What to do when your monthly income is inconsistent and sporadic? Edward Daniels, 32, a professional actor and D.J. living in Washington, D.C., takes advantage of a habit one might stereotypically associate with suburban, stay-at-home moms: extreme couponing.
“I started watching [the TLC show] ‘Extreme Couponing’ and I was just fascinated by the deals these people were making happen in the store and thought, ‘Okay. Maybe I can do that myself.’ That’s how the couponing journey began,” says Daniels.
That was last fall. In less than one year the young urbanite has managed to cut his expenses and save big with coupons. Based on his receipts over the last 11 months from stores like Target, CVS and local grocery stores, he calculates his savings at over $6,000. With his coupon tactics he manages to pay just pennies on the dollar for his basic essentials including groceries, health care products and paper goods. Some items even end up being free. For example it's not uncommon for him to pay a few dollars for $75 worth of merchandise. With coupons he buys far more than he normally would, of course, which is why his savings seems above average for a single guy.
We visited Daniels’ apartment in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood and, sure enough, his cabinets were overflowing with a dozen boxes of cereal, endless cans of soup, as well as multiple bottles of mouthwash, liquid soaps and shaving cream.
It’s far more than he needs, but Daniels insists that many of his coupon deals go to charity. “I’ve donated items to senior homes. I’ve donated items to food banks. Family and friends, of course, will take the item, so it never goes to waste.”
Helping him master the art of extreme couponing are his focus and intense organization skills. Daniels says he spends 14 hours a week scouring sale ads and cutting coupons. He arranges everything in a three-inch binder and keeps track of his hundreds of coupons using the Coupon Keeper 2 mobile app. He also frequents the site Coupons.com to compare prices and discover even more discounts.
Also see: Tips from America's Smartest Shopper
In a short period of time he’s caught on to the strategies that yield steep markdowns. For example, by using high-value coupons for products he doesn’t really need — like shampoo (since he has a shaved head) — Daniels creates overages, which help to reduce his overall total. For instance, if he’s got a $1.50 coupon for conditioner, and it’s on sale for 99 cents, some stores will apply the extra 51 cents to his other purchases, lowering his final bill. He’ll then donate the hair products.
Another tactic Daniels uses is “stacking.” That’s when both store and manufacturer coupons are applied at the same time for a single item, like a box of cereal.
His coupon craze has caught many by surprise — especially from those working behind the register. “I’ve gotten the craziest reactions,” he says. “I’ve had cashiers scanning the coupons and as the price is going down, they’re getting excited. I’ve had them yell and scream and call the managers over. It’s been great. The reaction is always fun.”
Also see: How to Save 25% or More on Medical Visits
Got a your own crazy couponing tip to share? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #Finfit.