When my family and friends saw “Extreme Couponing” on TLC, a few of them jokingly suggested it was about me.
But the behaviors I saw in that show were not like me at all.
The show profiled four different “extreme” couponers – and all of them spent significant amounts of time (one woman spent upwards of 70 hours a week) clipping coupons and shopping. They had amassed startling collections of household goods – enough toilet paper to last decades and salad dressing for years.
As a self-proclaimed cheapskate, you would think that I would be an extreme couponer. You would think that I would have 100 sticks of deodorant in my pantry and that I would never buy anything without a coupon.
Sorry to disappoint you, folks, but there’s no extreme couponing going on in this house.
Don’t get me wrong: I feel a twinge of jealousy when I see someone get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for just a few bucks.
But it’s not realistic for most of us, nor is it necessarily healthy to be an extreme couponer.
In order to be an extreme couponer, you have to take extreme measures to collect a large amount of coupons. Dumpster diving, purchasing coupons, trading coupons, asking friends and family, and finding numerous computers in which to print coupons, all takes an incredible amount of time and energy.
In order to be an extreme couponer, you need to live in an area with numerous stores. You also need at least one of those stores to double or triple coupons.
In order to be an extreme couponer, you need to have a large amount of space you are willing to dedicate to a massive stockpile. Extreme couponers just don’t buy one or 2 items for free with a coupon. They buy 50.
In order to be an extreme couponer, you need a lot of time. It takes time to clip and organize coupons (no matter how simple you make your system). You’ll spend a lot of time on the internet researching coupon match-ups and deals and plotting out shopping trips. And then there’s the actual amount of time it takes to shop, get through the check-out lines, argue with store clerks to get all of your coupons accepted, and bring the groceries home and put them away.
When I consider all of these factors, I think the cost of extreme couponing is too much.
And I feel sorry for these extreme couponers who are caught in the cycle of having to get every deal. They are addicted to shopping. They may not be spending much money, but they are feeding an addiction to bargains. And they will justify it by donating things to charity, but in the end, it is really a sickness.
A stockpile should be something you have to help you weather hard financial times or an illness. A stockpile should not consume your entire garage or several bedrooms in your home. That’s called hoarding.
Moderation is the key. You absolutely should use coupons to save money at the store. When you use them correctly, you can get items for free or nearly free.
But think about how much you really need.
There will always be another deal. It’s okay to walk away from a sale now and then.