Extreme Couponing Versus Smart Coupon Use
With TLC's new show Extreme Couponing, people who spend hours and even days doing nothing but finding and clipping coupons and shopping are being highlighted as shopping masterminds. The first thought that comes to my mind when I think about these extreme couponers is "what is the point of that". Think about it. Why does someone need that many sticks of deodorant, boxes of cereal or bags of chips? Typically going to the extreme isn't a good thing in any endeavor. I decided to look up the word extreme on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary.
Extreme: 1. existing in a very high degree 2. going to great or exaggerated lengths 3. exceeding the ordinary, usual or expected
This definition doesn't make extreme couponing sound very good does it? I use coupons to save my family money on the products we use, while occasionally picking up the random free item I happen upon to donate to a local food pantry. From what I can tell about these extreme couponers, they are in it to stockpile a massive amount of food, household and toiletry items that will never get used before it goes bad. These people are going to the extreme and hoarding their food. They have entire rooms in their home devoted to their stockpile and some people even have it insured against loss or damage.
Extreme couponers spend an incredible amount of time and energy finding coupons, clipping them, ordering them, matching up the coupons with sales, etc. It is a full time job for some of these people. Why do they do this? They have taken saving money to the extreme. I think they are taking advantage of the stores they shop at, the sites that offer coupons and the manufacturers of all these products. That is going to the extreme - which is not a good thing.
Smart coupon use would be to limit yourself to exactly what your family will consume. Using coupons wisely means to not clear the shelves of products so that nothing is left for others. It is smart to match up coupons with sales to get the best deal for your family. It is extreme to spend several hours obtaining massive quantities of coupons to then spend hours shopping and checking out to then just store these items in your garage until they are past their expiration date. Many extreme couponers don't even use or like the items they are stockpiling. They just do it for the thrill.
One thing the show doesn't take into account is how much coupons cost. While you can't legally sell a coupon, you can sell your time and services to find and clip the coupon. So there are plenty of sites online that you can buy coupons from. It usually costs $0.10-$0.50 per coupon plus the cost of shipping. So while the extreme couponer might be able to get her total down to $7 for hundreds of dollars worth of products, they are not figuring in how much that person spent to order or print coupons. This can increase the total cost significantly, not to mention how much time they are spending on their coupons. I imagine if they got a job they would make more money than they "save" per hour of couponing.
A smart couponer knows that sales come in cycles and that coupon in the Sunday paper for Colgate toothpaste matched with the sale at Kroger the following week will come around again in about 6-8 weeks. No one needs 40 tubes of toothpaste in one week. In two months time the same deal will be available again and you can get more free toothpaste then. Use moderation and get a few tubes at each sale and you will still have more than you can likely use. I had to quit taking advantage of even the free tubes of toothpaste because I was collecting too many for us to use. A smart couponer only purchases what they need or will use before it expires.
Extreme couponers cause problems for smart coupon users in a few different ways. First, many times they are using coupons fraudulently. In a recent episode it was on video for the whole world to see the shopper use a coupon for the wrong item. She is currently defending herself on her Facebook page saying that it doesn't matter. But it does matter, because not only is it illegal, it is taking advantage of the company, and it ruins it for smart coupon users. Second, extreme couponers will take all or almost all of an item so that the store runs out and the customers that actually needed that item this week can't buy it. Third, companies are rapidly changing their policies to limit coupon use because of a handful of people that use it to the extreme. Fourth, when companies lose such massive quantities of money due to extreme couponers they are forced to raise prices to accommodate for it.
I am all for using coupons to save money. I use them every single shopping trip. I spend about one hour each week clipping coupons, matching sales and making a list. I save about 30-40% off my grocery bill each week by doing this. I think these numbers are well worth it for me and realistically most smart coupon users have the same type of numbers. They spend a little bit of time to save money on products there family uses. I think this is wise coupon use, not extreme.