The Real Life of an Extreme Couponer

The return on investment of couponing is higher than you might think

I have a confession: I am a couponer. Some might even call me extreme. I regularly bring home bags of groceries for mere pennies. In fact, I often get paid to shop. I can’t remember the last time I spent money on toothpaste, or deodorant, or shampoo, or cereal. I know a rock-bottom deal when I see it and I stock up.

But if this description brings to mind images of grocery carts overflowing with free mustard and Alka-Seltzer, or entire garages overtaken by rows of shelves that bear a striking resemblance to your local Kroger, I’d say you’ve been watching a little too much Extreme Couponing on TLC.

TLC has shown the world that couponers can score big at the grocery store. But if you ask me, the show is a little… well, extreme.

I think I speak for most couponers when I offer you a glimpse of my "real" life:

I am a wife and a mom. I am a blogger and a businesswoman. I serve in my church, run races and go out for coffee with my friends.

Couponing is my passion. It is not my obsession. Last week I scored some free Lunchables, a couple of free toothbrushes and organic yogurt for $0.16. This week, I will match coupons to sales for more deep discounts. But if I miss a deal -- and I will -- it’s not the end of the world. And paying full price? It happens.

What I am not is a superhero. As those numbers drop with each beep of a coupon, what you are seeing is not a superpower on display. It is the result of information and experience collaborating to become a learned skill.

With the advent of money-saving blogs (like my own), online coupon databases, printable coupons and instant access to information about the latest deals, couponing is no longer a thing of housewife legend. The truth is that anyone who has access to a computer and a Sunday newspaper can don the super-couponing cape if they are willing to invest the time.

In fact, the return on investment of couponing can sometimes be higher than you expect.

Couponers are some of the most generous people I know. Hundreds of my fellow coupon-clippers demonstrated this during the 2011 Couponing for Community drive as they united to donate over 26,000 items to food pantries across the country. We like to call it flexing our couponing muscles -- a chance to embrace our alter egos for the good of mankind.

Now if you pardon the cape, 12 free deodorants are waiting to be rescued.

Kaley Ehret is the blogger behind Cha-Ching on a Shoestring as well as a wife and mother of two boys. Follow her on Twitter: @KaleyatChaChing

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