Frugal Living » Extreme Couponing, is it Extreme BS?

Extreme Couponing, is it Extreme BS?

Reality tv shows have hit a brand new low… Extreme Couponing. We’re all familiar with the fact that grocery prices are rising, (truly, when have they ever gone DOWN??), but this new “Reality Show”, is anything but a reality for the average consumer. Suddenly we’re receiving hundreds of emails from frustrated “new” couponers who don’t understand how and why they aren’t saving thousands of dollars. Well folks, here’s the truth, the whole truth . . and Nothing but the truth . . .

If you’ve missed it, here’s aBrief Video Clip of the Series:

This new series (which recently debuted on TLC) provides a nearly impossible perspective of coupon use, here’s why:

First and foremost, the majority of folks featured on the show have 1,500+ inserts. That’s not just individual coupons, that is multiple copies of a newspaper insert which contains 60+ coupons.
Folks, let me explain something, I’ve been using coupons for YEARS- one does NOT get 1,500 coupon inserts. Yes, it is possible to purchase individual coupons through “Coupon clipping services” (because it is ILLEGAL to Buy and Sell Coupons!)- however, it’s very difficult to buy 50+ of a single coupon, let alone 1,500+ Complete INSERTS!

Most newspapers come with a couple inserts at best. It’s possible that your friends and family may save them for you, it’s also possible that you purchase 10 papers or so each week, but to receive the number of full inserts that they stated they used on the show, one would have to have MAJOR connections or be dumpster diving in the back of the newspaper printing office (illegal in every state that we know of).

Store Coupon Policies:

Most stores have limits on coupons which can include the following:

  • how many coupons you can use- some stores won’t allow over 40 coupons at a time. So in order to use all of these coupons, you literally have to go out of the store, put your purchases in the car and then back into the store and start all over.
  • minimum purchase guidelines- some stores require that you have a minimum purchase amount AFTER the coupons, which means, you would be spending $25 or more out of pocket EACH transaction. (See previous limit)
  • Stores limit how many coupons can be used on double or triple coupon days.
  • Many stores don’t allow double or triple coupons at all.

Every store has it’s own coupon policy, actually, some larger chains have a corporate policy but in addition to that policy allow INDIVIDUAL store Managers to interpret that policy. Which means- Just because a large chain store accepts certain types of coupons doesn’t mean that your local store WILL.

Basic Coupon Rules & Etiquette

We all want to save money, but like everything in life, there are basic rules, common decency and Etiquette protocols to be followed when couponing!

  • Store Cards– You’ve seen them, heck, the ignition on my car is ready to fall out from the weight of them on my keychain (which incidentally- it really CAN damage your ignition- an article I promise to delve into another day!) If the store policy is to have only 1 card per family, than that’s all you’re supposed to have. These so called “Extreme” couponers are creating multiple accounts in the family, signing up their spouse, kids, perhaps even fido or fluffy to gain a few extra bucks.

  • IP’s – which means Internet Printables are only supposed to be printed twice. Yes, it is possible to trick the software at times, etc, but creating multiple accounts for the purpose of printing more than the allotted amount per household is generally frowned upon. IP’s have different redemption allowances which may include the following:

    • 1 Per Transaction– which means 1 coupon can be used for your entire transaction (everything that you purchase at once)
    • 1 per order (seen less frequently, see above)
    • 1 per person– means exactly what it states, you can only use 1 – if your spouse wanted to use one, your spouse would have to go through the checkout line to use their OWN.
    • 1 per Household– means your spouse CANT go through the line and use their own if you already did
    • 1 per purchase– each item you buy is considered to be a “purchase”. One per purchase means you can use 1 coupon per item purchased.

  • Unfortunately, many cashiers are NOT trained on basic coupon lingo and the transactions you see move so smoothly on Extreme Couponing is NOTHING like what you’ll likely experience in the store. This, to me, is probably the most egregious omission in the show. They neglect to mention the following things that you will most likely, at some point of coupon use, be forced to endure

    • At some point you WILL have people who will roll their eyes you
    • Cashiers will scrutinize your coupons, the dates, the amounts, the lingo
    • Other customers who are frustrated at the amount of time they have to wait while you redeem your coupons, (no matter how perfectly organized you are!)
    • Insensitive cashiers who will make you feel like a crook or thief for shopping smart and getting deep discounts- they may say things like, “You’re a thief”, “You’re committing coupon Fraud” (this one occurs when using IP’s- particularly if you choose to save ink and print the coupons in only black and white. You’ll more than likely have to be prepared to explain what verisign is and how it works. You may need to show the cashier that each coupon has it’s own unique id that prints.)
    • Rude Comments (From customers, store managers who are ill advised as to their own coupon policies, ill-trained cashiers)

  • Shelf Clearing- there is nothing more aggravating than taking the time to organize your coupons only to discover that someone has wiped out the entire stock of 40+ packages. No, folks, you really don’t need 100+ boxes of pasta, 90+ rolls of paper towels, or 60 bottles of laundry detergent all at once. Stockpiling is a wonderful thing- when done properly. This however, is not what good couponers consider to be stockpiling, this is what we consider to be hoarding- which is an issue in itself. It is common courtesy to purchase a few of an item, not to wipe out the store and assume they’ll restock- or to hope that those coming along behind you can get a raincheck.

Budget101 Bottom Line on Couponing: Coupons are an excellent resource if used properly. They’re wonderful for getting dirt cheap cleaners and paper products, frozen veggies, condiments and processed foods. While they’re becoming available more often, coupons for fresh fruit, produce and meat are still scarce.

Rather than fill your fridge and freezer with sodium laden processed foods in massive quantities, why not use coupons to reduce your household expenses on paper & cleaning products and use the savings to purchase Real foods – whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh veggies.

  • Yes, You CAN Save hundreds of dollars per year by using coupons, if you use them properly.

  • Using Store Savings Cards can & will save you money. Creating multiple accounts to beat the system = theft by deception.

  • Using Coupons to stockpile 4-6 months worth of products that you use regularly when the sales & coupons permit is good shopping. Remember, sales typically run on a 12 week schedule. If you can’t remember what is on sale and during which month, check out these seasonal sales trends.

  • Ask you store for their coupon Policy & follow it to the best of your ability. Each time someone abuses the system, more rules and policies are put into place making it more and more difficult for the average family to save money.

  • This show is based on very very EXTREME circumstances. I have NEVER seen a store accept coupons as easily as these in the show, it would appear that they had special provisions in place for them. I’ve personally been in stores that balked at 42 coupons and required me to not only break it down into small transactions, but to get back into line (at the END) for Each and Every transaction.

Please don’t begin your couponing experience thinking that this is a normal, every day occurrence, because It isn’t.

By the way, if you think you NEED coupons to spend under $250 a month on groceries, you may be surprised to learn you don’t. Here is one family’s grocery ventures for only $50 per week.

30 thoughts on “Extreme Couponing, is it Extreme BS?”

  1. i haven’t watched the tlc show, as i don’t have tlc. but i have seen clips (including the one in your post!). i can’t imagine the time these women spend just on couponing!

    and why do you need a stockpile of 20 detergents, anyway? I understand that some people may be donating some of the foodstuffs to food banks and such, but why buy 100 noodle bowls?

    My grandmother was a huge coupon’r. I learned a lot from how she budgeted and organized/used her coupons. She would date every product with a grease pencil after she got home from shopping so that she would use the oldest products, first. What cracked our family up was that she would even do it with the toilet paper!

    We would give her a hard time about how toilet paper doesn’t expire!

    While I believe couponing is a good thing, this extreme version is way off base. To quote you, “why not use coupons to reduce your household expenses on paper & cleaning products and use the savings to purchase Real foods – whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh veggies.” To that I say, “Amen, sister!”

    Thanks for keeping us grounded!:groceries:

  2. something i don’t understand is they use coupons to save money but buy catfood but don’t have a cat. that is wasteful to me. they buy things they don’t need and will not use just because the have coupons for the item.

    can they say budget?

  3. the episode that cracked me up was the one where the woman runs from a car and steals the paper from in front of a house. that’s stealing-no matter that the house is empty. it’s still stealing.


  4. my ex would have a fit if i had a coupon for something we used, but didn’t need it before it expired. i clip stuff for what we use but that does not mean i have to buy it if i don’t need it.:dontknow:

  5. i saw the show a couple of times and was really turned off. some of these people not only dumpster dived for papers @ 4:00 am but some were also stealing their neighbors newspapers as well! i don’t like the show and am not into extreme coupon shopping!

  6. some of the dollar stores in our area recently advertised that they would accept manufacturer’s coupons. i walked through the store and the only area of the store i could find brands that might have coupons was in the lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. if i could find those coupons this would be a great savings since the starting price of each item is only $1.

  7. i have watched the show and still cant find out how the are able to use so many coupons in one transaction. since the show came out most of the stores in indiana limit the amount of coupons per tranaction and per item. i really don’t have a problem with that because i think that 20 of one item is a bit much.

    I also don’t think it is so bad getting somthing you don’t normaly use such as cat food if you dont have a cat because I donate to our local food pantry and it helps them that can’t afford the items that can use it. I would just like to be able to have a $200.00 bill and only spend $20.00 per visit.

  8. i have been watching the show on netflix, one right after the other and there is no way that anyone can do that here in our area of pa. the store’s coupon policies would not work that way. i enjoy using coupons for different items, but find that most often, i don’t need them for the basic items i usually buy.

    it seems greedy to me to keep so much stuff in your home. while it is nice to have stuff to share with family and to donate, it is a waste of money to keep so much stuff on hand. it costs money to maintain the space to store it and it also costs, mentally, to have so much stuff taking over your home.

    myself, i think i will just stick to weekly buying and menu planning.

  9. i have seen the show too. i was watching it one day and my thought was i could do that. i talked to my husband and we started.

    i had never used coupons before because i never bought anything that was advertised. in fact, i didn’t buy anything that was brand name unless it was at costco. i am proud to say that i am not an extreme couponer.

    the more i did it the more i learned how to cheat the system. i still use coupons and manage with them to save on average 60%. I only buy what my family can use.

    When people ask me if i am an extreme couponer, I say no. That is simply glorified hoarding. I have one deep freezer in my kitchen and two sets of shelves in my basement that are dedicated to my stockpile.

    There is a ton of junk on sale each week. I think I gained 20 lbs alone when I first started. I think i coupon much smarter now.

    With anything, couponing, budgeting etc, there is a learning curve. If you need to save money, then finding the balance between the two extremes is the best way to go.

  10. i had coupons a couple weeks ago i was so excited it was for toothpaste that went on sell and would cost me a penny! i had four coupons! got to the store it was all gone it looked like the store was going out of business because of the sales it was having and i guess people had their coupons.

    i did get a rain check but i never used it i forgot! haha!

  11. have you noticed how physically unfit the people who do this show are? please do not think i am being mean to overweight people, i just have noticed that all the people i have seen on the coupon show are terribly overweight – and i have noticed that there is no fresh vegetables or fruit in those carts either….i think there can be a correlation to health and diet made here….

  12. i’ve not figured it put either. however certain grocery stores do offer discounts on certain days to people 55 and older. Just ask at the store.

    Also price matching is done almost everywhere. I love a good coupon but don’t have that kind of free time

  13. wow, i have seen the show and i even watched it twice to be sure i was seeing right. the second time around i did the same thing i did the first-turned it off. my mom always lived by the “if it sounds to good to be true it probably isn’t rule”.

    we don’t have cable so in reality i paid to waste my half our i made it through the show.

    this article has helped so much. i am knew to couponing and am trying to rap my head around the whole idea of our new frugal living efforts (which we desperately need). i’m finding that the couponing isn’t what i thought it would be!

    what i have also noted is that if i am looking for deals on foods i usually buy, i go to the company website first. if there is a coupon out there its posted there also and is easier to find.

  14. thanks for the info. i am starting to coupon. i kind of figured the show itself is unreal, knowing that grocery stores have limits.

  15. when i was younger i saw my 2 aunts do this- have not been able to do this myself- would like to – best I ever did was knock off 80 bucks and I really prepped for that trip

  16. this show has caused most stores to revamp their coupon policies in order to avoid such abuses. some people get stockpiles, and the rest of us get more restrictions. it would be interesting to follow up with some of the prior people on the show and see if they could be as “successful” now….

  17. i usually make a list of our needs ,always planning meals around what is on sale ,them search for coupons. i always buy ahead when the prices are good. sometimes it is cheaper to by store brand.

    i buy flour,spices,etc and some things in bulk from the big box stores.,when it is cheaper and we use it. i grow lettuce and tomatoes and fresh herbs in pots since we have a long growing season . i make my own dry mixes(hamburger ,soups, biscuit,bread,etc) in bulk .

    i use all feftovers, sometimes freezing bits of meat in one bag and veges in another) makes great soup.
    this has helped me save money and time. couponing is only one phase of saving money.

  18. i totally agree! the clearing of shelves by the crazy couponers is completely disgusting. it’s tacky, distasteful & straight up greedy!

    i know most of the people on extreme couponers have tons of expired cereal & etc in their stockpiles. by them being so disgustingly greedy they are preventing a consumer going in the grocery store & purchasing one or two of the items & using our one coupon. gosh crazy couponers have some dignity & respect for others please!

  19. i don’t think so! i watched this show once and was completely turned off. the folks who do this extreme couponing are hoarders!

    really, does anyone need 25 tubes of toothpaste or 30 bottles of deoderant?

    I use coupons and store loyalty savings whenever possible, as I try to spend our money wisely and get the best possible deal, but if it isn’t something you will actually use (before expiration), do you really need it? This show makes me sick!!:suey:

  20. i used coupons when my kids were younger, still use them occasionally. the problem with coupons now is that when you get the inserts in the newspapers, there are very few coupons for food. it’s mostly hair color, cosmetics, and other junk i don’t use.

    to top it off, no stores in my area will double coupons, much less triple them. and i really don’t see the point using a coupon for 30 cents off a name brand item when the store brand is 90 cents cheaper. I’m actually watching the show on tlc right now, and getting really irritated.

    the woman is so proud of herself for clearing shelves and hoarding paper towels and toilet paper. ooohhh, i’m so impressed! (please note the sarcasm).

  21. completely agree with all these comments! i have watched the show also and has anyone noticed its daylight when they enter and well after dark when they leave! who has patience for that?

    lol… my goal get in and get out, hopefully not forgetting anything!

  22. i just am not able to get the ‘right’ coupons for what i use lately, we used to have at least 15+ coupons each shoping trip, now I may only have 2-4. I still cut out and save coupons, just a habit …. 🙂

  23. i live in a town where they filmed one of the episodes and i actually shop at the store. great store to shop at, small, family owned. they offer good deals on alot of things at different times but not someplace you can go do big shopping at.

    i laugh everytime i hear about the show because after the episode was aired they completely changed there coupon policies!

  24. i went crazy with couponing with multiple stores in my local area for two years straight. i even went shopping at stores with double couponing while vacationing. my life was obsessed with it.

    there were many highs and lows. i eventually gave “classes” to family members on how to coupon. i saved money, but i also lost quality time with family and friends.

    i gave away items because of impending expiration dates/ the “saved money” in the end wasn’t saved. i still coupon but not to the extreme, i’m happier. i save money now by making my own mixes, only buying items i need and my stock pile are now items we use often always noting expiration dates.

  25. the most i saved ever on a food shopping order was about $63. This was back in the days when double coupons meant just that – double coupons. There were no limits like now.

    Today you are only allowed to double up to a 50 cent coupon and on occasion, a 75 cent one. Most stores, will only give a max of $1 off which means your 75 cent coupon is worth doubled as $1. Not all stores have double coupons any more.

    I also had to put each coupon on the item it was for so the cashier didn’t have to look for the item. (although with scanning now, if you didn’t buy it, it won’t scan) Coupons now also come with the one per visit lingo in the fine print and many cashiers will check for that if you show up with several coupons for the same item. I have no idea how these extreme couponers do it.

    However, I won’t compromise my family’s health and buy junk food just because there is a coupon for it. Shopping during the summer at farmers markets, and freezing and canning fresh fruits and veggies or using a food dehydrator is much better than stocking up on 10 boxes of sugared cereal, instant dinner mixes, and all the processed junk. You can still save about $30 or so a visit just using the coupons on items you really need and use.

    The trick is to use the coupon when there is a sale on the item. Coupon circulars often print coupons the week before something goes on sale. So you get double savings there.

    And as for getting a zillion circulars, if you are lucky like I am to have a newspaper route, many times you have a few leftover papers or inserts because your count is off, so that’s when you can get extra coupons because the paper just throws them out anyway.

  26. i am amazed at how inconsiderate, greedy and obnoxious the extreme couponers on the tlc program really are. i do coupon now that i am at home. i buy the savannah sunday paper and the macon sunday papers.

    i also have the harveys, bi-lo and kroger cards. i only clip for things i use and i just cannot imagine clearing out a store and shrugging my shoulder and saying “what does it matter? i got it for free?

    i will put it in my stockpile.” it is nothing short of hoarding. somebody somewhere could use the stuff that is piled up going to waste.

    there is no possible way for those people to use it all before it expires. i agree to stock up on things as the sales and coupons mesh in order to save money to use on other expenses. i don’t think we need any further programs to promote waste and greed.

    just my 2 cents worth 🙂

  27. don’t let extreme couponing turn you off from couponing. coupons are to save money. use a few every week and keep track for the year how much you save.

    pretty interesting at the end! also if you do use coupons cut out a few extra that you know you can get a good deal on, buy them and donate to a church, food pantry,neighbor in need or whoever. i give my stuff to a club for christmas baskets.

    and it’s really awesome to walk up to a person in a store and give them a coupon for something they have in their grocery cart.


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