Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Extreme Couponing, Through Tatted Mom's Eyes

Let's start out with complete honesty. I saw the show. Okay, I was addicted to the show. People sticking it to the man by going into a grocery store and walking out with $1000 worth of groceries for $100. Completely amazing, and yes, something I wanted to do... badly. So, a few months ago, I gave it a whirl. Z spent her days on the computer (as I had to work), printing off coupons and finding deals of the week. In the few months I extreme couponed, did I walk away with $1000 in groceries for $100? Not even close. My record was taking a $250 bill down to $160. I was beaming that day. Further shopping trips entailed an $80 savings and a $75 savings. Then the extreme couponing stopped, as things in life got real crazy. Z moved out, I moved towns, no time or internet for extreme couponing.

But the day is coming around again for me to start. I'm starting life over as a single mom, with my kids and my sister living under the same roof, right now with just the income as a part time sales associate to pay the bills. So, I'm rising to the challenge again, this time, to feed 4 mouths on about $200 a month. Yeah...

Now this is where the "Through Tatted Mom's Eyes" part comes in, because you all know I can't just write an article on how I'm going to accomplish this enormous feat I have ahead of me. I'm gonna lay down extreme couponing, from a realist's view...

Here's the basic concept behind extreme couponing: Get as much as possible for as little as possible, of course, but enough to last you until the sale rolls around again. On average, supermarkets run the same sales about every 3 months, on a pretty consistent rotation. So, if your favorite BBQ sauce is buy 1 get 1 free this week, it will be again in about 3 months. So, die hard extreme couponers buy enough BBQ sauce to last them that 3 months until the sale comes back around, and put the extras in what they call a 'stockpile', which, if you've ever seen the show, can range from a closet to an entire grocery store in their basement. As if the buy 1 get 1 free sale isn't enough for these extreme couponers, they find coupons to go with the items, so instead of paying $1.00 for 2 bottles of BBQ sauce (each are $1.00 and they are buy 1 get 1 free), they get not 1 but 2 coupons (because technically they are still buying 2 bottles, even though the store sale is giving them 1 for free), for $0.25 off, making those two bottles a total of $0.50 now. Wait, they aren't finished. They will go shopping on double coupon day, meaning that $0.25 coupon doubles to $0.50, making their two bottles of BBQ completely free.

Get the f*ck outta town.

Here's where I have the problem. These people don't get, say, 10 bottles of BBQ sauce for free. They get like 100 bottles of BBQ sauce for free.

Really? Who in the hell will use 100 bottles of BBQ sauce in the next 3 months until the sale rolls around again? Are you planning on having a cookout for the President and all of Congress? Please.

I know what some of you are thinking, because I used to think the same thing. Well, if they are free, why not?

I don't have an answer for that. If they can get 100 bottles of BBQ sauce for free, then by all means, get 100  bottles of BBQ sauce for free. I'll admit, it used to piss me off when I went to the grocery store to do my little baby extreme couponing, to get maybe 4 bottles of that buy 1 get 1 free BBQ sauce, with my little coupons, and the damn shelf was empty because Ms. Suzy Greedy-Pants got her 100 bottles for free. But really, who needs that much damn BBQ sauce? I just wanted to grill out 4 times over the next few months, that's it, not be able to create an impenetrable fortress of BBQ sauce bottles around my house... Sheesh.

What's the cost of this die hard extreme couponing, though? Most of these moms stay at home; they'll tell you extreme couponing is their job, because it's something they'll do for 40 hours a week. And when you can walk away with 100 free bottles of BBQ sauce, then yeah, it pays for itself. But many of these moms do things like take their kids dumpster diving for coupon inserts that people throw away.

Yeah, that salmonella poisoning little Johnny got from picking through that raw chicken in the dumpster to get your coupons is SO worth the fact that you were able to get 50 bottles of hand sanitizer for $5.00... irony is a bitch, huh??

And they make multiple trips to the grocery store in a week to prepare for their big shopping trip. What? ONE trip to the grocery store is hell enough. Now you're going on an initial pre-shopping trip, then a final pre-shopping trip, both before the actual shopping trip? We don't even need to talk about how the shopping trip itself can last 8 hours. Cheese and rice, seriously?

So they get their $1000 worth of groceries, including 100 bottles of BBQ sauce, 50 bottles of hand sanitizer, 10 jumbo packs of toilet paper, 100 bags of croutons, 25 bottles of laundry detergent, 150 tubes of toothpaste and 50 boxes of spaghetti, for $100. Awesome, great, more power to you. Now... what's for dinner tonight?? Oh, yeah, wait, you forgot to get REAL food. Well, slather those croutons up with BBQ sauce, because that's what you are munching on this evening, and don't forget the spaghetti with no sauce, because, oh yeah, that doesn't go on sale until NEXT week....

How does someone like me take this information and apply it to my life? I spend time clipping coupons and starting a collection of those. Then yes, research what's on sale at my grocery store that week, and apply the coupons I have to the sales already going, and make my weekly menu around what's on sale. Do I go dumpster diving for coupon inserts? No. Do I buy 2 papers on Sundays instead of 1 to get extra coupons? Yes. That way I can stock up just a little bit on something if it goes on sale (remember my 4 little bottles of BBQ sauce mentioned before?). Will I use different email addresses on product sites to print out numerous coupons there? Hell yeah. Will I take 2 pre-shopping trips to do research? Nope, sorry.

Like I said before, Tatted Mom's extreme couponing ends up yielding savings of somewhere between $75-$100 on your $200 grocery shopping trip. But we're covered in meals, snacks, toiletries, etc, with that trip. And yes, I ended up with a small stockpile at one point from the buy 1 get 1 free sales that helped us out tremendously one month when money was WAY tight and we couldn't really afford to go grocery shopping. We still ate like nothing was wrong with money at all. That's what I want to get back to- what my family will need for me to get back to, here soon.

Hell, just recently, with not a coupon in sight, I took a $245 grocery bill down to $199 just by shopping what my grocery store had on sale that week. It made the itching start... my mind started wandering to 'how much would we have spent if I started my couponing again? I'm sure that pasta would have been cheaper, I KNOW the coffee would have been... damn.' I guess the only think I need to actually start worrying about now is where I'm gonna put my little baby stockpile in a 900 square foot apartment with 4 people in it. Yeah, it's time to feed the addiction again, that's for sure.

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