Free groceries? Kristen Hains of Traverse City gets them all the time. She’s a devotee of “extreme couponing,” a nationwide trend that’s gotten so popular, it sparked a television show on The Learning Channel (TLC).
“Four years ago I realized how the coupon world worked,” she says. “[I learned] it was possible to save huge money – not just 35 cents but 80 percent or more off. I was amazed when I realized that I could literally get stuff for free.”
Last month, for example, Haines walked out of Meijer with $125 worth of free baby formula. Often, she says the store will actually pay her to buy an item. How? She’ll trade in a “$1 off” coupon for an item priced for sale at less than $1.
The secret to her shopping success? Hains pays close attention to stores that allow the use of a store coupon along with a manufacturer’s coupon; used together, they can drive an item’s price down to pennies per item.
She also checks her catalinas: “Catalinas are those annoying coupons that print out at the register with your receipt,” she says. “They're not so annoying if you look down and see that one says something like ‘Good for $5 off your next shopping trip of $5 or more.’ That's free money.”
Alisa Kroupa is a Traverse City mom shopping for six. She doesn’t consider herself an “extreme couponer” but admits she puts forth a solid coupon effort in her once-a-month “big shopping” as she calls it. “I save about $2,000 a year, minimum,” she says.
Hard-core couponers typically bring giant coupon binders with them – inches thick – that hold dates of sales, coupons organized by type, and long lists of potential items. Hains has and uses one herself, but because collecting the coupons and watching for deals can be so time-consuming, even she says she doesn’t “extreme coupon” every time she shops.
“I try to take advantage of as many deals as I can – however, as a single mom I don't always have the time to be on top of it as much as I wish I could,” says Hains.
Interested in learning how you can extreme coupon? Our couponers recommend these websites: www.thekrazycouponlady.com, and www.dealnews.com.