Could Extreme Couponing Bring Down Your Grocery Bill?

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KEY POINTS

  • Extreme couponing means combining manufacturer coupons, store coupons, and other deals.
  • You can often get free items, which can reduce your grocery spending.
  • It's important to make sure you're buying items you really need, though -- rather than wasting your time and money.

Between 2021 and 2022, food prices increased 11%. This was a huge increase, considering the fact that prices usually go up about 2% per year. The Government Accountability Office actually indicated this was the biggest increase since the 1980s.

With such a big leap in prices, it's probably not surprising that paying for groceries has put a big strain on the checking accounts of many Americans.

If you're tired of giving your credit cards a workout at the grocery store, you may be wondering if extreme couponing could possibly bring down your bill. Here's what you need to know to help you decide if this technique could work for you.

How does extreme couponing work?

Extreme couponing is a technique I used to use to help me keep my costs in check. Basically, the premise of it is that you don't just use one or two coupons -- you use a ton, and combine them in strategic ways.

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For example, you might combine a manufacturer coupon for toothpaste with a promotion that a store is running that also gives you money off toothpaste and gives you a gift card for buying a certain amount of products made by the toothpaste manufacturer. By buying a whole bunch of toothpaste and using multiple coupons, you could pay almost nothing for the products and end up earning the gift card that you can then use to buy other things you need.

You need to be very strategic about when and how you shop for this technique to pay off, and you need to make sure you have lots of coupons -- either by buying multiple copies of Sunday papers or printing as many as you're allowed off manufacturer websites, or by buying coupons online directly off eBay or other dedicated sites.

Will it really help bring down your grocery bill?

Extreme couponing can definitely bring your grocery bill down.

After all, you can save money in a few ways. Take the above example -- you might be able to get toothpaste for free by trying out that technique and you might be able to also earn a gift card at the same time that you can then use to buy other grocery items.

However, there are a few things to consider when deciding if extreme couponing is really going to make a meaningful difference in your spending.

First, you have to think about the value of your time. If you have to spend two hours a week cutting coupons, poring over sales flyers to put together deals, and going to different stores to get the items that are on sale, that's a lot of time you can't spend doing other things. Is the grocery savings you're going to end up with really worth it, or would you be better off using those two hours to get a side job that actually pays you more money?

Second, you have to think about how much it costs to do extreme couponing. Take buying coupons. Extreme couponing really does require having multiples of different kinds of coupons to make deals work. If you're spending even a few dollars to do that, then this eats into your savings. If you're going to multiple stores, then you also have to think about how much gas you're using and how much that costs you.

Third, you need to consider whether you're really going to get items you'll use. If you have to buy 15 tubes of toothpaste to make the deal work but you only use one or two tubes a year, then have you really saved money?

What if it doesn't add up?

You may find that extreme couponing does make sense given your lifestyle. If you can't get a job outside the house and have spare time -- say, because you're a caregiver who can cut coupons during your kids' nap times -- and if you can easily access stores and get good deals, then it might pay off.

But, if you could get a side gig during the time you'd spend extreme couponing or if you live out in the country and need to travel far to different drug stores and grocery stores, you may want to skip this money-saving technique and instead try things like using a cash back credit card that offers bonus grocery rewards.

That approach just may make more sense in this type of situation, so really take the time to think about whether extreme couponing is going to have a big enough payoff or if another method of saving may be better for you.

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