Extreme Couponing: Saving Money or Glamorized Hoarding?

Lately, I’ve been watching TLC’s Extreme Couponing (a recent addition to Instant Netflix), and I’ve really tried to understand if going to that extreme to save money is worth the time and effort involved.

Of course I love to save money and get a good deal, and I think using coupons for things you’d buy normally is a great idea, but after watching this show, I noticed a few things that made me question the value of extreme couponing:

  • During at least two of the tag-along shopping trips I’ve watched, the couponers featured were bragging about how many of one item they’d gotten for free before further disclosing that they didn’t have a cat to feed all the free treats to, nor a baby to pop into their stash of free diapers. On another episode, a bachelor who lived alone had a stockpile of feminine hygiene products…don’t even want to know what he planned on using them for. (If you’re getting free stuff to give to people since you don’t need it, fine. If you’re getting it just because it’s free stuff, that’s materialism in sheep’s clothing.)
  • Last time I checked, there aren’t too many meals on Pinterest that feature vitamin water, tabasco sauce, mustard, and toothpaste as their main ingredients. I realize the cameras don’t show everything, and I did hear one woman mention she bought meat with the surplus she saved on all her other free products, so maybe I just need to see an extreme couponers’ weekly dinner menu to understand how stocking up on random items helps her/him plan dinner in order to buy into the idea.
  • Storage space seems to be another deterrent for me. I don’t know about you guys, but the few areas of empty space in my house are always needed for the constant rotation and reorganizing of our necessary household items. I don’t have a whole room, nor do I want to cut a hidey-hole out of an existing wall, to store my thousand rolls of free paper towels or crates of coupons.
  • I still don’t understand how they come by all their coupons…I know friends and family probably send them their leftovers, I’ve seen them dumpster dive for them, and I’ve heard them say they print a lot from their computer, but I wonder if they sat down to do the math of having to chase down multiples of coupons they already have, drive to various stores for all the different deals, and the cost of ink for their overworked printers, would they really be saving all that much?
  • Unless you live near a grocery store that doubles or triples coupons (which we don’t), I think it’s cheaper to buy groceries at a generic grocery store like Aldi, where in general, their prices are lower than what you’d have saved with coupons.
  • How would the average person have time to find all these coupons, track down deals, and spend four hours in the grocery store stocking up? I work 30 hours at the church, tutor, blog, edit someone’s book, write, run my household, and come December, will be taking care of a newborn. I don’t have 60 extra hours a week to devote to clipping coupons, do you?
  • The stockpiles of food in these folks’ homes don’t look all that healthy, gang. I guess if we really do have a Zombie Apocalypse, their stashes of processed dinners, Pop Tarts, and ramen noodles will make sure they are well-preserved at death, but in the day to day, one wants a few fruits and veggies to sustain nutrition.

My opinion about using coupons remains the same…coupons should be icing on the cake, not the be-all, end-all of your money-saving existence.

What do you guys think? Is extreme couponing worth the hassle in your experience, or is it better to cut back in other areas of life? I’d love to hear from those of you who have success with coupons on a regular basis.

And don’t miss tomorrow’s guest post on the Thrifty and Nifty Series, a little DIY decor fun!


9 thoughts on “Extreme Couponing: Saving Money or Glamorized Hoarding?

  1. Jane Green says:

    I think couponing like everything else should be done in moderation, otherwise, it becomes an addiction. There is always the temptation to become greedy whether we are stockpiling food, coupons, or other material possessions. I have to carefully evaluate this in my own life on a frequent basis.

    Our recent yard sale opened my eyes to the fact that I had saved so many things from our children’s childhood that could have been better served if we had given it away earlier for other children to use, rather than letting it deteriorate in containers in our barn. My thoughts at the time were….”Someday we might use this again or our grown children will want it for their children.” They didn’t. LOL

    We have to be careful that what we do provides good to us and those around us, but doesn’t take over our lives or our homes. I am now in the mode that if it is something we REALLY love and will use a lot, then I will bring it into the house. Otherwise, I am wasting resources of money, time, and space.

    I am continuing to work on purging my home, and it is bringing order and organization into my life and freeing my time for more important things.

    • Allison says:

      Funny, I seemed to have learned the same lesson after the yard sale too. I’m thinking our kids will be fine without me holding onto everything for them right now and having more space (which is a commodity in our house) will be my reward. 🙂

  2. Erin Gaither says:

    I suppose you can say that I am an extreme couponer, I’ve walked out of stores with them paying me to take their merchandise…I have a stock room…and a crazy packed coupon binder that I take with me when I go grocery shopping. One of my best friends(Desirae) was actually featured on the show and she was made to exaggerate several details like actually getting into the dumpster and how much time she actually spends(most definitely not 60 hours a week!), And of course, the fact that they are being filmed fuels the desire to save as much as possible even if they don’t use the products…all though most of the merchandise was donated, a fact the show fails to point out on several occasions. Onto the questions you had…First, I have bought things that I won’t personally use…for example we managed to get almost 200 boxes of cat food for free(I’m allergic to cats lol) but we donated it to the local animal shelter. Walmart paid me $1.84 to take a bottle of baby formula and we ended up with about 40 bottles which were donated to the pregnancy resource center. Other items we accumulate, our family and friends will take if they need it. As far as making nutritious meals from items bought with coupons…totally possible! I have found several sites that offer coupons on fresh organic produce and there have been several meat coupons lately that make for some crazy cheap meals. Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of coupons for junk food but it’s possible. Where do I get all my coupons from? I buy 8 papers a week, I know a mailman and a newspaper delivery person that will give me the extra inserts and my friends and family give me theirs. I also occasionally print, but I use the lowest quality setting on paper that I bought with a coupon haha! So, I spend about $17 a week on papers but I make up for it in savings…last week I saved $189! You can make couponing work at so many stores…basically the only grocery store that doesn’t double around here is Food Lion. Even that, couponing can be done at Walmart, Target allows you stack a manufacturers coupon with a Target coupon which makes for some great deals. Dollar Tree even started accepting coupons recently. I guess the last thing is the time issue. I spend maybe 4 hours a week and that includes cutting out all my coupons, organizing them, and shopping. I usually just shop at Bi-Lo once a week. This is like anything, you get what you put into it. Also, I usually take a couple months off every year and I live off the stockpile otherwise I get burnt out. Sorry this is SO long…this is just something that I am really passionate about and allows us to do other things with the money we saved from groceries. It’s truly been a blessing to us and we enjoy being able to bless others!

    • Allison says:

      Erin, I’m glad you know someone who can say what they feature on the show is exaggerated. I love the idea that if you’re good at extreme couponing & have the time to do it that you can get all kinds of supplies to donate to places in need. I think one episode showed a ministry student donating his whole stockpile which I thought was great. My concern was about how they portrayed the others who appeared to be hoarding for themselves w/o need for the items, but like you said, that’s the show biz side. Thanks for sharing your passion for extreme couponing & the more positive spin on it. 🙂

  3. Abby says:

    I didn’t know it was on netflix now, that is awesome. we don’t have the channel it is usually on so I’ve never gotten to watch it. Anyway, the people who hoard zillions or bottles of detergent and shampoo and stuff that they may never use is ridiculous. But if you keep it at what you can actually use, have the room, or donate some, all the power to you. I try to be good at couponing but always forget mine when I go out. I have never ever been extreme! lol. But I do love coupons and a good deal 🙂

  4. Beth Pensinger says:

    I actually caught the tail end of the show yesterday and was rendered speechless. True, the woman did get $1,200 worth of groceries for $11. But she bought 800 packages of cookies in the process.
    800 packages of cookies. Um, wow.

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