Extreme Couponing: Our Thoughts

December 29, 2010 35 Comments | Disclosure

By now you’ve probably seen something about a special TLC is going to air tonight on Extreme Couponing.  Being a coupon blog and all, we thought we’d throw out a few thoughts:

1. If you don’t do anything while couponing you feel the need to defend (reasonably speaking…I do defend honest couponing to cashiers who are convinced we are committing fraud), don’t let negative stereotypes eat at you.

2. Clearly, this show is the most extreme couponing can get.  Although we are afraid it might portray couponers in a bad light, it is the ultimate exaggeration of all coupon related stereotypes and we know better.

3. We are all for donating your excess, but at the same time, even if you donate a lot of what you get, please remember that there are people who would just like a few items to use for their own families.  More people are hurting now for money and basic needs than I have seen in my lifetime, and we seriously encourage sharing and leaving some items on the shelf for others.

4. We have posted ideas before on coupon ethics, as well as tips to avoid leaving the store without your items.  Here are the links if you missed them!

What are your thoughts?

Please be kind in your comments.  We are anticipating differences of opinion but also wish to maintain a respectful tone.  Thanks in advance!

Comments

  1. I love a good deal and frequently check out coupon blogs to see if there is something I need on sale.
    But I think the whole couponing thing can be taken too far really easily. For instance, the whole money making thing…seems nuts to me. Sure cheap or almost free is cool but it is seems weird to me that people think they should be paid to take a product off the store shelf!!! I think that going to the grocery store on a daily basis or even 3-4 times a week is EXCESSIVE. Also the line between being thrifty and cheap is confusing for many couponers.

    That being said, I love getting a good deal and like that there are blogs available to spread the word of good deals.

  2. Cheryl_hiccups says:

    As to the question of addiction, sure it’s possible for couponing to become an addiction. That doesn’t mean couponing is bad, just that as with about everything in life, balance is key.

    I am pretty low key when it comes to other people’s couponing habits. Sure there are things that others do that I’d rather they didn’t do, but I’m not in charge of them, so it has to roll off. If it was a friend or family member having problems, I’d be willing to try to help, but I’m still not in charge of them.

  3. I’m just curious, can I watch this if I don’t have cable?

    • Wondering the same thing! Maybe hulu?

      • The first season is on Netflix Instant Queue, that’s how I watched it. If you don’t have a subscription, I’d recommend it. You can usually find a trial month, but even if you pay for it, its a really good deal.

  4. Honestly I think extremists in all things have a bad name and with many TV shows they cut and edit to make drama. I love couponing and feel awesome by having a few months supply of items for pennies does not make you extreme, it is smart. Cleaning shelves is another subject all together and having couponing take over other areas in your life obviously is not good.

  5. I think they are a little nuts… unless they really believe that whole 2012 thing is coming and they are going to be the last people standing… better hope they have some propane to heat up all that chili and ramen…

  6. I watched the show and was a little put off. Those couponers cleared shelves and from the first day I started couponing, I realized I shouldn’t do that. In order to leave some for the next couponer. Can’t tell you how many times I have gone to the store and found empty shelves. It is frustrating. I also think that this is the EXTREME with couponing. These people are addicted because if you have 150yrs supply of deodorant, why would you go buy more even if it is free? It’s wasteful. I found the show entertaining because of the big payoff when you check out. I love the feeling of seeing my bill go down when the cashier starts scanning my coupons!

  7. I just happened upon the show. It was very interesting. I still haven’t EVER been able to get toilet paper for free so I am envious of the person’s 3 year supply he claimed he got for FREE. I loved the lady from Phili who was giving everyone hints as she shopped in the store. While I do think the cases TLC aired were very extreme I hope more people understand how valuable coupon shopping can be. I agree with the gal who said coupon shopping is a lifestyle. It’s definitely a lifestyle choice I have adopted. The purchase of 150 candy bars was extreme- but maybe she was going to donate them. :)

    • I don’t think that she was going to donate it, did you see her house?? She is the one with a million toilet paper rolls, also, I think that she probably didn’t need to buy that much. Her house was starting to look a bit too packed with stuff. Also, her husband was calling everything garbage. Like it was said before, this is just extreme.

  8. I think donating is fine, but I also have seen a lot of donations go to waste because the places just don’t need every item. Only get what you need to stock up for a year or less and donate some, but leave some for the other couponers. I think when I first started I went a little over board, but after two years I have become much more reasonable about it.

  9. I have read about this subject on a few websites and I saw the clip on ABC and as a couponer I have to say That Fabulessly Frugal has hit the nail on the head I feel exactly the same way.
    ALSO
    Stockpile for 6 weeks ( see what your family will eat or need in that amount of time and get it. ( will you really eat 15 jars of peanutbutter in 6 weeks. Don’t take it all off the shelves like you said others want (need ) some for their family. I know it is exciting to pay little or nothing for an item but don’t worry the sale will cycle around again and you will be able to get in on it . :) .

  10. Extreme is putting is mildly. I am a couponer, I shop sales and I have a modest stockpile .. but those examples we just crazy. I have never seen anyone purchase items in that large of a quantity and I don’t when you don’t have the space for the stockpile why purchase it?

  11. EXTREME??….the people on this show are beyond extreme. I think they should have been on TLC’s My Strange Addiction instead. Yes, I coupon, shop sales, stockpile and donate. I never stockpile more than I have room to store in my pantry, laundry room cupboards and linen closet.

  12. I too like couponing and saving a few bucks on my shopping bill, but clearing shelves in the name of saving and food storage/stock piles is more than I personally believe in, even with the idea of donating the extras. Having a few extra items in the pantry so you aren’t running to the store every other day is great, but to have more on hand than your family can use in a month or so isn’t something I do. A reality check is in order for those who feel the need to take more than they can use.

    • I agree … I have an extended family member who coupons to the extreme and does things that I believe are unethical (copying coupons, trying to slip in one too many to see if the checker notices, etc) … She loves to clean out the store and then brag about it … Her husband has a high paying job, so this is not a financial necessity, she just gets a rush from scoring a deal … I think she DOES have an addiction to the euphoria and I am worried about how far she’ll go with all this … There is a difference between NEED and GREED – remember that.

  13. I think we all need to ask ourselves if couponing is a benefit to our family and friends or an addiction. I’ve been couponing for a year and am so happy to have a friend who took the time to teach me. Our family needs to coupon because money has become very tight, but, with that said, I need to not neglect my family or friends. What would I gain? A room full of food for mice and time to destroy?

  14. I didn’t see the show tonight but wanted to comment of a few things. I grew up being taught to have a 2 year supply of food and necessities so stockpiling is not a foreign concept. I have not reached that point but I do not see any issue with having a 1-2 year supply. We are in extreme times right now. Sometimes job layoffs etc can last 1-2 years as we are seeing. The security of knowing that food and necessities are one less thing I have to worry about providing in case of extreme situations makes me feel so much more comfortable. I do not agree obviously with clearing the shelves etc, our stockpiles do not need to be built in a day :)

    • I agree. As a single mom of three boys I have to stay on my toes with finances. I like the security of knowing that my kids are taken care of with food and supplies because paying rent that month may not even be in the budget. lol. So, not having to pay anything (or very little) for toothpaste, makeup, ect frees up money for actual bills. I do not clear the shelves either though because I feel that there may be a couponer coming in after me that needs that more than I do. I don’t know their situation. Having said that, most stores do have more in the back. That is good and bad news at the same time. The good news is that the shelves are not truly cleared and they can just restock after you leave. The bad… is that your relationship with your cashiers and managers really helps you in couponing. And if you become known to them as the one that always forces a restock its going to make them not like you no matter how nice you are in conversations with them. They will be less likely to work with you on YMMV issues. I have spoken with the manager at my Walgreens for example and was told that they purposefully only put out a few at a time of the really good/free deals so that extreme couponers cannot clear the shelves. There truly is more in the back in most cases but you also don’t want to become known as one of those types because you want to keep a good standing with the cashiers and managers. As a rule of thumb, I take no more than half of what is out. Most of the time I don’t take that much but never more that 50% of what’s on the shelf. Maybe this puts things into perspective. I agree with Andrea, that the stockpiles don’t need to be built in a day!

  15. I watched the show. I think there may be a tinge of addiction with some of those who were highlighted.
    I like that it showed how couponing can save money.
    It indirectly gave tips on how to dot it.
    Most people will not go to the extremes these people did, but hey the show was named ‘Extreme Couponing’ what did you expect.
    I like the lady who was the on site store advocate helping people be better shoppers and couponing as she shopped.I also liked the tip she gave about writing/emailing/visit websites of the products you ike and asking for the coupons, I have slowly begun doing this and it keeps me from buying things I don’t need just because I have a coupon. Not sure I would dumpster dive or go door to door looking for coupons, but if they feel comfortable with that. I say live and let live. Having the child do the dumpster diving is little much, but who am I to judge.
    I was really happy to see the guy say he donates to the food bank, I have co worker who does the same thing, coupons and then gives things to her churches food bank.
    I have to admit, the few times I couponed right and walked out getting something free I have to admit it was a rush, but that is not usually my goal. My goal is to save some money without using exhorbitant amounts of time managing my coupons and shopping, taking time away from my family.
    If I had the time to organize my coupons, etc, I would like to do that.
    I agree with the other couponers who have already stated the insanity of buying all of the stock of an item, leaving nothing for other shoppers, ‘just because you can’. That’s a form of greed.

  16. Take the show for what it is- television!!!! The show producers twist to make everyone look the way they want them to look. The first woman appears to have serious addiction problems and you can tell it is straining her marriage. The Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL) and the woman from Philadelphia have their heads on straight. The KCL’s husband supports her and i like that she was working with counting with her child in the store. She also has a great blog- and on it she details some of the particulars about the show- the stores were called in advance to ensure they had stock on hand- and they don’t show her donating most of what she purchased. She only rotates a 1 year stockpile at her home. Nathan also pre-ordered the things he bought with his store- but the show producers wanted to make it look like he cleared the shelves, so they had the store put the deoderant, etc in the baskets for him to “hoard”. I admit, his personal stockpile looks mighty extreme, but he also donated much of what he bought. They were told by the show to do their best deal ever.

    And before you judge me -I coupon, and have “only” about a 3-6 month stockpile (depending on the item), have never cleared a shelf and try to be overly responsible with my couponing!

    I just hope the show doesn’t give nice couponers a bad name.

  17. Stephanie Becker says:

    I’ve recently started couponing, and think I’ve been doing fairly well :) Your site has helped tremendously, and I have maintained the “coupon code of ethics” wherever I go. My fiancee still doesn’t quite understand why I spend so long at the store, but the show last night gave him a bit of an idea of what I’m trying to accomplish. I think the best example that was shown was the “coupon diva” she didn’t get ridiculous, and end up with 9 carts, she didn’t clear shelves, she was so helpful to everyone along the way explaining little things people could do to save more money by using coupons. I was standing in front of the biscuits a few weeks ago, and had tons of coupons for them.. there was an older gal standing there, and I asked her if she would like some of the coupons since I wasn’t going to use them all, and explained to her how she could get such a good deal… she was so appreciative of it, as she on a fixed income an supporting herself.. Miss Coupon Diva was just an overall good example of a good couponer, and portrayed it so well. It’s unfortunate with the first gal, (from ohio i think) it seems she’s seeking the thrill, which is all fine and dandy, but when you have a stockpile such as hers for just 2 people… it seems most of it will expire resulting in alot of wasted food. There is such a thing as too much, with everything in life

    Anywho, I’ll stop ranting now.
    Thank you so much for helping me start this great journey of couponing :) and as always.. i look forward to your emails

    • I completely agree. While the “Coupon Diva” was extreme in obtaining her coupons, she didn’t go overboard. I appreciate that. I actually follow the blog of the dumpster diving lady and I know that wasn’t a typical shopping trip for her. TLC asked these people to do their most extreme trip for the show, so that is what these people did. The last guy did a special order for all that cereal, which is better than clearing the shelves I guess. But, that first woman was just crazy! She will never go through all of that stuff and isn’t donating it. And what is up with all the candy bars? NOBODY needs that many candy bars! Yikes!

      Personally, I dabble in couponing. I would like to be more into it, but it is time consuming and I don’t always feel like I am getting what I will really use and so I don’t want to be wasteful or eat things that I think are unhealthy. I am glad to have gotten the advice about calling the specific companies I want coupons from and asking for them. I hadn’t really thought about that, so I will be doing that!

  18. Amen to all of this, post and comments!!
    Wow… So one of the “Krazy Coupon Ladies” is one of these extremes? I watched their site a while back until I read something that seemed a little shady to me (bout 2 years ago). Interesting that she was one of the “extremes” on the show.

    Thank you FabFrug, for your thoughts, your generosity, and your integrity. You are great examples of how couponing should be done! I agree that show should have been (like someone else mentioned above) “My Strange Addiction” instead. They need to do another show featuring the Fab Five and all of us Fab Readers/Couponers instead, to show/teach people the right, honest way to do it!!

  19. Thanks for your comment #3 about not clearing the shelves. Nothing is more infuriating than actually needing something (like tp) and hoping to get a good deal on it and finding the shelves empty. In response to Elisabeth 14.1 above, the Albertsons and Walgreens in the Treasure Valley keep very limited stock in the back. There is actually very little “back room” (I used to work for the company that designed their buildings). So, chances are good that if the shelf is out, the store is out until their next delivery.

    Remember that even though you want to donate items, there are still people who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and need the deals just as much, if not more than the places you are donating to.

  20. Chelsey McGee says:

    Agreed that the coupon Diva was the best to watch. While the payoffs were great to see its was scary to see how wasteful some of them were being. If I had a three year supply of toilet paper or anything else for that matter, free or no I would stop buying it.

  21. I checked out a couple of coupon clipping service websites after watching the show. I hadn’t heard of using such a site, just Ebay. The TLC show brought the clipping sites a lot of new visits.

  22. After hearing about this, not catching the show myself, I came to the realization that this is the same network that does the show Hoarders (which I admit to totally being addicted to- har har). They are showing VERY extreme sides of life, my father and his wife are hoarders but not nearly the extreme that they show on the Hoarders show. I think the same can be true of couponing, and in fact I have seen some “interesting” people that have INSANE quantities of “good deal” items intermixed in their hoards. Sadly I think that some people really so get such an adrenaline rush from saving money that they are addicted to the high, and feel “safe” having a large quantity of stockpiled items. What is sad to me is that these people that are on the show may need some counseling for emotional attachment issues, but I am pretty sure that is not touched upon. So excuse my ramble but basically we all need to make sure that we don’t get carried away, and we strive to help our own families and others if possible by either donating items or helping educate others about the benefits of couponing.

    • “Hoarders” is done by A&E … This couponing show was done by TLC … But I see your point, they are showing the extreme side of things to get people to gawk and therefore boost their ratings.

  23. As I watched the show I had friends and family sending me text messages, thinking of me… well I got about 5 minutes in and realized that those people have a PROBLEM! A married couple with no children do NOT for any reason need 216 boxes of pasta! Their stockpile was out of control. That should be in the Duggars house in my opinion! On the other hand, they showed her only paying $50 for $1,700 worth of groceries, but they did not account for the $70 that she spent on the coupons. Also, when you coupon, it is really easy to find a free item and then buy as many of those coupons as possible, so to me there was no real talent in her couponing skills. I dont want this to sound too harsh, but that first couple was very overweight, so why on earth would they need to buy 150 candybars??

    I think TLC gave the coupon world a bad name with that show, and I will still stand to say that after couponing for 3 years, my absolute favorite gals are the FabFruGals!!! So down to earth and set the table with positive and polite coupon ethics!!

  24. I viewed the show and was blown away with how much they stock pile, No way should you get that carried overboard with shampoo, body wash and toilet paper that you don’t have to buy for over 3 years! And the last guy who bought another 150 tooth brushes and all that deoderant when he already had cases and cases of it I think they said he had over 1000 hand soaps and he got another 60 .. why? I have a hard time with my local stores where the shelves are already empty and the cahiers frown when I show up with my small amount of coupons, I can’t imagine what they would do if I had 8 baskcarts of stuff. I love couponing, but I try to do it in moderation, only get what we need to use in a 3 month time no matter how great the sale and save some on the shelf for the next shopper

  25. I love couponing and my stockpile has saved us on occasion. I am working on a three month stockpile of foods we eat all the time. Some items I am working on a years supply things like pasta, flour, sugar and other basics.

    I would never skip out on plans with my family or friends to shop though. Maybe stop at a store on the way home but not skip plans.

    I have not seen the show as we cut our Dish Network due it not wanting to pay that much money to bring so much innapropriate viewing into our home. I have seen the clips online though and I do think that some of them went overboard. It seems though that the show lived up to its name of extreme couponing. They showed a couple of cases where it was reasonable but edited it more for the shock value. What can we expect from media these days though.

  26. I watched the show, and I thought they were extreme. EXTREMELY Obsessive couponers and a couple of them belong on the hoarders show. When I was first learning to use coupons for cheap/free deals I followed the Krazy Coupon Lady blog, but I quit following it some time back.

    I loved the last couponer on the show. She was going through the store talking to others about how they could save with coupons. For her it is about living on a budget, it’s not about having a lifetime stockpile of deodorant and pasta.

    I have often been shopping with other couponers. Many with their big coupon notebooks or organized shoe boxes in the cart. Most are picking up a few items to get through the next couple months, until the same deal hits the market again.

    However, I have witnessed bad behavior from couponers. For example, another gal and I were standing in front of the glade candle display laughing about our couponing obsession and talking about our favorite blogs, and the scents of the season. We were smelling the holiday candles, and figuring out what the coupon deal was. Another couponer came up and shoved her cart in there and literally swiped her arm across the shelf blocking us from picking up any candles, oil scents, etc.. I felt like she was going to grab the candle right out of my hand, but she resisted. It was rather freaky. Would she punch me if I took the 2nd candle I needed for my gift card? Hmmm….

    I appreciate the advice I get here on fabuloussly frugal. I certainly hope I’m not out there giving couponers a bad name. I think I might read through the suggested articles one more time.

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