem. What is pictured is my kitchen. Not my stockpile room... the kitchen only. And it's not including above most of my cabinets (which is a littered mess). I cannot find ANYTHING! I need to eventually take the time to pull everything out and organize it - maybe even break out the label maker. But having a 6 month old baby - I have no idea when I'll have the time or energy to do this. It seriously stresses me out to look at it.
You know what upsets me more than anything? I have spent dozens of hours couponing for things that we never even got to use before potentially going bad. Our family has donated thousands of dollars worth of items to the local food bank which is a great thing to do but it was not my initial intention when I purchased the items. I always donate food items and will continue to do so since there will always be a place in my heart for food banks but that's not the only reason I coupon... I want my family to benefit first and foremost! Unfortunately when I go overboard my family doesn't always reap the benefits of my labor. Which can be rather disappointing.
Now since little Woodchip is here I am realizing more and more how very precious my time is. Not just because I want to spend all day looking at his sweet face but because there are so many things that I need to do with my time while he naps! Ordering takeout for dinner because I spent my allotted cooking time putting away the stockpile defeats the purpose of trying to save money!
So in conclusion I have made the final assumption. Extreme couponing might not be for me anymore - time to retire. I will continue to shop sales weekly and will even use a few coupons to get some deals in moderation (preferably the printable coupons so I'm no longer juggling newspaper inserts) but I am only shopping ONE DAY per week. That's it! It's going to be hard. It's an addiction... seriously... an addiction. But it's what I need to do!
For anyone who still has an interest in couponing or wants to learn: More power to you!! I don't want to bash couponing. Don't get me wrong - It is AWESOME to have a grocery store in your home and I strongly believe that everyone should keep some form of stockpile in their home - just maybe do it in another way without going coupon crazy! I never run out of anything non-perishable. But I need to call it quits. Feel free to still ask me questions - I still have the knowledge!
For anyone wanting to start couponing: I highly recommend going to TheKrazyCouponLady.com to get started. They have a beginners section and loads of youtube tutorials. Poke around their site and I'll bet you learn tons! ;^)
Welp... this post explains the shift in the blog posts! Hopefully you'll stick around to see what else I might find to post about!
Later my forest friends!