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Couponing! A Challenge ...


Of course we've all heard of the Extreme Couponing craze. Testimonials of huge cash savings, thousands of dollars of free groceries ... and even a TLC Extreme Coupon television program.

I'm intrigued ... and I'm sure there are a growing number of us who are.

To be perfectly honest, I'm really not-so-good at couponing. Kind of on a grand scale.

Coupons, as we all know, have been around for decades. Retailers have long known and successfully played this strategic game now known as "couponing." It seems as if this game of strategy now has some new opponents; well versed, organized and galvanized to compete. All to the benefit of not only their own families but local charities as well.

Living on a newly married budget, I tried valiantly to clip coupons once upon a time. I realized that I'd failed miserably when my husband, sweetly I might add, brought to my attention that I was actually spending nearly twice the amount on groceries I had spent prior to "couponing." I was, in fact, buying everything that was a "good deal." That I needed very little of those "good deals" wasn't really taken into account. My "couponing" career quickly ended thereafter. And ... I must add, I was always a tad bit embarrassed when harassed checkers would sigh at my 4 or 5 coupons.

I'm older and wiser now ... or at least I'd like to think so.

So, I'm challenging myself to a month of couponing to see how much I can truly save ... or spend. Now, mind you, it will not be "extreme couponing." Visions of people roaming around dumpsters and trash cans pilfering ads for coupons is not something I could bring myself to do. And while watching video clips of TLC's Extreme Couponing, I also realized that I do not have extra rooms or garage space to "stock up" as they have done.

My personal challenge is simply to try, in a balanced approach, to clip coupons, put them against my regular monthly grocery bill and see whether it can truly be reduced and improved upon what I'm currently doing; buying items we need, looking for the best price, and then applying my store rewards card to any posted savings.

Like most of us, I have a thing or two I could apply my hopeful savings to ... after all, summer is just around the corner.

I must admit, however, I'm still not excited over the prospect of handing over coupons to impolite checkers, but I am determined and curious enough to try.

As I read through online couponing tips from the Today Show and MSN, I find that I'm already well on my way and that resources are available and in many cases, taking up room in my email inbox. Apparently, I'm just not taking advantage ... and I'm not organized in my approach. I'm not sure I'll actually carry a binder, as recommended, into the grocery store for this experiment, but I'm sure I'll find an acceptably more subtle approach.

Experts recommend joining store reward programs, already done, subscribing to local papers, already done, and combing the internet for additional savings ... I can do that.
TLC recommends 5 tips for novice couponers

1. Acquire the coupons from advertisements, newspapers, mailings, etc.
2. Learn the advertising jargon and how to combine coupons for best results.
3. Organize your coupons either by expiration date or product type.
4. Learn the layout of your stores and how they operate.
5. Know your "couponing" right; i.e. store policies for coupons.

Elementary ... right? We'll see.

I generally grocery shop once a week, but I do seem to run to the store for "out of's" and "replenishings" and "forgotten" things during the week as well. Beginning next Monday, May 23rd, I'm going to begin this coupon challenge. I will track my expenditures, my coupons, and my savings. At the end of 4 weeks, I'm going to sit down and add it all up. I'll let you know how it goes; what I saved or what I overspent.

Who knows ... you might want to join me on this coupon challenge!

And for you coupon veterans, if you have any advice to pass along, you have a willing ear! Love to hear from you.

Happy clipping.

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