Frugal Living 

Extreme Couponing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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CouponsAlthough I’ve been clipping coupons from my Sunday paper for a while, I just heard about extreme couponing a few months ago.  At first it seemed amazing that whole loads of groceries could be bought for less than $50, but at what cost?  I was surprised to hear about how much time extreme couponers spend planning each trip.  I personally only spend about half an hour each Sunday planning out the week’s menu with my husband and another half hour at the grocery store at the beginning of each week.  Here’s my personal view of extreme couponing: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Using coupons on things you would have bought anyway is a simple way to save some money.  I will never argue with that.  I’ve even used coupons to try out new items that my husband or I were interested in but not willing to pay full price for.  I try to only cut out coupons that we plan to use and normally only use about 10 coupons a month.  I save about $5 – $10 a month, which more than covers my 50 cent a week subscription to the local paper.  The 5 minutes a week I spend on couponing pays off pretty well in my opinion.  I can only imagine what extreme couponers can save, so I’ll call that “the good”.

The Bad

“The bad” part of extreme couponing for me would be the sheer amount of time it would take.  Based on the stories I have heard, an extreme couponer can easily spend 2 or more hours a week just cutting coupons, organizing them, and making their plan of attack based on store sales for the week.  Then it takes another half hour or more at each store to get in, grab what you have the coupons for, and check out.  That is at least 3-4 hours a week spent saving money on very specific items.  I just do not have 3-4 hours to spend on what would feel like a huge errand for me.

The Ugly

“The ugly” would have to be the amount of stuff accumulated from extreme couponing that couldn’t possibly be needed.  I tuned in to the tv show on TLC and saw a stockpile of over 2100 items that filled up nearly 4 rooms of a house.  I could not imagine ever wanting enough of anything to completely use up what amounts to the top floor of my home.   The stockpile reminded me of organized hoarding.  I just don’t see how that can be healthy for anyone.

My Take

If I did have an extra 3-4 hours a week and decided to become a coupon ninja, I hope I would donate the excess rather than using my home as a storage unit for more food than I will possibly eat before it goes bad.  I also don’t think I could ever see getting $500 worth of stuff for $15 as a good thing if I didn’t really want any of that stuff anyway.  For example, getting $500 of free frozen yogurt over time would be like winning the lottery for me, but getting $500 of toothpaste for $15 wouldn’t really blow my socks.  I much rather buy a full price tube of toothpaste every few months than store hundreds of tubes of toothpaste in my home year round.

What about you?  How do you see extreme couponing?

(Photo: iateapie)

{ 23 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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23 Responses to “Extreme Couponing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

  1. No Debt MBA says:

    Personally I think extreme couponing is a bit nuts and would make no sense for us. We’re only two people and don’t buy that much already so there’s a hard limit to what extreme couponing can actually allow us to truly save. We spend $25/wk on groceries so even if we got everything for free the most we’d save would be $1,300 a year. And our place is so small I’d have no where to put all the extra stuff I gathered.

    I bet the effort of couponing doesn’t scale linearly. That the effort per dollar saved at the extreme end might not be as much as for a more normal couponer.

    • Crystal says:

      Or you could have 3 years of baby formula (for the baby you don’t actually have) for free if you played your cards right! 😉 Yeah, extreme couponing doesn’t make a lot of sense for us either…

  2. STRONGside says:

    I really don’t like the new craze at all. I agree, if you are able to clip a few coupons and save money on items you already plan to buy then that is awesome. But turning your house into a food storage locker is wasteful. These people are hoarders, on the pretense of savings money!

    • Crystal says:

      Exactly. And who really needs years worth of stock piles anyway? Our pantry was just taken over by ants thanks to a lovely drought, so we would have lost a ton if we were stockpilers – it was bad enough having to toss $50 of food away…

  3. Wilma says:

    The extreme couponing thing has been around since the 80’s. Reality TV brought it to the fore front of everyones mind. I was a single mom and I worked with a lot of single moms. We’d bring in our Sunday coupons and trade. I also traded through the mail with woman from other states. Some times you got great coupons, some times not but I kept track of my coupons and rebates. I saved quite a lot. Never to the extent of those on TV but I made out pretty good.

    Then I discovered scratch and dent barns and ware houses. These were life lines for me. I often got chicken real cheap from the farms. These were pieces of chicken that were not cut nice for the grocery or market. Still fresh but I guess you’d call them seconds. Tasted ok to me. Some times the cans had no labels but at 5 cents a can it was worth it to have a little mystery for dinner.

    All in all I’d call my adventures “Extreme Hunter/Gatherer…..=D

  4. Shirley says:

    I do use coupons for things we regularly buy but I don’t spend any extended time looking for them.

    Often I see coupons that I know (or think) one of the grown kids would use and I do clip those. We have a shelf with a basket for each of the kids and they check those whenever they come in. Buy one-get one free items often end up in those too.

  5. saladdin says:

    I’ve posted this before and will say it again.

    You are all missing a major point in this. It’s not the stockpiling of mustard you should be focusing on, it’s the overage created by certain coupons.

    I have found specific coupons, say $8 off any size item, while the smallest size only costs $5. Do the math. It can be a pain but I don;t spend hours with binders or plotting attacks. I search for 1 major coupon that creates overage and pound the hell out of it until the coupons expire.

    Again, this is a classic case of not seeing the forest because of the trees. Everyone is caught up with meaningless remarks about 1000 units of toothpaste instead.


    • David M says:

      I totally understand your point – you are following the “Spend the Money to Make the Money” principle! The product – whatever it is – is NOT important!

      And, people do not need to be stuck with 1000 units of toothpaste – they can give it away – and save a non-couponer some $s.

  6. isadardar says:

    What I’d like for people to think about is impact on the environment that this extreme couponing creates. If you buy dozens, hundreds, or whatever the amount is of a product you don’t need that much of – you are negatively impacting the environment. It takes many resources to create these things – for example – think of the water used to process mustard, the plastics involved in the mustard bottle, the oil consumed to run the trucks to deliver the product. When you purchase more of anything than you need, you create false inventory demand, thus putting a drain on the environment. If you have children, think about this. And for those who say “hey, it means jobs.” Perhaps, but perhaps not. There comes a time when we must decide what is more important – keeping the Earth as healthy as we can, or saving $100 a month at the grocery store. I chose a healthy Earth.

    • Texas Wahoo says:

      It only negatively impacts the environment if you don’t eventually use it.

      Often buying in bulk leads to decreased packaging and fewer trips to the store, thus helping the environment.

      • isadardar says:

        It may mean fewer trips to the store for you…but if I have to drive to another store to get a product because an extreme couponer bought all of it…then the impact is negative. Multiply that by, say, a dozen other people who have to drive to another store, and the negative impact adds up. And you taking fewer trips to the store does not stop the manufacturer from seeing the increased demand and making more of a product that may not be used or needed. This is regarding those people who buy 25 bottle of mustard (or aspirin, or toothpaste, or whatever) to save a few bucks.

        If your bulk buying is truly “bulk” – scooping out 10 pounds of rice from a large bin into one bag versus buying 10 one pound boxes of rice, then you are doing good for the environment, for the packing does decrease.

        • Texas Wahoo says:

          It would take a lot of people to make the demand for mustard go up so much that French’s decides to make more of it.

      • skylog says:

        good point texas wahoo!

  7. Kandace says:

    I’ve been using coupons for over 5 years now, but I don’t consider myself to be extreme. I’d rather spend time with family and friends than couponing my time away. I can see how it can become an obsession and I must admit that chasing deals provides a bit of a high. I don’t think you should clear shelves of all of the deal products– save some deals for others who may actually need it more than you. And only buy what you and your family will consume within a reasonable amount of time.

    Don’t trade precious time with spouses and children for coupons.

  8. My overall view of it is even if I can bank $2 by using a coupon (let’s say a $5 whatever has a coupon for $7), I still don’t think it’s worth the hassle of owning 100 whatevers. I can make $15-$20 an hour blogging and I actually like that more than clipping coupons and gathering stuff I don’t need.

    So I guess, like with everything, it’s all a matter of priorities and cost/benefit analysis…

  9. govenar says:

    I’m kind of a sucker for free stuff, or making money after coupons, even if I don’t really have a use for the thing.

  10. DachsieLady says:

    For me, it does not make sense. I sometimes look at coupons in Sunday newspaper. Almost all of them are for new products or unnecessary products. I do use about 5 or 10 coupons a month for things I really use and need and probably save about $10 a month.

    Extreme couponing is for people who have lots of spare time and find it to be fun. I find it to be no fun at all to be behind an extreme couponer at the check-out stand.

  11. skylog says:

    like most things, there is good and bad to come from this. while i will not say anything bad to those that take this extreme route (to each their own, as well as it makes financial sense in some way), there is, for some, that strange un-healthy comparison to “hoarders” to be made.

    i am all for buying things that you will use cheaper, but there are parts of this craze that scare me.

  12. celmira9 says:

    The disadvantage of extreme couponing is the availability of food one do not normally eat. E.g. white rice vs brown rice, organic vs. processed food, etc. Lots of salty, canned stuff.

  13. G says:

    I got into couponing after watching that episode. It’s true that there’s a certain thrill when you see your total price go down from let’s say 30 to 11 dollars. However, to get sad or feel defeated when you’re not able to pay for everything with a penny is too much. Some Extreme couponers spend how much on newspapers and clipping services. Some even steal inserts inside store sold newspapers or coin operated stands. That’s one of the things normal couponers complain about besides the shelves getting emptied before they can get their hands on them. That’s just one amongst a lot of ugly truths about EC. Didn’t stores come out with stricter coupon rules?

  14. chrissie lou says:

    I use fresh foods, fruits, veggies more. No coupons for this. I don’t like boxed or prepared foods.

  15. marine33 says:

    ok first and foremost extreme couponing to me is completely insane theres thousands of local ppl who can barely afford their next meals and these people dont have the dang heart to actually take some of what they have id say half of their groceries and send it to the food pantry or homeless shelters etc.. good lord what are they stock piling for armageddon good night.. think people this proper as christians how we act or would our lord and saviour like us to do what is truelly right and feed the less fortunate.. do what jesus wants us to do not what we want to do.. also if there is a military family close to you and they have family deployed invite them over to have a meal together and or give them some groceries to help them out during their tough times as well as same for veterns of foregn wars too.. they deserve alot

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