I have done a couple of extreme couponing challenges in the past including eating on $1 a day for 100 days and creating a Thanksgiving meal for six people for a total of $1. While it’s certainly possible to save money to that extreme, I would not recommend that anyone go quite that far. Instead, I feel it’s much better to learn the basics so that you can learn how to manipulate the grocery shopping experience in your favor (because if you don’t, then the grocery store is manipulating you in their favor). Here are a few of the extreme couponing lessons I have learned from those experiences:

It’s possible to do: When I first started, I thought that the whole extreme couponing thing was some type of scam. I mean, really, stores selling food for free or pennies on the dollar? I quickly realised that it was a game. Stores gave different discounts in an attempt to try to lure different types of customers to buy their products. If you are willing to combine these multiple discounts together in ways the stores and manufacturers have not anticipated, it’s certainly possible to get a lot of food for very little money.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should: Just because you can buy everything in a grocery store for virtually nothing doesn’t mean that you should. There are other shoppers who would also like to take advantage of the great deals, so don’t clear the shelves even though you can. If you are buying for others or for charity, talk to the manager and place a special order. I was able to buy 627 boxes of cereal for a local food bank, 300 boxes of cereal another time and 120 tubes of biscuits without clearing any shelves by talking with the grocery store manager. Be considerate of other shoppers.

You don’t have to extreme coupon to save money: Coupons are only one part of the overall strategy when it comes to extreme couponing. If you’re the type of person that hates coupons (I am certainly one of those people), you can still save a ton of money when shopping even if you never use a coupon. The key is that you have to change the way that you plan your meals. If you can change from deciding what you want to eat each night and going to the grocery store to buy those needed ingredients to creating your meals from what you have on hand in your pantry, you have won 90% of the grocery savings battle. This change allows you to purchase only the best deals each week which enables you to save a ton of money while never having to clip a coupon.

Extreme couponing is a great way to give back to your community: The Extreme Couponing show on TLC has given extreme couponers a bad image as the show has focused on the hoarding that some extreme couponers do (I have heard the second season will not focus on this as much). While there are certainly some that do hoard, it has been my experience that most people that extreme coupon give away a lot of what they are able to get to local charities or others in need. If you are able to master this skill, you can give a huge amount back to those less fortunate in your community without having to spend a lot of money doing so.

Extreme couponing is not for everyone: While you can certainly learn to extreme coupon even if you hate coupons (I am a perfect example of that), extreme couponing is definitely not for everyone. There is a large learning curve at the beginning that will require you to learn a completely new couponing language and will take a lot of time and effort. While this time and effort will pay off in the long run and save you a lot of time shopping once you have mastered the extreme couponing skills, if you don’t enjoy coupons, the chances are that you’ll never reach that point. Know yourself before jumping in and trying to extreme coupon.

These are just a few of the lessons that I have learned. While I personally don’t enjoy extreme couponing, I feel that learning the skills to do so have served me well and I am a better informed shopper now when I go into a grocery store. Anyone that has even a slight interest in trying to learn how to extreme coupon will come away with some fantastic grocery shopping skills even if they don’t utilize these skills all the time in their every day shopping.

Also, these lessons are basically for people in the United States, if you want some lessons in couponing from the United Kingdom, consider checking out Jordoncox.com.  He’s know as Britain’s “Coupon Kid” – so his site is well worth the visit.

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