I’ve watched a few episodes of that Extreme Couponing show, and I found it a bit horrifying. I can understand why a show like it would be on, but I don’t think it’s in any way realistic. I also wonder if that level of couponing is healthy or ethical.

Is Extreme Couponing the New Hoarding?
Who needs that much stuff? It’s entirely possible that the people depicted on the show donated their hoards right after the taping, in fact one episode focused on a man who was using his coupons to create care packages for our troops, but I doubt that’s the case for the majority of the people on the show. Many of them have built storage space for their stockpile. One family took out insurance on their stockpile! No matter how well it’s organized, a stockpile that big could easily be considered a hoard. One episode depicted a woman stockpiling diapers even though she doesn’t have a baby! Another woman amassed 25 years worth of toilet paper. Raise your hand if you think a roll of toilet paper will last 25 years in storage without disintegrating?

Several couponers expressed the high they get from couponing. Guess who else gets that high? Hoarders. Just because you got the item free, or have it well organized, that doesn’t mean you need it or should buy it.

Is Extreme Couponing Healthy?
Many of the couponers didn’t look very healthy. Most were overweight. I saw a lot of frozen dinners being dumped into those carts. I didn’t see a whole lot of produce. Maybe they use their savings to buy fresh foods and plan a healthy meal plan, but it doesn’t look that way. Just because you can get ten Stouffer’s frozen pizzas for free, doesn’t mean you should. Is saving money worth shaving a few years off the end of your life? What about the increased health costs you’ll face because you saved so much money on crappy food? Where is the balance?

Is Extreme Couponing Realistic?
Absolutely not. Many stores are tightening their coupon policies, sometimes as a direct result of this show. At the very least, most people don’t have several hours a week to devote to compiling coupons, which will make it difficult to save 95% on their groceries. I’ve saved 30% a few times, but even that took careful planning. It was around the holidays, so the store was having mega sales, and it was in the peak of the recession when really good coupons were available. I’m not seeing those coupons anymore.

Is Extreme Couponing Ethical?
In the case of the woman who allegedly committed coupon fraud, clearly the answer is no. For most people, it’s not unethical to coupon, however it’s not always polite. My local Ralph’s once ran a really great promotion on condensed milk. It was free when combined with a coupon. I happened to need condensed milk for a recipe, but I couldn’t get any, because the shopper before me had cleared the shelf. Who needs 20 cans of condensed milk? Is it fair to clear the shelf to build up your stockpile when other people might need just one or two of the item for a recipe that week? Why should they have to drive to several stores and spend more because you only had 19 in your stockpile and needed more?

I don’t fault people for saving money, but there has to be a line. Most of these couponers cross that line from frugal to obsessive. That’s not true of all couponers, but I don’t think you get on a show like Extreme Couponing if you’re simply frugal. What do you think of these shows? Are they borderline hoarders?



6 Responses to “My Take on Extreme Couponing”

  1. Dauphine on May 21st, 2011 3:36 pm

    Great post and a rather spot-on observation.

    My enthusiasm for the concept rapidly diminished the longer I tuned in.

    I found the idea intriguing, for here in Canada, extreme couponing is all but impossible given current rigid store policies.

    The saving grace of the series was the one participant who provided care packages to the troops: as for the rest of them …

    BTW: Great blog!

    Best regards from Montréal, Canada.
    Missy D

  2. rdzins on June 1st, 2011 8:38 am

    I agree with the above poster, are local stores do not really honor internet coupons double coupons over .25 ct… Truly not worth it. I find that we tend to buy certain items and stock up or buy them on sale. I do not have the time to run to several different stores, and to try to find the coupons which expire fast to me seems like a time waster. I try to focus more on using up what I have and not wasting anything, it is not really a good deal if you end up throwing it out because you don’t like it or it was cheap.

  3. Aryn on June 1st, 2011 11:44 am

    I completely agree! US coupon policies are a little more generous, but I rarely use internet coupons anyway. I don’t have time to hunt them down and I hate that they use a whole sheet of paper and color ink for one coupon. I mostly stick to the newspaper coupons unless I hear about a really great internet coupon.

    I also agree that it’s better to use up what you have instead of wasting something because it was free or cheap!

  4. Will on June 28th, 2011 9:08 am

    I agree! Extreme couponing is just crazy. Vast majority of those people don’t have a good reason to have so much stuff. One thing people failed to mention is that technology continue to improve even for household goods. Most manufacturers are constantly improving… Do you really want to use toothpaste that’s 2 or 3 years old, or do you want to use the more efficeint improved formular? Couponing is great but only if you use for items that you actually need and not to hoard them for your lifetime.

  5. Katie on August 21st, 2011 11:38 am

    I totally agree with this post. I use to coupons to help save money on the things i need especially diapers. However i do not stockpile and i am so sick of going into a store and the shelfs being cleared. I think that couponing has become so popular that people are wasting there money on stuff that they do not need.

  6. Stephanie on August 28th, 2011 8:42 pm

    I agree with Katie. However, my stance is still a bit different. I do stockpile. However, I don’t stockpile a grocery store. I mainly coupon at CVS and Walgreens; only for toiletries. I have a budget of $7 per store a week and always have ECB’s or RR’s to roll over. I have three plastic bins underneath our bathroom sink, and always keep them full. I don’t coupon for food items because my husband and I eat very healthy. It is unrealistic to provide healthy meal options for your family while couponing.

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