Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Extreme Couponing

A few weeks back, I watched, “Extreme Couponing”.  
I could do that, I thought to myself as I watched the lady loading forty bottles of orange soda into her cart and paying $1.55 at checkout.  
I called my friend Gwen and asked her if she wanted to join my extreme couponing club.  Little did I know that Gwen was already well on her way to couponing stardom.  She invited me over to her house to see how it is done.  
When Gwen showed me her stash of name brand groceries, I had to wonder if she was a natural disaster was eminent or perhaps Armageddon.  There were umpteen boxes of cereal, jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna fish and other canned goods stacked from floor to ceiling covering every wall in the spare bedroom.  In addition, the room was stock full of toothpaste, soap, shampoo and paper goods as far as the eye could see.  I was in awe as I gazed upon the massive cache.  
“How long did it take you to get all this stuff?” I asked as she started gathering her couponing books.  
“A few months.” she replied, “I only get name brand stuff now and I only shop for ‘twofors’ so I can use two or sometimes three coupons.”  
“What’s a ‘twofor’?” I asked.
“Boy you really don’t know anything about couponing, do you?”  Gwen laughed.
I later learned that a “twofor” meant that the store was offering a two for one sale and, if you were a really savvy shopper, you could use a store coupon, manufacturer’s coupon AND a competitor’s coupon on each item - essentially paying nothing!
“Wow!” I said, “Show me how it’s done!”
Gwen opened her first couponing book which might as well have been encoded by the CIA.  There were categories I never heard of like BOGO (By One Get One - which is also know as a twofor), RP (Red Plum), AB (Advantage Buy), PI (Penny Item), TP (tear pad), IP (Internet Printable), SS (Smartsource), FAR (Free After Rebate), MIR (Mail In Rebate) and my all time favorites; Peelie (coupon peeled off package) and Blinkie (coupon dispensed near the product usually from a blinking red box).
“This is your FIRST book?” I asked as my arms began to shake from the weight of the book.  
“Sure,” Gwen said, “I have two more that are filled with the local store coupons that expire quickly.” She grabbed her next book.
In that book I found; YMMV (Your Milage May Vary), WSL (While Supplies Last), CRT (Cash Register Tape receipt), RR (Register Rewards) and ECB (Extra Care Bucks).    
In each book, Gwen had pages that were designed for baseball cards.  She put her coupons in the slots under subcategories such as “sales cycles” and “freebees.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I didn’t even ask to see the third book as I think my brain would have exploded! 
“I shop on Thursdays.”  Gwen informed me.  “That way I have the Tuesday mailers as well as the Wednesday newspaper ads. Want to come with me this Thursday?”
“Okay, I’m in.”  I said as I secretly worried that I would be a couponing dropout.
That Sunday, scissors in hand, I spent the entire morning perusing the paper for coupons.  Bill asked what I was doing and I explained that I was going to save us big bucks at the grocery store.  That afternoon, I went online to get all my IPs (Internet Printables).  My family missed my presence at church, lunch and dinner but I was determined to let no coupon escape my clutches.  By evening, I had a pile of coupons that would make Gwen proud.  I placed the coupons in the pages I snatched out of Bill’s baseball collection books.  I didn’t have any organizational strategy yet, but I figured I’d have it down pat by the next shopping trip.  I didn’t have a book to put them in either, but I figured I’d have one by Thursday.
On Wednesday, after work, I went through the same ritual as Sunday.  Only this time I was up way past midnight because I had to go through the Tuesday mailers and I had to go online to find the BOGOs (Buy One Get One) for my local store and print out my shopping list.
Thursday, I arrived at Gwen’s house a bit sleepy (and maybe a tad grouchy due to lack of sleep).  I never did get a binder for my coupon pages, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal.  
As Gwen and I headed to the store, I felt a pang of excitement.  I envisioned the two of us tag teaming our way through the grocery aisles like the pros on Extreme Couponing.  The fact that Gwen was on crutches, (due to knee surgery) and both of my knees were not much better, never entered my mind.  
We parked in the handicapped space close to the store and Gwen hung her handicapped sticker from the mirror.  I helped Gwen into the motorized shopping cart as I grabbed my cart and off we went.  
Three hours later, as we got on the checkout line, we were barely on speaking terms.  It might have had something to do with the fact that my coupons kept falling out of my baseball card holders and I, in my grouchy state, yelled at Gwen because she had a motorized vehicle while I had to trudge along on two bad knees.  

Not only that, we looked like two war victims.  My hair was matted to my head because I was sweating profusely from chasing my fluttering coupons.  Gwen’s leg, in a straight cast, was propped up on her motorized cart and her eye makeup was running down her cheeks because, at one point, she started crying when I yelled at her.  
It took us so long to shop because I slowed everything to a crawl (which I spent much of my time doing anyway).  Picture this if you will; I arrive in the cereal aisle and get all excited because I know that I have a Cheerios trifecta (three coupons for a BOGO).  I start searching for the coupons when several other coupons fly out of their holders.  I have to get down on my hands and knees and crawl around retrieving my wayward coupons.  It’s not the getting down part that is so bad - it’s the getting UP part.  At first, Gwen patiently motored over to me so I could use her vehicle to pull myself up.  By the third time, Gwen left me in the dust to figure out my own way to get up.  Some friend she is!  That’s when I yelled at her.  
The friendly cashier, trying desperately to cheer us up, asked us if we found everything okay.  
“It only took us three hours!” Came Gwen’s sarcastic reply.
“Well, at least you’re not leaving the store with twelve boxes of Cheerios and nothing else!” I retorted.
The cashier continued our checkout without making eye contact.  She silently handed me my receipt which showed that I saved $24.00 on Cheerios.  My bill came to $1.24.  “Victory is mine!” I declared because Gwen’s bill, for a full handicapped cart, came to $3.49.  The cashier just shook her head as we limped and motored our way out the door.
Gwen and I are now on speaking terms again.  She eventually forgave me for calling her a cripple and I admitted that I could have been more organized.  On a brighter note, I have ventured out on my own with my coupons (in envelopes) and I actually have saved my family some money.   I don’t think I’ll ever make it on Extreme Couponing, though.  
Cheerios anyone?