“Extreme Couponing” (a la TLC and other networks): walking out of stores with hundreds of dollars in groceries and household items for pennies. It seems too good to be true…and in Canada, unfortunately, it is. I hate to break it to my fellow frugal Canadians, but this activity is currently reserved for our American cousins.

How does extreme couponing work? After spending hours each week (many on the show use this as their full time job!) clipping, printing and orderering coupons, extreme couponers stack coupons and use them on items that are on sale. The result can be free or nearly free goods.

Why doesn’t this work in Canada? In Canada, most coupons are “limit one per purchase,” with the majority being single store-only coupons. Also, with fewer competing chains and corner markets, there is less incentive for vendors to offer low prices on common goods (if you look at the flyers closely, many sales are on “junk” or convenience foods). Finally, the United States simply has greater buying power due to the dense population, therefor many brands don’t bother to create international coupons.

Disappointed? I was too. But I have had several great successes, and you can too! Before I dish out the goods, however, I’d like to caution you on spending time equivalent to the actual savings: while our Yankee friends can save enough to justify a salary’s worth of time, often we will be saving a much smaller percentage. In light of this, don’t short-change your time and sanity for some pennies and dollars…spend your time as wisely as your money!

Here are the basic tips for successful couponing in Canada:

  1. The big one: Save your coupons and watch the flyers for the items to go on sale. With a little patience and planning, you can turn a $0.50 off coupon into a $1.50 or more! Find a BoGo (Buy One Get One) sale and your save even more!
  2. Organize your coupons in an organizer or binder. Use easy-to navigate categories such as grocery, pharmacy, household, clothing, store coupons, etc. Make sure to clean out your folder each week so that you don’t have expired coupons piling up.
  3. Only keep coupons you will USE. If you pile up too many coupons, the good ones will get lost in the mess.
  4. Keep your stocked coupon binder or organizer in your car: this will ensure you always have your coupons with you, and keeps your wallet/purse from being cluttered and coupons being forgotten
  5. When you come across a pad of vendor (vs. store) coupons on the shelf for products you regularly purchase, take a few extra and stash them in your organizer. Don’t take extra of coupons you won’t use: it’s only fair to take the ones that you will use yourself!
  6. Check expiry dates: if the coupon will expire before you can use it, don’t bother…and if the expiry date is far off, take/print/order a few extra.
A word of caution for those who shop primarily on the perimeter of the grocery store (bakery, produce, meat, dairy): there are far fewer coupons available for fresh items. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment: instead, watch for flyer sales and focus on saving by visiting farmers markets, local produce groceries, and growing your own veggies.
Where can I find these coupons?
  • Vendors/brands very often offer coupons on their sites/Facebook fan pages. Make a list of brands you use most often and visit the sites for deals and special offers. 

Note: Many of these brands want you to sign up for newsletters/register to access the deals. Don’t let this turn you off as it can be very worthwhile! Simply create a web-based email address thats sole purpose is to keep your personal email from being cluttered with this sort of mail.

  • Check out the coupon walls and vendor pads on shelves at grocery stores as you shop, and stock up when possible.
  • Online is your greatest resource! There are three main types of online coupons: printable (available on the spot, and you can print as many as you like!), order-able (mailed to you for free and usually arrive within 7-10 days) and those that are emailed to you (also re-printable!). My favorite type is printable as they’re available immediately, and they often have long use periods so you can use and reprint often!  Here are my favorites so far!
    • save.ca – these are mailed to your postal address so allow some time before you have them in-hand
    • frugalshopper.ca – while slightly less user-friendly, can be a wealth of deals
    • thinkcoupons.ca – often redirects to sites already visited so don’t be disappointed
    • gocoupons.ca – not a high volume of available coupons, but well-known brands
    • websaver.ca – great brand names and BoGo deals, plus they donate to charity if you USE your coupons!
    • coupons.smartcanucks.ca – a fantastic resource, often pulls deals from other sites so you can do one-stop coupon shopping if you’re short on time…also has more than just groceries!
    • coupons.redflagdeals.com – another great site for well-known brands: more than just groceries and includes many great in-store coupons (which are usually higher than vendor coupons)
A few last words to the wise:
  • Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed: stick with the aggregator sites that bring several deals together first if you’re short on time
  • DON’T print/order coupons for brands you don’t/don’t want to use…spending on products you wouldn’t otherwise buy ISN’T saving…it’s going over-budget!
Coming Up Next: Convenience isn’t cheap and bulk saves, baby…