Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I am NOT an Extreme Couponer...

A few weeks ago, TLC started airing "Extreme Couponing". Since then... I have heard from several people... "I watched this show about Extreme Couponers, and I thought of you!"

I have been frustrated with this show for several reasons - yet, I continue to watch, because I love coupons and I am still intrigued.


1.  The show frustrates beginning couponers and people that don't use coupons.


People that don't use coupons at all have told me that it is ridiculous to spend hours looking for coupons, shopping in the store, etc.  People I know who have just started couponing are frustrated because their savings don't compare to those on the show.  My opinion is, any amount of savings is good, as long as you are buying things that you need or will use.  If you are just starting out with coupons, start by looking for some products you already use - or start looking for a product that doesn't spoil, such as body wash, or laundry detergent, and stock pile a few items at the lowest price possible.  You will save money with coupons, but you will probably NOT save 99% like the people on the show.


It is easy to go to your favorite store and use a shopping list from the internet to get some great deals.  There are multiple bloggers with deal matchups for each store, so it would be easy to find deals already matched up for you.

2.  The savings for these couponers is not representative of the savings of an average couponer.

As mentioned before - the people on the show prepared 'sensational' shopping trips that would work out to them paying extremely little for their food.  Who goes into a store and buys 60 bottles of mustard, or 100 of one product?  Only a few of them showed their trips including meat, milk, or other staple items.  Remember - their trips were for the benefit of television, so they planned ahead of time for weeks - most of them were doing their "biggest haul ever". Just like reality TV sensationalizes everything else.

3.  Controversy around coupon fraud

One particular episode sparked a lot of discussion about whether the purchases made were using coupons legally.  I don't have the right to judge - BUT - couponing is a privilege, not a right.  Manufacturers put these coupons out to convince consumers to try their product and they are assuming a certain percentage will be redeemed.  Using these coupons illegally could cause couponing to stop for everyone.  By using coupons illegally, I am referring to using coupons on incorrect items that they are not intended. 

I have used coupons on the smallest size allowed - my last trip, I used Degree coupons on the trial size, because there were no size restrictions on the coupon.  Often on the coupons it will specify sizes, such as 8 oz or greater, or a specific size, 24 oz only. 

The controversy surrounding the show looks at coupon decoding. What they are referring to is that a family of products (such as Proctor and Gamble) can belong to the same UPC code family.  Someone that decodes the coupons may use a high value coupon intended for a high value item (such as Crest Whitestrips) on a high value item (like Tide).   This is illegal.  Counterfeit coupons are also illegal.  The CIC (Coupon Information Center) investigates illegal coupon use.  Illegal coupon use causes the store not to be paid for coupons used fraudulently. 


Just because the cash register accepts the coupons, whether they were for the wrong product, expired, etc, does not make it right to do.  Being a programmer, I know that the computers are only programmed to do what you tell it to.  If the store wants to go back and find out why an order was so low, or why there were so many coupons of a sort redeemed in a transaction, it is easy to find out who made the purchase due to store shopper cards, debit cards, etc.   Best bet is to stick to legal couponing.

4.  Bad coupon ethics and expectations.


Each couponer will develop their own "coupon ethics"... if you're not sure what I mean, there are many blog posts about this subject, but The Coupon Project has a good post about this, and also Coupon Gal.  Most coupon bloggers have great coupon ethics, and I'm only saying most because there could be some out there - I just have not found them yet.


Most couponers hesitate to clear a shelf.  This is shown multiple times in the shows. 

Also - I can't think of one store that I have been to that would allow 16 separate transactions, or checkouts to span hour(s).  Not saying it can't ever happen, it just is not normal. 

5.  Who needs 60 bottles of mustard, anyway?  This looks like an organized form of hoarding.

Products spoil. Everything has a shelf life, for a reason.  Once you start couponing, you will learn how often things truly go on sale. Most items have a 3-6 month sales cycle, meaning if you have a sale today, you will probably see that price again in 3-6 months. Chances are, the same coupons will come around again as well.

The exception to that rule, for me, are high value coupons.  For example, a few weeks ago, there were coupons for $3 off Nivea body wash.  $3 is the average price at Walmart, and close to that for other stores, so this resulted in a FREE product.  I bought three of these... not extreme in any sense, but a normal amount for what my family will use.  I can't lie and say I haven't bought more than we would use, but not much.  I limit myself to the space I have in the pantry and cupboards in my kitchen - I would not hide toilet paper or barbecue sauce under my kids beds.

The exception to this is if you are donating products.  Not saying the food bank needs 60 mustards, but it is nice to donate a reasonable amount of products if you are able to.


I don't believe I fall into any of these categories.  Yes, today I bought 7 - 4 packs of yogurts, and 7 boxes of pasta, but I will use these in a reasonable time. I eat 2 yogurts a day - so this is really only a two-week's supply. I am frustrated with the show because it only shows the extreme. I do understand that no one would watch a show where I am getting three free bodywashes, but still.



To learn how to shop with your version of "extreme couponing" - stay tuned for future posts!

Shopping Trip Brags!

I went shopping last week on Friday and finally got to hit up the stores... stopped at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target.  Most of the stuff I got is for our stockpile... but picked up a few things for a friend as well - for free! And today I hit up Giant Eagle with some of my coupons...





CVS

Aquafresh Kids Toothpaste  - 1.00 – 1.00 coupon = FREE   (Got raincheck for two more, since I have two more coupons)
Aquafresh Kids Toothbrush – 3 @ 1.00 – 3 @ 1.00 coupons = FREE
Stove Top Stuffing – 2 @ .88 – 2 @ .50 coupons = .76
- Plus - earned $1 ECB for using my green bag tag!

Target

UP Ibuprofen 24 ct – .99 - .50 Target Coupon = .49
Zantac 30 ct – 7.59 – 2.00 Target Coupon – 5.00 Mfr Coupon = .59
UP Pantiliners - .87 - .50 Target Coupon = .37
A&D Diaper Cream – 3.94 – 2.00 Target Coupon – 1.00 Mfr Coupon = .94
Aquafresh Trial Size – 3@ .97 – (3) 1.00 Printable Coupon = .09 profit
Nature Made Fish Oil – 2 @ 5.84 – 4.00 Coupon + 3.00 Coupon = 4.68 for two
Visine Trial Size – 3 @ 1.97 – (3) 2.00 Coupons = .09 Profit

Walgreens

M&Ms Bags 2/2.00 – 1.00 Walgreens Coupon – 1.00 Mfr coupon = 1.00 Each
Silly Bands – 4 @ .25 – For easter baskets
Used 2.00 Register Reward from Last Time
= 1.07 for all

Walmart

Similac Formula – 3.84 – 5.00 coupon = 1.16 profit   (giving to a friend)
Candyland – 5.00 – 3.00 coupon = 2.00
Toy Story Operation – 5.00 – 2.00 coupon = 3.00
Floss – 7 @ .88 – 7 @ 1.00 coupons = .84 profit
Nivea Men’s Body Wash – 3 @ 3.00 – 3 @ 3.00 coupons = FREE
Dial Nutri Skin Lotion – 1.97 – 1.00 coupon = .97
Tide – 2 single load packets @ .97 – 2 @ 1.00 coupons (no size restriction) = .06 profit
Degree trial size deodorant – 3 @ .97 – 3 @ 1.00 coupons (no size restriction) = .09 profit
Carefree pantiliners - .94 – 1.00 coupon = .06 profit

 



Giant Eagle
Allegra 5 ct - 5.99 - 5.00 coupons = .99
Jif - 2.00 - .35 cent coupon from commenting to the company (doubled) = 1.30
Fiber One Yogurt - 2.00 - .50 coupon (doubled) - 1.00 e-Offer - FREE
Trix Yogurt - 2.00 - .75 cents off two (doubled) - .75 e-Offer = 1.75 for two
Wolfgang Puck Soup - 2.50 - $1 coupon from writing to the company - $1 e-Offer = .50
Breakstone Sour Cream - 1.50 - .50 (doubled) = .50
Skintimate Shave Gel - 2.00 - .55 (doubled) = .90
San Giorgio Quick Cook Pasta - 1.39 - .55 (doubled) = .29 each box
Smuckers Jam  - 2.00 - .75 coupon (doubled) = .50
Steamfresh Vegetables - 3 @ 1.00 - 1.00 coupon/3 = 3 / 2.00
Ortega Taco Seasoning - 2 @ .78 - .50 coupon/2 (doubled) = .58 / 2
 
And I received 2 - $2 off your next shopping order!



Monday, April 18, 2011

Freebies and Deals of the Day

Living Social - Sign up to receive daily deals for your city! I have ordered a few deals from Living Social so far, it's a great way to buy things that you can't normally afford to try!

Vistaprint - 6 Free Goodies for Easter from Vistaprint! The Products are FREE, Just Pay Shipping and Processing!  I used Vistaprint to order my business cards, and I got a great tote bag for free that we use for Trick or Treating!  Love Vistaprint!

Sign up for Coolsavings!  FREE Grocery Coupons, Product Samples and more!

Groupon is a great daily deal site! They have great daily deals for most cities, I have found some great deals in Pittsburgh!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's Been Going On...

I'm sorry I haven't updated this blog lately - there has been a lot going on at our house! Those of you who know me personally already know this story...

The past few months have been a lot of craziness with my son in daycare.  My son B is 4, going to be 5 this summer, and he has been at the same daycare center for years, since he was a baby. Since he moved up to the Pre-K class he is clashing with another child in the class.  Instead of watching closely to see what was going on between the two kids, the school is claiming he has behavior problems. This resulted in countless complaints from the school, calls to me, tears from my son, etc. It has been a rough road.

Through the suggestion of the school and a friend, we contacted early intervention to do an evaluation for him.  I figured if he truly was having behavior problems like the school was claiming, he would get help, and if not, then we would know for sure. After two evaluations, and a few months of waiting, he has an IEP for behavior and emotional delays.  However, the therapist told us that she did not see anything during either evaluation - that everything that they based it on was the written evaluation from the teacher. It is frustrating because I don't see the same behavior problems, and certainly not a lack of emotions and compassion like the school is claiming.

The school did not seem willing to work with us and they seemed to be losing their patience with B. He started crying every morning, and going so far as to make himself so sick that he couldn't go to school. Every day I would wait for the awful reports from the teacher and feel incredibly guilty that I had to leave him with someone that clearly did not like him or want to help.

Last Friday, B cried all morning that he did not want to go to school.  I told him to hang in there and go for one more week and then he will be able to start his new school. He started yelling at me that he wanted to go for "no more days!" I made a decision to switch him to a new center, and called last Friday to set the date for him to start this coming Monday. Less than an hour after calling the new center, his old school called and said that he was out of control, hitting kids and teachers. I made the decision then that I was going to pull him out of the school.

I went to pick him up that day and was disappointed that we were not able to leave on our own terms. He wanted me to leave notes for his friends with his phone number so they would come over and play, and I wanted him to say goodbye. Instead, it ended much more messy... although I talked to the director and found out that he can still do his pre-k graduation with his friends, which is the main reason we held out to begin with.

He started at his new center this Monday and he is doing great! He is already making friends, and both teachers that he has during the day say that he is wonderful. He has yet to start his services with early intervention, so hopefully once they come we will find that he is alright.

Long story short, I have not been able to focus on this blog or my personal goal of paying off any of our bills or saving. I am the type of person that needs to focus on one problem or issue at a time, and this one with B's school really threw me. It consumed all of my thoughts, effort and emotions.  Each night I was coming home from work and collapsing once B went to bed because I was so emotionally drained.

Hopefully now that this school situation is resolved I can have a new beginning and start working toward my goals!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Couponizer


A bunch of my friends recently got The Couponizer and they all seem to love it! If you are looking for a great coupon solution to get you organized, try this!