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How to Become a Coupon Person

Or, in defense of that long-ass CVS receipt

If you throw out your long-ass CVS receipt without even looking at it, you are, quite honestly, a complete fucking idiot. 

Sure, maybe you can’t be bothered to clip a coupon for $2 off $8 on coffee, I get it (also: there are coupons on the receipt, if you really haven’t looked at it). But as you scoff at these coupons and toss the whole receipt in the trash, you’re literally throwing away free money. Allow me to rock your world with my own extreme couponing.

Look, I’ll admit, TLC’s Extreme Couponing has made the practice look like the sort of labor-intensive hack that only a stay-at-home mom would participate in. If you want to knock your entire grocery bill down to a couple of bucks, that’s gonna take some work. But if you want to occasionally get your everyday products like dish soap and shampoo for free or nearly free, it’s honestly a breeze –– particularly at CVS, where receipts often (like, four out of five times for me) contain a lil’ thing called “ExtraBucks.” And ExtraBucks are the key to extreme couponing. 

ExtraBucks are essentially paper gift cards. They’re good for just about anything, save for alcohol, actual gift cards and a few other miscellaneous items, and they have no minimum. $3 ExtraBucks is, basically, like $3 cash. CVS will often pop these onto your receipts for no reason whatsoever — other times, you’ve unlocked them by purchasing some combo deal, like buying two tubes of toothpaste. In other words, CVS regularly offers them for the shit you were going to buy anyway. 

But this is just the beginning of the couponing journey! Thanks to ExtraBucks, it’s possible to make your purchase completely free, or even earn more ExtraBucks on top of that free purchase. Case in point: Recently, I went to CVS and purchased $20.07 worth of shampoo and conditioner. CVS had a few deals going: two for $7 on one brand, two for $8 on another. But in that ol’ weekly circular I receive in the mail with all the grocery flyers came a booklet of coupons, totaling $6 off one brand and $4 off another. 

With those coupons, my price was knocked down to $5. But whaddya know –– I had $5 in ExtraBucks, making my purchase $0. But wait, there’s more! For some unholy reason, CVS had another deal, wherein I received $3 in ExtraBucks for having spent $15 on haircare. With tax, I netted $1.50 on the purchase and bought products I truly genuinely, honestly, already use. 

Of course, that concept of making money from couponing gets a bit wonky when you consider that I had to make a purchase to have had that $5 ExtraBucks in the first place, and that is indeed the caveat to the whole gig: You do have to spend money to make money. Fortunately, we’re talking about shopping at CVS, not Ned’s Lampshade Emporium — that is, you’re probably already regularly dropping money there every time you get sick or run out of toothpaste.

So what does it take to get into the coupon game? First, it might seem obnoxious, but you’re gonna wanna sign up for all those free store memberships. It’s possible to run this strategy at a variety of places, but sticking with one like CVS is simplest for me. At CVS, it’s often only possible to get the deals as a member, which basically just requires giving them your phone number and maybe your email. Big Data already has that info anyway, so fuck it! 

Secondly, take a few minutes to go through your weekly fliers each week. You probably already receive those in the mail, as they’re distributed by the post office. If you’re not, maybe give them a visit. Going through these fliers will not only inform you as to what’s on sale, but coupons will probably also be included. I personally find the act of flipping through fliers and cutting coupons soothing, because I’m a sad, sad person. 

Next, match up whatever coupons you find with the deals in the fliers. With CVS, you may also want to revisit that monstrous receipt — it’s likely you’ll find a few coupons that apply to sale items there, too. 

The last part of the scheme is assessing whether the item is something you’d normally purchase, or if the coupons provide a substantial enough value that it makes sense to purchase it, regardless. I might find some killer coupons on baby food but… I don’t have a baby. (That said, it’s often possible to get great deals on things you yourself may not need, but someone you know does. Food banks, animal shelters and homeless shelters are often in need of donations.) 

Coupons often get a bad rap for making you purchase things you wouldn’t have spent money on otherwise, but that’s on you, buddy! The key to couponing well isn’t just hunting for deals — it’s being honest with yourself about what you spend your money on.