(Editor's note: Andria Alexander recently presented a couponing program before a sold-out crowd at the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times' Extreme Couponing seminar held Nov. 1 at Damon's in Steubenville.)
Coupons are nothing new to the American family. They've been around since before the Depression, but became a mainstay when the economy plummeted in the 1930s. However, until recent economic downturns, coupon usage was steadily declining.
NCH Marketing Services reported that 2009 coupon redemption levels, "achieved the second highest year-over-year growth ever recorded." And 2010 left 2009 in the dust with 332 billion coupons redeemed at a total value of $3.7 billion.
The simple tool of the coupon is a powerful resource in a tough economy. Our family felt as though we had been given a raise when I started couponing several years ago. We now spend just $200 per month on grocery and household items for our family of four, thanks to coupons.
What is extreme couponing, and why all the hype? Very simply, extreme couponing is combining high value coupons with rock bottom sale prices. Several factors have contributed to the coupon craze, but especially the advent of the TLC Extreme Couponing Show.
Extreme couponing requires planning and organization. Knowing sale cycles, store coupon policies, where to get coupons and how to use them are all key factors for success. The availability of printable coupons, eCoupons, and iPhone coupon apps have turned a simple practice into a fine art. Online resources at SimplyFrugalLiving.com provide instruction and time-saving tools that equal significant savings at the checkout counter.
The principles of extreme couponing also apply to retail shopping. With Christmas just around the corner, savvy shoppers will do most of their deal hunting on the two top retail discount shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Nov. 28.
Here are four tips to maximize your savings on Black Friday:
Have a spending plan: Set dollar amounts for each person on your list.
Make a list and comparison shop: Using your Black Friday ad papers (some are already posted online), compare at least three stores before you decide where to buy.
Search for coupons: Use the coupon database at SimplyFrugalLiving.com to locate manufacturer's coupons for toys and other items.
Don't forget grocery and drug stores: They will be in on the action, as well.
Since its inception in 2005, Cyber Monday provides an in-home shopping alternative to the hustle and bustle of Black Friday. Retailers will slash online prices and offer free shipping on most items. Cash-back programs such as Ebates.com and ShopAtHome.com will feature rebates of 1 percent to 25 percent on purchases and alert you to online coupon codes that can be used against already discounted prices. Look for deep Cyber Monday discounts at online stores including BestBuy, Old Navy, Kohl's, Target, Toys "R" Us, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Apple, Sears and more.
If you've been watching the "coupon craze" from a distance, now would be a great time to jump in and see just how much you can save this holiday season. Gifts, food, restaurants, services ... coupons abound in every category making deep savings possible for every shopper.
Follow Simply Frugal Living on Facebook at facebook.com/SimplyFrugalLiving. On Twitter, go to twitter.com/#!/SimplyFrugaLvng, and the website is SimplyFrugalLiving.com.
(Alexander lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Todd, and two young sons.)