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What I think of Extreme Couponing

Or, what I can think of it without having seen a whole show.

Which might mean that my credibility on the topic is pretty low.

I won’t be offended if you leave now.

So! A lot of people have been writing to me asking for my opinion on the Extreme Couponing show. It’s a pretty hot topic on couponing blogs, and I’ve read some good, sensible posts about it.

But since you all seem to want me to share my thoughts, here they are.

Actually, first I have a thought about reality TV in general.

A while back, I read an article about how we love reality TV because it feeds our pride. Reality TV is about people who are, well, extreme, and since most of us aren’t extreme, we feel better about ourselves after watching it.

I’ve never been a huge reality TV fan, but after I read that article, I realized how right this author was. Whenever I do catch a reality show, I’m pretty much guaranteed to feel better about myself. I don’t have children by 5 different men, my house isn’t THAT messy, my clothes aren’t THAT frumpy, I’m not THAT out of shape, I’m not THAT stupid with my money, and so on.

Then I feel a sense of superiority, which is bad in and of itself, but that sense of superiority can make me more blind to the faults that I do have.

So, I’ve concluded that reality TV is just not healthy for me, and so I haven’t even watched any YouTube clips of the Extreme Couponing show. I already know I’m not an extreme couponing kind of person, and watching the show would probably tempt me to feel disdainful about people who shop that way.

Now, about the actual couponing! I’ve written before about why I’m not a coupon queen and I also shared my thoughts on the shopper who spends $4/week to feed her family. Those posts will give you a pretty good summary of my thoughts on couponing.

I don’t necessarily think that being way into couponing is wrong, but it can get into iffy territory.

There are a number of ways to be an unethical couponer by doing things like:

-buying coupons (that’s illegal)

-using coupons on products other than the ones they’re intended for (like using a Raisin Bran Crunch coupon on regular Raisin Bran)

-using coupons that are expired (this is generally only allowed on military bases overseas)

-using multiple addresses to send in multiple rebates

-using decoding to find coupons that work on any product (sometimes coupons are coded in such a way that they can basically be used like cash).

Also, I think it’s pretty clear that manufacturers do not intend for shoppers to have sixty bazillion copies of each coupon…the fine print on the coupon says it’s wrong to sell them and most even say that it’s wrong to transfer the coupons. So, I wouldn’t feel comfortable utilizing coupon clipping services, even if they charge a “clipping fee”, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying coupon inserts either.

Aside from ethical concerns, I personally am not tempted to go the extreme couponing route for a number of reasons.

1. It’s not worth my time

I spend $400/month to feed my family of six, so even if I managed to coupon so well that I got all our groceries for free (and to do that, I’d have to seriously compromise the quality of food that we eat), the net pay for my time could never be more than $400/month. That, to me, is not worth spending hours clipping coupons, buying coupons, and making a multitude of shopping trips.

I know these extreme shoppers come away with $1000 of groceries for free, but I wouldn’t consider that to be a $1000 savings for me. I just don’t see how I could justifiably say that I was saving any more than I’m already spending.

2. There aren’t oodles of coupons for products that I buy

I prefer to buy a lot of plain groceries, and those don’t tend to have high-value coupons. Bare-naked produce, cannisters of oatmeal, milk, flour, and other such foods aren’t the type of products that manufacturers like to “push” with coupons. Plus, I’m trying to buy more local, sustainably produced food when possible, and the Sunday paper sure doesn’t have coupons for groceries like that.

3. I like me some generics

Buy generic products is so simple and fast, and I’ve been quite happy with most of the generics I’ve purchased, especially at Aldi. Couponing takes time, effort, planning, and requires a stockpile, but generic buying just doesn’t. Love that simplicity!

4. Couponing is not the only way to reduce a grocery bill.

If you’re wanting to save money on your groceries, but you feel like extreme couponing just isn’t for you, take heart. It is possible to maintain a reasonable grocery bill without resorting to becoming a crazy couponer.

Since I don’t want to make this post ridiculously long, next week I’ll post some tips for spending less on groceries without resorting to extreme couponing.

I’m sure some of you have seen the show, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What are your thoughts on extreme couponing?


Today’s 365 post: Fancifying yogurt smoothies

Joshua’s 365 post: The Ellwood Elephants and the Blue Explosion

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J Crouch

Wednesday 11th of June 2014

I feel exactly the way that you do about the amount of time it requires to do extreme couponing. It isn't worth my time. I have certain hot items that I like to save money on and I have learned how to save in certain areas. I don't use coupons hardly at all in the grocery stores, but I know what to buy in bulk cheap and what to just wait for a low price for a normal sized quantity. I tend to buy all pet items online. I buy quite a few pharmaceutical items online also. For items where I insist on quality such as outdoor winter clothing, I have found many online companies that have the lowest price. For winter wear such as base layers or long underwear, I have found companies that have 2nds and season end closeouts. If you are on their mailing list you occasionally will get vouchers or codes to get savings or additional savings on items, off-season, that are incredible for quality name brand merchandise. One of my favorites is sierra trading post and campmor.


Wednesday 22nd of January 2014

I just watched an episode on YouTube. What strikes me is that these women are clearly so skilled in so many ways (highly organised, methodical, mathematical, etc) and yet they are wasting all of that focus and talent on collecting groceries that they have no possibility of using before they go bad. Indicative of something about our consumer culture, but I am not sure what exactly...

Hannah Marie

Wednesday 12th of December 2012

I personally think that couponing is a great idea. I love the idea of it, but like you, I don't have the time for it (well, me being 15, and still in highschool has something to do with it, as well !) but yeah, if I wasn't in school, and didn't have a full time job, i would totally do it. I think it all really depends on the person, really. It depends on how their time is spent, and all that. Anyways, I would love to coupon, but I just don't have the time.


Friday 21st of October 2011

I share in your thoughts. I also liked your review on shopping w/o coupons (a good review). Here is the thing. I have used coupons for over 15 years. I have been a Chef for over 20 with breaks here and there to raise A family (hence the need to use coupons, plus I don't like to waste money). I have taught classes from breastfeeding to shopping with coupons. Nothing has helped me more than the knowledge of cooking and purchasing from my profession. All of it is applicable to the private household.

I still shop loss leaders, if I need it or will use it. But maybe three. not 90. I shop co ops, farmers market and fish stores. I don't shop where my peanut butter is three aisles away from motor oil. I still use coupons, legally. I shop locally, use the best quality items I can afford for my families insides and out. And I do this on about 400 bucks a month. My best friend in the kitchen, besides my family is my freezer!


Monday 27th of June 2011

Wow! I am so glad I found this post. It seemed I was in a sea of couponers and couldn't get out! I have seen the show and what you said about not getting "real" food is true. I do clip coupons for things like cereal, Zoi Greek yogurt has printables on their website, and things like that of a more healthy variety. Making your own cleaning products is how I save, vinegar is the best! Thanks to all your comments on how you save without going to the extreme! Wonderful!


Friday 21st of October 2011

@Jamie I noticed you said you make your own household cleaning products, Here is a great book, I keep going to the library for...." Better Basics for the home by Annie Berthold-Bond.

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