I Tried Extreme Couponing for a Month: How Much I Spent and Saved
Who hasn’t watched the show “Extreme Couponers” and thought to themselves I want to do that, too! I mean, who wouldn’t want to fill up 6 shopping carts full of goods from the store and only spend $.02?! But for the rest of us, it might seem like just a dream and definitely not a reality. I tried extreme couponing for a month and, lemme tell you, it was nothing at all like the show!
Each week, I’d look for coupons and then go to the store to purchase them. I only bought something if I had a coupon for it. These numbers are not representative of my usual grocery bill at all.
I was very excited! I pulled up all of the coupon matching sites and found the stores near me and the products that I wanted. Easy peasy.
Now, to find the coupons… wait, I have to buy the newspaper? After contacting everyone that I knew to see if they could save me the coupons from their Sunday paper, I wound up with a resounding 2 sets of coupons. Since the coupon hack sites said that I needed 5 sets of coupons, I had to go out and buy 3 more editions of the Sunday paper.
Day 1 totals:
Time spent: 5 hours researching and gathering materials
Money spent: $9 ($3/paper)
Days 2-4: Prep work.
Before I went shopping, I wanted to make sure that I had everything that I needed to do my “extreme couponing.” I was excited for my 4 free hand soaps, 2 free shampoos, $1 dog food, and 4 boxes of pasta for $.25 each.
Days 2-4 totals:
Time spent: Another 4 hours of planning and prep to make sure that I have the right items.
Money spent: $0; no additional money got spent in these days.
Day 7: THE shopping trip.
All of my work was about to pay off: I was about to get a bunch of things that I needed for $2 out of pocket. Let’s do this!
Wait… what do you mean you’re no longer doubling coupons?!
Still tried getting my items with my coupons and wound up with a $24.47 total, and saved a resounding $3.50.
Week 1 totals:
Time spent: 12 hours total
Money spent: $29.97
Money saved: $3.50
Frustrated and angry now, I tried again. I tried a different store this week. Instead of our local grocery store, I went to the local drug store that had more coupons for the week.
I decided not to buy the coupons this time, and to just try it with the coupons online and from the coupon leaflet from the paper that my friend gave me.
This time for sure!
Just kidding. Crash and burn. It still didn’t work.
Time spent: 10 hours for the whole week searching coupons and then shopping.
Money spent: $21.32 (on shampoo, soap, and all-purpose cleaner)
Money saved: $2.25
Week 3: Trying… again.
Will this ever end?! I wasn’t even through the whole month and I was ready to throw in the towel!
I still hadn’t actually bought any of my groceries for dinner using coupons, either. Basically, I stocked my pantry and my bathroom closet but still hadn’t stocked my fridge.
I tried to focus on the products that I needed, not just the ones that were the big “extreme couponing” mega deals. I brought up my meal plan for the week to see if there was anything that I could buy using coupons.
When I went to find my coupons, I found a resounding $1.50 worth of coupons for food that I actually buy (we eat mostly organic, Paleo and gluten-free), but nothing to write home about.
I tried shopping at another store in the area to see if their coupon policies are any better. They weren’t but we tried!
Time spent: 15 hours for the whole week searching coupons and then shopping. Looking for specific coupons for healthy foods was a lot harder than just opening the paper. They aren’t as common and, usually, aren’t listed where the other coupon deal sites have their weekly finds.
Money spent: $36.71 (on frozen pizza, frozen berries, and frozen veggies… yes, all of the coupons were for frozen items)
Money saved: $1.50
Week 4: That’s it.
I’m done. No more! I tried. I really did.
No matter what store I went to or what I bought, I didn’t manage to do anything spectacular with my coupons. Definitely, nothing “extreme” has happened for me.
For the final week, I went to a superstore to try my luck there. Wanna guess how it went?
Spoiler: poorly. It went poorly.
Time spent: 13 hours for the whole week searching coupons and then shopping. I switched back to whatever coupons would get me stuff for free or for close to free.
Money spent: $19.71 (more hand soap, body wash, and dish detergent)
Money saved: $3.75
Time spent: 50 hours.
Money spent: $107.71
Money saved: $11
Making my time worth $.22/hour.
I know that there are some people who extreme coupon for a living and haven’t spent more than $20 on their groceries all year. But I can’t do it.
My son has Celiacs and can’t have gluten, I have a similar problem with gluten, my husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and processed foods make us all sick. We can’t be buying boxes of crackers or Ramen and call that our shopping trip for the next month.
I’m sure that there is a way to eat whole foods on a budget, but I haven’t found it. And frankly, it’s not worth my time to spend 50 hours/month couponing!
That’s why I have a pre-made meal planning guide. So that I don’t need to spend time planning in the kitchen. I just click, pick out my recipes, and head off to the store. I spend 1 hour/week shopping and spend less than $100/week at the store for a whole cart-full of healthy food.
What lessons did I learn?
I tried extreme couponing for a month and hated it. I wanted to throw in the towel after week one. It wasn’t as effortless as it all looked on the show, that’s for sure!
What’s most important to take away from my debacle is that your time is valuable! Ok sure, you might save $10 in one trip, but you spent 5 hours figuring out how to save that $10! Is that really worth it? Sorry, my time is worth more than $2/hour (my monthly total was even less than that).
If you lack the time to dedicate to clipping, printing, and buying coupons, as well as the time to find where the best deals are and then go to 4 different stores to get all of the best deals on things like soap and shampoo, then skip trying to do extreme couponing and instead find a better grocery store!
My top grocery stores for getting the best deals are:
- A local discount grocer (just google “discount grocer” in your zip code).
If you can extreme coupon, I’d LOVE to hear from you to know how you do it, but it DEFINITELY isn’t for me!
What was your best coupon haul?