Extreme Couponing? 5 Reasons Why I’ll Pass.

by Paul Michael on 16 May 2011 126 comments
Photo: zorani

It’s the latest, greatest (although that’s debatable) topic around the water cooler. A show called "Extreme Couponing" highlights people who buy hundreds of dollars worth of produce from the grocery store and pay for 95% of it with free coupons. (See also: 50 Best Deals and Coupon Sites)

I hear this all the time:

“It was amazing! The bill came to $894, and they paid like $12 after coupons!”

“Really? No way!!!”

“Yeah, I’m so doing this now!”

Now, is that true? Yes, it is. I have seen people walk to the counter with shopping carts full of stuff, and they only have $50 in their purse. They come out with change.

But here’s another truth. Your average shopper is not going to walk into a store with a bag full of coupons and walk out with their week's worth of groceries for a fraction of the price. Extreme couponing, like anything else that seems too good to be true, has a few catches involved. And they’re not small catches either.

1. It’s a Full-Time Commitment

You can’t clip a few coupons on Sunday and expect your next shopping bill to be 90% less. If that were the case, everyone would do it and most manufacturers would go out of business very quickly.

This takes a lot of time, patience, organization, research, and dedication. You have to stockpile hundreds of copies of the weekly coupon circulars. You need to know when things are going on sale and when the stores are doubling coupons. You need to know more about the products in the grocery stores than the managers of those stores. And even then, when you are that buttoned up, it’s not what you’d expect.

2. You Have to Stockpile a LOT of Stuff

All of these extreme couponing people, without exception, have filled their homes with mountains of products.

I saw a lady buying 77 bottles of mustard because she had 77 coupons for them. My family uses maybe two bottles a year. Yours may use four per year. They may use one every month. It will still takes years to get through them all. But every time they are featured in a coupon, the bottles come home. Does anyone need hundreds of bottles of mustard? I know I don’t.

One woman has a grocery store in her basement, stocked with hundreds of bottles of laundry detergent, ketchup, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and all sorts of other stuff. The rest of her family comes to shop in the basement for free. Great for them. But are you prepared to devote all of your storage space to products you never have a hope of using, just to save money?

3. You Become a Slave to Coupons

Imagine waking in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. You realize, to your horror, that you didn’t use a coupon. It’s double coupon day too! That means the store is actually paying you to take a bottle of Aspirin. So you drive to the store in your PJs and pick it up. Yes! A free bottle of Aspirin and 12 cents in change.

I, for one, am not prepared to give up my life to coupons. But this is what happens. It’s sad to say that extreme couponers are addicts. You just have to look at what they put into it and what they get out of it, plus the stress they go through if they don’t get a coupon or spend it.

Like any other addiction, that, to me, is not healthy. People who spend most of their time at the gym may look healthy, but they’re addicted to the rush of the workout. And that’s unhealthy, too. So just because they’re saving money, it doesn’t mean it’s a good addiction to have. The rush they feel when they see the register start chalking up the discounts is the same rush you see on the faces of people at slot machines. They’re hooked on savings, regardless of what it is they’re actually saving money on.

4. You Spend Hours at the Grocery Store

Hours and hours. Way more than an average shopper. And when the time comes to check out, you’re about to become very unpopular, because everything has to be checked out in the right order to get the maximum discounts. You may even have to split your order into separate loads to make it work. Life is short. Don’t spend it all in the grocery buying 58 bottles of shampoo.

5. You Are Taking Much More Than You Need

Here’s something that really got to me. On a recent episode, a woman discovered that she was basically being paid to take product out of the store. The double coupon meant that she’d get credit back to spend on other things. That part is smart.

But here’s the selfish part. She cleared the store of ibuprofen. Boxes and boxes of it went into her cart. Thanks to her, no one else was getting it that day, or that week depending on when the shelves are restocked. And that happens a lot with these extreme couponers. They clear out the shelves to take advantage of coupons.

What happens to all the stuff they take? Does it get used? Does it expire and get thrown away? Does it get given away? It’s just consumerism gone awry. By all means, get the stuff you need for cheap or free. But 77 bottles of mustard? 100 bottles of medicine? All the canned dog food in the aisle? It’s greed. Pure greed.

Yes, I know I will get naysayers on this one, but this is sickening in so many ways. Watching these people devote their lives to coupons, buying more than they need, and losing sleep over a few bucks, it’s madness.

I’m all for saving money and using coupons, but you can take things too far. This is just depressing.

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Guest's picture
Dan

Extreme couponing is a bit much. My wife recently decided be just little more pro-active about coupons though, looking through the paper and online as well as adjusting the day she went shopping and has been saving about 15-20% on average. I'd say she spends at most 30 minutes week on couponing and no additional time at the store. It seems worthwhile at that level - or at least gets the grocery expenses to be a little less inflated.

Guest's picture
Javier

Dan, you and your wife are a good example of exercising sound judgment when trying to get the most out of your money. Extreme couponing is just that--extreme. Considering the value of your time, spending hours per week searching and buying items that you don't really need can end up being wasteful. Instead, finding a balance between maximizing your time and savings is ideal. I work for the blog at mangomoney.com where we offer money-saving advice that is easy to incorporate into your normal life--including the supermarket. Check us out.

Guest's picture
Emily

Paul, we're not "extreme" enough for tv, but I'm pretty happy saving 50%. You're absolutely right, it gets to be a sickness. Yesterday I was sitting down with my laptop, paper, and coupons, and designing my week (which stores to hit, what was on sale, etc). And it gets to you - you have a fantastic coupon that will make this particular item almost free, but it's not a product you could use or donate. It's hard to check yourself. But I think most of us don't want to buy/store/watch decompose your 77 bottles of mustard.

Oh, and shelf-clearers are the bane of all of our existence.

Guest's picture
Jay

I agree with everyone of your points and I'd like to add on more. The amount of processed food that the extreme couponers buy. The piles of soup and frozen pizzas, where's the fresh vegetables and produce. How much sodium does and partially hydrogenated oils do one family need? I've only watched it a couple of times and most of the families that I saw didn't appear to be the healthiest.

Guest's picture
Kelly

I agree with that. I tried using more coupons, but they are for a lot of processed food that my family does not eat. You don't see coupons for fresh veggies/fruits/etc. very often. :/

Guest's picture
Kara D.

Which is exactly why I don't really ever "coupon". The vast majority of my grocery purchases are for fresh fruit, fresh veggies, deli meat and cheese, and the market's meat. I also prefer local eggs and dairy products. I discover that when I coupon I (a) buy something that I don't need, (b) buy something unhealthy, or (c) buy something that just sits there.

Guest's picture
Kate

Absolutely. I also like a lot of store-brand products and "green" brands. After being laid off last year, I tried to use coupons as much as possible and found it wasn't worth the effort. Better to watch for sales and store promotions.

Guest's picture
Marina

I'd have to disagree; yes, the majority of coupons are for processed foods. But I consistently get tofu, shirataki, salad, almond milk, dried fruit, Cuties and other produce coupons. You will find some produce coupons on individual store web sites and inside individual stores, like Safeway. I have to say I love snack food coupons as well, I have several bars of good dark chocolate and about a dozen bags of Kettle Chips...wait, probably not a good idea but sometimes I like a treat!:).

Guest's picture
Jen

I agree with Marina. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 13 (39 now) and a health nut all my life. My family and I do not eat processed foods. We eat fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, rice, etc. All of which I DO find coupons for on a regular basis. Granted, you do have to go look for them. You don't see too many in the Sunday paper. And unfortunately, the families being portrayed on this show are by and large clipping coupons from the paper - which are indeed for junk food.

Guest's picture

I use coupons and save a lot of money on organic and natural foods. I use coupons at Whole Foods all of the time and cut my bill in half, usually saving me more than $100. Not all coupons are for unhealthy garbage, I have seen coupons for milk and produce too.

Guest's picture

I don't know a lot about economics, but I do know that if practical necessities were more affordable or wages were more fairly distributed, this wouldn't be such a problem. Honestly, though, I can see where a lot of these extremists are coming from, and I can't blame them. They're hiding from their fear in the comfort of their coupons. Unfortunately, they're blinded to the repercussions of their actions, as are most addicts.

Guest's picture

I completely agree with the sentiment here, particularly your last point. I believe that all transactions should be win-win for both the consumer and the retailer. Now, extreme couponing shifts that balance completely in favor of the consumer.

We all like to save money, and I use coupons when I can. But cleaning out a store of ibuprofen to save some money is morally wrong in my opinion. What about the person who coming in later who really needs a bottle? They are penalized because of someone else's selfishness.

The retailers and manufacturers are partly to blame. Every coupon should have a limit of 2 or 3 per customer per day.

Guest's picture
Guest

There's a lady on my block who does this then sells her surplus as a yard sale a few times each year, advertising "stockpile sale". It's no wonder that when I go into CVS or Walgreens or Kroger with my two or three coupons hoping to get two or three items very cheap or free and the shelves are cleared. So my efforts to save my family money are thwarted by those greedy people who feel the need to clear the shelves then hoard it half the year to have a yard sale.

Guest's picture
Marina

That lady makes me mad.

Guest's picture
Dalton

Lol what rate does she sell them at? Does she clear all the shelves and then sell them at a premium?

I'd be fine with a neighbor buying a bunch of stuff (say retails for $5 to $10) for free and selling it to others for .50 cents. Maybe. lol

P.S. buying two or 3 of an item on sale, I condone. I do not condone clearing a shelf, nor does 99% of the coupon community. They set stricter policies for us who use coupons properly.

Guest's picture
Tarrant

As a partner to an extreme couponer, I want to comment on a few things from my perspective--that is not one myself but as a cart pusher and beneficiary.

First, know that the shows are always (at least so far) the shopper's biggest trip so far. It apparently makes for good shopping.

As for real life with an extreme couponer:
1. Not a full-time commitment. My partner fetches up coupons and organizes her shopping trips like other people watch tv/play bejeweled/play the sport of their choice

2. Stockpile a lot of stuff? No-not necessarily. We have a stockpile, relatively modest by most people's standards.

Upon viewing our toilet paper stockpile, we get many comments about how they have more toilet paper and are NOT stockpilers.

As for storage space--I suspect 99% of storage space in this country is devoted to things people don't need and won't ever use. Look at an average closet, garage--how much of that stuff is used regularly?

3. Huh? Yes, she digs the savings and probably gives her a rush. Does she wake up at night in a cold sweat? No. Does she fret over coupon opportunities gone by? no. That's an odd projection.

4. Hours? No. In fact our average shopping trip time has gone way down. Instead of wandering about hoping we have what we need for the store or following a list made from an arbitrary menu and general household needs--we know exactly what we are getting. (and know that because we just bought 10 cans of organic tomatoes and 10 cans of organic beans last week--we definitely won't run short in the middle of cooking if we don't buy more.)

5. Much, much, much more than you need. I grant you a half point on that one.

Shelf clearing makes me cringe as much as it makes you cringe. The mustard made me shake my head since I couldn't imagine what she was going to do with it since her husband didn't even eat mustard. But, again, that was tv and it made for a plot point in a skewed "reality" show.

Clearing a shelf never means the entire store is out of a "needed" item. Money makers are inevitably on a brand name item that no one in serious need of that particular type of medication would choose first, unless they were super brand name focused. A cleared shelf means you generally end up with a generic toilet paper, a generic pain reliever, an antacid that doesn't have the new and improved tutti-frutti flavor.

Yes, we have gotten money makers before--usually feminine care items, toothpaste, and yes, pain killers. You know where those go? Straight to agencies who need them. Do you know how much it means to your local women's shelter to get those very basic items? Did you realize that most extreme couponers give a large portion of their stockpile to those in need? Some of them shop entirely for those in need. Of course, the money "made" actually goes into things like produce, milk, tofu for our family--not into our pockets since rare is the store that actually gives cash out and some items have rarer coupons.

Guest's picture
Cathie

I respect your answer, but I take exception to your stance on shelf-clearing. If I have a headache and need ibuprofen, and I am a person who is struggling financially, and I have done my research and found that I can purchase Advil on sale, with a coupon for only pennies, then that does not necessarily make me any more "super name brand focused" than the extreme couponer who cleared the shelf simply because they could. In this instance, I would not be happy with the non-couponed, more expensive generic product, and as a reasonable shopper, shouldn't have to just because someone else was greedy, even if it was ultimately for a "good cause."
Also, I don't know how you can acurately state that "most extreme couponers give a large portion of their stockpile to those in need." Maybe it is so, but there is a lack of empirical evidence, to be sure.

Guest's picture
David

Another point in this biased argument is that if the shelves are cleared then you can always get a rain check. So if there is a particular item you have a coupon for but they are out (this happens frequently w/o extreme couponers) of the item get a rain check. If you are really concerned get to the store the day of the sale; according to theory the extreme couponer does not go on the first day because the time dedicated to couponing. I am in no ways an extreme couponer but I am starting to do more couponing, but my experience is that these people do donate a majority of their purchases to NPO's, I think there is more evidence to this than to hording.

Guest's picture
Candice

I spend about two hours every week clipping the coupons that match up with sale items (thank you, southernsavers.com!) and making a menu plan for the week. I admit, two hours is a lot of time, but I save about 50-60% on my groceries, which is worth it - that's about $50 in savings, or $25 an hour.

But I completely agree with you about "extreme" couponing. My rule of thumb is that I buy what I can use in 2 months, because it will go on sale again in that time period. I haven't seen the TV show, but I've heard a lot, including real life stories from my Publix manager about the shelf clearers. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to want to use my one or two coupons for the free baby food only to find out that someone cleared the shelf and the end cap and the stock room... I've learned to shop the morning of the first day of the sale or right after the truck comes over the weekend.

A simple solution, though, I think - impose limits of 5 or 10 items per visit (not transaction; that would make it more of a nightmare!)

Guest's picture
Cathie

THANK YOU! You articulated everything that I've been thinking is wrong with this. I have been couponing for over 30 years, and I have consistently saved about 50% on our REGULAR grocery trips. This means that I have a small stockpile of things that we will use before they expire, or donate to our church pantry.

Guest's picture
Guest

here, hear. absolutely spot on.

Guest's picture
Michele

Thank you. This is why when I go to the store for the ONE bottle of mustard a year I need the shelf it empty. These people are creepy.

Guest's picture
Carrie Ann

I am a part of a frugal Church based charity shopping group that shops deals for the sole purpose of donating to those in need. The coupons are donated by Church members, stored by date and clipped by volunteer shoppers just prior to the shopping trips. The goods are immediately passed on to charities. We are not alone. For example; so far this year Clip, Shop, Share has donated almost 43K in personal care products for just under $400.00. Nothing is wasted. These ongoing mission projects scattered in communities nationwide make givers out of those who had no money to spare and nullifies almost every single argument you have made. Just as Jersey Shore does not provide an example of every resident of that state, Extreme Couponing does not speak for the millions of frugal families nationwide saving every penny to stay afloat.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you! As much as everyone wants to paint extreme couponing as "hoarding" I've seen a lot of people on the show do it to donate to the troops or for other charitable reasons. So, I agree with your point. The whole self-clearing thing I agree with and I can see how that is problematic. But I do think people have to be more charitable when looking at extreme couponing. Take it with a grain of salt but it saves a lot of people, without a lot of money, a lot of money.

Guest's picture
Guest

My only gripe with using coupons and buying on-sale items is that I tailor my eating habits according to marketing efforts. If my grocery store has salmon on sale this week, I'll eat salmon. If it's not on sale next week, I won't. If I have a coupon for a type of average breakfast cereal, and the healthier breakfast cereal that I like is not on sale, I might opt to buy the average cereal because it's "subsidized". For me, not using coupons and buying things when they are on sale is wasteful. But I hate having my options dictated to me.

Guest's picture
Guest

How are your options dictated to you? You admit that you make your decisions based on marketing efforts. If you're aware of this then just make better choices instead of blaming the grocery store. Buy the healthy cereal if you want. No one is holding a gun to your head saying you have to buy the sugar crap b/c you have a coupon.

Guest's picture
kathleen Corrao

Let me start by saying that I'm not an extreme couponer. However, I do save at least 50% on my groceries every time I shop, by writing out a monthly menu for dinners, shopping sales, and by using loyalty cards and coupons. It sounds like a lot of time, but it's only about 20 minutes a week, not including the shopping trip itself, which usually takes less than an hour. Anyway, while I do agree with much of what you say, I feel like you're lumping all of the extreme couponers into one group and that's not fair to anyone.
1. Full time commitment. There's another way of looking at this. What these people save on groceries every year is at least the equivalent of a second income. When you look at it that way, it kind of changes things.
2. You have to stockpile a lot of stuff. Um, no. Just because you have 77 coupons doesn't mean you have to buy 77 items. People who do that have other possible issues, because that sounds a bit like hoarding to me. Plus, again, it's lumping all extreme couponers into one small obsessive group.
3. You have to be a slave to coupons. Again, I would say that this is not necessarily the case, although I can absolutely see how couponing can become an addiction for some people. There's definitely a very fine line. When you see someone in a store who refuses to buy something they need because they saw it on sale somewhere else or have a coupon for it at home, that's when you know it's gone too far.
4. You spend hours at the grocery store. Actually, I would dispute this point. People who put that much time and effort into researching sales and clipping coupons, usually spend less time in the stores because they walk in with a list and their coupons, get what they need, and get out. However, in cases where this is true, I would go back to my earlier statement about it being the equivalent of a second income.
5. You are taking much more than you need. My guess is that this probably pertains to a tiny percentage of people who do extreme couponing. Those people are called hoarders.

The fact is that the percentage of people in America who actually do the extreme couponing is very small. Some people do it for economic reasons, and when you think of it, it really is like having a second income for stay at home spouses. It's a way to contribute to the household, while being home to care for children or parents, or whatever the reason is for not working outside the home. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some people do it for the challenge, to see how much they can save, and others are addicted to it, and that's where it crosses over into dangerous territory. I agree with the person who posted that the people you see on tv are probably showing their biggest payday to date. A lot of them say they save about 70% on average, which is still a lot, and I agree with the poster who mentioned that a lot of this stuff is processed foods, and really, I would rather have a lower percentage on savings and a higher percentage of fresh foods in my cart.

Guest's picture
Shevonne

Yep, for me time is more important than money, and this takes a lot of effort.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to laugh every time someone says time is more important to them than money, or that their time is so "valuable". Really??? Seriously? God forbid you have to go to the bathroom huh?
Seriously though, stop and actually think about what you do during the day that is NOT so important, that you are "wasting" time on, and you'll see that you do indeed waste quite a bit of it. During the entire day, from the moment you get up til the time you fall asleep. Sorry, your "time" is no more important than any one else's. And it really is not "valuable". Time spent on important things, those you consider important (not someone else's opinion) is what is valuable. So if couponing is important to you, then it is just as valuable for that person as the CEO's time spent in a board meeting, for example.
People need to stop trying to make themselves feel and sound important with this "time is more important than money or my time is SO valuable" meaningless argument. Because we are not impressed.

Guest's picture
Dorinne

I am not exactly an extreme couponer, but I save an average of 65% on my grocery bill by combining coupons and sales to get what my family uses - which is not all processed, sodium-rich foods. I have never cleared shelves the way they do on TV - but i have bought more than my family could use if something was free or very cheap - and my food bank loves the donations. My stock pile is reasonable, and I'm constantly checking to make sure we don't have more than we can use before it expires (if I think I have too much? It gets donated. and I don't buy more just because it's on sale).

I think the shows on TV make everything look more crazy than it is - I spend a couple hours a week max on this. And I share and trade coupons with everyone. But now everyone is giving me the side-eye when i pull my coupons out, thinking I must be one of those people who buy all the good deals and don't share.

Guest's picture
Dalton

one of the krazycouponlady.com women (1 of 2) was on the show and her husband was misquoted saying she spends most of her time doing coupons. She came out and stated what he had originally said was she spends a lot of time on her coupon site.. which is a hobby, not an obsession. She said she never spends more than 1-2 hrs a week on coupons.

& the other woman who was shown as climbing into a dumpster, only did so because producers asked her to. What they really do is go to paper recycling plants, which have bins of nothing but newspapers and inserts. (Which I personally still find a little too far - but to each their own)

My point being, yes the show definitely trys to portray it more crazy than it really is.

Guest's picture
mjrunnr

What about the fact that these people never buy anything remotely healthy? Cupons are all for boxed, caned, processed, sugary stuff. No produce, no meat, fish or dairy. This is for the most part the extra junk you don't even need - I certainly don't need it filling up my house! I'd rather spend $5.99 a year on Advil than deal with having 200 free bottles in my house.

Guest's picture
Candice

On the contrary - as healthier foods become more popular, there are many options out there for those of us who aren't interested in Hamburger Helper and Lucky Charms. Perhaps on "Extreme Couponing" they buy junk food, but I recently bought all natural cereal from the health food section of Kroger for $0.25 each thanks to sale/coupons. I can regularly buy frozen veggies - the plain veggies, no sauces, etc. for under $0.50 - often free. And they have been proven to be healthier than fresh when it's trucked across the country before it sits on the produce displays in the store, losing nutrients all the way.

Whole grain pastas, plain greek yogurt, organic coffees, all things I've bought recently with coupons (and actually, come to think of it, I got the pasta and yogurt for free after coupons...)

Guest's picture
Tony

My wife is an extreme couponer and she probably spends about 2 hours a week on it. This may seem like a lot to some people. To say it is a waste of time is both relative and a matter of opinion. For example in the time it takes to watch “Extreme Couponing” you could have done extreme couponing. So when compared to watching TV, I would say time spent doing extreme couponing is not a waste.

Americans are funny about the things we “need.” In the example of medicine maybe I could see using the term loosely. Although most people overuse over the counter mediations as it is and if you reach for a bottle of pills every time you have a headache you need to grow a pair. But being upset because the mustard you ‘needed’ is out of stock is asinine. The term you are thinking of is “wanted”. In this case it turns out that the person that did the extreme couponing simply wanted the mustard more than you did. Neither person “needed” it.

My wife and I frequently donate extreme coupon items to people that actually do need them. So to say extreme couponing is greedy is again both relative and a matter of opinion. Say the brand of shampoo that you use is out of stock because an extreme couponer took advantage of a sale. It is likely (from the extreme couponers that I know) that the person that purchased them donated at least some of them the charity and they will probably end up being used by someone that hasn’t been able to shower in a week because they are homeless and can’t afford soap. In this situation, you being mad about the shampoo being out of stock makes YOU greedy, not the person that purchased them.

In sum: So if you like getting things free, helping people that need it, and don’t waste all of your time watching TV shows and then making generalizations about the groups people based on them in articles you write, give couponing a try.

Guest's picture
Guest

"Although most people overuse over the counter mediations as it is and if you reach for a bottle of pills every time you have a headache you need to grow a pair"

Was that seriously necessary? Try living in chronic pain or with chronic health conditions. Sometimes what you have on the shelf is all you have, especially if you don't have health insurance. There is nothing wrong with wanting pain relief and nothing is more frustrating than when you can't find it so you can do things like function.

Guest's picture
Guest

It is nice that many Extreme commoners are so generous as to donate their purchases to charity (as you say many do) but what about the thousands of people right on the edge of poverty that need those deals too just to make ends meet? Maybe they should just resign themselves to let those generous Extreme commoners do their shopping for them and wait in line at the local charity for handouts huh?

Guest's picture
Rachel

I don't get it either. I'm all for saving a buck or two when I can, whether it be through Coupons, Groupons, whatever; but the wannabe minimalist in me says NO WAY! The thought of having that much 'stuff' around just stresses me out!

Guest's picture

I'll admit that I was drawn into this show one night, and I was shocked at how they not only received many items for free, but also money back on many items. Profiting from shopping is virtually unheard of. After some thinking I realized that they were either using unethical ways of obtaining coupons, or spending a ton of money on those as well, which typically didn't get added into their "operating costs" if you will. Also, often times these were wasteful people. They buy tons of perishable items, or non-perishable items that they would never use, just to receive the deeper discounts. Sorry I'm just not a fan...I would say to spend your extra time getting a second job and contributing to the economy.

Guest's picture
Dalton

Justin - Having done it myself (couponing - not hoarding like the show displays) I can say that you can still casually get 78% in savings without clearing a shelf. They clear the shelves going "OH this won't come again for 6 weeks" but they buy stuff that will either expire in a week or last them decades.

I have a list of stuff we our low on or need (need being soap, or other home/personal care products) and then I just keep a watch on weekly ads to see if their happens to be a combo of sale/coupon to make the item cheap or free.

Example:
This week Dove for Men Deodorant was on sale.
$3.99
but two weeks ago I printed a no longer available coupon for $1 off.
$2.99
Walgreens offers $3 Register Rewards (3 off next purchase on any item) so the item was essentially free.

Or:
Scotch tape (we were completely out) was on sale for 1.99
with a Buy-1-get-2-free deal at Walgreens.
Because Walgreen's policy states you can use a coupon per item unless coupon states otherwise, I was able to use TWO
$1 off 1 Scotch Tape - taking $2 off my purchase, which was originally 1.99.
COST: FREE.

You can do it ethically, and get that much savings. The show displays some people who have built their stockpile for YEARS. and never learned to only buy what they're short on. You don't have to be a shelf-clearer or hoarder to save more than 50% on your shopping. The show is setting a bad example - at least one person on the show was proven as using coupon fraud.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's that 'get get get' mentality. Drives me crazy. And imho the people who do it are crazy. Life is short, there are better ways to spend it. My 2 cents (with coupon, 4.5 cents)

Guest's picture
Tawn

There is so much wrong with that show that it's disgusting. I am a stay at home and couponing is one way that we save money for me to do that. Also I coupon so that we can avoid all the processed food you see on this show. We do keep a bit in the house but not shelf after shelf. That's just silly. I use couponing to make sure we can eat healthy meat's, veggies, and organic products that you don't typically find a lot of coupons for. I save 70-80% per week. I spend about 15 hours a week meal planning, collecting coupons, shopping and organizing everything. It takes works. They don't really show that on that show. We only buy what we need for 3 months since that is how most sales cycles work. I also use rain checks to keep from clearing shelves, pre order so I don't clear shelves, and I help specific families instead of buying out a store just to donate to charity.
If done in moderation it is WELL worth it. But this show like most t.v. shows only shows the sensational and negative aspects of a topic. I don't watch it and ask everyone on my Facebook and as them to pass on the there friends to not watch it.

Guest's picture
Jen

Like others here, I am the type of shopper who combines coupons and sales to get great deals on things my family will actually use in the next few weeks. Colgate goes on sale for $1 at the same time every month, and you get 50 cent off coupons in the paper once a month, and my store doubles coupons, so... free toothpaste once a month! But all I want to buy is the one tube, knowing the same deal will come around in another 4 weeks. There is no reason to buy up tons of papers and clip all the coupons and clear the shelf.

I have only seen one episode of Extreme Couponing, and there is no doubt that these people are ill. It's just another form of hoarding, imo. And I agree with the fact that if you plan all your menus based on coupons, you are going to have some serious health issues to deal with. It does appear that the families being featured are buying nothing but junk. That said, my family eats only fresh food and I still manage to get things like whole wheat pasta and wild rice for free using coupons.

Couponing is a tool like anything else, it can be used in a productive way or... not.

Guest's picture
Guest

Bravo, Paul! THANK YOU for writing this article! Hey - I'm all for saving money and using coupons - don't get me wrong. But let's get realistic - the 'extreme' couponers have taken some of this stuff too far. Don't these folks feel guilty for clearing out certain items in a grocery store, just so they can pat themselves on the back about saving money? All I can hope is that they give items away to friends, family members and charities.

Guest's picture

I totally agree. It's good that it helps with the expenses but if it would lead to addiction and hoarding, then it's not worth it. Buying in excess just because you can have it for way less its usual worth isn't really what I call wise.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you for this insight. I thought I was the only one that thought these people were crazy buying so much stuff that they'll never use it all in their lifetime. How is that saving money?

Guest's picture
gwen

I so agree with this article. when I first saw these people I thought I am so bad at this, then saner thoughts prevailed. Why would I need 77 bottles of ketchup. I don't want to clutter up my life with things I will never use. i don't want to take so much that someone else will never get any. i just want to have a nicely stocked cabinet for my family. if I can get extras for free occasionally, i donate them to my local food pantry. There are a lot of needy places we could put all of this excess energy instead of becoming serial hoarders.

Guest's picture
Guest

Did you mean "cereal" hoarders?

Guest's picture
dmh

I have only seen clips of the show, but something I found extremely disturbing was the obese couple purchasing 100 Butterfinger candy bars. And the woman yelling at her husband and treating him like a child because she lost count of how many Butterfingers were in the shopping cart - she is a total nutcase. Much of the other product they purchased was processed, pre-packaged junk. This is why much of America is obese people! Personally, I couldn't care less if they clear the shelves, because I'm not interested in eating those kinds of "foods" anyway. I feel sorry for the children of these extreme couponers if they are on the same kind of diets as their parents.

Guest's picture
brian

Yea definitely not worth the effort.

Guest's picture
gt0163c

Disclaimer: I have seen only clips, no full episodes of the "Extreme Couponing" show.

I'm not certain I would call myself an extreme couponer. But I do use coupons and save a lot of money. I haven't paid more than $0.50 for most personal care products in years (most things I get free). Now, I am single, so I use fewer things that a couple or family.

I agree with the commentors who say that you can do a lot of coupon shopping without it taking a lot of time. And, for me, it may save time as I don't have to worry about running out of toothpaste or breakfast cereal when I want to it. I've always got more in my pantry. Dealing with coupons and making a list takes me probably 1-2 hours per week. Shopping takes probably about the same, as I generally end up going to a couple of different stores to get the best deals. I'm fortunate to have most stores within 2 miles of my house and I can combine shopping with my other errands. I do eat some processed foods, but not a lot. My big savings come from non-food items. And I pass on to friends or donate what I don't use (the crisis pregnancy center loves it when I end up on the baby formula mailing lists and have lots to donate to them).

Like many of the other commentors, I think that people who "extreme coupon" like I do are definitely more the rule than those who are portrayed on television. We're not all horrible people, most of us just like to save some money and don't mind spending a bit of time to do it. :)

Guest's picture
Marina

You are so right. Not only is it greed, it is poor impulse control. I started couponing almost 2 years ago. When I first started I got about 14 bottles of shampoo for free, and I still have it so I don't buy more. My stockpile is pretty minimal, there's enough coffee, cereal, juice, soap, etc to last a couple of months, and I'm very comfortable with that.

That being said, there is that adrenaline rush that you get when you first start raking in the free or almost free items. Some people grow out of it and others justify their addiction by saying that they are "donating". Regarding the most egregious shelf-clearers, find it very hard to reconcile their generosity to donate with their gluttonous need to clear shelves, and sense that in most cases they are trying to justify their addiction. I'm on couponing blogs all the time and read about steadfastly religious couponers talking about shelf-clearing as "early bird gets the worm". I find it baffling that they justify selfishness in order to later "donate". Whatever. I say POOR IMPULSE CONTROL.

Guest's picture
Jen

Marina, I have long felt the same way about those "donating" shelf clearers. I realize that Extreme Couponing is a television show that doesn't necessarily portray reality. But of the clips I've seen, all I see is garage after garage full of shelves of products. They aren't being donated to anyone. And I can't count the number of times I've read "the early bird gets the worm". Excuse me for working a full time job! I can't run to the store the minute Cindy Homemaker posts a deal online. :-/

Guest's picture
Hey Jen

Until recently I really didn't even know there was such a thing as coupon fraud. Then again until recently I didn't use coupons. I can safely say I am nowhere near being an extreme couponer, but I do take the time every week to clip coupons and look for sales between Publix and Target. Those are the two closest stores to me and I will not go out of my way to go grocery shopping.

I haven't watched the show but I hear enough about it and I have a friend who extreme coupons, which I actually learned something about couponing from her. I'm grateful for her sharing her experiences. But in spite of all that, I will never be able to be an extreme couponer.

Guest's picture

You are exactly right! Unless you are the Duggar Family with 19 kids you don't need that much anything. I would love to see these people with 77 mustards donating them to a shelter.

Andrea Karim's picture

I MIGHT actually go through that much mustard in a year, but I am far too lazy to do it with coupons.

Guest's picture
Jen

You are absolutely right! I just watched the show for the first time and was sickened just like the first time I watched hoarders. It's organized hoarding by addicts with too much time on their hands. No wonder my favorite cheap spaghetti sauce is always gone when I need it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been couponing for many years and the show is just ridiculous. I am thankful that is a fad that I know will fade. People will realize that it is not easy to clip, organize and use coupons all the time. They will also realize that they cannot get the same deals as they people on TV and they will get bored and quit. It just upsets me that the stores and manufactures are becoming more strict because of the shows and ordinary couponers like me can no longer save as much as before.

Guest's picture
Carrie

To me, these extreme couponers are as sick as hoarders and people with OCD. While I do spend about an hour a week couponing and save a lot on my grocery bill (as well as get things like shampoo, shavers, etc free most of the time), I don't stockpile or have a basement full of stuff. I also have a family of 8 so we go through the stuff we buy!

Guest's picture
Broad

I mostly agree with you. My husband & I watch that show. We have said over and over again that it is indeed organized hoarding, and that unless you're donating your mass stockpiles to shelters or military families or some sort of other "good cause" then really it's gluttony, and it's a little disgusting.

I will say though, that for me, that show has been life-changing. I didn't realize how the system worked, and I never clipped coupons before. I have taken a small handfull of tips from that show (I wrote about them here: http://sundaefunnies.blogspot.com/2011/04/extreme-coupon-bandwagon.html) and applied them to my life. I won't clip coupons for things I wouldn't normally use, or that aren't healthy for my family. No one needs 857 candy bars, or 77 bottles of mustard. That's just insanity. And greed. But in the month and a week that I've been actively couponing, I have saved enough money to make a car payment. No one will complain about that. I don't have a bajillion candy bars, or 1200 bottles of soda stock-piled in a closet, but I do have a freezer full of frozen veggies that cost me $32 with a savings of $219, a half a dozen bottles of body wash that I paid .19 cents each for, 4 jars of peanut butter that I saved $3 a jar on, granola bars for my daughters lunches, etc.

So while I agree with most of what you said, I will say that it has been a life-changing show for me. It takes a lot of time and organization. I'm sure like all things, this too shall pass. But in the meantime, I'm all about saving a few bucks whereever I can!

Thanks for the post -

H

Guest's picture

This topic has been very popular on the blogosphere lately. I think coupons are nice and I'll use them if I happen to see them. I never thought about how greedy this could be though! I think it would be nice if these people donated some of their findings to charity or shelters, but I'm sure they don't.

Guest's picture
Bev

Spot on and I so agree it comes down to greed and addiction.

Webster's definition of Greed: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.

It becomes an obsession to where all they think of is money and how to save more of it, like its the number one thing in their life. It's almost as if it has gone so far as to become an idol, something they nurture and worship every week.

Guest's picture
Angela

I've been "extreme couponing" since 2007. This show is exploiting and taking advantage of people who will do anything to get their 15mins of fame. The show does not pay them to be on it, they do it merely for the TV coverage and advertising for their blogs, classes, etc. Many of them have fraudulently used coupons (including that dang mustard) on national TV and don't lose a second of sleep over it.

That being said, I buy lots of basic ingredients as opposed to "processed junk". I do buy candy when free, have to pass out something for Halloween after all and my neighbors' kids love getting a full sized bar instead of a teeny one. I buy produce, lean meat, brown rice, organic, Kashi, Muir Glen, Cascadian Farms and store brand organic/natural all the time. We eat whole wheat bread and non GMO milk. I save a minimum of 50%, often 75% or more on everything we need. Including clothes, computer memory, printers and ink, dog food and treats, movie tickets, redbox codes...

We do also grow our own produce, but I have several friends who barter their freebie HBA products to local farm stands. I have a friend who is even getting art lessons for her daughter in return for HBA stuff.

I stockpile based on what we use and brand loyalty. Everything else goes straight on the donation shelf, which we drop off weekly at the local food pantry. I don't have a shower full of paper products or 100 bottles of mustard. I have enough to get me to the next regular sale. This may be a couple months for things like cereal (regular rotation every couple months or sooner) or a year for things like BBQ sauce (summer sales).

Even with my own coupon blog I don't spend 40hrs a week clipping coupons. I also don't spend hours at checkout or shopping per store. Maybe 10-15mins on average for larger orders, usually 5-10mins for a quick trip. Which includes finding the product and checking out. Knowing the store setup and what I want makes it quick to get in and get out.

I have never cleared the shelf. I have watched several local couponers do it, and several teach classes that encourage it, but there is no need to be greedy and gluttonous. It is an adrenaline rush and not everyone is capable of realizing the bigger picture and how them clearing shelves hurts others.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with Jay. That's the same thing I said when I saw the types of foods that were being purchased by the "extreme couponers". Processed foods that are laced with chemicals and artificial preservatives, colors, and flavorings, not to mention GMO ingredients. These people are greedy and selfish and that is the problem with most people here in America. There are people who are literally starving to death and you have these couponers who are only concerned with getting more and more items, be it food, or non-food items. To clear out whole shelves at a time is just plain ridiculous and unnecessary.

I live below the poverty line and have a hard time making ends meet, so I understand the struggle to make sure that I am feeding my family real foods that are healthy and affordable. I want to save when I go to the grocery store, but I also realize that other people have to buy food as well. I still buy natural and organic foods and I wouldn't become an extreme couponer even if I knew how to do it. There are more important things in life then wasting hours and days clipping coupons.

Guest's picture
Guest

The one thing I have noticed is the majority of the stuff these women buy is pre-packaged, highly processed JUNK FOOD. The stuff we should all be cutting down on eating. I want to buy food that is the best for my family, not buy food because I got it for free. Wonder if these women will have coupons for free insulin when the diabetes kicks in.

Guest's picture
Guest

There are a lot of generalizations and assumptions in this post, and in the comments. Yes, the people on the show disgust me a bit - buying mustard that won't be used, buying obviously unhealthy food, etc... Also a lot of people posting that would have you believe they eat nothing but fresh fruit, veggies and meat and nothing else. I think reality for most who are into using coupons lies somewhere in the middle. I have gotten into using coupons this year, and I buy lot's of healthy foods, and I do stock up on them when I have a coupon AND the item is on sale. I then use that savings to offset the cost of some of the fresh stuff we want. But there are lot's of "healthy" things that can be purchased with coupons, it's not all Totino's Party Pizza and cookies. I also use coupons for shampoo, soap, razors, etc.... I see no harm in spending a couple hours per week while watching tv with my wife clipping a few coupons that will save me a bunch of money every month. So to those who poo-poo this and make assumptions about those who use coupons, I think you're wrong.

Guest's picture
Dalton

Paul, I see where you're coming from with the extreme couponing horrors, but I feel like you're being influenced by what the tv series wants you to see in it.

I did catch on after seeing the show, but the show is exagerated, as is most of tv. For example, one woman - the one you saw dumping the entire bin of aspirin - ended up being accused of coupon fraud. She was decoding the barcodes and using coupons for say "Nivia Vitality - $9 product with a $3 off coupon" and letting it ring up for another Nivia product, that typically only costs $3. It's a flaw in the way coupons are coded but it is definitely illegal. She was not an ethical couponer.

What I have done, is buy enough groceries to last me and my wife 2 - 3 weeks. Now that we have a decent supply, it leaves me open to casually browse for deals. I'll pick up a sunday paper (JUST 1, yeah 1.) and spend that week looking through writing down near free deals. This way I can slowly build a small stockpile, without wasting away my life. We have one closet, with shelves, devoted to our stockpile. We will never let it get past that one small closet because well... we're two people. Not a family of 10 starving rats. You're totally right that a lot of those people buy up everything knowing it will expire long before they can use it. Especially when they hide stuff under beds and in every other corner. Thats no longer saving, that's hoarding.

I also won't "only buy food if theres a coupon for it" We will make a vague list of what we want "cookies" for example, and so if we do have a coupon for chips ahoy, we will get that instead of oreos - but we will not let coupons act as our shopping list. We make a list of what we want and then see if we have available coupons for it.

Other than that, I only casually get free items: for example, our range of savings is more like once a week we go to Walgreens. This week I spent $7 on $29 worth of goods. We got: 2 Dove for Men Deodorent. 2 Softsoap body wash. 4 starbucks frappachinos. 2 Deli Creations & 3 Scotch Magic Tape.

If there is a bunch of really good deals in a sunday paper, I will go pick up a second one. But we never use more than 3 or 4 coupons on an item... way under the 77 coupons you see used on the show. Simply no reason to stockpile, even if those oreo cookies don't go back on sale for another 4 weeks, the chips ahoy will be on sell in 2. The main thing to remember in couponing is you have to try new things, and gradually build your stock.... and if your stock is full, don't go buy more just because it's on sale right now!

Thanks.

Guest's picture
Andrea

I agree with most of the posts listed here. I recently took a medical retirement from my job. This meant a loss of income for my family. In an effort to save money I have been using coupons. I am an "average" shopper. I don't buy 77 bottles of ANYTHING. Who has room for that? I find my best savings are on health and beauty items. I use the money I save on those items to buy more fresh fruits and vegies. I buy only what my family will use in a one month time period with the exception of health and beauty items. I will buy a few months worth of these products because they don't spoil. I will buy a few extra items for my college aged daughter (I put them in a care package for her a few times a year.) I NEVER clear a shelf. I feel that is just being selfish. I average $200-300 savings per month. I spend less than 5 hours per week and since I am not working I feel this is a reasonable amount. We have four children including three teenagers (they play sports and are always eating). Using coupons is the only way we could deal with the loss of my income. I would like to BEG the extreme couponers to stop clearing shelves and hoarding the good deals. There are LOTS of working families in America just like mine that need these items on a daily basis. I plan my families meal around the local sales and my coupons. If I go to the store and the sale items are gone (thanks to all the shelf clearers) I am forced to buy a different (more expensive) brand or go without that item. They say that charity starts at home. With that said, think of your friends and nieghbors and leave something on the shelf for others who may need it. If you just have to have 77 bottles of mustard contact the store manager BEFORE you go shopping and have him/her order you a seperate case.

Guest's picture
Lenora

I don't watch TV so I've never seen the show. I do use coupons for pet food mostly. I believe we should all be stockpiling food and supplies. The stores only have about three days of food and supplies before they are empty. If we have a natural disaster or disruption in oil availability then what will we eat? Maybe we should get to know our hoarding neighbors. "Hey, can I borrow a bottle of mustard?"

Guest's picture
Guest

To each, their own. I don't think that anyone should be judging anyone else. If its not for you, then don't do it. If you like couponing, then go for it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with that statement. Why does this make everyone so angry with everyone else? Let it go, for gosh sakes! Who cares? If they want to do this, then let them do it! They have the freedom to do what they want!...sheesh...on with new subject, PLEASE!!!

Guest's picture
Laurie

I watched a few of these shows. Some of these people, I think, are hoarders, and have issues. I HATE it when they clear a shelf!! I hate going to find something, and having the shelf cleared. I always wonder if it's just coincidence, or if it was an extreme couponer.

I've tried coupons myself, and ended up being extremely frustrated! I buy a Sunday paper for $2 or $2.50, then all I see in the paper are coupons for stuff like cat food, cleaners and makeup I don't use. Plus, the stores where I live just aren't convenient, so I just can't hit up 2 or 3 stores easily. Also, NO stores have double coupons around here. I've tried the coupon sites for tips and such, and just end up getting extremely frustrated. I spent HOURS one week trying to go through fliers, clip, plan my meals and match up with the sales. I ended up saving $7. Between not being able to find stuff on the shelves, finding very low value coupons, and feeling like it takes up WAY too much time for my efforts, I give up.

My time would be better spent doing other things, like maybe finding a part time job to bring in extra money.

Guest's picture
Guest

There are people on this show who buy things they don't even need. One lady buys diapers and she doesn't even have a baby. WTF! She buys diapers just because she has a coupon for. This is greedy. Most the people on this show are too greedy, unless of course they donate this stuff to help people/charity.

Guest's picture
Satish

It never makes sense to pinch pennies and lose dollars. Instead of the time committed to extreme couponing, it would be more valuable to pursue a better economic activity. It is better to look at your finances from a big picture and see how cost can be trimmed down.

Guest's picture
wildgift

This super-couponing thing comes round ever recession. Each time, the people who do it say they enjoy couponing. I think it's more of a cost-free or money-saving hobby than anything else. You have to be into knowing the local market and knowing how to make it happen.

Couponers are not hoarders. I know hoarders. They don't really coupon. They just hoard. Either they hoard junk, or they hoard good stuff, but their problem is that they have a hard time giving things away. It has nothing to do with acquisition, and a lot to do with avoiding waste or losing things.

As far as comparing the labor cost of couponing to working - it is only valid if you could work instead of couponing. AFAIK, for most people, it's pretty difficult to line up an easy gig that pays $25 an hour for only two or three hours a week. Casual, less skilled work like gardening or housekeeping pay less. Skilled work pays a more, but, by definition, that's not for the average person.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was brought up that you use moderation in all things. I remember back in the 1970's there was the same thing going on. Seems extreme couponing like other things goes in cycles.
Just like I was brought up reduce, reuse, recycle, duh, I'm living the 40's and 50's again! I think we just go through things with each new generation, excuse me please, while I grab my cane and hobble off now, oh, and if your extreme couponing, unless you are physically unfit, leave the handicapped zones for those that are handicapped. Many Thanks. Do love reading the posts.
I also do use coupons, if they are what I want, and I have them.
Mostly am a cook from scratch person.

Guest's picture

I have issues with "waste" with extreme couponers. Taking 77 bottles of mustard is wasteful and taking out all the ibuprofen is wrong. The sin of gluttony can be applied to extreme couponers.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is a good article and I agree with the author. For me it comes down to a time/value equation. I personally use coupons, promo codes, whatever all the time. But I look at the effort as a $ per hour equation. If I have to spend 3 hours hunting for a coupon to save $1, that's like making $0.33 an hour. I'll pass on that. But if I can spend 1 minute to save $1, that's like making $60 an hour.

http://www.belowyourmeans.com/2011/06/coupons_with_a_side_of_obsession_a...

Guest's picture
Tiffani

I just got thru watch extreme couponing...and it was the show with Amanda on it !!! That girl needs to chill out, she is so rude to her husband (if that is who he is). She got blend out of shape cause she couldn't find her coupons. And snapped her fingers at that poor man. If I was him, I wouldn't help her. She needs to get a hobby...maybe watching movies with her hubby. And chilling out with alittle popcorn. When couponing makes you mean. Its time to stop...or back off. I do coupon but not extreme...just enough to help out with the budget !!

Guest's picture
Guest

i love couponing i have gotten my family in louisiana doing it i save 300 a month on eveything i just dont know how to get free toilet paper can some one tell me how thank u

Guest's picture
Dalton

Toilet paper and paper towels don't get coupons very often. If you're saving $300 a month, a mere $40 for a year membership to Sams club or other bulk store might come in handy. I've got a 36 ct. of toiletpaper for $15 at sams before. It's not near free, but it's definitely cheaper - I use bulk any time I can't find an item for near free with coupons.

Guest's picture
Chris

Your article is so refreshing. As much as people try, you just can't beat economic forces. Like any fad in the short term this will be great, but the things that aren't considered in this equation are: supply and demand is absolute, manufacturers aren't stupid (i work in CPG and I can guarantee you that this is not being overlooked by manufacturers and they're getting rid of crap they don't want), and as you mentioned - people are not accounting for the value of their time.

The funniest/saddest evidence to me is that two people I know have jumped on the bandwagon and take delight in posting their "treasures" on facebook. I see the same crap from each of them (tubes upon tubes of John Freida Full Repair permeate almost every photo).

Nothing wrong with using coupons and deals smartly, but again, as you pointed out, if it was easy and valuable, everyone would do it. But it's not, they won't, and those that do are feeding a machine. You have a show that's gaining ratings which equal dollars for advertisers, you have websites and classes (?!?!?!) to help people learn it that are also going to feed resources to one or more people, and then you have the manufacturers who are banking on this trend to help them meet their goals.

So, anyway, thanks for taking your position on this. I applaud you :-)

Guest's picture
Brazen

The problem I had is my wife started buying tons of stuff we didn't need. For the few months she did it, our grocery budget actually went UP! First she had to buy all the binders and organizers. Then she had to by 10 sunday papers every week. All this so she could get $100 worth of crap for $20, but that's still $20 for crap, most of which we'll never use and will sit in boxes until we throw it out. And the rest was for name brand stuff that we could have gotten for just as cheap if we had gotten the store brand.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would not call myself an "extreme couponer", but if you opened my laundry room cabinets, you probably would say that I am. I have used multiple coupons on great sales on a regular basis for over 20 years - economic good times, economic bad times, and everything in between and waaaay before couponing became popular - even on the internet.

Do I have a stockpile? Yes. Does it look like those you see on TV? No. Most of what I have stored are non-perishable household products that will never expire.

With the advent of the drug chain rewards programs at CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, it became increasingly easy to gradually build a back stock of most of the non-perishable items that we use on a regular basis for absolutely free (okay the cost of gas and some of my time). I had the time, the manufacturers supplied the coupons, and the retailers offered the sales and promotions. We will be on a fixed income soon and I will be glad for the many items that I will not need to buy over the next couple of years.

Getting a half dozen sets of coupons each week and looking for the best deals on products isn't for everyone. I got into it when I was a SAHM with some time on my hands and a desire to contribute financially to the household.

Guest's picture
Guest

you have not had a life for food was scarce. some days i would have no food at all. i rather have more than nothings.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would have to disagree with this post. I am a full time student and work a full time job, so any free time is highly valuable to me. I started couponing as a way to save money and with a food/store budget of $50 a month, cheap food is a necessity. My last trip to the grocery store was $140 worth of products for $43. This was everything I needed for the month, nothing more-nothing less. I do not stockpile, I do not hoard, If I get more than what I need it goes to my grandmother who lives off social security, and I donate leftover coupons to troops overseas (ocpnet.org). I spend no more than 3 hours clipping, organizing, and planning a week but to me it is fun rather than a chore. I have not seen the couponing show but I have heard alot about it and it seems to be creating a horrible stereotype for those of us that coupon responsibly. Others like myself do not clear shelves, dumpster dive, or spend hours in a store - my trip takes me 30 minutes or less.
I will say, that after the hard financial times I had this year, it is nice to have actual food in my home rather than just Ramen and Spaghetti. This is thanks to couponing.

Thanks :)
sondra

Guest's picture
Dianne Jones

I personally think it's another form of hoarding. I do use coupons to try to save extreme amounts on my groceries and stock up when things are on sale to last me until they come back around on sale. I do try to buy more than my needs ( I NEVER clear a shelf by any means) but I do give stuff to my son who just got married and is struggling and I also plan to stock up enough to donate to a soup kitchen. It's a great way to help people that are struggling in this economy and a tax write off too. Win-win!

Guest's picture
Michele

I would have to say I'm a savvy coupon person. I enjoy going to the store to gobble up savings on things I need, without paying full price. However, there are coupons for instance that say: buy 2 boxes of cereal for $5.00 and you have a coupon where you save $1.00 on 2 boxes of cereal. Well, that's great, but with that 1.00 off for 2 boxes of cereal, you're still on loop to pay 4.00 dollars, when you could use your 1.00 coupon on a sale item with 2 for 3.00 and really see the savings with your 1.00 off coupon.

Sometimes with coupons, you have to use common sense.

Guest's picture
Kayla

My mom jumped onto the couponing crazy a few months ago. It's one thing to save money with coupons, it's another to buy forty cans of spaghetti sauce just because they're going to be four cents each.
I'm a broke college kid out on my own. It's frustrating to me and other people who use coupons to buy one item to go into the store and the item has been completely wiped from the shelf.

Though, I had found that trips to visit my mom now end with her shoving bags of groceries into my hands because she's running out of room for her collection. Maybe we should all just make friends with the extreme couponers and get our groceries that way? ;D

Guest's picture
Guest

PURE GREED - You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the 77 bottle of mustard folks. Love the post and agree wholeheartedly.

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Canaidan

I agree 1000% yes one thousand percent! this is nothing but being greedy and a fool! I live in Canada where we have laws against that kind of thing. A coupon in most cases has a limit of one per customer and can't be combined with other offers. Why would a person wish to clear a shelf when other people are in need too....... I would feel really bad taking food from the mouth of a hungry mother and child who are in the store to spend their last dollar on supper only to discover that their store is out. I know how this is because it has happened to me before, I went into a store with my last dollar just to get something and they were out, not due to thieves who steal from people who need it but just because of demand, which is how it should be. And one more thing....... how do they keep making this show? it's the same thing every time a greedy person who hords steals hundreds of dollars of food away from people who need it and then they break the till and go home.....

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franebenz

I buy fresh foods vegatables fruit meat ect. My household drinks water milk and fresh fruit juice. Do extreme couponers live on noodles and frozen dinners. Im just asking because i never saw anything fresh.

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Guest

Anyone notice how magically everyone who defends "extreme couponing" says they stockpile but they give the extras away to charity? If that was truly the case than why is it that in this day and age we are seeing food bank donations in decline?

by the way, to the "donation" hoarders..I mean stockpilers there isn't a need to clean the shelf to make a donation, most stores contact local food banks to give them some of their excess items so cut the bs.

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Kristinnm

I know this is an old article, but I just have to comment for any new readers who may come across it as I did. I also apologize because this ended up being a long post!

First of all - people should realize that the show is STAGED. The reason you see tons of mustard and noodles being bought is because the show asks them to get the highest total possible and get the biggest savings. The stores also waive their usual coupon policies to make it look even more incredible. So, the couponer has to use coupons they have and match them with whatever is the best deal at that week - it doesn't reflect their typical purchases.

What worries me about an article like this is that it gives people the idea that ALL couponing is bad. (And that anyone seen at the store with a binder is just a greedy hoarder.)

I was one who thought coupons were a waste of time and that you could only get junk food or waste money on stuff you'd otherwise never buy. But after taking a severe reduction in my income and having a pre-schooler at home, I was running 2 small businesses from home (I'm not a stay-at-home-mom, I'm a work-from-home-mom) and looking for ways to supplement our income. I took a part-time job at our small town Walmart, but in order to not have to pay for childcare, that took me away from my family evenings and weekends - all for about only $800 a month additional income.

I realized we were spending about $800-$1,000 a month on groceries and household supplies, so I decided that couponing could be my way to contribute to the household finances. I have managed to get our budget down to $200 a month. Now, I can stay home with my pre-school daughter and be home when my grade-school daughter and husband come home. I spend $7.50 a week on 5 newspapers. I spend about 1-2 hours per week planning meals, making my shopping list and matching coupons to sales and then about 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the store (less if I don't have the kids with me.) I do spend extra time on couponing than most, because I also run a couponing blog and Facebook for my friends and family to learn about deals that week, since I have the time and they don't. I usually buy no more than 5 of each coupon item, because my store limits to 5 doubled coupons with a minimum purchase of $25 before coupons - so I never clear shelves unless there are only 5 left! But I have managed to grow a significant stockpile after only 8 months of dedicated couponing.

If you saw just one week alone of my shopping list, you would wonder how I make a decent meal out of it, but add up several weeks worth of shopping and you'd know I already have boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey, turkey bacon and sausage, tuna, butter, cream cheese, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, canned soup (for cooking), spice mixes, cereal, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, sour cream, granola bars, oatmeal, bagels, yeast, crackers, fruit snacks, milk, creamer and eggs at home in the freezer and pantry that I bought for 50% - 70% off combining sales with coupons. This week I bought $106 worth of items for $53 (including 5 bottles of Bayer Chewable Aspirin I got for free with coupons) for 50% savings - better than I could have done at discount stores like Walmart or Aldi. I didn't need to buy a lot of meal items because I already had what I needed in the pantry and freezer. I spent exactly 1 hour in the store and did 3 small transactions. I make my own recipes, so I don't buy pre-packaged, boxed or frozen, processed foods. Dinners always include a low-fat protein, a healthy vegetable and a starch (potato, pasta or rice.)

So, if done right, couponing doesn't have to take a lot of time and you don't need to buy 100's of items or buy coupons to save a lot of money. And for some of us, couponing replaces the need to get another part-time job. Please don't assume that all couponers are obsessive hoarders like some of those seen on that staged show or read articles like this and assume that couponing is a waste of time for everyone. It really does save REAL people a LOT of money!

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Guest

anyone working for the show or who is also an Extreme Couponer would say that..... not that I think you are but this is Extreme Couponing and your story is not extreme...... and if the show is staged all the points people are making are still valid because the show does not have any stories on it like yours all of them are the same thing..... and even if it is staged that still means that someone is taking all the stuff from the shelf and someone else could still need it but not an individual is doing this a whole cast and crew of a big tv show unless they put it back later.

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Guest

Not to mention, you're buying processed CRAP most of the time. No thank you, I'll stick to real food.

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Kristinnm

That's if you're using the coupons on those food items. I save most of my money on the non-food items, which leaves me more for fresh produce, meat & dairy. I don't know how people can say they wouldn't love to save 50% - 100% on hair care products, deodorant, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, paper products, pet food, etc. Those are the products most people end up just tossing in their cart and paying full price for and what really builds up that bill!

There are also lots of decent food item coupons - even organic & health foods. "Processed" doesn't always mean Hamburger Helper, frozen entrees and pizza rolls. I use coupons on pasta, beans, frozen veggies, tortillas, cheese, cereal, granola bars, yogurt, peanut butter, coffee, creamer, butter, pickles, frozen potatoes, biscuits, salad dressing and other condiments, orange juice, etc. Those are all processed in some way, but they aren't really "junk food."

But even if people don't eat any of those items, most people need toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, etc. If you can severely reduce your costs on just those items it can still save you 50% or more on your monthly bill! That is where I usually see my biggest savings - not on junk food. Now I buy a lot more fresh produce and even "luxury" items like portabella mushrooms, avocados, asparagus and artichokes that were usually too much for our budget!

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Guest

I am so with you!!!!

I have been using coupons now for about 6 weeks and it has turned out to be the best decision I have made in years. I am married with three kids. I and my husband both work full time jobs. Two of my children are pre teens (which mean they have a lot of activities, i.e. football, church bible study and choir rehearsal, tutoring, etc). I have a newborn. I DO NOT have hours of time to devote to extreme couponing…but I have found that you don’t need to as other people have done the work for you!

Couponing has allowed me to save money on things I need and has allowed me to get quality items.

How I used to shop:
On Sunday, I would sometime buy the paper. Actually had the Sunday paper delivered to me all summer and never once cut a coupon.

On a Monday I would ask my husband, “Honey what do you want to eat tonight” and he would say something like “let’s have chicken, rice and a vegetable”. I would then go the store (during my hour lunch break at work) and buy…chicken, rice and some vegetables. I would pick up other things that looked good along the way. Maybe I would pick up a few sale items and some extra meat (ground beef or pork) to last us for the week. I would make sure there were eggs, bread, cereal (hot and cold) and milk for the kid’s breakfast. I would shop some times at the local big chain grocery stores (Price Chopper, Hannaford and Wal-Mart), but other times I would go to the local discount stores (like Aldi’s and Save a Lot) that don’t carry many brand name products. I would seldom have a plan or a list. A quick lunch time grocery store run would cost me easily $80 to $120 dollar. My husband would do the same thing by Thursday, he would be in the store, impulse buying and spending way too much money on things we really don’t need!!! We would easily spend at least $300 (most times more) a week on toiletries, dog food (for the dog, not us!), pampers, and food.

How I shop now:
Saturday: I spend about 1 hour on the internet researching sales and what is matching up to the coupons…just an hour…you really don’t need to spend more time than that because people out there have already done the hard work for you. It is awesome what stay at home moms and dads have done for us people who really desire to save money. I also purchase the early edition of the newspaper on Saturday. It is cheaper and has the same coupons. I have not settled on the amount of papers I buy, it depends on the quality of the coupons. I have never purchased more than 4 Saturday papers at once, but I do get at least 2 per week. At $1.50 a piece, I would say it is worth the investment.

Sunday: I spend another hour or two mapping out what’s on sale that I want to buy and matching them up to my coupons. In the beginning this process took longer because we needed so much stuff! (Did I mention I started couponing while on maternity leave? We were so poor during the last 4 weeks of my leave because my $ finally stopped coming in from work. By the time I went back to work and started to get my regular salary again, we were out of everything!!! You know it is bad when you don’t have rice in your house…). So on Sundays I map out the stores I want to go to and get the coupons ready. I put the list and coupons into individual envelop and put it in my work bag.

Monday: During lunch I usually go to the drug stores. I am lucky to have close to my job a Walgreens and a Rite Aid that are right across the street from each other. On Monday I spend maybe 20-30 minutes in each store and get what’s on my list. I am getting really good at this.

Tuesday: Grocery store day, again with my coupons and list handy and during my lunch break. I don’t buy anything that is not on my list. If something is not available I may save that purchase for after work, or I may get a rain check, it depends on the circumstances. I still shop during my lunch break (1 hour)…because its easier and I don’t have the kids with me. I am focused. I know where most products are and I am usually in and out of the grocery store in less that 30-40 minutes! It is awesome.

After 6 weeks of shopping like this, I can truly say that we have everything we need. Yes I had to buy rice without a coupon, but oj, apple juice, bagged salad, fresh tomatoes, fresh avocados, snack bags of apples, hamburger helper (for the kiddies), almonds, bacon (turkey and pork), milk, sugar, eggs, bread, mayonnaise, ketchup and a host of other items have all been purchased at a fraction of the price since I’ve used coupons. Since I’ve started shopping the sales and using coupons, I have never saved less than 50%, but I also have never saved a ridiculous 90% either. I would say my average is about 55% percent on items that my household absolutely needs!!!

To me it is worth the time. I am saving $ more than ever. My kids always love seeing what I bring home from my shopping trips. I rarely have to buy non name brand foods (operative word being HAVE…I still do sometimes because some of the products are just as good).

Real people eat and use the stuff I buy.

And I can say this, you don’t have to stockpile and buy ridiculous amounts of any item…You just have to buy the coupons and save them until they expire. There is always toothpaste and toilet tissue that is on sale and often times free - ALWAYS. You just have to have the coupon.

Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it and if you decide to try it don’t go crazy!!!!

PS…I can say one thing is correct about this article…I do use more ink that I have in the past. But what’s the sense of having a computer and printer if it doesn’t work to your advantage. Couponing works to my advantage.

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Guest

I am so with KristinM is what i wanted to say...not with the guest who said couponers only buy crap...that is just not true!!!!

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jill

It seems like a lot of you are nor getting it. The people use this as a way to shop for ALL there food. They use the overage to buy the good stuff. Most people that do this have huge families too and it works for them.

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Nicky

Those people are crazy, if you don't use the item it was not a savings. I do like the episodes where people donate the products, but as for the mini-mart in the garage, I don't get it. I save ton's just by watching out for clearance items at Target, no coupon required. My kids always have nice new cloths that I get for 75% off. I shop after Christmas clearance for all the birthdays, the toys go for pennies on the dollar.
After watching episodes of hoarders the only difference with the extreme couponing is that they are just really organized hoarders.