How to Extreme Coupon

Four Parts:Finding CouponsLearn to Love Catalinas (In-Store Coupons Generated at the Cash Register)You Have Coupons, Now Use ThemOther Money Saving Practices

Everyone wishes that they could shop for their favorite items and earn money instead of giving it away. Well, extreme couponers claim to be able to do just that. With a little time and organization, you will be on your way to slashing your costs and even earning money back. This article tells you how to find coupons, use catalinas and get extreme with your savings.

Part 1
Finding Coupons

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    Get a cheap Sunday newspaper subscription. Subscribe to a statewide paper and a paper from your town or a nearby town as long as the money you save from the coupons that you find pays for your subscription.
    • Find coupons in the inserts from companies like SmartSource. You can usually find 2 to 3 dedicated coupon inserts every Sunday.
    • Check for sale fliers from your favorite stores. These may have coupons printed across the bottom of the page or next to some of your favorite items.
    • Find out when your favorite store prints its sales flyer. If your favorite grocery store prints its flier in Thursday's paper, then consider subscribing on Thursday as well.
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    Sign up for store emails. Many stores will email coupons to you or send you an electronic copy of their sales fliers. If you purchase or sign up for a loyalty card from a company, be sure that you provide your email address and indicate that you want to receive messages containing deals.
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    Look for coupons on reputable websites. Some ideas include:
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    Subscribe to a coupon clippers website, such as New England coupon clippers. These subscriptions will deliver coupons to your mailbox based on deals available in your region.
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    Check the websites or Facebook pages of your favorite companies. If your favorite companies have a Twitter feed, then subscribe so you can get a link to deals.
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    Clip coupons from your favorite magazines. All You, for instance, is a magazine sold by Wal-Mart that is chock full of great coupons.
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    Be observant when you walk around stores. You may find coupons on store shelves next to your favorite products. You can also look at the front of your store for a machine that dispenses deals. Some stores have machines into which you can insert your loyalty card and receive coupons based on your past purchase patterns.
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    Seek out QR codes. You can scan these codes with your mobile phone and be led to an online coupon that you can use at checkout. A QR code looks something like this:
    • Purchase a mobile phone app that will read QR codes, such as QRReader for iPhone or QR Droid for Android. Tap on the app to open it.
    • Generally, you point your camera at the code and press the key in the bottom center of your phone to activate a scanner. You then scan the code and the coupon or website opens on your phone. Different apps have different instructions, so check your app to be sure.
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    Organize a coupon swap. If you have friends who also love to extreme coupon, then get together and swap coupons that you don't use for some that are more valuable to you.[1]

Part 2
Learn to Love Catalinas (In-Store Coupons Generated at the Cash Register)

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    Collect catalinas after every transaction. Note the expiration date on each. They usually have to be used within 10 days to 3 months of the day they print out.
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    Register on a website like Coupon Network. You can list the stores at which you most commonly shop and receive information about catalinas that they are currently printing.
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    Check forum comments on sites like Hot Coupon World, Slick Deals or Pinching Your Pennies. Extreme couponers leave comments in the forum letting you know what deals are currently out there in the form of catalinas.
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    Roll your catalinas. For instance, if you receive a catalina for $1 off 3 jars of applesauce, try this trick:
    • Come back into the store and buy more applesauce. Use the catalina at the cash register. If you're lucky, another catalina will be given to you after your transaction.
    • Go back for more applesauce as long as the catalinas keep printing. You can usually get away with a maximum of 3 transactions per store.
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    Go to multiple locations of your favorite store. For instance, if you know that your grocery store has 4 locations close to your home, then visit all 4 locations. Use the catalinas to stock up on your favorite items. Be aware that not every location will print the same catalinas, but if the stores are close-by, it's worth exploring.
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    Stack your catalinas. If you receive in-store coupons for $5 off a $30 purchase, then save the catalinas for when you need to purchase expensive items, like meat or seafood. Then, use as many as you can in 1 transaction to save money on these items.
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    Bring your catalinas to a competitor. If a store is willing to accept competitor coupons, then you can get the same deals in a different store instead of waiting on your preferred store to run a sale.
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    Share the wealth. Go to a coupon forum yourself and let your fellow extreme couponers know what catalinas you found. If you are generous with your tips, then your fellow couponers will reciprocate.

Part 3
You Have Coupons, Now Use Them

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    Wait for a good sale. One good idea is to use a website like The Grocery Game. This site will list the sales flyers for your favorite stores. When you see an item in the flyer, and you know you have a coupon for that item, then it's time to save yourself some money. Otherwise, you can do the research yourself.
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    Organize your coupons. Try 1 of these methods:
    • Use baseball cardholders inside a 3-ring binder to make your coupons easy to reach. Then, use divider tabs to split your coupons into sections by product, by store or by another method that makes sense to you.
    • Use an alphabetically organized accordion file. Place your coupons in order by product name. Sort through each pocket weekly and put soon-to-expire coupons at the front of the pocket so you don't forget to use them.
    • If you can't be bothered cutting out the coupons to insert into separate card slots in a binder, simply hole punch the page and attach a pair of small scissors (such as a child's safety pair) by a string to the binder. That way, you can cut out the coupon as you find the product.
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    Write or print out a list of your current coupons. You can do this on an Excel spreadsheet.
    • As you walk around, you can place the relevant coupon into a small envelope sitting in your bag or in the cart, in readiness to hand over all coupons for items you found to the cashier.
    • As you use coupons, mark them off your list with a pen or pencil. When you get home, delete them from your spreadsheet.
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    Purchase multiple items. If your store is selling cereal in a "Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free" promotion, and you have a coupon for the same cereal, then get as much cereal as you can under the terms of the deal.
    • Watch the language on the sale flyer to make sure the store has a reasonable limit on the amount of items that you can buy under the promotion.
    • Avoid buying perishable items in bulk. For example, don't stockpile dairy or produce.
    • At home, shop from your stash. If you don't know what to cook for dinner, then choose an item from your bulk purchases to avoid ordering takeout or running to the store for something you can live without.
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    Stack your coupons. If you have manufacturer's coupons and store coupons, then combine them to get even more money off your purchase.
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    Order items that are sold out. If your store will let you place a bulk order for the items listed on your coupon, then don't be afraid to ask.
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    Go during off-peak hours. Extreme coupon transactions take time, and other customers will feel impatient if you hold up the line with your coupons. Also, cashiers can become frustrated with many coupons because of not only transaction length but also confusion about store policies. You need to go at a time the store isn't too busy to minimize conflict.
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    Leave your kids at home. Extreme coupon transactions require clear communication. If your children are running wild or trying to talk to you while you're interacting with the cashier, then you won't be able to concentrate on what you're doing. Find a babysitter for your early extreme coupon adventures.
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    Be open to various brands. You may have to go with a brand that isn't your tried and true choice to get a deal. As long as the difference in taste and quality is negligible, the savings will be worth it.
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    Know the store's policy and have a copy of it with you. This is simply a safeguard against cashiers who aren't aware of store policies themselves and don't really want to have to deal with your extreme coupling.
    • It is far easier to say "we don't accept that" than to go to the effort of ringing it all through, so be prepared to politely but firmly clarify the appropriateness of your coupon actions by pointing out the store policy.
    • You will often find the policy online; if not, ask the store manager for a copy.
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    Use appropriate coupon etiquette. Stick to these good practices:
    • Be considerate to your cashier and to the people lined up behind you.
    • Never photocopy coupons. Some stores will no longer accept coupons that even appear to be photocopied.
    • Avoid hoarding. Items usually go on sale on a 6 to 8 week cycle. Stock up on enough to take you through the sales cycle and no more. Don't become a person who stacks cases of toothpaste under your bed.
    • Don't commit fraud. Avoid using coupons for items other than the item printed on the paper. Also, never alter existing coupons or print off counterfeits.[2]

Part 4
Other Money Saving Practices

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    Know if your store price matches. Some stores will match and even undercut the price of the same product sold in other stores. Just bring in a sales flyer from the competing store as proof of the price.
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    Plan your menus around store sales and your coupon inventory. You might feel limited at first, but you'll come to enjoy the creative challenge of coming up with meals that your family will enjoy at a low cost.
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    Shop at stores that offer discounts on fuel. If you can accumulate points toward a fuel purchase by shopping at a certain store, then you'll save money on top of your coupon discounts.
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    Know when items go on clearance. For instance, buy a winter coat in the spring, or purchase bedding and home items in January. Look for big post-holiday clearance sales or summer clearance sales.
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    Take advantage of credit card rewards. Don't go crazy with your credit card just to get bargains, but use it wisely to help yourself save money. Some cards offer gift cards to use in certain stores or discounts on certain products. You can also earn rewards toward restaurants, airline tickets or hotel stays.
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    Compare prices of brand-name items to generic items. Sometimes, a store's generic product is cheaper even than a brand-name product combined with a coupon offer. The generic version is often comparably good, so be open-minded.
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    Donate some bulk items to charity. If you can't possibly use all those boxes of pancake mix, then donate them to needy families in your community.
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    Have realistic expectations. You're probably going to have to coupon for at least 3 months to build your stockpile of goods. Then, you will begin to see significant savings.


  • Read about the experiences of existing extreme couponers. Read widely in extreme couponing blogs or forums to get a feel for what works and doesn't.
  • Be observant while the cashier is ringing you up. Most states require stores to give discounts or free items to customers if an item rings up at the wrong price. Point out the mistake to the cashier so that you can take advantage of the error.
  • Ask family members if they have coupons they don't use. Chances are they do.
  • Acronyms often found on coupon websites include:
    • $1/1: $1.00 off one item
    • AC: After coupon
    • AR: After rebate
    • Blinkie: Coupon dispenser machines found in aisles
    • BOGO: Buy one, get one free
    • BOLO: Be on the lookout
    • B1G1F: Buy one, get one free
    • C&P: Cut and paste
    • CAT: Catalinas
    • DND: Do not double (the coupon/offer cannot be doubled in value, even if it's redeemed in a store that does double coupons)
    • FAR: Free after rebate
    • IP: Internet printable coupon
    • MIR: Mail-in rebate
    • NAZ: Name, address, zip code
    • NED: No expiry date
    • OAS: On any size
    • OOP: Out of pocket (the amount you will need to pay on your own)
    • OOS: Out of stock
    • OSI: On single item
    • OYNO: On your next order
    • Peelie: Peel off the coupon from the product
    • POP: Proof of purchase
    • PP: Purchase price
    • RC: Rain check
    • Stacking: Allowance for store coupons to be used on top of manufacturer's coupons
    • TMF: Try me free
    • WPN: Wine purchase necessary
    • WSL: While stocks last
    • WYB: When you buy.


  • A bargain isn't a bargain if you don't need the item. Just because the item is on sale doesn't make it a bargain if it's something you won't actually use.
  • Check the Coupon Information Center website for a list of counterfeit coupons that are currently circulating.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunday newspaper
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Magazines
  • Loyalty card
  • Facebook account
  • QR code scanner on your smartphone
  • Baseball card holders
  • 3-ring binder
  • Divider tabs
  • Accordion file
  • Copy of store policy

Article Info

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