I just finshed watching Extreme Couponing on TLC. I watch very little television, but this show caught my attention when my friend Andrea linked to it on Facebook.
The show profiled four extreme couponers and their quest to spend almost nothing at the grocery store. Each couponer had stockpiles that took up entire rooms, garages, or more, and spent several hours a day finding, cutting, sorting and matching coupons.
I understand that television makes its money by sensationalizing stories, but even if you leave out all the dumpster diving and 1,000’s of sticks of deodorant Extreme Couponing bothered me.
- Spends 70 hours a week couponing.
- Admittedly sacrifices time with husband and cancels plans in order to shop.
- Her stockpile carries its own insurance policy. (Seriously, I could not make this stuff up!)
- She has a wall of toilet paper which equals 3,000 rolls. That’s enough to last about 40 years.
- She claims using coupons brings feelings of absolute joy.
- Her stockpile currently occupies 2 rooms, and is quickly taking over a 3rd room.
- Spends about $70 a week purchasing coupons from an online clipping service.
- Takes a day off work in order to shop.
- Along with numerous other items brings home 150 bars of candy for free.
- Spends 3 hours shopping, fills 9 carts.
- $1175 total before coupons
- $51 total after coupons
- Spends 2 hours checking out, then the register crashes. It takes another hour to finish the order.
- Spends 6 hours in the store total.
- Needs 2 cars to transport groceries home.
This woman saved over $1000 buying things that she will not live long enough to use. Just because you can get 150 candy bars for free, doesn’t mean you should. Her extreme couponing is destroying her marriage. Her husband was visibly upset about the growing stockpile and the trip to the store. While the food might not be costing her much, her extreme couponing habit will probably cost her a marriage.
I think because people are saving money and getting things they need (I use that term loosely) they feel like this obsessive behavior is okay. If someone had three rooms dedicated to knick knacks, felt joy when they found them for free, spent 70 hours a week organizing and dusting them, and their collection was causing stress in their marriage people would call them a hoarder. I think you can hoard food, just like anything else.
This couponer seemed slightly more reasonable. She started couponing when her husband lost his job and it kind of took off from there. Her stockpile that takes up her entire garage for a family of four. On her shopping trip she purchased 40 boxes of pasta. I found this to be interesting because in the same segment she talked about the cycle of sales. Everything goes on sale about every three months, so purchase a three month supply when you can get it at a discount or free. I have a family of 9 and we would be eating a lot of pasta if 40 boxes only needed to last 3 months. If you were truly stockpiling for 3 months you wouldn’t need 40 boxes.
One thing that slightly irritated me about couponer #2 was that she told her husband which cereal he could eat based on expiration dates in her stockpile. Seriously? He is an adult, and while it is important to rotate the stockpile she had at least 40 boxes of cereal, if he wants another kind he should be able to eat it.
My personal favorite. She was retired and appeared to be single so it didn’t seem like there were any relationship issues caused by her extreme couponing. I liked the fact that she took friends to the store to show them how to save money. While she did buy a lot of stuff for one person, I think she said she donated some, and she only bought what she was going to use, at least that is what she said.
This guy is a popular coupon blogger. His stockpile was crazy. He had over 1500 sticks of deodorant and enough body wash to clean every elephant in the world. On his shopping trip he spent around $200 for $5,000 worth of stuff. He did buy 1,000 boxes of cereal, which he donated to a local food bank, which seemed to be a bright spot in this crazy show.
I think there is a lot to be learned from these extreme couponers.
Take what you need, leave the rest for someone else.
I am a big believer in stockpiling, I even published an article on how to stockpile effectively. There are 150 pounds of grain and oats in my laundry room, because it is cheaper to buy in bulk and will last us several months. I do not think having 40 years worth of toilet paper is being a good steward of your time or your money.
Most extreme couponers pay for their coupons (at least the clipping service), pay for a newspaper, pay for gas, and their time to shop. I do not believe toilet paper or many of those items will last 5, 10, or 40 years in the garage. These items will go bad and be worthless. Clearing the store shelves so you can hoard things in your garage is bad coupon etiquette.
Just because something is free doesn’t mean it is a good deal.
I often find sales and coupons that equal free, but it is junk I would not want to feed my family. The first lady got 150 candy bars!!! Unless she is passing them out at Halloween, that isn’t a good deal!
Your time is valuable.
For many extreme couponers, couponing is a full time job. I spend between $600 and $700 in food every month. I spend about 30 minutes a week finding sales and coupons, and I save about $30 a week. 30 minutes for $30 is a good deal, because we are going to use what I purchased. Even though these couponers are saving a lot of money, they are spending a lot of time.
Make sure the value of your time = your savings.
Show me a menu plan!
These people saved big money, but I didn’t see a whole lot of fruit, vegetables or meat in their cart. The majority extreme couponers purchased processed foods, soda, cereal, and toiletries. I’m not against buying any of those items, but they aren’t going to sustain you.
I would love to see what these people eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
It’s not about what you save, it’s about what you spend.
It is great to save $1,000’s on groceries, but what are you actually spending each month to feed your family? Extreme couponing simply isn’t reality couponing.
Bottom Line: What is the real cost?
Does it really matter what these people do with coupons? Maybe not, but I think it is a good reminder to us all. I honestly believe it is fun to save money and live frugally, and these couponers do too. However, the difference is that some of these extreme couponers are saving at the expense of their relationships and the savings of others.
When they clear the shelves of all the good deals, there is nothing left for the rest of us.
One couponer said she wanted her stockpile to be her legacy. No thanks, not me. I want to be remembered as someone who lived with the priorities of faith, family and friends.
I am the wife who makes their husband’s favorite meal, even if it costs a little more.
The cool mom who was never too old or scared to ride a roller coaster with her kids. I want to be the friend who is never too busy to chat on the phone, or meet for coffee.
When I die, I want there to be nothing left to give…. because I gave it all away when I lived.