If you’re an expert on trashy shows on cable TV, you’ve probably heard of Extreme Couponing. For those without a TV or a cable subscription, extreme couponing happens when people clip supermarket coupons obsessively and then show up at the supermarket and get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for $10.
The housewives on Extreme Couponing make the aunties of Singapore look like meek little lambs. They subscribe to tons of publications containing coupons, join couponing groups so they can swap and have even been known to dumpster dive for coupons.
Coupons are organised by date in huge folders and Excel spreadsheets used to track them. They then descend upon supermarkets, combing the aisles to get free or heavily discounted items (some even manage to get the supermarkets to pay them money because the value of their coupons exceeds the value of the products).
How do these people pull it off? Let’s say a store is having a sale and selling 2 cans of juice that normally cost $1 each for $1 altogether. If you have a coupon that lets you get 2 cans for $1 and, you pay nothing for two cans during the sale. You then collect 50 coupons and use them to get 100 cans free.
One of the hallmarks of extreme couponers is their stockpiles. When you can get something for free or for a pittance, buy tons of that item which you then keep in your massive storeroom.
So is extreme couponing possible in Singapore?
Yes, you can save money with coupons in Singapore. But don’t expect to take home $1,000 worth of groceries for $10. Extreme savings of the sort that the ladies on Extreme Couponing enjoy in the US are not possible in Singapore for a couple of reasons:
- There aren’t many coupon sources: There isn’t a couponing culture in Singapore, plain and simple, so coupons are much fewer and farther between. This is not to say there aren’t any. Check the newspapers and you will more often than not find a few pages of coupons.
- Stricter terms and conditions: The trick extreme couponers use is to wait until an item goes on sale or on offer, and then to use a coupon to get them, as in our example above. This packs a double whammy and you can often get the item free. But in Singapore, nothing is free, and most coupons here are not valid with other coupons or promotions. In addition, you are usually only allowed to use a certain number of coupons per purchase.
- No doubling of coupons: On Extreme Couponing, supermarkets sometimes promise to double the value of your coupons. This means they will let a coupon that gets you a $1 discount give you $2 off instead. I have yet to see this happen in Singapore.
- Supermarkets won’t match each other’s prices: In the US, some stores promise to match prices offered by other supermarkets, meaning you can use coupons from one supermarket at another. No chance of that happening here.
- Clearance sales aren’t as big: I have yet to see Singapore storewide sales on the scale of those on Extreme Couponing.
Can you still take advantage of coupons?
There’s still a lot we can learn from the housewives of Extreme Couponing. Here are some tactics Singaporeans can adopt:
- Monitor coupons and sales: The people on Extreme Couponing are obsessive about monitoring coupons and sales and strategically timing their trips to the supermarket. I’m not saying you need to go to that extreme. But keeping a notepad handy when you read the papers so you can make a note of when products you usually buy are on sale can save you a bit of money.
- Buy in bulk when something is on sale: If you think buying two packs of toilet paper on sale instead of one is buying in bulk, you need to watch Extreme Couponing more closely. Those housewives never buy less than 20 of each item. When something is on sale, it’s time to drive the family car down to the supermarket and stock up big time.
- Plan your supermarket trips in advance: On Extreme Couponing, a trip to the supermarket means organising your stacks of coupons and knowing exactly what items you’re going to buy. The newspapers often give you hints as to what will be on sale, so you can do a bit of advance planning to take advantage of discounts.
Have you tried to emulate the people in Extreme Couponing? Tell us how it went in the comments!