A couple of months ago our cable company switched over to a digital system so we had to get this little black digital box (which was thankfully free) to be able to view the channels. The night we were getting it set up we were able to get a whole slew of channels that we don’t usually get with our very basic cable package (which we only have at all so the channels aren’t fuzzy when we watch the news).
I felt like I won the lottery when I realized we not only had a lot of fancy channels but one among them was TLC. And on TLC is this show you’ve probably heard about called Extreme Couponing. Which is totally my kind of couponing if you’re going to coupon at all.
Not only did I get to watch that show that night, but I got to watch 4 episodes in a row (!) because they were having a marathon! How lucky is that! My husband was not nearly as excited as I was about this fortunate development.
When I saw Callie on the show (see the clip below) I was pretty much smitten. She’s sweet as can be and when I saw that she lived in Colorado too I started day-dreaming about spending the day with her in the grocery store and picking her brain about how to do this elusive “Extreme Couponing”. She also did all of her Christmas shopping for $50 (OMG) and donates some of her loot to charities. So cool.
She agreed to answer my many questions about the world of couponing and I’m so happy to share this interview with you all.
And Then We Saved: How did you become The Cajun Couponer?
Callie the Extreme Couponer: I was born and raised in Louisiana, but recently moved to Denver, CO. I am very proud of my Cajun roots and could think of no better name to be known on TLC’s Extreme Couponing then “The Cajun Couponer”
ATWS: How long have you been couponing?
Callie: When I was 6 months pregnant, my husband decided he wanted to sell our family business, move halfway across the country and go back to school. That has been over a year now, and when my husbands first college tuition bill came in, it made me realize I had to find a way to save money. I could not make enough money to go back to work and send our kids to daycare…so I found a way to save money and stay home with my kids. I call couponing my “mom salary”.
ATWS: How did you get cast as one of TLC’s Extreme Couponers?
Callie: I sent TLC a funny email. I said,
“I am not your regular couponer. I told them how I am not your typical couponer…I am not a cat lady, I do not wear mom jeans and am not a puzzle enthusiast.”
I am in my 20’s, have 3 kids under the age of 3 and I am using couponing to basically pay myself a salary while being a stay-at-home mom. They liked the email so then I got to submit a video.
ATWS: Do people recognize you in the grocery stores from the show?
Callie: I get recognized all the time…and it always seems to be right when I have rolled out of the bed to grab a few things from the store. People have been so nice, and basically want to know how I do what I do.
ATWS: How many hours a week do you spend on couponing?
Callie: I spend between 10-20 hrs a week, and that includes prepping, finding the deals, cutting coupons and shopping.
ATWS: Where do you get your coupons?
Callie: Coupons are everywhere!! Like today, I went into Kmart and they had a holiday flyer that had an awesome Philadelphia cream cheese coupon in it. It was a manufacturer coupon and not a store coupon, so I can take it and save it until I find a store that has a good sale on it. The main places I get coupons are newspaper, the internet (I go to my local library and print as many internet coupons as I want) in the actual stores themselves…blinkies, tearpads, etc.)
ATWS: What kind of prep is needed to make the most out of the coupons? Can you explain this
Callie: First, you must start collecting coupons. I get anywhere from 5-10 newspapers each week, then if I see a really good coupon, I will order them online from sites like weclipusave.com or coupondede.com. Next, I check my favorite websites to see what is on sale for the week. I also do coupon match-ups on my own website for 2 stores, so I will know what to get at King Soopers (Kroger) and Safeway for that week. Next, I make my list, then go and clip my coupons. When I get coupon inserts, I do not clip each coupon. I file them in a file cabinet by date, and only clip the coupons I know I will use.
A match-up will look like this:
– Dove Chocolate, 8.5-9.5 oz bag $3.00
Use $1.00/2 Mars Holiday Products from RP 11/13
Final Price: $2.50 each when you buy 2
So if I wanted to do this deal, I would go to file, and find the Red Plum that was released in the paper, and just clip that one coupon. Then it’s off to the store with my list and coupons.
ATWS: On the show you talked out how you were expecting to save a certain amount at the register based on you calculations. How do you determine your estimated savings?
Callie: My husband is the brain in our operation. I honestly did not know I would be paid to shop that day. I did the math and knew my shopping trip would be free or close to free but I didn’t know I would be paid $150.
ATWS: Do you use a certain kind of software or computer program to organize your shopping trips?
Callie: Kelly, who was on the episode with me, has a website and she sells a couponing spreadsheet to help you keep track of your couponing. There is a link to it on my facebook called Working Mom Coupons spreadsheet. I am a little free-spirited and not as organized as some, so I normally just guess what my totals will be. I just knew everything I was getting that day would be free.
ATWS: What is the most you have saved because of couponing?
On that Extreme Couponing episode I saved 114%.
That is the biggest savings to date but it also took 40 hours of prep and 8 hours of shopping, with a newborn…so I enjoy my small weekly shopping trips where I save 75-95%.
ATWS: What is the longest amount of time you have spent in the grocery store at one time?
Callie: The most, of course, was the 8 hours on the show. Extreme Couponing is named that for a reason because if it was called “Average Couponing” it would not be nearly as exciting. When I shop regularly, the most I spend is an hour.
ATWS: What is the most amount of carts that you’ve had upon check-out during one shopping trip?
ATWS: Do you only buy items that you have coupons for?
Callie: Now seeing how much money I can save with coupons…it is very hard to pay full price. You can almost find a coupon for anything now…groceries, clothes, food, even tires. You just have to look.
I actually got my entire Christmas shopping done and spent under $50!
ATWS: What is the weirdest thing that you’ve gotten because of coupons?
Callie: I got my kids a set of fake mustaches. They were hilarious!
ATWS: Have your friends and family members become couponers because of your success?
Callie: I have friends and family that call me on a daily basis to either ask me a question or to tell me what deals they have gotten. My aunt called me yesterday and said “I just did my first Cajun Couponing!”
ATWS: What are your top tips for people that are just getting into the world of couponing?
Callie: My best tip is to follow a few coupon and deal blogs. That is where I get 80% of my information. There is no need to figure out deals yourself when other people are doing it for you. Also keep your eyes peeled. Everytime I am out in town, I always seen to come back with a handful of coupons. And don’t be afraid to ask, some stores will give you a discount just for asking. I was in Kohl’s the other day, forgot my coupon at home, and the nice cashier gave it to me anyway. Also, if you end up getting a lot of one item…more than your family or friends can use, give it to someone who can use it. I always encourage paying it forward. Right now I am partnering with a group called cosupportingourtroops.com and I am helping send care packages to our military overseas. I am barely paying anything for all the items I am donating.
ATWS: What is the strangest thing that people ask you about couponing?
Callie: While filming Extreme Couponing, a man walked up to me and asks me, since I was getting all my items for free…if I was going to sell them. And since that is illegal on so many levels…I said “No!”
ATWS: Is there anything you would like to add that you haven’t been asked?
Callie: The only thing I would add is that you do not have to coupon like we do on the show to be successful. If you are saving ANY money than you did before watching Extreme Couponing, you are doing a great job. But once you get into saving a lot of money…you will be hooked!
Thank you Callie!
Have you tried Extreme Couponing? Do you use coupons? Why or why not?
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