Secrets of Extreme Couponers

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Secrets of Extreme Couponers

Secrets of Extreme Couponers

TLC’s latest show, Extreme Couponing, gives us a glimpse into the life of the ultimate bargain hunters, who treat couponing like an Olympic sport. On one episode, one discount shopper slashed her grocery bill from $600 to less than $3. On another episode, an extreme shopper saved 98 percent on her grocery bill. So what’s their secret? How are these deal seekers able to pay less than 10 percent on all of their bills? Check out these four extreme couponing strategies:

Collect Coupons, Exhaust Resources.

The most extreme couponers don’t just pick up the Sunday paper. They pick up seven. They take their neighbor’s and friend’s and coworker’s. They go to local businesses and collect unsold papers. They order from clipping services and buy coupons off eBay. One extremist even goes diving into dumpsters with her children to find more inserts. And it works: on the show, she slashed a $600 register total to $2.64. If you want to have extreme savings, you must take drastic measures.

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Use Coupons Strategically.

Simply collecting coupons isn’t enough, though. It’s how you use them that counts. The most extreme couponers are able to use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on a sale item, often times getting paid to take the item out of the store. You can even use two manufacturer’s coupons when purchasing buy-one-get-one-free items at most retailers. And remember, when you buy the smaller size (say one toothbrush versus a four pack), you’re paying less as a flat fee. So, if you have a coupon for 75 cents off, you’ll get that $1 toothbrush for 75 percent off, compared to only 25 percent off the $3 four pack. But be careful: every store has their own policy. To avoid problems, extremists suggest keeping your retailer of choice’s coupon policy on-hand (you can usually find them online), so you can show the cashier their policy if any disagreements arise.

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Stay organized.

When you’re working with hundreds of coupons, there’s no way you can maximize your savings if the coupons just sit in a giant pile stuffed in a junk drawer. Extreme couponers have a method to their madness and that method is extreme organization. Some use baseball card holders or sheet protectors in a binder. Others opt for accordion files with labeled tabs.  Some organize by expiration date; while others choose to sort by product category. Choose whichever method works best for you; so long as that method doesn’t involve stacks of coupons sprawled out on your kitchen counter.


You wouldn’t believe some of the stockpiles these extreme couponers have in their own homes. One extremist claims to have 1,500 sticks of deodorant. Another has converted her entire garage into a warehouse resembling the shelves at Walmart. Whichever form of stockpiling you choose, extreme couponers all agree that in order to get the best prices, you have to wait to buy an item until a low price and a high-value coupon are both available… which is where stockpiling comes in.

Some of these methods may be too extreme for you (dumpster diving is probably coming to mind right about now); but now you know the secrets of America’s Extreme Couponers.

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  • Matt

    None of my supermarkets give me credit on the extra coupons

  • Marcella

    I don’t know about dumpster diving or going through recycle bins. Where I live it’s against the law. I think it’s rude of people to buy 7+ papers. I buy 2 and that is it. And I have to check them first to make sure the inserts are there. Greedy people take them out of the other papers! THAT IS JUST RUDE!

    • Rebecca

      I’m not following why it’s rude to buy seven papers.
      If I purchase them, pay money for them what difference does it make if I buy one, two or forty two?
      I’m buying them, that’s what they’re there for.

    • Maggie

      Everyone is entitled to there own opinions. It’s a free country if you want to buy a lot of papers go for it!!! However, I do think it is wrong for people to steal the inserts from out of the Sunday papers.

    • Tracie

      Rude?! If I PAY for them how is that rude? Makes no sense to me.

    • Rhonda

      I would say if the papers are there they are for sale. If i can buy 7+ or want to put the money out. I should be able to. You have to remember though that putting the money out for paper is a cost and are you really saving money way to spend another. I usually get 4 because most P&G limit u to 4 for purchase. The best way is to find people who don’t or won’t coupon but yet they get the paper get those coupons. People are very willing to give them away.

    • EC Momma

      A lady was arrested here in the Dallas – rightfully so – for stealing coupon inserts. She’s facing real jail time.

  • LiSA

    Some of these extreme couponers are going to end up on Hoarders.

    • Maggie

      That is a real possibility.

  • boethius

    I view “extreme couponing” as a job where effectively you have to be willing to give up a huge amount of your time clipping, sorting, organizing, and buying food and household items, not to mention you have to hoard large quantities of items most sane people would never normally hoard. If your time is worth, let’s just say, $20/hour and you spend 20 hours a week dedicated to “extreme couponing” then you’ve spent $1600 worth of your time a month to save – how much money ? – $800? $1000? $1200? $2000? $4000? I suspect most extreme couponers spend much more time per week than that couponing and pursuing activities related to couponing, but I am being conservative. Reality is couponing takes over the lives of a lot of these people.

    • Kimberly

      The lady who spends her entire week couponing has more time on her hands than I do, and she either has better deals locally, or she is really slow figuring out what she needs to get each week. (With weekly ads shopping bi-weekly or monthly is a waste.)

      I get very good results with 2-4 hrs clipping/printing, another 2 hr sorting/organizing binder, and about 30 minutes going through the ads deciding what deals to take advantage of that week. Occasionally I have spent up to 10 hours a week, but 5 is more normal.

  • Kimberly

    I don’t find the idea of a stockpile wrong, or saving money bad, but I think too many of these “extreme” savers are ignoring expiration dates. They are there for a reason. We only keep on hand what we can reasonably use within the next year, passing on any additional deals to friends and family that are in need. (Especially for my sister who is raising 2 kids and finds grocery trips nearly impossible with them along.)

    I also wonder about their garages. Mine is extremely hot in the summer. Heat can ruin canned goods, speed up spoilage, and cause adverse chemical reactions in normally harmless products. Look on any package in your pantry, check the boxes that the goods come to the store in, or even a company’s website. They will clearly state what storage conditions give you the best results. I have never seen one that advised temperatures over 75 degrees F.

    PS – Fridges and Freezers in hot garages or back rooms cost more to run as they must overcome outside temps before cooling/freezing the contents. This is why your fridge’s ice maker works better at night (even in AC comfort). August in Alabama usually means the ice maker goes on strike for us.

  • SedonaMichelle

    I do think there is a lot to be said for clipping, organizing and stacking coupons. I generally buy a couple papers, print from the internet, etc. But I will not buy an item I won’t use – even if its free! I have done it a few times and given it away to the local food bank but I’d rather just write a check once a year!! My time is precious and I’m all about saving – I generally don’t pay full price for anything.

    The other downside to this “sport” is that most of the food is highly processed and generally not very healthy! You can’t get organic kale for free – no matter how many coupons you have!!!!

  • Dee

    With all the time wasted clipping coupons, hunting down bargains, and organizing, they could get a real job and make twice the actual money they are saving in the stores.

    • Dana SMith

      Dee, I have a real job. Three actually. I’m a single mother of two kids whose father was killed by an idiot who was texting and driving, I teach sign language at a middle school, and I bartend three times a week from 6pm-2 am. And I don’t see clipping coupons to collect products to donate to needy families as a waste of time at all. Nor do I consider lowering my shopping bills to next to nothing so I have excess money to sign my children up for whatever extracurriculars they want to do as a waste. The stores still receive payment and usually extra reembursement for coupons. People like you make me very sad. You are probably a person who never does anything else for anyone besides yourself and for you to say others are wasting their time for helping is disgusting.

      • Pam

        Very nicely put. When you can save money on groceries to be used somewhere else in your life. That is a bad thing. Wow wish I had money to burn, no not really I would still look for bargains.

      • Nita

        Good for you Dana. I am sorry for your loss and I admire your wit and determination. Keep couponing! God Bless.

      • Tonia

        I agree with you totally !! I was a single mother and I was not only buying for me but for my mother whom is now at the age of 73 and on a fixed income AND donating to friends. I exchange product with my person that delivers papers so that I get extra coupons after they put all of their papers out. I am recently married and my husband gets into the couponing he HATES paying full price now for anything…… I am now able to help out with refreshments not only for my son’s wrestling team but his football team and track team during matches tournament when they are there all day long ( these children stay hungry and thirsty) I am glad to be able to do something for them that I normally wouldn’t be able to do . Dana those that have had things handed to them or someone that hasn’t had to do without for being single , medical or just can’t afford to purchase things don’t understand like you and I along with the others that really aren’t doing it just for themselves but for others as well shouldn’t judge until they see someone grateful cause they now have groceries and don’t have to choose between food or medications that they depend on to live

  • Dana SMith

    I can’t stand when people say those of us who stockpile are crazy or wrong for doing so, or just wasting our time collecting things we don’t need. I find it an incredibly jerky thing for somebody to say, as I stockpile all I can get solely for the purpose of donating what I don’t use to Hurricane victims who’ve lost everything, homeless shelters, needy families, churches, etc. You have no idea how many different organizations I find that are constantly in need of donations. As for the person who says they just “write a check”, that’s helpful, too, but for me? I feel awesome when I can do something great by putting in a little bit of time for something that comes easily to me. And to me, it was far more fulfilling looking a family in the eyes and handing them a years worth of products that would help them get back on their feet in the new apartment they moved into after their home was demolished in a hurricane than “JUST WRITING A CHECK” to some faceless nameless organization.

  • Kate

    For those of you who stockpile in order to donate, don’t forget about your local animal shelters! They not only need donations of pet food, but also cleaning supplies, paper towels, stuff like that. Check their websites, most have a list of what they need.

  • mulder42

    I’m going to assume that Marcella is referring to people who steal the inserts out of newspapers that they didn’t buy. That has happened to me in the past and it is rude. Buy all the papers you want, but don’t go taking inserts that don’t belong to you. I for one don’t have the time to go through all this to ‘extreme coupon’, and I don’t believe that even half the people on the TLC program give their extra goods to charities. They just like to look at their ‘stockpiles’ like its a most prized possesion. I don’t have room to save all those things!!!

  • Dena

    I think it’s GREAT to coupon on whatever level you choose to do it! My husband is retiring and we are raising my grand daughter and so I have “just” started couponing again because I have no choice but to save money any way I can and couponing does that for me! For what ever reason you do it I say GO FOR IT BABY! We are not here to judge what other people do, that is THEIR BUSINESS and theirs alone, I know many “extreme couponers” who donate TONS of the stuff they get to homeless shelters and food banks and for that I say YOUR GREAT and God bless you…keep up the good work girls and guys!

  • jessica

    I agree people should not be taking papers that do not belong to them. When they do this the carriers get charged for that stolen paper. They have to pay for bags, gas to deliver that paper and then when it is stolen or the extreme couponing person who calls in to say they did not get their paper, they do not realize that the carrier pays three times what the paper costs the person ordering it and then they have to redeliver that paper for free. We deliver papers and every paper that is missed or stolen costs us $3.00 each complaint and then those add up and we lose money off the checks we get. Think about that before you steal a paper or report it as missed when it was not missed.