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Coupon Lady: Real couponing isn't extreme

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Whenever I have a couponing class, I am reminded television has created misconceptions of what true couponing really is. It portrays couponers as greedy hoarders out to take all the sale items away from everyday shoppers. I hope this article series will help explain differences between extreme couponing as seen on television and real couponing.

First of all, it is extremely difficult to replicate the extreme couponing trips that can be seen on television. One reason your savings might be different is because store rules vary by region and doubling amounts are different for different regions and different chains. For example, in Maryland, grocery chain Safeway doubles coupons up to 99 cents, meaning that they can turn 75-cent and 85-cent coupons into $1.50 and $1.70 savings.

In Hilton Head, S.C., Harris Teeter doubles coupon values up to 99 cents with a limit of 20 coupons per household per day. Harris Teeter also offers special events, called Super Doubles, where the chain allows the doubling of coupons with values up to $1.98. That means a coupon with a $1.50 value is now $3 off the item.

In Florida and parts of Alabama, most grocery stores do not double coupons at all, even at stores that traditionally double. So your deals can vary depending on the part of the country you live in.

Prices of items can also vary within a region. For example, one local coupon site recently listed Kraft BBQ sauce at Publix for $1.69, but my closest Publix sells it for $1.45. That becomes important during buy-one, get-one sales. My coupon was for $1 off three. Because I bought each sauce for 73 cents, I could purchase each sauce for40 cents, which was lower than the Web site’s estimated cost of 52 cents.

Secondly, coupons themselves can have different values across the country. In one area, a coupon may be for $1 off one item, but in another area, it may be $1 off two items.

The higher coupon values are usually found in areas with large urban populations or a higher cost of living. These coupons can be specific to certain zip codes. These types of coupons are usually sent by mail , but it is true that certain inserts can be limited to certain zip codes.

Some coupon blogs tell their readers to get the biggest paper in order to get the most coupons. Our area has two major cities within a 150-mile radius: Atlanta and Columbia.

Before I started working for The Augusta Chronicle and was new to couponing, I would drive to North Augusta to find a South Carolina newspaper. Only a few stores in North Augusta carry the newspapers and most were found only in coin-operated boxes.

Nothing would be more frustrating than putting $2 in coins into a machine only to open it up and discover that all of the papers had already been relieved of their inserts.

Because of these frustrations, I gave up wasting my time and money. During my search, I also contacted the newspapers in Atlanta and Columbia and found that I could receive only a mail-order subscription for their newspapers. However, mail-order subscriptions do not contain any ad or coupon inserts, so that ended my quest to use any paper other than The Augusta Chronicle.

Thankfully, Augusta is a relatively large population area, and I have long since discovered that if I do not receive a certain coupon that I really would like to have, I can always contact the company or search their manufacturer’s Web site for a coupon, so I will never miss out on a deal.

The ecouponers shown on TLC’s Extreme Couponing frequently use coupon clipping services or eBay to buy large quantities of coupons for upcoming sales.

I do not participate in this practice nor do I encourage it. I have many reasons for this and I will be glad to share them with you next week.

Until next time, Happy Shopping!


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