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Why Extreme Couponing Doesn't Work for Most

Updated on October 24, 2011

The hit TLC show “Extreme Couponing” focuses on individuals, families, and couples that save big money simply by couponing. Participants get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for only a fraction of the total amount. Extreme Couponing might get your hopes up and think that you too can save big bucks. While you can save money by couponing, the tactics used by the show typically do not work for most Americans.

Full-Time Job

Couponing, like the men and women on “Extreme Couponing” are not your average Americans. If you watch the show carefully, you might notice that the participants casually mention spending 25-30 hours a week gathering and cutting coupons, planning shopping trips and going to the grocery stores. Many people even visit multiple stores a week, just to get the best deals. Unless you are willing to give up your day job or significantly cut back on the amount of time you spend with family or friends, you probably won’t appear on the show next.

Multiple Orders

Most grocery stores have an official policy that restricts the number of a certain sale products with each order. For example, when laundry detergent goes on sale, the store limits two containers per purchase. On “Extreme Couponing” shoppers get around this policy by dividing their carts into multiple orders. Unfortunately, many stores no longer follow this policy. The stores now limit customers to a few multiple orders per person. Some stores even restrict orders if you have a spouse or friend with you, to a set amount per group.

Mix and Match Coupons

“Extreme Couponing” shows shoppers using multiple coupons for the same item. They put coupons on their loyalty card and pair that with a newspaper or manufacturers coupon for maximum savings. Try that for yourself and see how well it works. Kroger has a disclaimer on its loyalty program, informing users that you can only use one coupon per item. Other stores now prohibit shoppers from using any coupon in combination with a coupon loaded on your loyalty card.


Watch any episode of “Extreme Couponing” and you will hear mention of overage. Overage explains how the shoppers pay for meat, fresh vegetables, fruit, and other items that do not have coupons. The shoppers use coupons that take off more than the cost of the item. If an item costs $1.50 and they have a coupon for $2, then they get the item for free and have an extra $.50 for the non-sale items. Sadly, this works at only a fraction of stores. Most grocery stores only give you credit for the face value of your items, meaning you do not have any overage.

Double Coupons

The shoppers on “Extreme Couponing” save big money by using double coupons. While stores do accept double coupons, most only do so during specific hours and many stores have a limit. The stores only double coupons up to $.50 or $1, which means you cannot save more than $2 on any item. If your store has a policy that doubles up to $1 total, then a $.75 becomes a $1 coupon. “Extreme Couponing” shoppers often highlight their skills by saving up to $10 on an item, just by using a $5 manufacturer’s coupon.

Not Always Coupons

Several episodes of “Extreme Couponing” featured big savings without using coupons. Some stores offer a gift certificate for buying a specific product or transferring your medications. The shoppers use those big-ticket cards and certificates to save $15 or more on a total order. Unless you do the same thing, you will not experience the same savings.

Behind the Scenes

The main reason “Extreme Couponing” doesn’t work for most people is because of what happens off camera. Have you ever watched an episode and saw the shopper pick up a larger order that they called ahead for? The truth is that most stores only stock a limited number of items and the top sales go fast. Do not be surprised if you find only a few sale items on the shelf or an empty shelf in your own store. Unless you store is willing to accept an order over the phone, then you won’t get an entire palate to yourself. Extreme couponers also take advantage of the system by getting rain checks when an item goes on sale and combing that with coupons in the future.


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    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

      Very good points! I noticed this when I debated starting to coupon.

    • profile image

      SA Mom 6 years ago

      I live in South Africa and watch the show. Its crazy how people hoard! Yes, who really needs 123 packets of sweets and 400 packets of cat food? And these people rarely purchase fresh fruit and veggies! In South Africa we do not have a coupon system like this, it sure would help the needy and help take some money off the total bill for most - but extreme couponing seems almost like people are abusing the system? Im sure Supermarkets will be putting more measures in place to prevent the losses that the show portrays.

    • smokingcupcake profile image

      smokingcupcake 6 years ago from Dayton, OH

      Did you see the episode where they spent the whole day in the store? The store actually stayed open an extra hour and they still didn't finish. Who has that time?

    • gryphin423 profile image

      gryphin423 6 years ago from Florida

      I tried to follow what they were doing on that show, but it is impossible here in Tampa Bay. No one doubles down here or has a store card that takes money off or gives you credit. And the amount of time they spend in the store - 8 hours sometimes! Argh, can't do it. I use coupons when I can, the best I can do is a buy one, get one free and use a coupon. Oh well!

    • smokingcupcake profile image

      smokingcupcake 6 years ago from Dayton, OH

      That is exactly how I feel! I know that if I even attempted to buy in bulk like this, I would end up with a lot of stuff that expired before I used it. No one needs as much stuff as those shoppers have.

      I do use coupons, but only on things I actually use. I do not dumpster dive to find multiple coupons or hit 17 stores in one week. I find out what is on sale and do price matching when I can.

    • Field-Of-Flowers profile image

      Field-Of-Flowers 6 years ago from Midwest, USA

      I have used coupons but not to the extent that the people on 'Extreme Couponing' do. I'm all for saving money and finding a good deal. The impression I get from watching the show is...the people are hoarders. Does a person really need 1,500 tubes of toothpaste? Or 50 bottles of laundry detergent, 300 bottles of energy drinks, 80 bottles of ketchup...and on and on and on... I see it as hoarding, but that's just my opinion on it. Thanks for sharing this.

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      I'm not an extreme couponer by no means. I just started clipping the ones out of the Sunday paper and normally I can save between $20 and $40 on a big shopping trip. But hey, that's better then nothing!!!! Thanks for sharing!