Is Extreme Couponing Worth the Time It Takes?

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KEY POINTS

  • Extreme couponing involves combining multiple coupons and store sales.
  • You may be able to get some items for free or for pennies on the dollar.
  • Extreme couponing isn't always worth it, because it takes time to find deals and visit multiple stores -- plus, you have to find space to keep the items you buy.

If you want to save on groceries and personal care items so you can keep more money in your bank account, you may be interested in the idea of extreme couponing. This practice isn't just printing a manufacturer coupon here and there. It typically involves using a lot of coupons, combining them with sales at stores, and then paying very little for many items.

Extreme couponing can undoubtedly keep your credit card bills down. But, is it actually worth the time it takes? As a former extreme couponer, the conclusion I came to was no. But, a lot will depend on your own hourly rate, as well as what stores are convenient to you and what products you purchase. 

Why does extreme couponing take so much time?

First things first, it's helpful to understand that extreme couponing is time consuming. And there's a few reasons why that's the case.

You need to find lots of coupons

To do extreme couponing right, you usually need to have a big collection of coupons. That's because you'll want to combine store and manufacturer coupons with sales and generally buy multiples of certain items when they're on sale. Doing this sometimes requires holding onto a manufacturer coupon from the paper for a few weeks until a good sale comes along. So, you'll need to spend time collecting coupons from the Sunday paper and online, potentially buying multiple papers or otherwise finding extra coupons. And you'll need to keep a huge coupon collection organized.

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You'll need to search for deals

You will have to be able to match up your coupons with sales, which takes a lot of time. You may have to look through tons of store flyers, or deal websites (such as Slickdeals) where people compile lists of bargains at places like CVS and Walgreens. 

You'll probably need to visit multiple stores

If you want to get items for free, or near free, you'll have to visit the stores that are having sales on the items you have coupons for. And you'll need to do this during the times the items are discounted. 

You'll need to store all your stuff

Many extreme couponers amass stockpiles of stuff by buying items when they are free or near-free. You'll have a lot of items you need to keep track of, rotate so they don't go bad, and either use, sell, or give away. 

All of this usually means you end up spending hours a week just dealing with your couponing habit. 

Here's why it may not be worth it

Spending a ton of time to gather and use coupons might make sense if you were getting a ton of items you need. But, that's not necessarily the case. If you want to pay little or nothing, you'll have to buy items that happen to have the right combination of coupons and sales. This could mean buying tons of stuff you don't need, like dozens of tubes of toothpaste or a pasta sauce you don't use. 

The actual amount of usable stuff you get may be limited, and by the time you factor in all the work you'd have to do to get it, finding a side gig would usually be a better bet to improve your personal finances. The time waste -- and the wasted items -- were a big reason why I gave up extreme couponing many years ago and never looked back. 

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