Going To Extremes To Save?

TLC has a new program called Extreme Couponing that has gained a cult following with both frugal people like myself, and with mainstream, non-coupon clipping America. Have you seen it? I have two words for the whole experience – train wreck! You know that you were thinking it too. If you haven’t seen it, watch the clip below for a reference point and then continue reading the rest of this article.

I watched one-half of one episode of this show in abject disbelief and alarm wondering how I could possibly get to that level of serious dedication and mental instability where saving money and stockpiling months, nay, years worth of grocery items could consume my entire my life and take precedence over the relationships that I have with my family. Spending time shopping at the grocery store is not my idea of a fun family outing, but maybe I’m missing something here.

Make no mistake, some of the individuals featured on TLC’s Extreme Couponing are no different than the ones featured on Hoarding, another TLC show. These individuals clearly have some form of OCD that compels them to jump into dumpsters to collect unused coupons so that they can clear out entire shelves full of the same item. I also find it kind of selfish that they do take home entire cartfuls of the same item and lock up a register for who knows how long.

Now, I’m a cheap girl. I’m certainly not above coupon clipping. In fact, I famously had a very organized coupon binder that I used to lug with me to the supermarket. I was the envy of some of the women in my family. So much an envy in fact, the someone swiped my coupon binder! I have my eye on my BF’s sister, but that’s between the two of us. My best shopping excursion with the binder resulted in a 60% saving off retail price. Ka-ching! But what separates me from the Extreme Coupon people? This did not consume my life. I did not spend hours at a time on it. I used to spend 30 minutes a week clipping and organizing my coupons and if it took longer than that it was because I was making my shopping list while doing it. I was also not buying groceries that would sit for months or years and I didn’t have to clear out the garage to make room for shelving for my groceries.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve resigned myself to paying full price. I think that I might break out in hives and rashes if I did pay full price. I just don’t have it in me, especially when technology is so readily at my fingertips. How do I save money on every single thing that I buy? Simple, I follow a few easy rules that you can implement too. Here goes:

  1. For groceries I always check out Coupons.com and print out the ones that I will use on my shopping trip in addition to clipping only the coupons that I will use from my Sunday paper. No dumpster diving.
  2. I check out deal and discount code sites before making a purchase.  In fact, I’m going to my cousin’s wedding this weekend and found a Nordstrom coupon that I used to buy my dress.  Sites like Deal Taker can save you some serious money.  My fingers can copy and paste a coupon code faster than it takes to clip a coupon.
  3. I always use a credit card that either gives cash back or rewards points with every purchase. That is an instant saving without you ever having to lift a finger but the ones that will reach for your credit card anyway.

Before you run off thinking that I’m a downer on the whole Extreme Couponing thing, I am not. I understand the need to save money. Remember, I’m trying to pay off a six-figure debt, so every single penny that I save is certainly a penny earned in my little book. I just don’t think that it’s healthy for any one thing to consume so much of your thought space that so much of your time is devoted to just that one thing – especially when you drag your kids along with it. If you want to spend time clipping coupons, please, by all means do so.  Send some my way too when you’re done.

Have you watched the show? How do you save money without going to extremes?

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26 thoughts on “Going To Extremes To Save?

  • I do watch the show out of some weird need to gawk at this….like the urge to look at a car wreck. Most of these individuals are guilty of some form of hoarding. Also I understand their ability to ‘clear a shelf’ of items is something arranged by the shows producers, because stores have limits as to how much of one item you can buy, to make a more interesting show. I am also appalled at how many of these people don’t really buy ‘groceries’ and leave the store with not much to eat. This is especially if you avoid pre-packaged foods like I do. So, I’ll continue to watch for the same morbid reason I always do, be disgusted by their hoarding behavior (seriously, can’t they keep like 20 bottles of shampoo and 20 toothbrushes and donate the rest to a homeless shelter), and take away some of the techniques to my own purposes (like I will from your article here). This was a great post, thanks!

    • Yeah that bothered me too. They pick up LOTS of prepackaged, bad for you foods. They have to be to have such long shelf lives. I couldn’t believe the number of candy bars that they picked up and things similar to that. I don’t get that much candy for Halloween and that’s to give away!

  • I don’t know if you meant this post to be funny, I LOL’d!

    Especially at ” level of serious dedication and mental instability”

    It can’t be said any better! Excellent post!

  • I watch the show and would never go that far. Instead, I look for things on sale. Keeps the budget low and savings on target.

  • I catch up on the show whenever I can, because I’m not American. Around these parts (The Netherlands) there’s no such thing as coupons that you can use every single week in your grocery shopping, and it’s quite fascinating how many these people do manage to save with their behaviour.
    But really, I’m just fascinated with TLC shows 😛

  • I’ve seen one episode of Extreme Couponing, and thought the lady featured was off her rocker a bit. Yeah, I know I blog about squirreling away money, but this lady was beyond over the top. Just her sheer enthusiasm and energy for couponing, and buying tons of items to store and organize in vast quantitites….the whole picture was a case study in excess.

    I think there are better uses of time than that that can get to the same effect on net income.

  • I am a frugal blogger, deal hunter & coupon clipper —IN MODERATION. I don’t have my shower stuffed full of toilet paper. That is for showers! I don’t have canned food racks in my bedroom either.

    What I do have is a healthy appreciation for saving and being prepared. I know that I can achieve that through frugal practices that are not textbook scenarios for the mentally challenged and the use of coupons, sales and PATIENCE.

    I live in N. Alabama. We were recently hit with a wave or tornadic storms lasting 16 hours. MUCH devastation over the northern half of the state. I was NOT effected by anything other than a 5 day power outage. I WAS PREPARED. We had everything we needed to sustain ourselves and about 12 others nearby. It was our PLANNING and EXECUTION of that plan to make everything run smoothly.

    I strongly urge everyone to have contingency plans for surviving a storm, power loss,loss of a job, etc, etc. Having a plan and using it took a lot of stress off of us and we have endured it nicely. Our city is still only at 30% restoration for power loss and we are still on a curfew.

    There is a HUGE difference in EXTREME COUPONING and doing it in such a way that you are prepared or that you share with other or a food bank to satiate your shopping needs and not be mentally challenged.

    If you pray, please pray for those that have suffered loss of loved ones or their homes. Hundreds have died. Hundreds are missing.

    Blessings to all…

    • I certainly agree with you about being prepared. You may not know, but I come from a third world country where running water and food were never guaranteed. Being prepared was something that we practiced every day, because you never knew if the markets would be open the next day to get even water.

      My post was about the extreme end of coupon buying as I saw it. There is certainly a difference between being an avid, frugal, coupon clipping shopper and going to the point where it consumes your life. I advocate for the former, and not the latter. Speaking as someone with ADD, I recognize in others similar, close disorders that compel people to act in particular ways. For that, I always advocate help.

      Continue your frugal ways! I know that I’ll certainly still clip some coupons and rack up on some great deals.

  • I really enjoyed this article. It can be fun to “people watch” those with extreme tendancies.

    I had a look at this phenomenon on April 8. It’s the dumpster diving for coupons with your neighbors and children that blows my mind.

  • That is nuts. I don’t have 6 hours to go scout a grocery store. They are buying all kind of junk food too, it’s not healthy. I guess I might do this if I can resell the candy bars and Gatorades, but there is no way I would put all that junk in my body.

    • I was looking at her skin and then looking at the candy bars and little connecting dots were popping into my brain.

  • TLC has some fascinating shows (Clean House is one of my favs). I haven’t seen this one yet. Who needs 150 candy bars? Even for free, apart from Halloween, that’s too much junk food!

  • Sandy, we wrote about the very same thing on exactly the same day. Well done, this was terrific.

    I saw the full show you showed a clip of and my favorite part was when the husband had to bring in all 125 boxes of pasta and put them away. There was no room so she made him stack them on the couch in his “man cave.” He was clearly upset and grumbling. I imagine most of it will go buggy before they actually use it. I also didn’t understand the shopping cart full of ketchup. Tomato products do not have a super long shelf life.

    I use coupons myself within reason. I usually save 50% each shopping trip. I do occasionally bring home free products, and once brought home $130.00 worth of groceries for $30.00. The difference is I buy items I would buy normally and I don’t buy so much that it spoils before I will use it.

    • Great minds think alike! I don’t know how anyone can eat 125 boxes of pasta before they go bad. I wonder if Italians eat that much pasta. I might need to take some lessons about shopping from you, but then you have first hand knowledge. You might be able to teach an extreme couponing online class. Ka-ching!

  • I love to save money- on necessities!

    I watched the show once and the lady had a ton of unhealthy food that I wouldn’t feed a stray dog!

    And believe me, we are not the healthiest eaters….

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  • Hey Sandy,
    Wow, looks like an overwhelming show. These people have to dedicate such much time to their couponing compulsion that I just can’t imagine it ends up being worth it. I care about saving money, but I wouldn’t take 2 days off of work just to do my grocery shopping. How bad do you feel for that cashier?

  • I wrote about this last week too. It was disturbing and I was particularly annoyed that at my last 2 shopping trips, a couple of my favorite items were sold out before I even had a chance to buy because of people like her. It really would be nice if I could get some glide on sale..too bad some crazy person has a 10 year’s supply in their family room.

    I also couldn’t imagine the sheer quantity of calories. This woman had like 30 jars of gravy in her spare room. I eat gravy like 3 times/year during the holidays. I have no idea what I’d do with cases of the stuff.

    • It’s crazy and it’s selfish. No one can tell me that these people will eat all of that food or use all of the toothpaste or deodorant before they expire. It’s horrific to me that people can be so self-centered as to clear out and entire shelf because they can. What are you going to do with all that ketchup? Swim in it?

    • Thanks for the link. I have a follow-up article coming from the point of view of the manufacturers and the coupon providers.

      • The link to this about coupon fraud was excellent. It’s amazing how many respond thinking that exploiting loopholes is not wrong. No wonder this country is in the pickle it’s in. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • The link to this about coupon fraud was excellent. It’s amazing how many respond thinking that exploiting loopholes is not wrong. No wonder this country is in the pickle it’s in. Thanks for sharing this post.

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