Many of us use coupons and money-off vouchers to save a bit of money on our shopping, but some people are using extreme couponing to save a fortune.
However, to really make significant savings you need to put in the hours.
What is extreme couponing?
Originating in the US with popular TV series Extreme Couponing, extreme couponing has become popular in the UK with dedicated couponers saving between 30-90% on their weekly shop.
The key to extreme couponing is being organised, building up a stock of vouchers and working out the best time to use them.
Experienced couponer Emma Mumford, otherwise known as the Coupon Queen, says she saves an estimated £2,000 a month by shopping smartly with the help of coupons. But it takes time!
The 20-year-old spends in excess of 10 hours a week online hunting down the latest voucher deals and coupons in order to save money. Her dedication to extreme couponing means she no longer pays full price for anything and saves money on food, toiletries and even holidays.
Emma told the Daily Mail: ‘It takes a bit of effort in the beginning but who hasn’t got the time to save themselves money?’
While supermarket vouchers are a great starting point for novice couponers, there are lots of other places to search for deals. Check food packaging, in-store offers, manufacturer websites, newspapers and magazines for coupons that can be redeemed against your weekly shop.
Or you can visit official voucher sites and forums like Extreme Couponing & Deals UK (run by Emma Mumford) or The UK Couponing Forum. These sites will not only give details of vouchers, they’ll also share tips on how to most effectively use them.
Organisation is key
However, it’s not all about hunting down coupons and vouchers, it’s as much about making sure you spend them at the right time. This may mean having an organised filing system for your coupons so you never miss an offer.
Or using a money off coupon in conjunction with another offer – known in the extreme couponing world as stacking. Take care though as many vouchers may not be valid if ‘stacked’ with another offer, so extreme couponers need to make sure they are familiar with supermarket policies before heading to the shops to cash them in.
To get the most out of extreme couponing it’s often necessary to bulk-buy products in order to get the maximum discount. Having adequate space to store bulk purchases, as well as thinking about use-by dates, is therefore essential.
When bulk buying items stick to non-perishables like washing detergent, toiletries or canned goods, rather than fresh produce, or limiting purchases to what you’ll use, rather than buying something because it’s on offer.
Extreme couponing expert Judith Wenban admitted to the Daily Telegraph that she had ‘a shed full of Campbell’s soup’ and parts of her house looked like a ‘cash and carry’ with boxes of cereal and cans of deodorant filling up every nook and cranny – so, beware!
Modern day ‘wombles’
For the truly dedicated, there is one type of extreme couponing which goes that extra mile and it’s known as ‘wombling’. ‘Womblers’ spend hours wandering around supermarket and fast food restaurant car parks, searching for discarded receipts that can be cashed in for vouchers or free food.
Like the Wombles of Wimbledon Common who collected and recycled rubbish other people left behind, real-life wombles claim their extreme vouchering is as much about tidying up as it is about saving money.
As it’s illegal to take receipts out of bins, womble Stephen Auker spends hours searching for discarded receipts in bushes, trolley bays and ‘windy corners’ of car parks.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Auker revealed: ‘You get out of wombling exactly what you put in. For example, yesterday was a very windy day so I sat in a car park for seven hours waiting for the receipts to blow toward me.’
While spending hours in cold and wet car parks isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, Auker claims he saves up to £200 per week picking up the discarded receipts and vouchers.
Extreme couponing is definitely not for the faint hearted, but with dedication, organisation, and a lot of hard work, you could reap the rewards and pay next to nothing for your shopping.