Extreme Couponing Reality

Last week TLC’s Extreme Couponing featured:

Jessica Hacker, Tiffany Ivanovsky, Rebecca Rousten and J’aime Kirlew.

Did you tune in to TLC’s Extreme Couponing this week? It took me a couple of days to get to it because I do not have cable. Ya I am that frugal! 😉 Well with all the television hype we want to be sure our fab friends see the true reality of this reality TV show.

A few things we want to make sure you realize about Extreme Couponing:

  • The amount of products that the shoppers on the show bought was insane – we are all about building stockpiles, but we are not about clearing shelves.
  • Those are not REAL shopping trips –  I do not think that these “extreme” couponers normally shop like that.  In fact, when you go on the show, they want you to show them the most extreme trip you possibly can (for entertainment sake).  All the couponers profiled said this was their biggest trip ever.
  • The show is about entertainment and shock factor, not education and learning.

So let’s take a close look at

“Extreme Couponing” Realities…

Jessica Hacker

A local Idaho shopper did her shopping at Albertsons during a double coupon event!

REALITY #1: Albertsons does not give overage. Jessica pointed out to TLC that she was getting overage at Albertsons using a $3 coupon on a $2 clearance item. Don’t think that this is something you will be able to do at Albertsons. If you read the Albertsons coupon policy it states, ” coupons that exceed the retail value of an item will be adjusted to provide the maximum value not exceeding the price of the item.” I have noticed that cashiers do not always do this but according to the policy they are expected to do so. Recently the computer systems at Albertsons have been updated to adjust the coupon value automatically so you will not be getting overage at Albertsons.

REALITY #2: What about rebates? Jessica saved 90% on her shopping trip! Awesome. Did you see all of the ground beef she bought? How is that possible? Jessica shopped during the Conagra Promo with the snapple rebate. The sweet promo with the moneymaker rebates. Although they did not mention it on the show,  I would bet that she factored the rebates into her final price. Which is totally legit and a great coupon strategy. So keep in mind sometimes there is a little more to it then they show in TV. 🙂

REALITY #3 Multiple Transactions. Jessica did 18 transactions on her extreme shopping trip. Don’t count on doing 18 transactions in a row at your Albertsons. Most stores are generous enough to allow 3 in a row. Many more than 3 is really not being considerate of other shoppers. The store reserved a lane and knew that Jessica was coming in advance to film for TV. So keep in mind that it is not realistic to expect yourself to buy/save the same amount as Jessica did in one shopping trip.

Tiffany Ivanovsky

REALITY #4 Shopping With Children: Tiffany shopped with her husband and children on her TLC taping. If you have watched our class on DVD or taken our coupon class you know that we recommend leaving little people at home for coupon shopping. Don’t get me wrong I have brought my littles to the store before to coupon (sometimes circumstances don’t allow another option), but it is much easier if you can go with out them. 🙂 Tiffany even mentioned that it was a good family experience on the show, but I got the impression that this is not the normal way that she shops.

REALITY #5 Roll Catalinas from Previous Weeks: Did anyone notice that Tiffany and her DH did the same shopping trips, but Tiffany saved more? How do you think she did it? I think she had catalina coupons from previous shopping trips that she used to get her total down. This is a great strategy, if you are new to couponing you will not have catalinas from previoius shopping trips to help you do this, but once get started you will be able to roll catalinas just like Tiffany Ivanovsky.


REALITY #6 Can You Use All of That Before it Expires: Rebecca Rousten had an abundant stockpile with only her husband to share it with. It is important that you consider how much you can really used depending on your family size and needs. Don’t feel like you have to be in competition to have the largest stockpile. If your food goes bad before you can use it you are only wasting coupons, money, storage space and time! Maybe Rebecca donates or has extended family that she shares with. I do not know. They did not show that on TV.

REALITY #7 Know Your Store Poilicy: Rebecca called in 5 friends to help her check out of the store because she was not familiar with the customer limits that her store had. However Tiffany called ahead to check on her store policy changes. Being prepared and familiar with the store policy with help make the shopping trip smoother for you, the checker and other customers in the store.

J’aime Kirlew

REALITY #8 Shelf Clearing is RUDE: J’aime had a feature in her episode where she cleared out 67 mustards from the shelf, and she was paying .37 each for them. First of all I would not recommend buying more than about 5 mustards at that price. You can probably get them free in the summer. In J’aime’s episode she tells her husband to clear the shelf. Now maybe this was staged for audience reaction, but it is a very negative message to send about couponing. Clearing shelves leaves nothing for other couponers clipping, planning and shopping just to find nothing in the store. This selfish behavior gives couponers a bad name. {Learn how to Give Couponers a Good Name}

REALITY #9 Use Your Coupons on the Correct Item: J’aime used an unethical coupon strategy called coupon decoding. Basically she did not use all of her coupons for the items the manufacturer intended them to be used on. Jill Cataldo along with the help of other bloggers showed us the proof of J’aime’s fraud in this revealing article. Learn more about coupon ethics here.

If you missed the first week of Extreme Couponing, J’aime, Jessica, Tiffany and Rebecca’s  episodes will be airing again tonight and tomorrow night! Just remember not everything you see on Reality TV is reality. 😉

Extreme Couponing… done right

We show you all the secrets

in our Coupon Class on DVD!


UPDATE: If you don’t have cable or a friend with DVR, you can watch it on Amazon Demand Rebecca & Jessica episode or J’amie & Tiffany episode for $1.99!


  • Debra

    Thank you so much for keeping it real!! I appreciate all of you ladies continuously stating how to do things right and honestly 🙂 You are all awesome and inspiring! Keeping one’s integrity can be a lot of work, but well worth it!!!

    • Angelica

      I want to say that I have NEVER given coupons a thought until I saw this show. I went Sunday and bought two newspapers ( The Detroit Free Press and the Oakland Press)
      I have clipped and I will learn. I was most impressed with the ministry student and his giving to food banks and the like. He was walking the walk and well as talking the talk by giving away the food/clothes for those that needed it. It was that episode that sold me. I would love to give back to the Metro Detroit community. I’m also glad that you cleared up some of the misconceptions as I was really confused to “how do you get the free stuff?” As a single adult with no children living in a small space, I wouldn’t have the space to store all that food anyway and if I did buy big, I would have to arrange to give it away that very day. I also didn’t understand why people were buying unhealthy things like chips and stockpiling them. Chips might have preservatives but they still go bad. The party lady had like 20 or so bags of snack food? If you have to as why Americans are so fat, just look at her families weight and that stockpile of unhealthy food! Anyway, I thank you for clearing up the strange stuff. I also would like to know how I could find couponers in the Metro Detroit area. I would love to take a community class on this.

  • Lena

    I haven’t watched the show myself, (and I really don’t plan to) but I did watch the single show that TLC did on couponing. I think it’s like anything else in life. There are the greedy and the selfish and then there are the others who are trying to be thrifty and wise with their money. The greedy are a small number but they give the others a bad name. I am just hoping this will not effect the coupon offers and store offers if people “abuse” the system.

  • Lena

    OOOPS! Wasn’t finished yet!
    But thanks to you gals for all the support and information for us! You all are a great example of a wise woman who gets the best bang for their buck for their family and friends!

  • Becky

    Another thing I noticed is that they went to stores that double even triple the coupons. I live near Seattle, WA, and I am lucky if I get the Albertsons doubles. I so wish I lived somewhere that had unlimited doubles.

    • I just blogged about this show as well. The stockpiles were insane and to compare them to your family?? TACKY!

      I refuse to purchase items that I don’t use just because I have a coupon. What a waste. The show is entertaining though. And like Becky said- I live near Seattle as well and it seems like we don’t get as good of deals with using double coupon deals.

      • Becky FabFruGal

        I think part of that is that the Fab 5 are based out of the Treasure Valley, in Idaho… Seattle’s cost of living is 22% higher 🙁

        • Monica

          Actually Amy if you are shopping Albertsons the prices should all be the same in your ad as in our, so you can totally coupon you just don’t have to take the stockpile to extreme!

      • vicki

        there is going to be a lynnwood lady on in may..doing albertsons

        • Janice

          I realize the extreme couponers get upset when compared with hoarders but buying and keeping things you don’t use is just that hoarding. Have a stockpile that your family and extended family will use is great but really who needs 300 tubes of tooth paste. I too live in the Seattle Tacoma area and my understanding is the state law does’nt allow the double couponing so we can save a bit but will be hard to ever do as they do on the show

  • Aubrie

    I wanted to watch it but don’t have cable either, did you find it somewhere online to watch?

  • Stephanie

    It’s funny that you mentioned that about the mustard. The first thing I thought when I saw she was picking up so many for .38 each was, “Why don’t you wait until they are free!?”

    Thanks for pointing all this out. I did watch the episodes and it is disturbing and they give couponers a bad name. I’m almost embarressed walking into the store with my binder now because people are going to think that I’m “one of them”.

    • Darcy

      I totally agree about the binder thing. I feel like I get the stares. The thing about J’aime’s mustard trip is that she allegedly was using a coupon intended for a different French’s item that doubled therefore she was making $.11 overage on each mustard, that is why she bought so much.

    • Stacey

      I have 6 mustards and I think that is a lot!!

  • Anne

    I hope my checkers don’t dread seeing a binder in their check out lane.

    • Jessica

      I work at a Walmart and honestly you will find that MOST not all checkers think it is so awsome when someone can hand you a stack of coupons and save so much on their bill! I know I do! And I actually have customers that specifically wait in my line to do price matching and couponing! I even have one lady who brings me her extras that she won’t be using! So try not to judge your checker too harshly! We’re not all bad! 😉

  • Shelly :)

    I finally watched the two episodes last night. 🙂 I love your post! The other part that sticks in my mind is when Rebecca bought 35 bottles of Maalox or J’aime bought 67 bottles of mustard. That is A TON of one product! Or when Jessica said it took an hour to check out (I know there were 18 transactions) but at some point, my time is worth something also.

    I also wonder if any of these women call the Managers of a particular store ahead of time to know to order them 67 bottles of mustard extra so they don’t clear the shelves. Just a thought. 🙂

    • Kathy

      I am very new at this! I only started couponing a few weeks ago. I did watch the show and I was in shock! That woman with the Malox!!! she said she was buying items for a party she was throwing….and she needed 32 bottles of maalox??? lol Hilarious! and her husband as much as he wants to support her, seemed tired and crancky at the end. He was so fed up!
      Anyway, that’s reality tv for us. Thank you for keeping it real on this website!

  • Amy

    I have watched a couple episodes and I was actually disgusted, I won’t be watching again… those people are obsessed! A stockpile is fine, but to go overboard like that and buy things you’ll never use before they expire is hoarding!! I thought it was hilarious that the Hoarding show was on next!

  • Brandi

    I was wondering how in the world they could be buying meat at such low prices?!

  • Janet

    I think stockpiling in these amounts is obscene and makes me wonder if these ladies have a form of OCD? I do think it’s okay to buy things with coupons that you or your family may not use to donate to a homeless shelter or food pantry. Other than that, it is a waste.

    • Beth

      I totally agree with you Janet. I think they do it for the “Look what I can do” factor and the “high” they get for buying stuff for pennies on the dollar. In the end it only hurts those of us who use coupons because that is the only way we can feed our family and keep a roof over our heads.

      • Kari

        Check your local Craigs List… I found 2 or 3 gals that advertise “I am an extreme couponer and I am selling my extra…” shampoo for $1-$2 and much much more. It is a whole other possibility for people like J’aime. Or Ebay… when I first started couponing I was looking for coupons and found listings for “Lots” of razors shampoo etc…
        just a thought

  • Elva

    The next episode has Hoarding both before and after. How ironic.
    I did notice that J’aime’s husband said he didn’t even like mustard. Others who were on the first intro episode did say they were asked to do their most extreme shopping trip.

  • Michele

    THANK YOU for this post FAB Frugals!!!!

    I was so miffed after watching this show the other night right before bed, that I didn’t sleep well! Especially the 18 transactions in a row @ Albertsons & Albertson’s allowing overages. I wonder what Albertson’s management is doing behind the scenes now that America thinks they will allow such things.

    It’s like a car crash – I really DON’T want to watch it, but I keep watching.

  • Rachel

    so it’s safe to say j’amie (wtf kind of spelling is that anyway?) is an inconsiderate, unethical, rude shopper with no manners? WOW what a classy lady, and to go so far as to show that on television for people to see OVER AND OVER again (unlike her youtube videos that she deleted, this is video coverage she cant control.

    i hope her local stores keep an eye out for her from now on and limit her ability to stockpile things. ugh she makes me sick.

  • Amber

    OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!! I googled J’ aime’s name and found a video of her talking about how she got into couponing. within the first minute she tells us she works as a PARALEGAL .
    Based on how much product she stole by purposefully using coupons incorrectly, she has to know that she has likely committed felony theft in her state. Hope the grocer’s in her area take a look into her and decide to bring in authorities.

  • Because of what J’amie did in Safeway with her coupons, Safeway has changed their coupon plicy on doubling.

    ” You are only allowed one double coupon (from their store flyers) per family, per week!” I’m pretty upset about this because I don’t have any other stores around me that double coupons. This has hurt not only my family’s bottom line, but a huge amount of other families bottom lines too. I had a bad feeling this was going to happen because of what she did on the show. And the policy change proved it!

    Shame on J’amie! You just ruined it for the rest of us that don’t have any other stores in our area that doubles coupons!

  • couponer

    I walked into my Albies today and because I shop there lots and they know “couponer”, I was handed a copy of their policy , highlighted! So, I know the stores are nervous.Thank you for the post on the deals out there.

  • River Babe

    We are remodeling a home in the Boise area and have been looking at cabinets. I just saw this great way to rotate your canned goods. Yes, it will not hold 67 jars of mustard, but would hold a normal 6 or 7. Too bad my house is too small for this idea!!


    Just in case any other fellow couponers are building and need some ideas!!

  • Charisse

    You are so so right . The mustard thing mad me so mad. Ok so buy it all and be a hoarder !!! I love love your blog . Keep up the good work . As far as I am concerned it is the stupidest show and makes the rest of us look bad. I hope it goes off the air !!

  • myssssss

    No wonder the safeway up the street keeps their ads behind a counter, getting that much mustard like she did at safeway, shame on her and a paralegal, she committed fraud and it costs all who work for safeway and other customers..I hate her, my husband worked for grocery retail and what she did cost him many raises and my ability to ever get any mustard at .37 cents..unless she wises up she could be banned from safeway and many other stores for what she did illegally, pooooh on her..a true hoarder and not a decent individual in the worst depression since 1929 she makes it impossible for others to get any food discounted..shame shame shame on her, but good for pointing out what she does and did..maybe she will turn her life around???????????????

  • Laquita H.

    This is my first time on this site, but I am watching the show right now. Thanks for clearing this all up, especially for those who are new to the couponing thing. I think that buying up an entire shelf is extremely selfish & having that much food for a family of 2 or 3 is ridiculous. TLC doesn’t explain what these people do with their food & I would really want to know that. It would be helpful if they really explained how they really do it. Many of these women are border line hoarders and keeping food stocked in your kids’ rooms just takes it too far.

  • I’ve watched the show and am not impressed. Any show that ultimate promotes somebody committing fraud is not worthwhile. I love coupons but using unethical means to save money hurts everybody. I hope TLC cleans up their act.

  • I have watched all the shows I have called every one and asked them to watch this . They all did things that are crazy. The guy who claimed he purchased all the cereal to donate is full of it all you have to do is look at his stockpile around his house look at all the tooth brushes he cleared the shelves in his head this is o.k. .and normal. The lady and man who ordered coupons and purchased all the noodles they were both on the heavy side they did not need it and they had no place to put it and he called it junk, while he carried it all up the stairs with sweat puring down him…gross. I just cant get over this whole show or series yesit has given us all a bad name and yes all the stores are looking at this . How did she get all those piles of coupon inserts??? Oh yes I am sure they just gave them to her??? Any one else have that much luck, let me know !!! I know for a fact if you don’t buy them they throw them away .A honest head is a mans pillow at night ,rest at ease. I could go on and on but I wont.

  • Chelsey McGee

    I guess what frustrates me the most is the exceptions the stores are making for the sake of the episode. We all know Albertsons policys and if I showed up with 18 transactions I would kindly be pointed to the limit 3 per family policy. And buying for the sake of buying something, especially something you won’t use just so someone else can’t get it, inexcusable. I agree it makes us look bad, I have been getting more odd looks than usual with my binder recently.

    But we are the ones that can give it a good name by being polite in stores, not clearing shelves, creating good experiences with the checkers, expressing our thanks to management when the do an order for us, and I always give a heads up to someone behind me in line if I’ve got a lot of coupons, that way they can move before unloading everything and getting stuck.

  • Kelsey

    I teach a 2 hour, free couponing class in my community. Half an hour of the presentation is dedicated to ethical couponing and being polite to your cashier and other customers. I assume I’ll be spending an extra half an hour with each class explaining why TLC’s show is impossible to replicate, and why you wouldn’t want to!

    • Mandi

      I guess that’s all we can do. Teach people the right way and that the show is not showing examples of what you can do in most grocery stores. Good job for doing so!

  • Amy

    THANK YOU for this article! Shelf-clearing is rude, so is holding up the line and being unethical. People who do these things give the rest of hs a bad name.

  • mom2

    while I admire mom of 7 Tiffany Ivanofsky’s approach in the show, J’aime shows she is nothing but selfish and is now being investigated for fraud. In the show she is self absorbed and just plain greedy. Thus earning her the nickname mustard girl. Here is why there are valid concerns about J’aime. And before you ask who’s her strategy hurting… that would be us the regular consumers who make up the financial difference.

  • M

    My husband watched this with me and he is thinking that the days of doubling and catalinas are going to be a thing of the past because of this extreme couponing show. The stores are just not going to stand for it any more. He might be right.

    I was also miffed by the mustard…..What the heck? I use maybe 2-3 bottles in a YEAR! 67?! It also ticked me off because I have been into a couple of stores three times in the last month (shortly after the add hit Like TUES after the Sunday circulars) only to find things I NEED gone.

    Couponers QUIT Shelf CLEARING! It’s RUDE!

  • Dawn

    Ok, could someone answer the question WHAT ABOUT THE TAX? How did taxes go from 12 plus dollars to under 6 for the Idaho gal last night???? You can’t use coupons or overages or whatever on tax.
    I also agree that clearing the shelves is tacky and embarrassing. I guess it’s up to us gals who do it with integrity to reclaim the good name.

  • Michele

    Enjoyed reading this post ten times more than watching that ridiculous show. Right On!!!

  • Kim

    I was really curious about the show and did watch last night and I saw the previous shows. I just started couponing and love it. I was really suprised to see that the extreme couponers cleared the shelves. Who needs that much mustard! Thanks for clearing up some of the things they showed on tv. It is called reality tv and there an entertainment factor to it.

  • Trish

    And now Yahoo had J’aime had her on their finance page. Insane…first of all who needs all those things?? second..from everywhere I’ve read she did it fradulantly!! ok and one more thing..was I the only one bothered by the other lady calling her kids “her litter”?? who does that???

  • Rachel

    So I have read several different blogs and postings in regards to the unethical methods demonstrated on the show (which, as an avid and ETHICAL couponer, makes me feel embarrassed and infuriated, so i don’t watch) … and I have yet to hear anyone mention that the stores that allow people like J’aime to USE the wrong coupons are also at fault. Why would the checkers not look more closely at the coupons being used? If some of the articles I’ve read are true, then on the show, J’aime used a cereal coupon for a cereal that WAS NOT EVEN PART OF HER PURCHASE. Shouldn’t the checker be held partially responsible for making sure people are actually buying the stuff they have coupons for? Does that mean we could walk in to a store and use a BBQ sauce coupon on a cup of yogurt, and as long as it magically scans, no one should blink an eye? I don’t think so. I do believe J’aime is mostly to blame here and shame SHAME on her for her criminal methods … but keep in mind, it takes two to tango.

  • Cristie

    REALLY??? Who the heck cares if someone wants to buy all that mustard in isle 21? Why do ANY of you care. Quit being a bunch of busy bodies, and get a life!! If she wants to clear the shelves, let her!! It’s not like there aren’t any other mustard brands to choose from. Also, if there are no store policies to prevent coupon misuse, then obviously it’s not a big deal, so let it go!

  • kathy

    I love that you did this. I’ve been approached buy several of my friends about this show and them wanting me to show them how to be extreme coupons. And I’ve told then the show is really not reality. I love your break down and I plan of sharing this post with my readers.

    Again, love love love your breakdown.

  • Nikki

    I watched the show Tuesday and Wednesday and they were all pretty entertaining, however, Jamie irritated me from the moment she came on. She was very self centered and cocky “I do this to maintain the lifestyle I’m used to”. To me, that’s not wanting to coupon to get great deals for your family, that’s couponing to make money off coupon fraud and to keep getting her hair and nails done. It was so tacky!

    I’m all about having a food storage and things on hand but some of those people have a serious problem. Do you really need 400+ rolls of toilet paper?? Or 36 bottles of mustard? I’m 26 and I don’t even think I’ve consumed that much mustard my entire life.

    The lady (I’m not good at remembering the names) who dumped out all of the Excedrine PM into her cart…tacky. She left nothing for other couponers, or even people who wanted to come in for some $1.99 pain medicine. Unless you get there and there is only 1 left, it’s not appropriate to take everything off the shelf. Didn’t we all learn that from our parents? You never take the last of something…always leave it for someone else.

    I actually haven’t been on a coupon trip (yeah! I’m that new!) I’m compiling coupons right now to use this weekend…but I don’t care how good of a deal I “could” get. I’m doing myself and my children a disservice if I’m dishonest. Saving a few bucks or having enough mustard to sustain a small country isn’t worth my integrity.

  • angelina

    i really just want to know how j’aime get home in this episode!!!
    she gets to the store in the minivan with her man,
    then he leaves to go to work right before her check out.
    how DOES she get back home?????

  • I just found your site and I have to say that I am absolutely IN LOVE with this article you wrote! YOU are my hero! lol. I have been venting to my husband about every single one of these points since the show started. THIS is NOT reality! My favorite point that you make is about the kids! lol… I have 3 and it is by FAR peaceful with kids! That is what my site is about, the REALITY of shopping with kids! Thanks for sharing this! Do you mind if I shared this link with my readers?

  • Cindy

    I have watched “Extreme Couponing” on TLC from the begining. I started watching because I do coupon and was looking for tips, particularly on how to acquire additional coupons without having to buy additional newspapers. I did learn about that, but dumpster diving is not in my future.

    Overall, “EC” has been a net negative for me. I live in the Houston area. Kroger’s and Randall’s have allowed triple to 39 cents and double to 50 cents for at least 20 years. The week after the first episode of “EC” aired, both stores abruptly, but quietly, discontinued multiplying coupons. So, the rest of us who coupon sanely are now worse off. I am trying to vote w/my feet but there are few alternatively.

    Heartbroken in Houston

  • Nanc y Gibson

    Totally agree with reality #8. I have gone several times to only find an item completely gone. I only want 3 or 4 of the couponed item but wow…someone had cleared all of it away!

  • Ashley

    The one that makes me angry is the lady who had her whole garage decked out, including a giant box of deodorant – like a display unit! Even if you went through one deodorant a month, you’d never use that many. Ugh it just makes me sick, and I was watching a commercial for it just now and the lady was bragging “I love clearing shelves. If it makes you mad, should have got there first!” I wanted to reach through the tv and punch her! What a ridiculous excuse for hoarding behavior.

  • Jen

    I took a couponing class several years ago, so I’d be familiar with local grocery stores, and I quickly learned *why* I constantly missed out on my needed products (like Diabetic meters): my instructor and her associates! She stated during our workshop, “Hey, if I have 20 coupons and I’m allowed 20 items, I’m getting them. It isn’t illegal.”
    I tried to stand up and ask, nicely, did she not think she’s keeping others from getting items they need, because the items are limited, and she simply justified her actions. A good example of the diabetic meters — keep in mind no one in her family is diabetic, but she was getting OVERAGES on them from Wags — is, “I give the meters away.” (I was thinking, “But my husband *needs* those meters, and you’re essentially taking them from him and others who also do!”)
    If you’re having a party or whatever, and you *need* 200 Chinet plates, and they’re on sale, by all means, BUY THEM; like she said, not illegal. BUT to constantly over-buy such a tremendous amount, I’m sorry. I know others will disagree with me, but it goes along with the modicum of decency: all things in moderation, even stockpiling!

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