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Do extreme couponers go too far?
The TLC show 'Extreme Couponing' has frugal bloggers debating when smart stockpiling becomes obsessive hoarding.
Like many people interested in saving money, we watched the new TLC show "Extreme Couponing."
We agree that the four people profiled are pretty extreme in their coupon practices, from spending six hours on one grocery trip, to dumpster diving for coupons, to filling multiple rooms of their homes with a stockpile of products.
We did like the retired nurse who walked seven miles each morning collecting coupons from her neighbors. (Her fitness may save her as much money as her coupons do.)
The question many people are asking after watching the show is, do these couponers go too far?
If you missed the show, you can see it at 10 EDT tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 4) and 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Jan. 5.
We certainly saw some aspects of frugality meets "Hoarders" in this show. One couple had enough toilet paper to last 40 years. Do they really think toilet paper won't go on sale again for the rest of their lives?
Lisa B. of Obsessive Coupon Disorder reflected the view of many frugal bloggers, who liked seeing people use coupons to save 90% or more on groceries (she says she usually saves 70% to 90%). But she also saw things on the show that disturbed her:
We were disappointed in how the guests were portrayed as hoarder-like. (And we call ourselves "obsessive," remember?) But we know not all coupon users fill up nine carts, clear store shelves and have a 40-year supply of toilet paper at home.
It would have been better if the show portrayed more savvy and consumer-smart shoppers (but then would they have to rename the show to "Above-Average Couponers?") which we believe represent the majority of coupon users. Stockpiling is acceptable (we all have stockpiles of a variety of items) but the "extreme" stockpiling displayed on the show leans more toward hoarding.
One of the show participants, Nathan Engels, who operates the website We Use Coupons, said in an interview with Heather of Family Friendly Frugality that the TV show exaggerated some aspects and minimized others that he thought deserved more attention, such as charitable giving. During his shopping trip on the show, he bought $5,743 worth of items for $241. That included 1,100 boxes of cereal he got free and donated to a food bank.
He ordered the cereal, as well as the quantities of some other items he bought, ahead of time. You can see his shopping list here.
To get the hauls these couponers got, you have to go to stores with certain coupon policies. Those stores may be hard to find. Marci of Cincinnati Coupons also noted that not all stores will order sale items for you, fearing you're going to resell them.
Another participant, Joanie Demer of Krazy Coupon Lady and co-author of "Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey," said Safeway had changed its policy and no longer allows stacking of e-coupons with manufacturers' coupons, so her experience getting $638.64 worth of products for $2.64 couldn't be duplicated. She shared her shopping list here.
She was the one who went dumpster diving for coupons, with her young son and a pregnant friend, though she explains on her blog that she only goes into recycling bins, with the permission of the recycling center. She has a two-car garage full of products she has stockpiled.
These were the two major issues raised by a number of viewers/bloggers:
- When does stockpiling become hoarding? You only save money with coupons if you use the things you buy before they spoil. What if your kids decide, 10 boxes into your 100-box cereal stockpile, that they'd rather eat another variety? (Here in the subtropics, if I buy two boxes of cereal, I have to put the second box in the freezer to keep it even a few weeks.) Unopened cans of Diet Coke spoil within a year or two.
- Are the extreme couponers greedy? One aspect of the show that was unrealistic was the fact that the shoppers were able to grab 100 boxes of pasta or 100 toothbrushes off the store shelves. (Nathan discloses that some of those items were preordered and put on the shelf for TV.) My supermarket rarely has 100 boxes of anything, and I'm lucky to be able to find one or two boxes of a sale item. Many stores also set limits on how many of a sale item you can buy.
What's your take? Are these people smart shoppers or hoarders? Does anyone really need 60 bottles of liquid soap or 150 candy bars? When does couponing become too extreme?
I have been an avid couponer for over 30 years. I ususally have saved 20.00 a week on my grocery bill....BUT, I buy what I need. My shower is not stocked to the ceiling with toilet paper, I do not have 82 bags of croutons that have a short shelf life on them. These people are like hoarders
I live in the Houston area. Double/triple coupons are almost a thing of the past. In my opinion these "extreme couponers" are the reason the stores are stopping doubling coupons. Krogers has doubled coupons for over 20 years. They stopped 2 months ago. .
Before Krogers stopped doubling coupons I was behind a woman in line. They had a display of trial size bandaids for 49 cents. She bought 72 boxes and pulled out 72 fifty cent coupons. She got very angry when Krogers would not give her the bandaids plus 36.72 in cash. Their coupon policy clearly stated that you could get and item free...but no more. To me this is greed. These extreme couponers are making it very hard on people like me. These people are going to be very surprised when these stores quit doubling or tripling coupons....just to stay in business.
I'm guessing these people hear the phrase "but those were for everyone" fairly often....
Storage is hardly free. You have to be pretty overhoused to be able to store 40 years worth of TP. Why not downsize the home? Muchos savings there. I might add that a six hour grocery trip to buy unnecessary items is an exceedingly poor use of time.
Too bad there aren't any coupons for psychotherapy.