The “Reality” of Extreme Couponing

*The following was originally posted by Monica a few months ago. I thought it was important to revisit it!*

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

  • The amount of products that the shoppers buy on the show is insane – we are all about building stockpiles, but we are not about clearing shelves.
  • Those are not REAL shopping trips – Couponers (even the Extreme ones) do NOT 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…

These examples are from previous episodes:

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. This is NOT 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.”  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 was that possible? Jessica shopped during the Conagra Promo with the snapple rebate. That was a sweet promo with 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. 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 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 require it), 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 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 previous 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 NOT ADVISED: 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 who end up 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.

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 on Demand for $1.99 an episode.


  • Sam

    Wow, thats crazy. Has anything been done since this has been uncovered? Has J’aime gotten in trouble…she committed a crime after all…

  • Joy

    Finally the truth comes out! Thank you for this awesome article! I am telling my friends to read it!

  • Mickey Mingo

    Thank you for this article. I’m so tired of going to the store and having the shelves empty becasue someone had a deal.
    It’s about sharing.,….not hoarding!

  • diana DeJane

    These people and practices need to be EXPOSED! Sooner the better before they completely ruin it for others, Thanks so much for writing this

  • diana DeJane

    and they should be ashamed of themselves!

  • Keisha

    I think that Tiffany is “I heart the marts” wife? I can’t see her face on my phone but I think that’s her name…..

  • Jessica Hacker

    Clarify: Albertsons NO LONGER allows overage. I filmed in Febuary when at that time their policy had no specific rule as to how overage was handled. You can do a search right here at Fabulessly Frugal for “Albertsons Overage” and see plenty of weeks of albertsons matchups where couponers are leaving comments about getting overage at Albertsons. The most recent week I see lots of comments about overage is for the week of doublers durring 8/28/2011. Read that here
    Looks like people in Idaho where still getting overage 4 months after my episode aired in April. Yes, their policy has become more specific and yes their systems have been upgraded to adjust coupon value if needed.

    • Amber


      Please do not misunderstand. We are not accusing you of unethical couponing in your episode, unlike J’aime! We just want our readers to understand that their shopping trips won’t look like yours, much like your typical shopping trips in real life probably don’t mimic the one you did on the show.

      While we do know that overage was allowed by some cashiers up until their system upgrade, we did want our readers to know that they would not see any overage at Albertsons. We are just trying to help them see a more realistic picture of what a shopping trip they try will look like!

  • annie

    I do not see how the cashier took the coupons if the product was not there. doesn’t the cashier notice that she didn’t buy that stuff? The cashier is just as much at fault as the buyer, in my opinion. I try really hard to shop honestly with coupons and if it causes trouble I’d rather not use the coupon than make a fuss about the problem

    • Yvonne Bush

      So as a cashier I can maybe answer the how she can use coupons for the items they were not for. Here is a scenario. Say she buys GM cereals but her coupons are for specific cereals such as only for Cheerios cereals. Alot of times even if the coupon says for a specific thing it will work on any cereal in the GM line of products. Also when a customer has many items it is very hard to go through everything when they are done and a coupon says it does not match. Many times there are coupons that say they do not match when the customer actually has that product.. I usually look at the coupons before I ring up the customers order which is especially helpful if they have coupons with something free on them. It is very helpful to the cashier if the customer lets us know they have these coupons that require a price on them. Where I work if a coupon gives us a message we have to check out why it is giving us that message. But like I said if it is a huge order it is very hard.

      • Amanda

        I often try to do that with cashiers, but they insist on waiting until the end of the transaction. I had about 8-10 free coupons and a large order. OOPS on them…Wish they would have listened. 🙁 I always appreciate the cashiers who take time to do their job well. 🙂

  • Lynne B

    Many things on that show are deceptive, ‘not quite legal’ or just plain stupid. After 3 decades of using coupons I can spot most of the crap they are pulling, but what about some young mom or dad who is desperate to save money and runs up a credit card to buy tons of ‘almost free’ crap they will most likely never use? I see it in stores all the time, carts loaded with body wash and junk razors- they get to the register and out comes the visa card…that breaks my heart and I attribute it to that stupid TV show and some of the unethical websites that promote that stuff

    • FrugalMT

      I’m one of those who whips out the visa (aka credit card as you see it), but in reality its my check/debit card – looks just like a credit card. And I DO know what i have in my account and its not going on “CREDIT”! I only buy what we can and do use. So don’t judge what you don’t know. Just my 2 cents as a mom of a struggling family on one income, and a mortgage payment in another state while we rent in another that does have a job for my husband to pay the bills so to speak.

      • Heather Lee

        also there are TONS of credit cards that offer rewards or % back on purchases so using a credit card to get rewards you can use in other parts of your life other than grocery store shopping, while paying it off with a debit card or whatever i don’t think would be bad at all…

        • Gina

          Exactly Heather – I use my debit as credit b/c it’s the only time I get rewards points. It comes out of my bank account just as quickly as a debit purchase. Good example of why NOT to use generalizations.

    • Amanda

      I agree with you. I see both sides, though. I have a few friends with lots of kids (one is a family of 10, the other a family of 5) and they both use their credit cards for everything, then pay it off at the end of the month to get miles for family far away to come visit. I also see the young families who buy junk and then it goes to waste. That is really sad. 🙁

  • myssssss

    People who use the incorrect coupon to snag a free item are stealing..and clearing out all the mustards, well she is just plain stupid indeed, one cannot use that many bottles of mustard..The food pantry where I bake, cook and distribute food could use those many bottles of mustard, buy oh no people like that lady never bring in any food, they just hoard it which to me is sick sick and more sick..Couponing honestly is another story a good one, clearing shelves of many food items to me is hoading and sick..If you want to be productive and kind remember the many who are hungry in any given day, they work but pay bills, feed their tiny ones or older relatives and they have only peanut butter sammies for an entire month, I have seen it and it ain’t pretty as the saying goes, thank god we have a place they get a decent meal and food to take home to prepare for theirselves and their families, please encourage people to remember the hungry as the hungry are growing the fastest in our great nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thank you for this information. I’m a new couponer and I started watching the show after becoming interested (and watching your DVD). I”ve never felt intimidated or like I had to stack up to the people on the show, but I did wonder about their countless Double Coupons. I have a copy of the coupon policies for all my local stores and no one gives more than 3, if that. I can’t believe the amount of product these people buy even if it’s just for the show. I’m amazed that someone would fradulently use coupons. Coupons are an opportunity to begin with and this woman’s treatment of coupons says worlds about her as a person.

    I was thrilled with my first 2 coupon trips. $9.90 at Target for $26 RTV and $58 off an impromptu trip to Basha’s (about 45% savings). Any savings helps. Thanks for the truth. I think I’m done watching the show if they can’t educate and accurately show couponing trips.

  • Did you watch the episode tonight with the young couponer? Are there really 11.99 coupons out there for a 12 pack of toiet paper and another 5.99 coupon off something else? It doesn’t sound right. Hey, if they are out there, I need to find them, if not could they be fraudulent?

    • Christine

      From what I’ve heard, the people that appear on the show spend weeks and weeks contacting manufacturers asking for coupons for the show. The $11.99 was a free coupon for that product, probably gotten in this way or maybe for complaining about a product previously. There’s a good chance that manufacturer wanted their product to appear on the show, and sent this person a freebie.

      • LaToya

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Some of those coupons for free things are complete BS. We don’t get those online or in the newspapers. These people have contacted the manufacturer and told them they were going to be on Extreme Couponing and the manufacturer sent them coupons for free product – cheaper way for the manufacturer to get on TV without having to pay for a commercial spot. I love seeing the stockpiles….but most of these trips are complete bullsh….

    • Melissa

      I watched it last night for the first time in aloooong time because I wanted to see the 16 year old that can coupon. I grew up couponing from a very young age because thats the only wayI could get the ”good” cereal! I said the same thing to my hubby about the 11.99 and 5.99 coupons! Ridiculous! I won’t be watching again. Its just unrealistic especially here in the NW. If I can save 70+% while still getting stuff my family or extended family can use I’m ecstatic! And the woman deliberately clearing shelves…. Well that’d just sad for the rest if us that are keeping it real. Ok my rant its done!

      • I spoke to a cashier at Fredmeyer today and said that Fredmeyer has been changing their coupon policy because of the extreme couponing show. Another customer behind me asked questions about how much I save and if I watch the extreme couponing show. I told her I did watch the show but it’s not reality and I’m just happy to save a few dollars too.

  • Trista

    Thank you for this article. I’ve watched every episode of extreme couponing and while it is pretty awesome to see how much they can save I know they don’t show everything like you have explained. I hate going to stores and having people give me dirty looks when they see me with my coupon binder. This show gives other couponers a bad name and I don’t think thats fair to the rest of us. I am a new couponer and I am trying to learn all that I can from sites like yours because the show on tlc is not always giving out accurate information to teach couponers. I plan on watching your dvd to learn what I can 🙂

    • Amanda

      I’m really sorry you get dirty looks. 🙁 That’s unfortuate. I take my binder with me all the time and mostly I just get encouragement or curiousity. It’s like they say on the DVD, “I’m saving 90% and you’re paying full price, so who’s laughing now?” 🙂 Keep your chin up. You’re doing a great thing for your family by couponing.

  • shannon baker

    Thank you thank you thank you for posting this!!! I watch this with my husband and as I get so frustrated he teases me why my couponing trips aren’t so EXTREME. Well, in Florida, we have no double coupon days, at least in my county. I have never seen a Publix aired or a Winn Dixie either. I am so thankful to read these post’s….Oh and what store will pre-order 240 rolls of paper towels??? I’m confused:(….And yes, so many of those products will expire before getting use. Like my husband said….’look honey, I saved 98% on my trip and we are gonna have 240 packs of gum for dinner!”…great entertainment anyway!!

  • melissa thomas

    I am very new to this, but in the couple months i have done it, I have noticed that show all together is giving this a bad name. I dont do this for the purpose of hoarding or being selfish.. In the time i have been doing it it i have been able to help some other families who needed some extra help. So that show needs to be gone.

    • Monica

      Love your spirit of helping others Melissa!

    • Melissa

      For sure Melissa! When pasta goes on sale or sauce or what not, I may buy 12 boxes of pasta but half of what I get goes to my sister and her family (who lives in the boonies without any of the major stores near her) who has graduated from a prestigious university with a masters of teaching and can’t find a job to save her life and has 700 month loan payment for her worthless degree! I keep enough for my family but thats it! Theres more to life than stock piling 240 pacs of tic tacs!

  • Wendy Hodges

    Thank you for showing that these shows are not true for the real couponer. I am extremely disappointed to learn they are showing someone who actually uses unethical coupon practices as it makes it difficult for the rest of us who practice good coupon ethics to shop at stores because they are cracking down on their policies. I need to use coupons because my husband is disabled and we have a fixed income and when stores change their polices because of this show, it really hurts me and my family. If I can save 50% or more on my groceries every month, I consider my coupon efforts worth the time! Thanks for all the great coupons deals you post as I look forward to getting them and seeing what I can score for cheap!

  • diana DeJane

    I get food stamps and yes I am working 30 plus hours a week and I use coupons to help get more for the money. Life saver for me

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