By Theresa Shadrix
It seems everyone is an expert these days. At least it seems when it comes to coupons. Thanks to the reality TV show on TLC “Extreme Couponing,” it doesn’t seem to take much experience to be an expert. Viewers watch as shoppers collect massive amounts of groceries for mere pennies.
Maybe you are one of them and thought to yourself, “Hey, I can do that too.” So, you are energized and ready to save money. You turn on your computer and search for coupons and deals. Then feel as if your head might actually explode. You are totally overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin.
Maybe you actually set out to a store with a stack of coupons and brand spanking new binder. But you became frustrated at the register as every coupon was scrutinized, you were told you couldn’t use one or you couldn’t figure out why a coupon “beeped.”
Maybe you tried to follow the deal advice of a blog, drove to a store and there was nothing left on the shelf to buy. Yes, reality set in.
There are a lot of things you will not learn by watching this reality show. For example, a few of the stores have admitted that they went against their own coupon policy for the show. Also, it costs money to coupon. Many coupons are purchased by coupon clipping companies or from publications with coupons inside. Then there is the cost of ink when you print coupons online.
One of the most important things not known is a few shoppers on the show were fraudulent in how they were using the coupons. Basically they used a coupon meant for one item but redeemed it for another item. Fraudulent with coupons? Yes, it seems greed has a way of taking root in many things, including coupons. Grocery coupons are distributed by manufactures of products and stores are reimbursed for the amount of the coupon, plus eight cents. The problem is that when they are used incorrectly, someone has to pay. Ultimately it’s the consumer. It’s a twisted fate of irony, but one that shouldn’t be ignored.
So, what are you to do and where do you start? With anything in life, you should have a plan. So, start with figuring out how much money you can save in all areas of your life, not just with couponing. I recommend that before you fork out money to workshops, drive all over town looking for free toothpaste or use up all of your ink printing every coupon you can find that you first look at where your money is currently being spent. Yes, that means doing some work.
This week, gather all of your bills and write down what you owe each month. Are there ways that you can save money with your expenses? Then, figure out how much money you actually bring in each month. Also, with everything you purchase seriously ask yourself if you need it and if you can pay cash for it. Finally, clip out the coupons from Clip2Save and put them in an envelope in your car so you will have them handy when needed. The worst thing in your finances is not having a plan. Now that’s extreme.