I started using coupons long before couponing was “cool” and before the phrase “extreme couponer” came about. When I first started using coupons, I mainly focused on grocery store deals. Then I discovered the “drug store game.” In coupon forums I belonged to, people kept talking about shopping at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens and sharing pictures of all their deals. I discovered I could get shampoo, razors, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for FREE and it was a rush. I also learned that I could actually get “paid” to buy certain items after store loyalty programs such as RRs or ECBs and rebates. I became obsessed with planning out scenarios and trying to get the most bang for my buck.
At that time, there were frequently deals were you could “buy” blood glucose monitors, earn ECBs or RRs and get a rebate as well! There were also coupons that you could use to “buy” the monitors so it was a total moneymaker. Before, I knew it, I had accumulated quite a supply of blood glucose monitors.
I remember one year on New Years sending my husband out after midnight to a 24 hour CVS store so we could get this deal on monitors. While he was there, he ran into an elderly couple who was looking for the monitors as well. They were both diabetic. Knowing he would probably face my “wrath” when he got home, he still decided to do “the right thing” and gave them a coupon and told them how they could get the deal themselves. When he shared what he had done with me and as I evaluated the entire situation (honestly who sends their husband out to do a “deal” on New Years?), I realized that couponing had become an obsession. I had tried to justify my purchases by saying “but it was free” or “I can donate it” but truthfully I was overly protective of the stockpile I had accumulated and wasn’t donating as much as I should have. That experience made me realize I was going in the wrong direction and that just because something was free or a moneymaker didn’t mean I HAD to have it. I decided to move in a different direction, started my blog, and began teaching coupon classes. We organized my stockpile, donated many items we didn’t need, and developed a rotation system.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
Don’t be a shelf clearer – I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t believe in being a shelf clearer (even when I was in my crazy, “extreme phase I didn’t believe in this). Buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time. Telling yourself that you will donate items doesn’t justify it either (again this is my opinion and I’m entitled to it). If you want to stockpile a certain item, visit multiple stores or make arrangements with the manager ahead of time to order what you need.
Buy what you need, donate the rest – It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes when you learn how to use coupons and take advantage of store deals. It’s easy to convince yourself that you WILL find a use for those items at some point or that you can at some point donate them if you don’t need them. If you plan to donate, then donate right away. There’s no reason to have shelves filled with dog food if you don’t have pets or cereal and pasta that you will never need. If you’re not planning to donate, just buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time (before the items expire).
Evaluate the time spent – Since this is a “confessions” post, I admit it. When I was at my most “extreme” phase, I would sometimes make multiple trips per day or week trying to scout out the best deals. It was time consuming. It took time away from my family. At some point, you have to weigh things out. I have since learned how to prioritize deals and have realized that sometimes the “deal” is just not worth the time spent.
What do you think? How much is “too much”? Do you have any “extreme couponing” confessions?
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