Extreme couponing: how to get your grocery store to pay you to shop

October 18 | Guest post by Katrina

In my family, we love to eat. The only problem is that food (especially "good" food) can be really expensive. My coworkers kept talking about "extreme couponing," and how they were getting full carts of groceries for only a few dollars. I was intrigued, but didn't have the time to match up coupons and sales. I tried doing it a few times and felt so frustrated and overwhelmed.

I felt like everybody was in on this huge secret, until my coworkers directed me to a few websites. These sites break down the deals by store and tell you exactly where to find the coupons!

The websites also have a beginner section where they teach you all of the acronyms they use on the site, coupon policies by stores, and have a list of FAQs. I especially love the sites that tell you how much the item will be at the end.

I started small. The first week, I set a goal to save $5. Just five bucks. I printed out some coupons and was so scared that my store wouldn't take them! My heart was pounding as I handed them over. The cashier scanned my coupons, then circled the savings on my receipt. I more than met my goal!

Each week, I set a new goal. My current goal now is to always save more than I spend. It's so crazy to think that I can actually print money from my computer!

Here's a great example of how I've saved money: last week, I found an awesome deal on vitamins. There was a store coupon for $6 off any two bottles of vitamins. There was also a manufacturer's coupon for $3 off two bottles of vitamins. My coupons totaled $9 off two bottles, right? Well, some of the vitamins were $2.99 each. I picked up two bottles, used both coupons, and got paid $3 to take the vitamins! I didn't need them, but the overage made my other groceries cheaper. We're going to donate them when my daughter's school or church have a vitamin drive.

The main couponing sites I use are:

They are the ones who tell you all of the deals by store, and will link you to printable coupons (target.com, coupons.com, brand websites/homepages, facebook pages) or tell you where to find a coupon.

My favorite tricks are very simple:

Shop Sales

I try to shop the sales, especially BOGO (buy one, get one free). These sales typically act as a 50% off coupon; you do not need to buy two items to get the deal. For the printable coupons, you can only print two per computer/printer. If there is a BOGO (buy one get one free) you can put coupons on BOTH items.

Combine coupons when possible

I love to combine a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon (a store coupon is supposed to be used at a particular store, while a manufacturer's coupon can be used anywhere). Find out if your store takes competitor coupons to save even more (my Publix will take Target coupons)!

Always get the moneymakers, even if you don't need them

Sometimes you can use coupons and MAKE MONEY to take the item. You'll always want to get the moneymakers (even if you don't need it) because it lowers the price of the stuff you DO need. You can always save, donate, or give away your freebies.

Don't try to get every deal — be proud of yourself for any amount that you save.

You'll make yourself crazy if you try to get every deal for every store. Don't stress about couponing, just be proud of yourself for saving any amount of money! There are coupons for everything; produce, food, cleaning supplies, medicine … everything! I also have some ideas for saving paper/ink when you print out coupons. I set my printer to black and white, and low quality (or whatever it's called) — it uses less ink. I print coupons on scrap paper (pictures that my daughter drew and then threw away because she messed up, a paper somebody stuck in our door for lawn services, house fliers, etc).

Decide if you're loyal to a specific brand

Brand loyalty is huge — sometimes the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand, even with coupons for the name brand stuff. If you're loyal to that brand, it might be a good deal for you. If you don't care, you might want to get the store brand. However, sometimes you can get brand name for cheaper than store brand! Score!