Call us "extreme couponers" or "crazy coupon ladies." Just don't call us late for dinner, because we'll be the ones bringing extras of everything, which we bought for pennies on the dollar.
After the recent TLC special "Extreme Couponing" portrayed four enthusiastic couponers as potential head cases, grocery savings expert Jill Cataldo reached for adjectives other than "extreme" to describe how she uses coupons.
"I would definitely consider myself aggressive. Extreme, no," said Cataldo. She teaches "Super-Couponing" workshops and sells a DVD course (found at jillcataldo.com) to help beginners learn the coupon tricks necessary to slash grocery bills.
Joanie Demer, a Northern California couponer, was shown in "Extreme Couponing" Dumpster diving for newspaper inserts with her small child. She described her coupon use as "strategic" but said she doesn't mind if people think she's a little unbalanced -- after all, her Web site is thekrazycouponlady.com. On the show, she slashed a $600 register total to $2.64. "I think the ones paying full price are crazy," she said with a laugh.
As the Frugalista, I count myself among shoppers like Cataldo and Demer who use coupons more effectively than most people do, with big benefits. Here are some of the secrets that extreme -- ahem, aggressive -- couponers use to get those jaw-dropping savings:
Time the market. The price of most grocery items will vary widely over a 12-week cycle. Cataldo used a particular brand of hummus as an example: On a recent week it was selling for $5.49 at one store and $1 at another supermarket. When you have a $1 coupon, she said, use it when the hummus is $1; don't waste it when the hummus costs more than $5.