Everyone knows that coupons can save you big money at the grocery store, but there's a world beyond coupon basics that most budget-conscious shoppers are familiar with. Couponing has taken on a life of its own, especially online where extreme couponers share secrets and swap tips to score the best deals around
So, when it comes to clipping coupons, how do you know that you're doing it right?
GoodMorningAmerica.com turned to the experts featured on TLC's " Extreme Couponing," a show that follows savvy consumers who have mastered the art of cutting and clipping coupons. Extreme couponers on the show have saved more than $70,000 on everything from shampoo to sports drinks. In some cases, extreme savers walked away from their shopping hauls without paying a cent.
Two of their pros told us the top 10 things that casual couponers are doing wrong and what to do instead to save even more on every trip to the store.
1. Couponing Rookies Don't Read the Fine Print or Know the Store Policies
It's easier than you think to use a coupon the wrong way. Coupons come with guidelines, restrictions and expiration dates, of course, but just because a coupon "works" or "scans" at a register does not mean you have used the coupon in the best way possible, explains Angelique Campbell, a mother of three who has made couponing a way of life for her family.
"Take the time to read all of the fine print on each and every coupon you use. Remember if you follow a blog, we are all human and make mistakes, so always double check the coupon, even if a blogger says you can use it!" says Campbell, who calls herself the Budget Bandit and runs a website with that, TheBudgetBandit.com.
Many stores restrict coupon use. Campbell suggests familiarizing yourself with stores' coupon policies before heading to the store: "Read your store's coupon policy and carry it around with you when you shop. If you use a coupon binder, make a special section just for store coupon policies. … This way you can always refer to it to make sure you are following the rules, as well as if you ever have a disagreement with a cashier in regards to its coupon policy you can simply pull it out and see what it says, problem solved."
2. Couponing Rookies Miss Out on 'Stacking' Opportunities
Stacking coupons is a great way to maximize your savings that everyday couponers often don't take advantage of.
"This is when you take a manufacture coupon for a product and a store coupon for a product and use both of them in order to save even more money," Campell explains.
While you can never use two manufacture coupons on the same item, you can "stack" the manufacture coupon with a store coupon for the same product and save even more.
Season 3 of TLC's Extreme Couponing premieres Memorial Day- Monday, May 28 at 10/9c.
3. Rookies Say: ' I Don't Need to Use Coupons If an Item Is on Sale'
"Veteran couponers know that in terms of how to save money on groceries, combining store sales with coupons is one of the most common ways to save big," coupon expert Jeff Kaplan of Chatham, N.J. explained.
Kaplan is such a devotee of couponing that he made it his life's work, founding LOZO.com, which matches Internet coupons to items on your shopping list. Kaplan estimates that he's saved 60 percent on grocery bills each year from couponing strategies like these.
"Even if you're saving $1 from a sale, what's wrong with saving another $1 with a coupon? In fact we find that sale items are usually more likely to have a coupon because the manufacturers who want to aggressively sell items will promote simultaneous offers."
These experts suggest waiting to use your coupon during a sale to maximize your savings if you don't need the item urgently.
4. Couponing Rookies Don't Follow the Specific-Size Requirements
Make sure that if a coupon has a specific-size requirement that you follow the guidelines and buy the correct size required, Campbell recommends.
"If a coupon says '$1 off 2 Palmolive dish soaps 20 oz or larger, with a limitation of 4 like coupons per transaction,' you must buy two Palmolive dish soaps that are 20 ounces or larger, and you may not buy more than eight dish soaps in a single transaction (even if the coupon scans for the smaller dish soaps or for a larger quantity)," she explains.
Depending on the coupon, you'll often times maximize your savings if you put the coupon towards a single item versus buying in bulk.
5. Rookies Buy Things You Don't Need, Just Because They're a Bargain
It's easier than you think to go crazy in big club stores and leave with a cartful of items that you don't need and will never use, just because you had a coupon for them. Don't fall into that trap, the experts say. You can actually waste your hard-earned money if you buy items that you won't use.
"Just because you have coupons for products doesn't make them a good deal," Campbell said. "Be sure to only buy products you can actually use (unless the coupon makes the item free and then you can donate them.
Season 3 of TLC's Extreme Couponing premieres Memorial Day- Monday, May 28th at 10/9c.