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Extreme couponing

The goal: Use so many coupons the cashier pays me.

Lisa Predko

Two hours before I became an extreme couponer, I made a grocery list:

  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Onion
  • Vegetable oil
  • Applesauce
  • Sour cream

(I was making latkes.)

Half a day later, in super-couponing mode, this is what I actually bought:

  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Onion
  • Vegetable oil
  • Applesauce
  • Sour cream
  • Sugar
  • Club soda
  • Cinnamon
  • Tonic water
  • Poppy seeds

Why did I buy poppy seeds? Because the Krazy Coupon Lady told me to.

Fascinated by extreme couponers, I recently found the Krazy Lady. The site is smartly designed, and the authors have a book called Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey. On their site, they’re very plain about life as an “extreme” couponer:

“You’ll be cooking according to what’s on sale,” they say. “You’ll be visiting multiple stores, saving from 50–90%.” “You’ll be shopping with coupons while a product is on sale and stocking up while it’s cheap or free.”

While many of these things sounded great, an equal number sounded Krazy. Would I shop from store to store? Not likely. But I still wanted to extreme coupon. I wanted to take an item to the register, and have the cashier pay me.

I started following Krazy Coupon practices. Basically, that meant cruising newspapers, store circulars and grocery store websites for deals, and pairing manufacturer’s coupons with store sales for extreme couponing moments of bliss.

This sounds boring and time consuming. It’s not. I quickly found myself approaching the project like a sport. And I was going to win—without compromising convenience. I would shop at one store, and buy only things I would use. Krazy Coupon Lady, you haven’t even seen Krazy.

The circulars in the Sun-Times and the Trib were not encouraging. They were primarily filled with items like frozen seafood appetizers and Dark Knight DVDs—specific items probably nobody except extreme couponers would buy.

The manufacturers’ coupons were a similar story. They were for things like Milk-Bones, KY Date Night bonus packs and Hello Kitty hand soap.

So, following more Krazy advice, I searched for online coupons. And that’s when things started to change. I downloaded a Dominick’s app to my phone and synced my Dominick’s card to the Dominick’s website, a process that took about two minutes. On the site, a tab that read just for u led me to coupons for items that I do in fact often buy.

Six-packs of tonic water (normally $1.50) for $1.19? With one click, the coupon downloaded to my Dominick’s card. Two dollars off McCormick spices, plus another coupon for McCormick spices, this one offering jars for $3.39. My heart raced. Could I combine these coupons and buy a $7.59 spice jar for $1.39? Click and CLICK.

And like that, I had broken my self-imposed rule not to buy anything that wasn’t on my list.

I clicked on a button that said deal match. There, a list of Jewel-Osco deals popped up—and with one click, they became Dominick’s deals. And that’s where I saw it: potatoes. Just like on my list. Four pounds for 99 cents.

I practically ran to the store. Scanning these items at the self-checkout was dreamlike, a whirlwind of computer voices calling out: One. Dollar. Savings. Thirty-one. Cents. Savings. And when I swiped that $2.99 bag of potatoes: Two. Dollars. Savings. I think I actually got a little high.

But when I swiped the spices, I heard only this: Two. Dollars. Savings. Where was the rest?

I showed a worker the coupon on my phone. “When did you download that coupon?” she asked.

“Today,” I said.

“They take 48 hours to come into effect,” she said. “Come back with your receipt in two days.”

Oh, hell no.

I marched to the service desk with my receipt and pointed to the coupons on my phone. And you know what? I was handed $5 and some change.

Dominick’s wasn’t exactly paying me to buy those spices. But I had saved about 25 percent off my grocery bill, a hefty chunk for about 15 minutes of time. Worth it? Yes.

But, uh, anybody have a recipe that involves poppy seeds?

 

Savings breakdown:

TONIC WATER SAVINGS 31¢

CINNAMON SAVINGS $4.20

CLUB SODA SAVINGS 31¢

SPINACH SAVINGS $0

VEGETABLE OIL SAVINGS $1

POTATOES SAVINGS $2

SUGAR SAVINGS $1.50

APPLESAUCE SAVINGS $0

POPPY SEEDS SAVINGS $4.20

SOUR CREAM SAVINGS $0

ONION SAVINGS $0

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