College students are notorious for pinching pennies, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. Despite this, how many of us roll our eyes while tuning in to TLC’s Extreme Couponing? Granted, the individuals showcased on the program may take couponing too seriously, but is there some value we, as college students, can extract from the extreme couponer’s tactics? After personally attempting to emulate Extreme Couponing, the resulting story is a compilation of what I learned about shopping on the cheap.
Newspaper coupons are old school. While they are still valuable and easy to get a hold of, couponers are no longer limited to the Sunday paper. Be sure to check manufacturer’s websites and sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady to stay up to date on the latest deals. There are also many iPhone apps to help you collect and organize coupons. My personal favorite is Cellfire, which allowed me to see coupons for products at Kroger and to then upload them to my Kroger Plus card with just a click.
Learn the couponing lingo. One of the first sites I came across as I began my couponing journey was a glossary of all things coupon related. If you are going to get comfortable tracking down deals on couponing sites across the web, you will first need to learn the lingo. For example, “Buy one, get one free!” translates into BOGO in couponing jargon. The coupons that come on items in the grocery store: peelies. For the casual coupon user these terms are not crucial, but if you’re tracking down deals online you will need to know the vocabulary to decipher the bargains.
Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon for it. While this may seem obvious, it was the most important lesson I learned in my attempt to become a couponing pro. Just because Lysol has lots of good coupons, doesn’t mean you need to buy all of their products. While I may have a really clean apartment now, I ended up spending more money than I had budgeted for cleaning supplies. Also, for those of you who have seen Extreme Couponing and are aware of “stockpiles” I have one small piece of advice: don’t try it. College students live in small spaces and tend to buy groceries for only one person, conditions which are not ideal for loading up on a lifetime supply of toothpaste. If you end up with more than you can use of any item, I highly recommend donating your extras to a local charity.
Don’t forget your pre-couponing thrifty college student ways. Couponing is not the only way to save a buck when grocery shopping. There are many other simple tricks that you were probably taking advantage of before considering couponing, which don’t need to be replaced by your new couponing ways. For example, buying off-brands is less expensive than going for the premium version of an item. In addition, waiting for items to go on sale can be a smart move. Don’t forget to ask for student discounts where you can and to take advantage of the coupon books frequently handed out to students on campus. In pairing what you already know about saving money with couponing, you can really stretch your dollar.
Remember your manners. With the increasing popularity of couponing, the controversy around the practice is also rising. The Coupon Information Corporation has released a response criticizing some of the practices shown on Extreme Couponing and outlining how to coupon responsibly. The main points of the list are to know the coupon policy for the store you are shopping in and to be kind and courteous to the cashier. For more suggestions on how you should behave with coupons check out the CIC’s website by clicking here.