Extreme Couponing: To the Brink of Insanity and Back

 

Welcome back to Club Thrifty! Today’s article is a repost of an article that we published just a few weeks after we started this blog. Enjoy!

 

Extreme Couponing: To the Brink of Insanity and Back

My coupon binder

By the time my youngest daughter was born, I had a full year’s worth of Similac formula stockpiled.  I also had almost 100 packs of various brands and sizes of diapers.  Sure, I had no idea if my baby would be allergic to Similac or not, and I didn’t know if she wouldn’t be able to use a particular diaper brand.  I also didn’t care.  I had been sucked into the world of extreme couponing.

 

The Lure of Extreme Couponing

I had been a casual coupon user over the years but had really become possessed while pregnant with my second daughter.  While most women “nest” during pregnancy, I truly became a woman possessed.  I became obsessed with having anything and everything that I could possibly need for my baby.  I wanted mass quantities.  I even bought shelving units.  I enjoyed stacking things up and lining my items up in neat rows.  My husband would often find me organizing and reorganizing baby supplies for hours on end.

I did a lot of coupon trading during this pregnancy.  I traded at a few different internet sites, which is how I got over 300 coupons for Similac formula.  Each $5 coupon would almost pay for a quart of Similac at most stores.  We spent our evenings and weekends going to Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and Target.  These stores only allowed us to buy small quantities at a time, so we had to spread our purchases out over days and weeks.  My husband played along because – well - he was scared not to.  I had a mission in mind and he was wise not to interfere.  Who could blame him?  What man would be brave enough to get between a pregnant hoarder’s diapers and formula? No man that I know.

 

I also amassed large quantities of other items during this time - body wash, soap, cereal, razors, shampoo, and toilet paper.  At the time, it didn’t seem excessive at all.  Each coupon purchase became a chance to spend as little as possible for as many items as possible.  It didn’t seem to matter what I was getting – or how many I was getting - as long as they were free or nearly free.  Hours were spent cutting and organizing the coupons.  I even got one of those coupon binders to organize them all.

Once my second daughter was born, things began to change.  Luckily, she was able to drink Similac and use any brand of diapers.  But, I began to notice that I didn’t have time to cut, organize, and plan these intricate coupon purchases.  I began to lose interest and got back to my casual coupon roots.

Now, when I look back at that time, I feel horrified and proud at the same time.  I am proud that I paid approximately $75 for a year’s worth of formula for my baby.  I am also proud that I haven’t bought diapers since she was born over a year ago.  At the same time, I am horrified at the excessive hours I spent planning my coupon binges, relentlessly scouring blogs for upcoming sale tips.

These days, I typically use a few coupons on each shopping trip.  Sometimes I forget to cut them out or bring them with me, but I no longer lose sleep over it.  There are still plenty of ways to save money on groceries and personal care items that don’t involve cutting and using coupons.  Here is my list of easy and universal ways to save:

 

Buy What is On Sale

If chicken is on sale and you eat it often, buy a few extra packs for meals in between sales cycles.  If certain kinds of produce are on sale, buy them and incorporate them into your meals.  If what you want is not on sale, don’t buy it.  Wait until it goes on sale to indulge.

 

Go Meatless, at Least Part of the Time

Vegetarian spaghetti is a cheap and easy meal that most families enjoy.  Salads and pizzas taste great without meat.  If you insist on eating meat, eat smaller portions and you will save money.

 

Eat Leftovers

When you have time to cook, make enough leftovers to make at least another dinner at home.  Then make sure to eat them!  Throwing good food away is wasteful and is definitely not frugal.

 

Eat Breakfast for Dinner

My kids love scrambled eggs, toast, and pancakes.  Not only are these things easy to make, but they are also cheap.

 

Be Creative

Leftover chicken from last night would go great on a salad for tomorrow’s dinner.  Use your leftover pot roast to make beef vegetable soup the next day.  There are websites all over the internet with helpful advice on how to use leftovers.  Use them!  One of my favorites is Allrecipes.com.

 

Keep it Simple

Sometimes it can be impractical to make a fancy dinner if you have worked all day.  Don’t be afraid to keep it simple, especially with little kids.  Have peanut butter and jelly with fruit, crackers and cheese, or macaroni for dinner.

 

I am still benefitting from my days of extreme couponing.  I haven’t bought toilet paper in a year.  I still have approximately 50 containers of laundry detergent.  I have enough razors and soap to last a lifetime and probably enough floss to span the entire United States.  I have so many air fresheners that my house will surely smell like lavender for the rest of my life.  But one day, I will have to start buying some of these things again.  When that day comes, I plan on shopping in moderation.  What I have learned is that you can save plenty of money just by buying things when they are on sale…and avoiding them when they are not.  Using coupons is still fun, but I’ve learned that the time spent is worth more to me than the money I saved.  I’m no longer the girl with the stocked shelving units, but I’m still a girl who loves to save.

 

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About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. That’s quite a story! I understand what you mean when you say you feel both horrified and proud. I’ve never been tempted into extreme couponing despite my interest in frugality – at minimum, that we are renting an apartment is restraint enough!

    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, I had a few crazy moments there. Saving money is fun but if someone has to devote several hours a day to the cause, it probably isn’t worth it. Just buying what is on sale saves plenty. I hope you have a great day!

  2. As I was reading your post, I felt like I was reading my very own story. I used to be a huge stockpiler myself before kids. In fact, on my old blog (Spin The Deal), I even posted about how I amassed our mountain of diapers: http://spinthedeal.blogspot.com/2008/08/drowning-in-diapers.html.

    Just like you, my stockpiling days are long gone, and now I focus on stocking up on things like flour, sugar, eggs, meat, etc. whenever I find it for a good price, rather than the processed foods we could always get free with coupons. Sometimes I don’t use a single coupon…gasp!

    • I can relate! I don’t really use coupons at all anymore. If I happen to have one with me at the right place at the right time then I do. It’s not very often!

  3. I tried couponing, but I felt like the time that I spent doing so was not fun and not worth my time. I’m just not patient enough!
    Michelle recently posted..Weekly Roundup And Giveaway!My Profile

  4. I can’t get into couponing… We shop a lot at Walmart and Costco to buy in bulk… we go in phases with couponing but we should start it more – great post!
    Brian Porter recently posted..The Challenges of Having 6 Children – The Time Value of Money TheoryMy Profile

    • We go in phases too…..but sometimes I completely forget that I have them and don’t use them even when they are with me. I just dont have the time for it anymore.

  5. OMG, I can sooooo relate! About a year and a half ago, I was totally into extreme couponing. I had a binder, tons of coupons and would spend hours in the store.

    But it takes so much time, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to cut the cord. The good news though, is that I haven’t bought detergent in about 16 months and I still have about another 7 bottles of detergent left :)
    Mackenzie recently posted..Recap: Goals For NovemberMy Profile

    • Me too! I haven’t bought detergent for almost a year. I didn’t have to buy toilet paper for a year either but I am going to have to start again soon!

  6. I have been a big fan of using leftovers for lunches for over 40+ years. Besides the savings, it is healthier too. One of my favorite meals is pancakes and I would eat them at any meal. Occasionally, we have them for dinner.
    krantcents recently posted..Good Enough!My Profile

  7. We hardly coupon at all, but that is mainly because they almost always seem to be processed food items or unhealthy things.

    We must get better with our leftovers, however, and with our creativity. Plus, we eat too much beef. We’re struggling to get our grocery costs down plus still eat healthy foods.
    Mike recently posted..The LTNE Report — November 2012My Profile

    • I agree that most coupons are for processed foods. I find coupons most helpful when buying toiletries, paper goods, etc.

      Cutting down on meat saves a ton on your grocery bill!

  8. Who would have thought? lol.. I think your tips are great for the grocery side of it and for the most part that’s what we do. We, like you used coupons for 2 years heavy but mainly on non-food items. It’s hard to turn an eye to free toilet paper, floss, toothpaste, body wash etc etc when you know they won’t go off and you WILL need to use it. We have no problem stockpiling these and will continue to do so. We never have really spent countless hours with coupons but in the USA you can all so some serious couponing that we can’t in Canada. We spend about one hour a week and to us that’s not a big deal for the almost $200 each month we use in coupons. It used to be about $500 or more a month but we simply have stopped stocking some items like laundry soap. We have close to 100 jugs retailing for over $9 paid just under $.50 each. As for food, well we like to cook homemade from scratch and rarely eat processed type foods. There are tonnes of food items like flour, oats, butter, cream, milk, etc every day items that we can stock but only to a certain point. We found we couldn’t keep up eating the food before expiry so we were donating loads of it. Now we only go in spurts and get what we KNOW we will eat and it won’t sit. Sorry so long.. great post… Cheers Mr.CBB
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..The Saturday Weekend Review #7 DecemberMy Profile

    • I totally agree about toiletries! I STILL have loads of toothpaste, soap, and floss from my couponing days. It has been awesome not having to buy these things all this time.

  9. I used to religiously scour the Sunday paper for coupons, but if felt wasteful to throw the rest of the paper away, so I stopped that a few months back. I go to the store’s website now and download coupons I need onto my value card. I have cut the number of trips to the store way down and that has helped more than anything. I didn’t go coupon crazy when I was pregnant, but I did stockpile the formula because I had this fear of running out at 2AM. I remember being at the store with my mom once and buying all they had. She was like, “Don’t you want to leave one in case someone ran out?”and I was like, “Nope!” Something just happens to your brain around that time.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Can’t Take My Eyes Off These Blogs #16-Hackers Suck EditionMy Profile

  10. Yes, I came to realize that my time with the family was worth much more than spending valuable weekend time coupon ing and stockpiling. I do still have a small amount of shampoo, soap, and razors yet from years back!

  11. After the show Extreme Couponing aired I thought I had discovered the best money saving tip ever! lol I was psyched and it laster about a month. I did get enough free bodywash and shampoo to last for about six months in my extreme couponing binge. Luckily my fascination fizzled or else I would have become a hoarder
    Alexa recently posted..Let the Christmas Shopping BeginMy Profile

  12. That is awesome! I wish couponing was big in Australia – it sounds so far up my alley it’s not funny
    James @ Free in Ten Years recently posted..Frugal grocery shopping tips – $100 giveawayMy Profile

  13. We purchase a lot of store brand items so couponing tends to not work too great for us. That being said I have been taking advantage of the free coupon fliers we receive each week. Certain items we buy name-brand and I am sure to clip those coupons.
    Holly recently posted..Best of Ellie – February Collection & Save 20%My Profile

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Extreme Couponing: To the Brink of Insanity and Back [...]

  2. [...] find it enlightening that Holly is living the frugal life she writes about.  For a young women, couponing is typically not the most en-vogue of fashion statements, but somehow Holly makes it cool, and for that I admire [...]

  3. [...] going out of style.  Mrs. Siegel, whose ego is only outsized by her enormous fake breasts, shops like a mad woman.  Throughout the show, she brags of her various purchases, including things like $10,000 ostrich [...]

  4. […] Club Thrifty- How Much Money Is Enough? and Extreme Couponing To The Brink of Insanity and Back […]

  5. […] a buck or two.  Of course, I don’t go to quite the lengths that I used to.  For instance, back in my couponing days I would split my purchases up into five separate orders just to get free toothpaste at CVS.  Oh […]

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