The first time I tried extreme couponing, I did everything wrong.

I did not have a plan. I went to a store where I don’t normally shop because they were having a good sale, and I brought all of my coupons with me. My strategy? If I had a coupon for it, I bought it. I was in the store going through my coupons for two hours. You should have seen the stunned, stupid look on my face when the total came to $90 for a cart filled with items I didn’t want and didn’t use!

But I had to use all of it because I spent good money to buy it, and to be a good couponer you just have to use whatever is on sale. Right?  I miserably used dish soap I hated, food that no one in my family liked, and shampoo that made my hair stink. I didn’t use another coupon for nine months!

The next time I used coupons, I knew what I liked to buy, which brands I used loyally, how much I typically spent, and my coupons and sales were matched up ahead of time. What a difference! I felt like a superstar!

I have found that to really have fun couponing and feel successful you have to understand some things about yourself first.

What Items Do You Use? 

There is no point in stocking up on items that no one in your house uses.  Even if it’s a great deal, it is wasted money if it just sits on a shelf. For example, we all know we should eat better, but if everyone in the house hates oatmeal, it is not a bargain even if it is only $0.25 a box.

What Are Your Brand Loyalties?

Are there some items that you’ll only purchase in a specific brand? If so, there is no benefit to getting another brand you don’t like. One of the funnest things about using coupons is trying lots of different brands and new types of products. But don’t stock up on something that won’t get used. For example, my two sons are loyal Axe users.  I have tried giving them Dial for Men and they wonder why they’re being punished. So I don’t buy it for them anymore (even though I personally prefer Dial). Instead I look for good deals on Axe.

How Much Do You Usually Spend on Each Item?

This was one of my biggest mistakes on my first coupon shopping trip. The store had a great matchup on tuna fish. I bought a lot because it ended up being 60% off the regular price with the sale and the coupons. When I got home, I realized that the great price I got on the tuna was actually more than I usually spent on my regular brand at my normal store!  How frustrating! Take the time to figure out how much you regularly spend on the items you buy all the time so that you’ll know if something is really a money saver for you.

Where Do You Like to Shop?

I like to shop at specific stores because they are close, they have great deals, or the cashiers are super friendly. I’ve tried other stores because I heard about great deals, but it always ends up in frustration. I could litter a bird cage with the expired Catalinas that didn’t get used in time because I didn’t go back to the store. It’s no fun to feel like you have to visit a store you don’t like because you don’t want to waste your in-store credit. It’s better to learn how to maximize the savings at the stores where you enjoy shopping.

What Would You Buy If Money Was No Object? 

When I was asking my sister what brand of shampoo she wanted, her answer was “Brand X because that is all I can afford.”  Wrong answer! With so many great deals out there, good quality items are often less expensive than their generic counterparts. I’m not knocking generic, but there is sometimes a big difference. Don’t believe me? Go try generic Cheerios! Yuck! Think about the brands you see advertised that you wish you could afford.

Using coupons shouldn’t mean completely changing who you are or settling for using things you don’t like. It is a lot more fun to get your favorite brands for half off than it is to use something you don’t like because it was free! Take time to get to know yourself. Don’t feel like you have to save 90% to be successful! If you are saving money on items you regularly buy and really like, then you are a super shopper!

 This has been a guest post by Heather from Eagle, ID
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