A Rural Approach to Extreme Couponing

by Christina Brown · 14 comments

in Coupons, Frugal Living

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Several weeks ago I discovered that the coupon inserts were missing from my favorite metro-area Sunday paper.

Since our local newspapers only carry a very stripped down version of the coupon inserts (and usually it is only one insert), this was a big deal in my world.

Several phone calls to the newspaper confirmed that my area was no longer scheduled to receive these particular coupon inserts.  They told me the decision was at the advertisers’ discretion, and apparently they decided to exclude my rural region.

Even though I was devastated by this, I decided to continue subscribing to the paper.  After all, there was news in there.  Sometimes.

But then one Sunday, I didn’t get my paper.  And I was just so frustrated with the lousy customer service and the lack of coupons, that I cancelled the subscription.  Three days after I cancelled my subscription, I got a bill to renew my subscription (which I promptly ripped up).  Two days after that I got a form letter saying that the newspaper would no longer have a motor delivery route in my area.   That’s right – we went from no coupon inserts to no metro newspaper delivery at all!

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal?  Just go buy the paper at the store!”

Well, the closest store that carries the metro Sunday paper is an 8-mile round-trip.  And there is a definite risk that the paper will be sold out when you get there, since they don’t stock many copies.  A trip to “town” is 28 miles – which means about $12 in gas round-trip.

So, I am having to make some serious changes to the way I clip coupons.   I’m still working the kinks out of my process, and I definitely miss the convenience of getting the coupons delivered to my home in the Sunday paper, but I am here to tell you that I am surviving.

Here’s how I’ve been dealing:

Each week I check out Sunday Coupon Preview.  Sunday Coupon Preview tells you what coupon inserts are expected in the Sunday paper along with what coupons are in there.  There have been some weeks where I know I won’t really be missing any of the coupons if I don’t get the paper.  On weeks where there are a lot of inserts with great coupons, I’ll figure out a way to pick up a copy of the Sunday paper.

I’m printing a lot more coupons.  I’m finding that many of these printable coupons are higher value than what I would have found in the Sunday paper anyway. My region has been slow to accept online coupons, but it is improving, and I figure if I just keep gently nudging the stores, they’ll understand I’m using legitimate coupons and that I’m not trying to steal from them.

I’m keeping a watchful eye for coupons in other places.  I make sure to clip coupons from magazines.  I find coupons tucked in with free samples I’ve received and I check my grocery receipts and product packaging for special offers.

I’m watching the deals on Amazon and Alice.com more closely.  Some grocery and household items can be found for better prices at Amazon and Alice than the stores when you factor in the cost of gas.  I have to be very careful when ordering from Amazon though… if the package won’t fit in my mailbox, I have to drive 14 miles one way to get my package at the post office.  I suppose a subscription to Amazon Prime would eliminate that problem, but I’d have to do the math on that to see if it makes sense.  Alice usually uses UPS, so delivery is not a problem to my house.

I’m buying more generic products.  I have purchased generic products (especially over-the-counter medications) for years, but now that I have a lot fewer coupons in my stash to work with, it is a simple way for me save money on the things I buy.  I still get the store coupons for my local grocery stores in my local newspapers, so I am still clipping those coupons.

The lack of coupons from the Sunday newspaper hasn’t been as much of a tragedy as I had feared. I can tell I’m not all that into extreme couponing, because I haven’t begged any in-town friends to buy the paper for me or gone dumpster diving in town for the inserts.

I also haven’t bought any coupons yet through places like The Coupon Clippers or The Coupon Master.   While I would be willing to do that for the right deal,  I have so little brand loyalty that it hasn’t been worth the minimum $5 order required.

I’ll still buy a Sunday newspaper at the store if I happen to be in town and there are coupon inserts worth grabbing.  But I’m a lot more selective about the purchase than I used to be.

And I still wouldn’t change where I live for a second.  Living in a rural area has some positives that far outweigh my ability to get little scraps of paper delivered to my house.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anikka W. September 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

I have Amazon Prime and stuff comes UPS (I think always). It’s really worth it we’ve found. No more buying something you don’t need/want in order to reach the free shipping. You can jump on deals without deciding if shipping is worth it. You can place more than one order in a day (if another deal pops up or you just forget something) because you don’t have to worry about extra shipping charges. So many things have great prices on Amazon regularly and many many deals are posted about Amazon. I initially thought Prime was a waste of money but I think of it as a bit of an investment into deals (just like people who purchase coupons). I’m also a Grad student (could get a free student account but my BF couldn’t use it and we already had prime before I was in school) and I buy all my books on there great prices on everything from novels to those 4 inch thick textbooks. You do have to remember that things have to be sold by Amazon or shipped by them to be eligible. I’ve been very happy though with what they sell and when you figure in shipping their prices are better than other sellers on their site

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2 Christina Brown September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Good points, Anikka! I hadn’t thought about the membership in that way before. Nearly everything I would buy at Amazon would qualify for free 2-day shipping, anyway, and I love the idea of not having to reach a certain threshhold to get the free shipping.

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3 Tiffany September 28, 2011 at 9:11 am

There are several tips here I really need to get on. I never used amazon for more than buying presents and electronics for my husband. I need to start looking at more things like Amazon and Alice. Generic products are definitely worth the savings however there are just somethings I just cant get generic.

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4 Christina Brown September 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm

For those things I just can’t buy generic, then I’ll try to hunt down coupons.

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5 LindaB September 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Oh gosh, I would hate to lose my paper service. Even if you might not use all these suggestions maybe they can help someone else. A few suggestions might be.
1) Start a coupon buddy system. Have your buddy buy a couple of papers for the inserts and send them to you. You can pay him/her for the inserts and postage. Or barter a service to them for the inserts.
2) Buy inserts by a 40 count package. Contact americanconsumer@comcast.net (I’ve never done that but it has been mentioned that it was about $33.00)
3) Join a coupon train Or start one with just 2-3 members for faster turnaround. (Note that coupons that you download and print yourself should not be mailed as it would be considered fraud)
4) Hit your non-couponing family or neighbors up for their inserts. My family says it is too much trouble to coupon. (Imagine that…)
5) You church or club may enjoy having a coupon bin. Bring in your unwanted Q’s and take what you need (Same amount)
6) Get together with friends and have a coupon swap party.
7) Advertise on FreeCycle that you want coupons.

Hope this helps.

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6 Christina Brown September 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Linda – those are fabulous ideas! I already hit my family up for coupons, but I haven’t tried some of the other ideas. Thank you for the inspiration!

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7 JoannaTopazT September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Christina, I’ve noticed that, oftentimes, the coupons from coupons.com or redplum.com are the same ones that are in the newspaper inserts anyway. And, if you print the coupons.com coupons through Swagbucks.com, you get Swagbucks credit for the coupons you redeem.

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8 Christina Brown September 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I am bad about remembering that you can earn Swagbucks for coupons. I think you can earn points at MyPoints.com, too. I really should pay more attention to that… Would make not getting the Sunday paper okay! :-)

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9 frugaljoe September 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Wonder if you could have someone in town get a paper for you then mail the coupon inserts to you? Better yet start a coupon sharing club.
If I find a coupon that is a great deal, recently $5.00 off Bengay or a similar deal. I head to Ebay, most times you can get 10 or more coupons for $1.50 or so. Of course the shipping is cheap because it’s just mailing an envelope. Even if its $2.00 or so I do it because most times its churches etc that are selling coupons so it’s a good cause and I make out too.

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10 Christina Brown September 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

I’ve never bought coupons on eBay… that’s another resource to try!

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11 Amanda September 29, 2011 at 7:23 am

I’m in a similar situation. I live in a little rural town that gets a few copies of the “town” paper in at the dollar store, but the “town” paper has maybe 1/10 of the available coupons on any given Sunday. (The exception being the weeks of P&G inserts; it has been my experience that those are virtually identical no matter what paper they’re in.) “Town” is around 30 miles away but even if our store is out of the paper it’s not worth driving to get it, nor is it worth a subscription. However, there is one store in town that carries a major metro paper (the metro being 100 miles away) that usually contains all or nearly all of the week’s coupons. Unless it’s really an atrocious week for coupons, I make the drive to get a few papers. Partly I’m used to the drive; we make it way too often because there’s next to nothing here; and partly because I’ve arranged to do most of my grocery shopping at the one store with the good papers on Sundays so it’s not really an extra trip. The one caveat is getting there by 10am, because they are the only store and there are only so many copies, and I am not the only one around who knows this. :)

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12 Christina Brown September 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

I’ve also started arranging my schedule so that I run errands on Sundays… Whatever happend to “day of rest,” right? :-) Glad to hear I’m not alone in my coupon challenge!

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13 lara September 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm

maybe you could ask the clerk @ the local store to keep track of how many additional papers they would have sold over a couple of sundays, then maybe they’d be willing to up their weekly quantity? i’m sure they don’t want to be losing out on business.

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14 Amy September 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

I too live in a rural area…closest store that carries a decent Sunday paper is 3-4 miles away and “town” is 15 miles away. Sometimes we’ll pick up a paper if we’re in the mood to read the paper and the inserts are generous. Otherwise, I stick with my printables and “found” coupons (from magazines, catalinas, tear pads…) I am, however, lucky enough to have a couple of friends who share their leftover inserts with me. If we haven’t seen each other in a while some of the coupons may have expired, but I don’t mind. I always seem to find some nonexpired coupons for the products I’m interested in and I really do appreciate their generosity.

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