My Take on Extreme Couponing

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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?

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