Coupons used to have a bad reputation as something your grandma clipped out of the paper to get 20p off a loaf of bread. No more!
Those little pieces of paper – or pixels on your phone screen – are becoming more popular as the cost of living, especially for students, goes up and more and more offers are easy to find online.
There are tons of student discount websites like MyUnidays, StudentMoneySaver and StudentBeans, rammed full of discounts and freebies. So far, so thrifty.. But have you heard about the hardcore elite of scrimping and saving? Let me introduce you to Extreme Couponing…
What is extreme couponing?
This bizarre but thrifty practice isn’t just tearing a few vouchers out of magazines, or printing off the odd promotional email to get a free starter in a restaurant. This is serious stuff: the systematic hunting down of hundreds of special offers and money-off coupons, then some tactical deployment to get the cheapest deal. Extreme couponers laugh in the face of full-price shopping, atop thrones of bulk-bought food, loo roll and toiletries. We’re not suggesting you ditch your essays to hunt down deals all day, but if you know where to look, you could start to save a fortune on your food and drink.
How can I do it?
The websites above are a great start for student couponers, and you can even sign up to their mailing lists so you never miss a deal. Beyond that, there’s a thriving online couponing community made up of dozens of websites and social media pages dedicated to saving as much as possible, especially on your food shop.
Try MySupermarket to compare prices on all sorts of things in different shops, print off vouchers from the manufacturer at CaringEveryday and SuperSavvyMe, and sign up to the e-newsletters of your favourite brands so you never miss the chance to get something cheaper.
Hints and tips
Get organised – if you feel up to the challenge of an extreme coupon shopping trip, plan in advance, stack your coupons and choose to hit the store while more special offers are on.
Record-breaking couponer Holly Smith recommends writing letters to companies telling them how much you like their product, and even send photos. The idea is, customer services workers spend all day trawling through complaints with a stack of coupons to hand out, so a positive message is more likely to result in a voucher in the post!
Check companies’ social media pages. They often post up competitions, offers and vouchers just on Facebook, or host Twitter giveaways. If you’re feeling shameless, you could even tweet them a lovely comment and see if it bags you a coupon! Heads up, The Body Shop is currently giving away vouchers for samples of their Oils of Life range.
Supermarket magazines are great for coupons. Tesco produces a free mag every month and you’ll usually find at least twelve coupons on the first page, with money off items or extra Clubcard points. You could even pick up a stack of them and keep going back for more discounted stuff!
Check out websites like Extreme Couponing & Deals UK, CouponShop, this Extreme Couponing Guide on Student Money Saver and this Guide on MoneySavingExpert and its busy forums, which are run by dedicated extreme couponers and feature more tips and the latest deals. You could chat with like-minded people and get some great advice.
Don’t get caught out – check the expiry date of the coupon, the exact size of product it relates to, and where it is accepted (some vouchers are specific to particular supermarkets). Also, if you want to use more than one of the same coupon, check whether it’s a ‘one per transaction’, or ‘one per item’ coupon, to avoid embarrassing rejections at the till.
With a little dedication and creativity, you could save cash on your food shop and nab lots more freebies and discounts.
Follow these tips and always keep an eye out for deals – good luck!