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Lies “Extreme Couponing” Told Me…

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extreme couponing

By now, everyone has seen an episode or at least heard of Extreme Couponing. Those obsessed people with dozens of shopping carts full of stuff, and rooms in their houses devoted to their hobby. You may watch the show and be jealous of their savings and stockpiles, or you may watch it and think “those people are certifiably nuts!” What you may not know, is the show is a far cry from reality…(newsflash: So is most “reality” tv!). Let’s talk about the Lies Extreme Couponing Told Me….

Let me tell you a quick story. When I first saw Extreme Couponing, I was a skeptic, but I was deeply intrigued. I watched the episodes online, back to back for hours at a time, taking notes. I went out that weekend, bought 5 newspapers, a binder and a new pair of scissors and I went to work. I clipped and clipped and organized all those coupons. I researched online, and I ran to 5 different stores in one night trying to round up everything I could. I came home exhausted and heartbroken. I thought this is a bunch of crap, how come these women can do this and I can’t?

Then I researched some more…and I re-watched those episodes of Extreme Couponing. Over and over. I soon realized that like any show on TV, this one had some merit…but also took a steep departure from reality in the name of entertainment.  I soon realized that I could save hundreds and thousands on my groceries and toiletries for my family…but that it would not be all in one transaction!

Lie #1: All Extreme Couponing fanatics spend 40 hours a week preparing, and 12 hours at the grocery store.
Truth: The show “Extreme Couponing” exaggerates not only the amount of prep time, but also the length of time at the store. What you need to understand is that the average “Realistic Couponer” isn’t that exciting to watch, so the show had to up the ante.   Most couponers spend maybe 10 hours a week preparing for a trip, and that’s only if it’s large and complex.

Lie #2: Where did all those coupons come from?
Truth: When watching the show, and a woman says she has 150 coupons for an item….you can bet your bottom dollar she didn’t buy 150 newspapers that week. She likely purchased them from a coupon clipping service. While this is a great way to get more of a specific coupon you need, the show neglects to mention the fees associated with that. It’s a very modest fee, but most clipping services charge 10 cents for every dollar of coupon value, and sometimes postage. That means those 150 “free” boxes of pasta probably cost around $15. Still a fantastic savings, but it’s not honest to not include that behind-the-scenes cost.

Lie #3: It’s all legit!
Truth: Numerous individuals on the show (not all, but more than a few) were later found to be “extreme couponing” both fraudulently and illegally. One woman was found to be decoding barcodes on coupons, and using them on items for which they were not valid. Another man was found to be using counterfeit (read: FAKE) coupons. Real couponers do not sacrifice their ethics in the name of saving money.

Lie #4: All couponers are greedy, crazy shelf clearers!
Truth: NO! We hate shelf clearers just as much as everyone else. Most people have their story of their crazy run-in with an “EXTREME” couponer. While it’s great that you get 20 packages of diapers at $2.00 each….it’s not the last time they will be at that price…you will get a great deal again. It’s not necessary to clear out every store in the tri-county area….and most of us don’t!

Lie #5: You will get paid $10 to buy $1500 worth of groceries!
Truth: Probably not. In fact, almost definitely not if you are doing it legitimately. Realistically, you can expect to save 50-75% on your average grocery bill, and 75-100% on your toiletries/cleaning supplies, etc. Will there be times when you will get things for free? Yes, absolutely, all the time! Will there be times where certain items are a money-maker? Yes of course. But will the stars magically align every week and the store will be handing you cash to take dozens of carts worth of merchandise? No. And to expect that is only going to cause you headaches and disappointment.

Lie #6: Stockpiles are made in one trip! We shop like this all the time!
Truth: It has taken me several months to amass a stockpile I am content with. And it does not take up an entire room in my home. I have some in the front closet, some in the kitchen pantry, and some in my walk in closet (the items are located conveniently to their area of use rather than in one room). You will not (nor should you try to) create an extreme couponing stockpile in one trip. Or two trips. I know it appears that way on the show…but the rules were bent and broken for that show, and it just doesn’t work that way in real life. If you’ve been following along, you know that doing that is actually counter productive, because items reach their best prices at different times. For example: You won’t find ketchup and barbeque sauce at it’s cheapest price at the same time you will find Halloween candy at it’s cheapest price, or at the same time you will find oatmeal at it’s cheapest price, because the sales cycles are different.

You may find that you have come across the websites of some of the “Extreme Couponing” stars from that show. You may also notice that the way they shopped for the show is not the way they shop on an average week! While the show is fun at times for entertainment value, I personally will not be watching next season, due to the sentimentalization, and the negative image it portrays for the average person. A lot of people have a very skewed image of couponers due to what they have seen on Extreme Couponing, and until TLC decides to be more realistic, and make sure that they are not showing people committing fraud and illegal acts (hint: they won’t, because that show would be boring and not bring in ratings) I think I will pass.

Do I use more coupons than the average shopper? Absolutely without question. Would they probably consider what I do “extreme couponing”? Most likely, but I still consider what I do to be realistic, because anyone can do what I do legally and ethically and achieve the same consistent results that I do!

Do you consider what you do “Extreme Couponing”?

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Tuesday 9th of August 2016

I am a mom of one and my husband works full time unfortunately our income isn't enough. I don't work and would love to learn how to coupon. This is great information!

An Exercise in Frugality

Sunday 14th of August 2016

Once you get the hang of it, it is easy (and frankly, a lot of fun!) We saved a TON of money over the years. I plan on writing more about couponing in the coming weeks and months, so be sure to stay tuned! :)

May Or

Monday 11th of November 2013

Great article. I agree, coupons are great but the show is over the top. I do enjoy it though, when they donate their haul to charity.

An Exercise In Frugality

Monday 11th of November 2013

Thank you! I love the ones that donate to charity. I just think it ruins things for those of us who use coupons correctly, and it sometimes gives other people the wrong idea ;)