“Extreme Couponing” is too extreme for me.
My lesson on grocery savings was met with some hostility when I failed to mention couponing as a viable strategy for grocery savings. Cooking food from scratch, choosing nutrient-dense foods, and packing a lunch every day is certainly not as exciting as a $600 grocery bill whittled down to $5 with coupons.
The students described a new series on TLC that profiles “Extreme Couponers-” people who use coupons to build immense supplies of food, personal goods, and paper products, with very little money spent out of pocket. They know of my penchant for thrifty living and encouraged me to see the show.
I had the opportunity to watch a few episodes of Extreme Couponing this weekend, and I am impressed. Everything my students said is true. Couponers spend hours preparing for a “haul” where $600 of goods or more can be purchased for less than $50. People are able to stay home with children, feed large families on small budgets, and survive layoffs, all thanks to couponing.
I encourage everyone to find their own brand of frugal living. I am confident that my brand will not rely heavily on coupons.
My first concern is the nutritional value of foods purchased with coupons. People boasted stockpiles with hundreds of cans of soup and bags of chips. One person dedicated a closet to two-liter bottles of soda. If you are in the habit of purchasing these foods, using coupons is an excellent way to save money. I would avoid the development of that habit.
The amount of packaging on the products was amazing. Coupons generally save the most money on the smallest package so shopping carts were filled with trial-size toothpaste tubes. Entire rooms were filled with four-packs of toilet paper. Individual size servings abounded. Some people purchased items they did not need because the savings was so good. I was pleased to see that unit price was calculated to find the best bargain, but this was a little much.
I was also concerned with hoarding tendencies. Most couponers had entire garages or rooms dedicated to stockpiles. They took great pride in organizing their stash. They continued to purchase deodorant when they already had a lifetime supply. Couponing seems to be a way to accommodate a shopping addiction under the guise of saving money.
I am a conservative coupon user. I clip coupons for makeup, hair products, and other items with no viable generic option. When the item is on sale I use a coupon to increase the savings. I do not have a room full of free toothpaste, but I have never paid more than $1 for it, either. My stockpile is easily contained in a bathroom closet and my coupon organizer fits in my purse.
I have considered stocking up on soda because I like to offer it to company. It seems that whenever I am expecting visitors the price of soda jumps up. However, I do not trust my will power. If I do not have soda available to me I do not drink it. If I had a stockpile I would drink much more. I would rather pay full price for soda on occasion than habitually consume sale-price soda. I believe the cost would balance in the end.
I enjoyed watching Extreme Couponing and would recommend it to a friend. I will enjoy this show for the same reason I enjoy Real Housewives of Orange County: for entertainment value, not life advice.
How do you coupon?