Monthly Archives: November 2011

How to Get Your Partner on Board with Your New Coupon Hobby

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I have to admit, when I first started to move into the realm of Extreme Couponing, my husband was a little dubious. He thought I was wasting my time saving ₤2 with these measly little scraps of paper.  When the spreadsheets and multiple trips to different stores came to be, buying 10 tubes of toothpaste or 3 bottles of cleanser at a time, he was even less interested. It was only when I started saving vast amounts he started to come around. I think the tipping point was about a month in when I bought 30 cans of tuna and 4 loofahs for $2.50/₤1.30, a savings of 90%. Then I was asked to send him regular text updates on my shopping runs with how much I saved at each store. Watching the savings became a game for us. We’d do a high five when I saved 95-80% in one trip, or at times when I only saved 30% he would encourage me to try again the next week. It can be a challenge, but partners will come around when they start seeing the savings in your monthly budget and encourage you to keep applying yourself!

The next biggest challenge with partners is knowing what they need you to buy! I have one major rule when it comes to shopping. STICK TO THE LIST! You will always go over budget if you start buying off the list or shopping when you are hungry. I had to stop bringing my husband to the supermarket because it always turns into “oh! I could really use more hot cocoa mix!” or “this herb would go great in that chicken dish I love”. But shopping solo means I don’t always know what he needs, or what he has used up in the pantry. We have a a chalkboard over the trash can to mark what is needed in the house. Use up the last of the tomato paste, write it down. It took a few weeks of solo shopping only to come home with half of my husband’s favorite ‘needs’, and my refusal to return to the shop for missed goods, in order for him to realize the importance of our new system.

Do you have any stories about shopping with partners? Please share them in the comments!

TIP: For the tech savvy, there are apps and online sites that can help with organizing your pantry stock and shopping lists. Some can be shared by multiple users, and some even allow you to scan the barcode  for exact item replace (essential when I can’t remember what Wheetabix my husband likes). I’ll update the site with app reviews very soon when I confirm they scan UK goods.

Starting to find Forums for Couponing

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I’ve come across two web forums I think might be useful: MoneySavingExpert.com and NetMums.com

Money Saving Expert has a lot of forums with Tesco voucher codes and updates on grocery store deals. NetMums also has codes and deals, but on a smaller scale and with more posts requesting help and advice.  I hope to find more forums to share soon!

Which online forums do you think are the best for finding vouchers?

My First UK Coupon!

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My husband and I have been in London for a week, living in a hotel with a small kitchenette. Not exactly the time to start stock pile shopping. Today while shopping at our local grocery store, I got my very first UK coupon! ₤1 off the purchase of Tesco batteries attached to my receipt after buying two packs of Energizer AA batteries. Hardly a windfall, but proof coupons exist in this country.

The first thing I did when we arrived was sign up for all the grocery store club cards, but those are being sent to the new flat within the next week or so.  It’s going to take me a few trips before I create a UK Shopping routine (more on that later).

Now, time to do a little happy coupon dance while I put my first coupon in it’s folio!

“Do I Need to Travel to America for a Class on Couponing?”

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I’ve seen this now in a couple of UK articles on the TV show Extreme Couponing, women traveling to the US for a class on how to coupon.  Really? I hope these trips were in conjunction with a vacation and not for the expressed purpose of taking the class.  Couponing Classes are great ways to learn about the finer points and trip ups of your new hobby, but I can’t imagine traveling all that way for hundreds of pounds. It seems like that upfront cost would completely wipe out any savings couponing would make in your budget.

Bottom Line: If you happen to be going to the States to visit family and there happens to be a cheap course on couponing down the street then Sure! GO FOR IT! Hell, take you American family/friend with you and spread the couponing gospel. Otherwise, no. You’ll spend more getting to the class then you will save in your first year couponing.

US Couponing vs. UK Couponing

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I’ve been in London a week now living in an extended stay hotel until my new flat is ready.  Here’s a quick list of difference I’ve noticed between the US Couponing and UK Couponing

Here’s what I know about US Couponing:

  1. The discounts you see on Extreme Couponing of 99% in one shopping trip are not typical.  My standard savings was around 60-70% on every trip.
  2. Coupons could be printed, clipped, or loaded on your store club card.
  3. Coupons could be ‘stacked’ (so one manufacture coupon with one store coupon for an item) and used on a sale item making the cost per item significantly less.
  4. Some stores double coupons and some except competitors coupons
  5. A large zip binder and plastic baseball card sleeves are the only way to store coupons and every coupon is clipped and saved.
  6. Blogs and forums are an invaluable tool.  Some forums will even give you an advance preview of the next weeks store advertisement.
  7. ‘Catalina’ deals based on the purchase of a particular product and give you money to use towards future purchases at the same store.
  8. Stores don’t care if you use a coupon, in fact they get a $.08 handling fee for accepting it. Many store managers made sure I knew about a coupon available for a given product.
  9. Never buy anything that you don’t need or won’t use.
  10. Never go to the store for just one thing.  You’re time is worth money too.
  11. Never go out of your way to go grocery shopping. There are no Asda shops in my area and I will not be traveling on two tubes to get to one.

(Note: There’s so much more about the finer points and certain technicalities, but these are certainly the broad strokes and the base of the couponing system. Honestly, it becomes a game trying to figure out the details of the coupon, how many to buy in each transaction, which Catalina to use in order to keep the bottom line to a minimum, and so on. If you would like to learn more about American Couponing I suggest The Krazy Coupon Lady.)

Now, here’s where it’s going to be different in the UK:

  1.  Coupons are called ‘vouchers’ and is a blanket term covering money off a particular item, money off a shopping trip, an offer for free delivery or 2-for-1 deals, Groupon buys, deals attached to a register receipt, money off a restaurant meal and so on…
  2. There are no ‘blinkies’ (an unit attached to a grocery store shelf with a coupon dispenser for a given product)
  3. There are no coupons to load on a club card
  4. Sales do not always list the end date of the sale
  5. Club Cards do not give a lower price on items, it’s all the same deal (which is perfectly fine by me)
  6. No Catalinas with your receipts, only a quarterly money off voucher on next purchase based on points
  7. Limited refrigerator and pantry space
  8. Most city dwellers do not have cars and buy only what they can carry, or pay for a delivery service (about ₤4)
  9. No coupon inserts in newspapers (?)
  10. Stores will not take competitors vouchers
  11. Very few blogs or forums about local supermarket deals
  12. Fast paced shopping.  I’ve never seen people move so quickly when buying products (outside of Christmas sales). It’s very hard to price check or check a unit price at that speed.
 I’m hoping I can keep updating this list and perhaps even proof myself wrong!

About the American Extreme Couponer

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I’ve admitted this before and I’ll admit it again… I am an Extreme Couponer. It’s a lifestyle choice.  I have bought 10 newspapers at a time, been to the stores at 6am for the good deals, done six different transactions at one store, and on occasion cleared a shelf. I did buy 30 cans of tuna and 5 loofahs for $3.50. I was not a hoarder and you would never find stockpiles of pasta and toilet paper under my bed or in my wardrobe. When I left my apartment in the US, I had a stockpile of 10 sticks of deodorant, 10 tubes of toothpaste, 8 bottles of body wash, 15 razors, 20 boxes of pasta, 10 cans of diced tomatoes, 10 cans chicken noodle soup, 15 cans of tuna, 20 boxes of popcorn, 20 boxes of hot cocoa mix (my husband loves the stuff), and much much more… usually bought at no cost to me or for less than a $1 each.

I went from spending $600 a month (groceries, alcohol, bathroom and house cleaning items) as a single woman eating very little (pasta and salads) to spending $450 a month as a couple and buying massive quantities of items while eating steak and chicken every night. Our food only bill alone went from $420 down to $99 per month over the course of five months. The last two months when I left my job with my husband out of work, and with plans to move to London we decided to eat only what was in our stock pile and spent less than $200 a month for things like fresh produce. After that we still gave 7 heaping bags of items to my step-brother.

This blog will chronicle how I have transitioned from the rules of American Extreme Couponing to UK Extreme Couponing. I’ll share the differences and how to utilize the teachings on this side of the pond. You’ll find links to other helpful sites, how I work my ‘little hobby’ around a full time career, how to use phone apps and software to save time, deals that I have found, cheap meals we are eating, and cheap outings rated.

Please post comments or send me an email about how this blog could be better, your tips and tricks, or general bragging about better deals you’ve discovered. I really hope you enjoy, learn new things here, and perhaps even change your life the way it has mine….