It’s perfect timing that tomorrow night TLC debuts the new Extreme Couponing show. You might remember they ran one show last year and it was pretty popular, so they made it into a series. I was bothered a bit by the show and my Extreme Couponing article caused some debate.
You can watch a preview of tomorrow nights show below. (Newsletter and RSS subscribers might need to click through to view it)
I realize this show is called Extreme Couponing, so it is going to be outrageous. No one is going to watch a show called “The Happy Housewife Goes to the Commissary and Saves $20.” The problem with being extreme is that it isn’t always possible to get 1,000 free boxes of pasta or get a $500 grocery bill down to $0.62! What bothers me about the show is that it gives new couponers an unrealistic view of how to save money. If 72% of the people surveyed are planning on using coupons to save money, they need solid coupon advice, not extreme examples that are not always possible in real life.
You Don’t Just End Up With 1500 Coupon Inserts Every Week
Most papers come with one or two coupon inserts. If you asked everyone on your street for their insert you might have twenty. If you dumpster dive for them you might have 100. To get 1500 inserts you need to buy them or have a connection at the newspaper to get the extra inserts each week. For most people this isn’t possible. 1500 inserts = tons of coupons. The average couponer doesn’t have tons of coupons, they have tens or hundreds. Which means they can’t get 1,000 packages of pasta for free.
Every Store Has a Coupon Policy
Many stores limit how many coupons you can use on double or triple coupon days. In order to film this show, stores are making exceptions to their policies. I would hate to think a newbie couponer is arguing with the cashier because they saw it allowed in the same store on television. When people start abusing store’s coupon policies everyone loses because the stores usually change the policy, and not in favor of the couponers.
There Are Rules to Couponing
Most internet coupons can be printed twice. Setting up multiple accounts or printing from different computers to get extra coupons is stealing. While you won’t go to jail for printing more than your limit of coupons that doesn’t make it any less wrong. The same thing goes for signing up for multiple discount cards. If the policy is one per family, then it is one per family. Don’t sign your husband, child, and dog up for a card to gain extra savings.
Clearing the Shelves is Bad Coupon Etiquette
We’ve all had this happen. You have your coupons ready to go only to get to the store and find they are sold out of the product you are going to get for free or close to free. Sometimes you can get a rain check, but it is a pain. No one needs 40 packages of toilet paper, 100 bottles of laundry detergent, or 200 boxes of cereal. All these items have a shelf life. There is nothing wrong with stockpiling, but doing it at the expense of others or taking more than you could possibly use in a year or two is hoarding, not stockpiling.
Couponing Takes Time
Obtaining inserts, cutting, sorting, filing, finding deals, shopping, these things take time and lots of it. While you do save money with coupons, extreme couponing is a hobby just like any other. You need to spend to save, whether it be on newspapers, printer ink, buying coupons from online site, gas to visit several stores, or extra space in your home for stockpiling.
Your Family Cannot Survive on Free Toilet Paper and Cereal
Don’t start throwing tomatos, but there are not a huge amount coupons available for milk, produce, meat, and organics. Are there coupons available for these items, yes… but do whole foods represent the majority of coupons, not by a long shot. Most coupons (aside from cleaners and toiletries) are for processed food like crackers, candy, and frozen pizzas. In fact the current Coupons.com food coupons are listed below.
- $0.60 off Pillsbury Toaster Strudel Pastries
- $0.75 off Cinnamon Burst Cheerios cereal
- $1.00 off Totino’s Crisp Crust Party Pizza
- $1.00 off Basic 4, Cheerios, Chex Cereal
- $0.75 off Chex cereal
- $0.55 off Original Cheerios cereal
- $0.50 off Yoplait Kids Cup Yogurt
- $0.40 off Totino’s Rolls Snacks
- $0.75 off Cascadian Farm products
- $0.50 off Pillsbury Crescent Dinner Rolls
- $1.00 off Pillsbury Refrigerated Cookie Dough
- $0.40 off Pillsbury Italian Meal Breads
- $0.35 off Pillsbury Grands! Jr biscuits
- $0.75 off Kix cereal
- $0.50 off Gardetto’s Snack Mix
- $0.75 off Kraft 2% Milk Cheese Singles
- $0.75 off any Yoplait products listed
- $0.40 off Pillsbury or Grands! Sweet Rolls
- $0.75 off on any ONE (1) Gorton’s Grilled item
- $0.35 off one (1) bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish
- $0.75 off Frozen Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits
- $1.00 off Progresso Panko Crispy Bread Crumbs
- $0.50 off Pillsbury Rolled Refrigerated Pie Crust
- $0.50 off Two Packages of LAND O LAKES Butter
- $0.35 off Eggland’s Best Fresh Shell Eggs
While I do see coupons for butter, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and Cascadian Farm (yeah!), the majority of the coupons are for processed foods. Here’s the deal, I buy some of the items on the list. But not every week, and not in large quantities because I personally don’t want my family to eat them on a regular basis. It is also cheaper and healthier to feed my family organic oatmeal (purchased in bulk) for breakfast than nearly free Toaster Strudels.
It is important for me to spend the majority of my grocery budget on fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans, dairy, and grains. If I can pick up a free box of cereal or package of toilet paper I’m thrilled because it gives me more money to spend on produce.
The Couponing Bottom Line
- You can save money with coupons.
- You can find coupons for organics and produce.
- Keeping a 3 to 6 month stockpile of your favorite products purchased at deep discounts is a good idea.
- Know your store’s coupon policy an abide by it.
- Creating multiple accounts to beat the system = wrong.
- Clearing the shelves = lame.
- Time = money. If you are spending 2o to 30 hours a week couponing calculate if you could save more money by paying full price and getting a part-time job.
- Remember, this show is extreme! If you aren’t saving $100’s a week at the grocery store don’t get discouraged! Very few people save that much money. If everyone got all their groceries for free manufacturers would stop giving away coupons!
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