Extreme Couponing Made Ridiculously Difficult
How the heck does one become an "Extreme Couponer" anyway? I’m kind of a frugal person. Okay, that’s an understatement. I’m cheap. In fact I can squeeze a penny so hard that Abraham Lincoln cries. And yes, I use coupons. I’ve got the little folder that I keep my coupons in and I go through them every time I go shopping, usually finding 2 or 3 that I can use and, generally speaking, I was happy with that. Then I saw that "Extreme Couponing" show on TLC. Now I feel like a total lightweight.
For those who aren’t familiar, the people on "Extreme Couponing" basically amass hundreds of coupons and usually go on one ridiculous shopping trip during the show where they buy $7,000 worth of groceries for like 37 cents. Along the way there’s always the moment of drama at the register when the 35 cent coupon for canned beets only rings up as 32 cents, which can apparently cause the whole operation to collapse in on itself, bringing the real cost of the groceries up to like $9,000, but then a manager is called over and everything works out.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be the guy wheeling up 9 carts full of rice-a-roni and spending 3 hours at the checkout counter, but I believe there must be some middle ground between myself and these people. Looking at my own meager coupon collection and comparing it to the files of coupons that the experts bring to the store, I realized I must be missing something.
The first thing I did was take stock of where I was getting my coupons. Most were coming from the store I shop at. The rest were coming from coupons.com or shortcuts.com. Obviously, I needed more sources or better sources. I decided to go old school—I bought a Sunday paper. The investment: $1.00. The return: $0.80. I found two 40 cent coupons for stuff that I would actually buy if I didn’t have a coupon.
It was time to get desperate. I went to the couponing world’s version of a prostitute—the online coupon broker. I found a site called thecouponmaster.com. Now I saw some coupons, like 2,000 of them. I began to click though each category, hungrily scanning the savings. By about the eighth category I realized that the savings weren’t quite as abundant as I thought. I had found only one coupon for goods that I would ordinarily buy. By the time I finished scanning every category, I had found six coupons for a total savings of $5. The total investment to buy the coupons: $1.20. But wait, it couldn’t be that easy. To buy coupons from this site, the minimum order is $3. So now to get my $5 in savings, I need to either buy $1.80 in coupons I don’t need, or I need to triple-down on the coupons I do need and store the excess (which is why the people on the couponing shows always have a room full of stuff, I suppose).
So the bottom line is that you will not see me on any extreme couponing shows any time soon. If you are an extreme couponer who happens to be reading this and you can tell me what I’ve done wrong, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll keep saving a few bucks here and there, but I will not have a room dedicated to house my 300 boxes of triscuits and 150 pints of olive oil, nor will I ever be in front of you at the checkout line with 9 carts and a film crew.
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