Thursday, April 21, 2011

Extreme Couponing or Just Plain Idolatry

I should warn you right at the outset….

This might be a tad “ranty”. Just so that you are warned. And it might be a tad wordy as well. I have a lot of words to use up on this particular topic.

I coupon. There I have said it. I clip and use coupons to save us money on things that we NEED that are on sale at the grocery store. I love couponing. It is fun, I like saving money. The whole things sort of appeals to my OC nature. I even have a minimal database set up so that I know what goes on sale and when it will be at it’s lowest.

Here, I will help my progeny out…..DORK!

So I was very excited when I saw that TLC was bringing back “Extreme Couponing” as a weekly series. I had watched the original show last year and was totally fascinated. Of course I am totally fascinated by any show that has “The Real Housewives of…..” in the name so my choice in TV shows might be a tad suspect. But I also watch “Jeopardy!” every night and I get a question or two correct so that balances everything out.

And we won’t talk about my obsession with anything that has the word “Hoarding” in the title.

But I digress.

So, I remember being just amazed by the first show. The whole “how do they do that” kind of thing. Looking at my small but adequate supply of coupons and organizing system and wondering if I was perhaps going about this whole thing wrong. I mean, who doesn’t want to go to the store and rack up a bill that totals $1000+ and then pay $3.42 for everything.

If you say you wouldn’t want to do that then you are just plain lyin’.

But now I have three weeks of “Extreme Couponing” watching under my belt and I have a pretty different attitude about this show and what it is teaching, or not teaching as the case may be. I think the best way to present these are in bullet points. These are not listed in order of importance, they are just as they flowed from my feeble little brain.

1. I think these people are just hoarders with better organizational skills and cleaner homes.

Out of all of the couponers who have so far been profiled only TWO gave any indication that they used their couponing skills to help others in need. All the rest seem to buy and clutch their “hoard” to them. One of the “Couponing Diva Twins” has enough diapers stockpiled to keep a baby’s bottom clean and dry for over a year….and she doesn’t have any children. I have no clue if she is even married. Did she even give a thought to the fact that she could donate those to people who need them NOW and then re-stock pile when she needs them? I don’t think so.

Nathan has a huge stock pile that is for sure but we have also seen him purchase 2400 boxes of cereal that he donated to the local food bank. And we have seen him use some of his stockpile to make over 1000 care packages for troops overseas. He has a right heart attitude but he is about it as far as I can see.

2. The idea that this show is promoting, that with some concentrated work you too can go to the store on a routine basis and have shopping trips of this size, is just plain wrong. Time and time again I heard the same thing said….This is going to be my biggest trip yet.

That comment sort of tells me that yes they do shop and extreme coupon but that they don’t usually go to the store and get $1063.24 worth of products for the cost of their sales tax. They shop big but not that big.

3.These people were followed around by a film crew. You can bet your bottom coupon dollar that the producers of this show went to the management of the stores first to get permission to film in their stores. The management wasn’t surprised that the couponers were coming.

And if the stores knew that the couponers and film crew were coming and what they were intending to do then the stores also knew that there might be issues with checking out and “bending” the stores coupon policies. There was only one couponer that I saw that actually checked the store’s coupon policy. And when she found that it was going to interfere with what she had planned for this shopping trip she rearranged things.

On this week’s show one of the couponers was using coupons that were going to give her more back than the cost of the item, an “overage” in couponing terms. She was banking on an overage of over $50 that she was going to plow into something else. Let me tell you, at my grocery store, and I would guess at most other grocery stores as well, they don’t let you do this. Their policy is they will give you the coupon price up to the price of the sales item but not over.

The store let her do this.

But I bet if I came in with my minor stack of coupons they wouldn’t do it for me! I don’t have a film crew behind me (thank the good Lord).

4. They are out and out selfish when they clean the shelves of on sale products thereby depriving others of the ability to take advantage of the sales.

I encounter this little phenomenon every week when I shop. I shop first thing Monday morning, the day after the fliers are in the paper. And I can be assured that if there has been a really good deal on something say at CVS or Walgreens or Giant Eagle that I am not going to be able to find it at the stores in my small town because there is someone, and I don’t know who but I would REALLY like to, who cleans out the shelf on Sunday. If I want that item I am going to have to drive twice as far to another store to get it.

Selfish? You bet.

Yes, you could go to the Customer Service counter and get a rain check. But really, do you think that it is necessary to buy 73 bottles of mustard? Or all the boxes of pain reliever? Or all the bottles of Maalox just because you have a great coupon?

5. And lets talk about Sunday coupon inserts.

One of the couponers said that her stock pile of coupon inserts (which she claims are worth $2 million) has come from “God”. Ummmm, no, they came from the news paper distribution place that you called and asked for them. That is how you amass a stockpile of coupon inserts that takes up an entire room. You call the distribution center and you ask for the inserts that they have left. And you make a deal with them.

This woman (and others) used those coupons to go to the store to strip the shelves of all the items and bend the store coupon policy. Call me an uptight fundamentalist but I don’t think that is how God wants me to act. Just a thought.

6. There has also been lots of talk around the coupon internet about the fact that perhaps there is some “fraudulent” stuff going on. I don’t know enough about this particular incident to speak with authority on it but if you are interested then you can shoot over here and read about what is being alleged.

7. But foremost I have to say that “Extreme Couponing” illustrates the fact that ANYTHING can become an idol for you. When I hear people say things like…

I wake up thinking about couponing all the time

I do think my stockpile is almost as beautiful as my family

I spend 100% of my free time devoted to couponing

11th commandment is Thou Shall Not Pay Retail

I just shake my head. Really? Seriously? Do you mean to say that couponing is your sole focus. That is all that you think about? If it is then it is your idol.

And I think that is just pretty darn sad.

I am not going to stop watching this show, it is after all one of my weekly “train wreck” shows. You know, those shows that are loathsome and yet you cannot look away. But I will watch with a grain of salt that is for sure.

Rant done now….I hope.

And yet, I have the DVR set for the next episode. Sigh.


  1. You have made some excellent points, and I have considered many of those things while watching this program (one of my faves, I have to say). I know I'll never take it to the level of those extreme couponers, but I'm sure having fun with this right now. It does take a long time to go through the 2-3 newspapers' worth of ads I buy each week, and then to file them. Ugh. But, it is a good feeling to save a few bucks -- it can be quite amazing with some strategic shopping. Agreed, I don't feel we're seeing an accurate portrayal of those extremers' regular shopping trips! Happy Couponing! {no hoarding allowed... lol!} -Tammy

  2. I've never watched this show... I just watch sluggy over at She is amazing and RiteAid basically pays her to pick up things there.
    I really need to coupon. But I'm so disorganized, I don't think I'll be able to do it successfully.

  3. I used to be more serious about coupons than I am now. My experience was-- and this is just specific to me with my own personality weirdnesses-- that I ended up buying things I didn't need because I had a great coupon, which isn't a savings AT ALL. If you end up throwing it out, then it was just a waste of money. So-- I do look over the sales flyers and try to hit stores that have our everyday-use items on sale, but I almost never do paper grocery coupons anymore. What I LOVE is savings codes for online shopping. I saved about $40 and also got free shipping last month when I ordered a new comforter from the Company Store (had to because the old one didn't match the new carpet, you know). I think it was from couponcabin. Saving $58 is worth it to me-- saving $10 on my groceries (that was the most I ever managed)-- not so much, especially since it would sometimes involve several extra hours of planning and driving around. I might watch the show sometime, though-- it sounds like the kind of thing I could get completely absorbed in watching.

  4. Loved this post.
    Right on!
    I probably hang on to a dozen coupons at any one time...and they usually expire before I get them used. But I definitely watch the store sales and stock up on necessities when on sale.

    P.S. It was not I who bought the 73 bottles of mustard. We needed only 58. Someone else took the last one.

  5. Bravo Deb! I admit that I don't coupon as much as I could, but then again, I really don't buy most of the stuff that the coupons are for. I bake and cook from scratch and rarely are fresh vegetables, meats, butter, milk, and those sorts of things couponable. I'm not going to fill my cupboards with products that have ingredients I can't pronounce.

    Anyhow. Good job.

  6. Crap, where do I even start?! I love the hoarding shows, I can't help it. I really love to purge and organize while I watch it.

    The couponing show has me in awe and I LOVED Nathan! I kept thinking they were hoarders and I actually stood up and clapped when I saw what he did with his savings.

    Some of the people have really freaked me out though.

    My mom was a grocery checker for decades and immediately said she couldn't believe people were "making money" on coupons- not allowed!

    Lol, coupons from God. Too much!

    All this and I have to say I've started couponing, picked up 3 store club cards and am looking at ads for the first time ever. Love saving money. How is it that you know what goes on sale and when it is at it's lowest?

  7. I don't mind if you coupon, but if you are going to be like the lady in front of me at Giant Eagle last week who bought $400 of groceries and used over 100 coupons at the register (no kidding), shop at midnight when there are no lines!!! I waited behind her for over 30 minutes. That's my rant.

  8. Couponing is nothing more than a distribution of wealth scheme...corporate Robin Hooding. The system saves some people money (couponers)...while charging others more money (non-couponers) for items, generally with HUGE profit margins, so that the company can give the first set of people (couponers) an imagined price break.

    Let's face it...nine times out of ten, you use coupons for things you really don't need (highly processed non nutritive food) or want (diapers if you don't have a baby) and you feel you must buy that item because you are getting such a deal.

    You almost never see a coupon for apples or fresh spinach.

    The extreme couponing is exactly like hoarding...both are compulsive nuerotic behaviours.

    The world would be a better place if companies charged fair prices and stopped encouraging mild forms of mental illness.


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