When growing up, and still to this day, I am quite often told I was born on the wrong continent. You know how people say “You were born in the wrong era… you belong in the 70s” for example? Well me, I should have been born in America! My favourite TV channel growing up had to be Nickelodeon where I would sit for hours transfixed by the likes of ” Sister Sister,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Clarissa Explains It All” and a million other “typical” American teen television programmes. I also hate to admit this, but occasionally nostalgia just takes over and I find myself hitting youtube for a stroll down memory lane and watch an episode or two which acts like “chicken soup for my soul.”
However, now that I am a fully fledged adult (well I had to give in eventually) I thought it was time to mature my tastes and so now, in the rare moments I get to watch television, my new obsession is the almost completely American Reality channel TLC! This channel has everything I could possibly wish for: shows about shopping for wedding dresses (who would turn down a Vera Wang dress at such a discount?!?), ther terribleness (yes that is a real word) that is Toddlers and Tiaras and finally my absolute favorite being Extreme Couponing!
This television programme really highlights the often extreme stereotyped personalities of Americans and I have to say that I love it! For those unfamiliar with the show allow me to explain… It is a “reality” based programme that follows 2-3 people per episode who call themselves Extreme Couponers. These people are amazing – their whole lives revolve around finding coupons online or from inserts in newspapers, or in some cases from “dumpster diving!” Once collected they go through and match coupons to supermarket deals and the aim is to get as much as they can for free. It has to be said that the American supermarkets help them with this by doubling the value of coupons and any overridge from a coupon can be used to purchase non-coupon items. These people then create stockpiles in their homes and garages worth tens of thousands of dollars – it’s truly jaw dropping.
Now, whilst feeding Alyssa one morning, I was sat watching this programme and suddenly thought, “I wonder if this could be done in the UK?” Out comes the tablet and a quick search revealed I was far from being the first person in the UK to ever have this thought. There is a whole community of couponers and savers in the UK, and whilst our delightful supermarkets would never dream about helping us to save money in the same way as American ones do, it is in fact still possible to coupon in the UK!
One of the biggest names in UK couponing is Holly Smith, who has made a bit of a name for herself via her blog and youtube channel which tells people how to coupon, save money and all the latest deals. She made it sound so easy (though believe me its not) so I thought I’d give it a go. Oh my goodness, the amount of work required to coupon is insane, but when it works it is so worth it.
It seems you can get coupons from almost anywhere, most manufacturers either have them on their websites or will email you one in return for signing up to their newsletter. There are also websites that collect all of these togerther for you to make it easier, and bloggers like Holly post daily about how and where to grab the latest coupon and using it with apps such as My Supermarket to find the best deal and where you can save the most money.
When I went on my first major coupon experience, the nerves were going “Would they work and even be accepted?” I could hear the mocking laughter of family and friends ringing in my ears and then this was suddenly replaced by the harmonious sound of the till going “beep beep” with every accepted coupon resulting in an acceptable saving of £20. Now, whilst this isn’t in the same league as the savings made in America, you wouldn’t burn a £20 note would you? I took this £20 and a tip from Holly and visited Poundland, where they occasionally have branded food and home products and stocked up on items that my family use a lot of on a regular basis and started my own mini stockpile under the stairs.
Social media appears to play a huge part in UK couponing as you can rely on the several coupon/saving/bargain mums to find the coupons, the flash sales or just a really good deal. However, if you are savvy enough to follow brands on both Facebook and Twitter then twice a week your feeds will be inundated with Win It Wednesday and Freebie Friday which involve you liking/favoriting a post, commenting and sharing/retweeting. I enter my fair share if I see them, and its a lot easier on Twitter with the # posts grouping them together, but as yet have not been “lucky” enough to win. But don’t despair as there are also several websites out there that show you how to get free items from giveaways, competitions and free samples – a search engine is your friend. WARNING: Alot of them ask for your phone number to cold call you or text which is often charged to you at £1.50 per text so make sure you read the small print!
In my opinion, we will never be Extreme Couponers like the Americans mainly because I don’t think our supermarkets would ever allow us to – and do we really have enough room in our homes to stock 4000 toilet rolls? We do, however, have the ability to collect clubcard loyalty points which reward us with coupons and cut the occasional one from a magazine. So, despite the mocking laughter of some, I must admit that I am a mini-couponer… and damn proud of it. If we ever face an apocolypse, you’ll find me under the stairs with my stockpile.