48 Unused Coupons

The Road To Extreme Couponing Does Not Have Enough Signs

Iโ€™ve decided to become an Extreme Couponer. It happened like most things happen for me. I read an article, get highly motivated for an afternoon, everything goes wrong, and I write a humiliating blog post about it. (Do you remember the Redbook-article-Staples-Get-Organized-Parenting Fiasco of 2010? Exactly.)

So a few weeks ago, I read a post on BlogHer about Extreme Couponing and the process seemed simple enough:

  1. Sign up for lots fo random coupon sites.
  2. Download a coupon printer ap.
  3. Buy coupons.
  4. Order a coupon magazine.
  5. Be able to purchase groceries for free!

So off I went. On the first site, I found all these coupons for coffee and these high commodity extreme coupon items! I WAS BORN WITH THE GIFT OF EXTREME COUPONESS!

A few hours later, I realized that I actually found OTHER EXTREME COUPONER LOOKING FOR THE SAME COUPONS and added these Extreme Couponers REQUESTS into a barter folder called MSOFKJ (itโ€™s pretty much called that — and I’d like to blame the name for my initial, subsequent and continued confusion). Now, not only did I have NO COUPONS to barter, save or show off, I had Experienced Extreme Couponers waiting for my offer.  And first-born child didn’t seem to cut it with this crowd.

So I hid out on sites #2 and #3 where I FINALLY FOUND COUPONS and then spent the next hour downloading the coupon printer plugin for Firefox over and over and over and over. My computer finally took pity on me or grew tired of listening to the same Diego 8 times so I could become an Extreme Couponer in a single afternoon while “watching” my kids. Oh and I upgraded Firefox to the version that worked with the coupon printer. Thanks for mentioning that Extreme Couponing Sites.

Oh yes and TA-DA!  Extreme Couponer Alex!


I realize that I never posted the original ROAD TO EXTREME COUPONING, but now that I’ve been an Extreme Couponer for 3 weeks, itโ€™s time to update already. The days just fly by when your Extremely Coupon-y.  Although I donโ€™t have a lot of time because I have printer ink to buy after becoming the proud owner of 48 coupons for various aliments such as HORRIFIC ALLERGIES that only 18 BOXES OF CLARITIN WITH $1 OFF can solve and GAS COUPONS. (But not for the kind that cost $4.)

I organize them by what floor they're on. These are Family Room coupons. This method only makes sense to Extreme Couponers.

I have 5 free samples being mailed to me AS WE SPEAK/READ of various moisturizer that will make 3 of my fingers or my left elbow quite supple before I run out of my 1 oz bottle.  Well, that FREE SAMPLE newsletter is definitely paying off and only vaguely destroying the environment with all the shipping large boxes from China and whatnot.

Free bottles of these. But much much much smaller. And then even smaller.

And to date? I have not used a single coupon.

(Are there Extreme Form-Filling-Outers? Or Extreme Jump-On-The Bandwagoners? Because I’m REALLY GOOD at signing up for stuff and sticking to it for 3 whole days…)

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

30 thoughts to “The Road To Extreme Couponing Does Not Have Enough Signs”

  1. Still chuckling over the teeny-tiny lotion reference.

    I’m too impatient to deal with couponing. I wouldn’t want to be the person at the front of the checkout line, with 10 people behind me, when I whip out my stack-o-coupons. I’d be afraid they’d throw fruit at my head.

    Also, I have a very short attention span. Scouring the internet for hours looking for ways to save 30 cents on coffee just isn’t worth the time for me.

    IE: My time is worth more than 30 cents.

  2. The only thing I got out of this post was wondering how you can handle Diego. He and his cousin, Dora, make me kind of stabby.

  3. You must be doing it wrong, because I saw this lady on TV who bought 20 bottles of antacid for like 30 cents. And who doesn’t want 20 bottles of antacid? Alex, your family and their digestive systems are counting on you!

  4. Girl! I had the same problem! Hahahah! I had so many sheets of paper floating around and “Wait! Hang on! I think I have a coupon for that!…Oh, never mind,” became my most said words. Plus, very hard to coupon when you’re trying to cut out processed foods and go more organic/natural. By the way, I think my son’s stomach issues are due to no more processed foods. Apparently he only functions on high fructose corn syrup.

  5. I actually completely don’t understand extreme couponing. Perhaps I should keep more coupons in my garage and it will become clear.

  6. my roommate is getting into this after her cousin became like the world champion of extreme couponing. seriously, this woman’s house is becoming consumed by all the food she gets with coupons. I say I’m just too lazy to be bothered.

  7. I thought about trying extreme couponing until I realized that I don’t have 20 hours week to spend searching for coupons. Also, I could never shake the feeling that the whole process was strangely similar to the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes in that one South Park episode.

  8. I watched a little of this show on TV last night. I shook my head and changed the channel when I saw this woman rationalizing her obsession by saying “I was able to quit my job because of couponing.”

    Honey, if couponing requires 20 or more hours a week, it IS a job.

    She had 40-50 bottles of laundry detergent in her pantry. That she had under lock and key. Seriously.

    It’s great to save some extra money, but I’ll stick to getting my OWN Sunday paper and junk mail, thankyouverymuch. My kids can spend their time looking for crawdads down at the creek instead of dumpster-diving for 50-cents-off macaroni and cheese coupons…and I can retain my sanity.

    Good luck sticking to it, Alex. I sure couldn’t! I suggest you start picking up (or subscribe to) “All You” magazine if you haven’t already. It’s stuffed full of coupons and recipes each month. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Ok, I work in a grocery store as a cashier. I actually have a few customers who are extreme couponers. And they are damn good at it. And yes, it really is possible to walk out with a ton of groceries for next to nothing. The thing the onlookers don’t realize is this: Their grocery lists don’t consist of items their family wants, it’s items that they have coupons for. And there are a lot of freakin’ basic needs, that there simply aren’t coupons for. (Hello, fresh fruit and veggies, anyone?) Ok, yes technically every now and then you can stumble upon a coupon for something fresh (my store actually has an in store coupon printing for like 1$ off 7$ worth of produce. Which is nice. But you are still spending 6$ of the 7. Which hey, nothing wrong with that AT ALL. It’s just not “extreme”.) but for the most part, coupons are for soup and shit. Exactly how much soup can your family live on for how long before there is a mutiny?

    And what that tv show (article, book, whatever) DOESN’T show you are the grocery trips for the stuff like the fresh produce where they are indeed spending a few hundred dollars on food. So yes, they do manage to save a bundle on random crap the companies make coupons for, but they also spend a bundle on other basic things just like the rest of us.

    Don’t get me wrong, coupons are great. But there is a very happy and healthy middle ground. Buy your Sunday paper ($2 for our local one) and clip the coupons you see on the stuff your family eats/uses anyways. Sure that toilet paper coupon might not be for your favorite brand, but hey a dollar off a 24 pack is a dollar off a 24 pack, and it all basically does the same thing, right? Changing it up? Now that’s extreme! So clip the coupons, use the coupons. Granted most of them are 35 cents here, a dollar there and you won’t exactly walk out with a cart load for next to nothing, BUT I have seen literally hundreds of average joes save a chunk of money using the coupons in the paper. It doesn’t add up to next to nothing spent, but it does add up.

    Also, if you do decide to follow through with coupons to some extent, the number one thing you need is some sort of organizer that fits in your purse. NOTHING is more annoying than the customer at the front of a line of 6, at the end of her order, searching through a hundred various coupons, looking for that one that will save her 40 freakin’ cents on her 6 cans of campbell’s soup. If they are organized, you still might have that search, but hey, at least you know what compartment to look in so it’s faster. Though to be safe, find the damn coupon while you are waiting in line, not when it’s time to hand over the cash/card/check.

    Also, don’t freakin’ lay the coupons on the belt. That thing moves. Usually we notice they are sitting there, but sometimes customers and really stupid and have them half hidden and the belt actually eats the freakin coupons. And when that happens, sorry you are out of luck because your own stupidity. Hang on to them, and then place them in a common sense location in the cashiers line of sight. Usually there is a little shelf where you might set your check book if you were filling out a check. That’s my preferred spot. It’s the first place I look for coupons when I’m ready to run them through. But alas, each cashier is different. So maybe ask where they would like them placed?

    Oh and one more thing. Read the coupon. Actually every word. Most are very specific. And “close enough” just doesn’t work. If it says 2, 4 packs, it means just that. Not 8 singles, or 1, 8 pack. We only get reimbursed if you buy the right thing. And the competitor’s version with never be “close enough”. And there is ALWAYS fine print. So don’t be surprised and act like it is rare and devious. It would only be devious if every single flippin’ coupon on this planet didn’t have it.

    Also, if it’s expired, it’s expired. I get that sometimes, holy crap it’s May 1st already? And that coupon expired April 30th. It happens. But if it expired 6 freakin’ months ago, don’t be surprised when we refuse it. And yes, true story. Daily. Also note, while most coupons expire on the last day of the month, some do actually expire on a random day in the middle. I always feel bad about those ones. Those are harder to keep track of. And usually depending on how much it’s for *and exactly how long ago it expired), I go ahead and take it anyways. Some stores do have some leniency here and there. With my store we have a 5$ policy (and common sense). Mostly for if something rings up at 1.99$ and the customer swears the shelf said 1.69$ we can just fix it and be done without taking the time for a price check. Because those take forever and there is a line of people waiting. And for the most part that 30 cent difference means more to the customer on a budget than the store that can afford the loss if the customer was indeed wrong. (I should note that our policy is as high as 5$ because we sell a lot more than just groceries. So if a customer is coming through with a 200$ item that they swear is 5$ lower than it’s ringing up for… same idea.) I don’t know if that policy is normal though for other stores. That policy also applies to coupons. Sometimes, if it’s within common sense and reason, it just isn’t worth the fight. If you fix it for them, they leave happy feeling heard and appreciated and come back. The 30 cent loss leads to a future purchase.

    Wow apparently I have issues with coupons. But mostly it’s just people who are stupid with them. Most the time, while time consuming to ring, I don’t mind them. I’m all for helping my customers save money. I’m well aware how expensive it is to feed a family and in this economy, we all need all the help we can get!

    Shit, my comment is longer than your post! Sorry! Trying to be helpful and well don’t give up on coupons, just don’t lose your head over them.

    1. holy coupon wisdom!
      the coupon guru has spoken!!!

      hmmm, is there an abbreviation for Agreeing My A$$ Off? (AMAO)
      how about Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? (CIGAWW?)

      seriously, coupon post superstar – will you send the above message to TLC’s coupon show producers? and whoever else needs a reality check on this topic?
      thank you, YES… to all ALL of the above.

      so… IMHO, coupons ROCK for a bit of savings here and there.
      I use them, yep, I’m not ashamed to say it : )
      I get a little perky when I save $10 or $20 or $30 in a shopping trip, yep.
      uh huh.
      I like to shout a silent “aw yeah baby” when I get to double my $.50 coupon and knock another dollar off my order (“take that Kroger!”)
      But –
      I spend more than $2.43 a week to feed my family… (though that sounds incredibly hardcore…I am decidedly softcore in this department)
      and I buy fresh veggies…
      and meat (not in cans!)…
      and occasionally (gasp!) full priced items.

      I’ve been looking for ways to save the family money in the past two years, and after some research and skills gained from their knowledge, I give the coupon crowd serious credit.

      But, let’s be real – extreme couponers put in a LOT of time and energy to get to that extreme status… I can’t imagine how much time and how many trips to the store and how much coordination it really takes. Seriously, it would become a full time job. I don’t have TLC so I haven’t seen the show, but from the non extreme crowd there definitely is wisdom in learning to stock up when things are on sale, knowing that there are cycles of sales and seasons of sale items, making use of store promotions, meal planning around seasonal fresh foods and sale items, etc.

      But all I have to say to TLC and their newly recruited couponoholics is this: You want to show extreme couponing? Show me a Mom at the grocery store juggling multiple small children AND an extensive, (well-planned! actual meals!) grocery list AND a stack of coupons… uh huh, bring it…. ’cause that, my friend, is EXTREME.

      maybe I can catch that episode on Hulu while I clip some more coupons: )

      and p.s. Alex, does it I’ve never been able to get that stupid coupon printing program to work on my computers… EVER! so for just being able to print the printables, I salute you.

      1. and p.s. again-
        Alex, clearly you haven’t received your free samples yet, b/c that itty bitty shampoo bottle isn’t even a bottle… more like a ketchup-packet-type-fit-in-the-envelope sample.
        enjoy : )

  10. I hear about people getting so many coupons that they get an entire load of groceries for free- or they even get money back and basically get paid to shop! It’s always sounded too good to be true… and now I know that even if it could be possibly true… it is WAY too much work to be worth it!

    p.s. I’m also a jump-on-the-bandwagon-and-then-give-up-after-a-few-days-er.

  11. I watched an episode of Extreme Couponing…but for the first thirty minutes or so, I thought I was watching Hoarders. Have you seen those “stashes” in their garages? I’m pretty sure that I don’t need to have 562 bottles of salad dressing. No one likes salad that much.

    I look at all the extra money I’m spending as in investment in NOT becoming a hoarder. My daughter might have a lot of college loans, but at least she will be able to walk through the house without being attacked by stacked up boxes of soap and pickles.

  12. For discount ink…try 4inkjets.com….I know they have tons of coupons as my husband is the evil one making them:) I tried couponing also, and ended up with 20 bottles of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce, 10 boxes of cheerios (my kids now hate them), and 6 bottles of ketchup (which hardly anybody in the family uses). But boy were them some deals.

  13. I am glad someone other than me sucks at this. Well, I guess I would actually have to have tried to suck at it. I think I am going to write my own post about why I haven’t even tried because I can see my own failure from a mile away. Would I be a copycat if I did that? I hope that you would see it as a) a compliment and b) the fact that I am running out of things to blog about and this post is a huge help.

  14. Poor Alex got on the wrong bandwagon!

    Come climb on mine; I guarantee you’ll last longer than three days. It’s the extreme-slacking-and-excessive-caffeine-consumption bandwagon.

    Now, don’t you feel better?

  15. I’m with you on this. I’ve given it a go a few times, but it never seems to pan out. Or I can get coupons for stuff/food I don’t eat.

  16. I use coupons – here and there. Like one per month. I did get a free redbox rental. I definitely used that.
    I don’t care enough to own 97 bottles of hair gel for the price of one. Or 53 boxes of a cereal I don’t like.
    Too much work to reap the benefits. I’m exhausted just after reading your post.

  17. First of all? Walkingborder is my HERO for blogging in your comments. That was the best comment rant I have read in FOREVER.

    Also? I am shaking my head at all this extreme couponing nonsense. When Cort lost his job, I thought I would save billions by couponing. And then I realized you have to PAY for coupons. Um. dumb.

  18. Hilarious! So much so I had to read this to my husband& email it to my sister! What’s funny is that we watched a couple of episodes of Extreme Couponing while our jaws dropped at their $500 savings — and yes, we wanted to get in on the savings… I downloaded 3-4 coupon apps… And like you, have yet to use one single coupon ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. I don’t have time!!! or printer ink. but it’s good that you have found something to distract you from parenting. ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. A little over a year ago I was extreme coupon crazy. In just a few short months I managed to accumulate 47 boxes of cereal that we still have, but have not eaten. I also bought enough laundry detergent that I haven’t had to buy any for at least 9 months. I have it stored on every horizontal surface above eye level in my house. In short, I went broke couponing and we now live in a warehouse filled with expired toothpaste, cereal and deodorant nobody likes to use. Yay! Yes, I should have donated it, but now I think it might be too late for that. Why did I stop couponing? I started blogging instead. Now we pay full price for all of our commodities because who has time to shop and coupon and update their platform statuses every five minutes?

    1. You got much farther along than I did but it sounds very similar to why I can no longer shop in discount warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Salsa the size of head and shampoo we are still using a year later and weighs as much as my cat is so appealing to me yet after I spend $600 in one visit, we need to figure out how to make ever meal out of salsa and shampoo for the next month. Yum.

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