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'Extreme Couponing': Time vs. money

As satisfying as getting a huge haul of discounted frozen juice may be, how much time is spent organizing the trip and storing the product?

By MSN Money Partner May 31, 2011 11:48AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Reality television shows are getting more and more "extreme." Whether it's families with enough kids to field a football team or people who tip the scales at several hundred pounds, it seems like the television-watching public is obsessed with any extreme. The first reality show was basically extreme living on a remote island -- remember the first season of "Survivor"? (Surprisingly, I've never watched a full episode of any season of "Survivor." Not sure how I avoided it.)


Well, the latest craze seems to be a show called "Extreme Couponing." If you haven't seen the show, it basically follows people who buy a ton of stuff without paying a lot of money.Post continues after video.

There's a lot of fake drama, as they talk about how they budgeted only $300 for groceries this month but the tally, before coupons, is much more. There's some fake worry as the cashier starts scanning coupons, with shots of the manager and other people standing around watching.


"Extreme" is not the right name for this show. It should be called "Excessive Couponing." "Deadliest Catch" is appropriately named -- people die up there. The couponing on the show is not extreme; it's excessive.


As for the savings, I'm all for saving money, and couponing is a fantastic way to do it. But let's not forget that couponing takes time. It can take a lot of time if you aren't efficient at it and aren't as organized as some of the people on the show. 


It takes time to organize the trip, make the purchases, and then take your haul back home to stack in your pantry/extra storage space. I don't know how long it takes, but as satisfying as getting a billion cans of frozen juice may be, how much time is spent organizing and storing the product?


I was also bothered by the faux drama. Anyone who does couponing like this knows exactly how much it will cost them out-of-pocket. You don't put 80 bags of croutons into your cart and not know that each one will be free after you scan the coupon. There are entire websites and subscription services devoted to telling you where to get the coupons you need and what stores to go to for maximum savings. You'd never pack your cart without knowing the end result.


Many things in life involve this trade-off between time and money. When it comes to changing the oil in your car, you can either spend an hour-plus to do it yourself (including buying the oil and filter, changing them, disposing of both, and cleaning up) or you can roll into a quick oil change shop, wait 15 to 20 minutes, and be out the door after paying a $50-plus (or perhaps less) bill.


As for the people on the show, kudos to you. You have serious organizational skills and you deserve to benefit from it.


Have you seen "Extreme Couponing"? What do you think of the show?


More on Bargaineering and MSN Money:

May 31, 2011 1:27PM
I watched the show last season, just one episode and that was enough for me! The show is highly unrealistic and leads people new to couponing to believe that they are going to begin getting everything on their shopping lists for free. I own and operate a website with many members that have been couponing for a long time and most if not all of our members are disgusted with the is producing shelf clearers and hoarders and unrealistic expectations....I refuse to promote it on my site! If anyone would like to learn how to coupon in a realistic manner, we welcome them to visit Have Coupons, Will Travel and ask for help :)
I for one, and not a huge fan of the show.  I am a couponer- extreme to most I guess, but I save money for my family.  Who wouldn't want to save money on things their family NEEDS to they can throw in a few wants now and then?
This show just portrays couponers as crazy hoarders.  Not all of us are like that.  I sure wouldn't want to feed my family 35 bottles of maalox, 100 boxes of yakosbi noodles, or drink vitamin water constantly.  I have also seen how this shows HURTS regular families trying to coupon just to get by.  Stores are changing their policies making coupon usage more strict, and limiting coupons
 I coupon realistically and help others to do to the same.  If you feel like checking out a real coupon just look for saving with wendy!.

May 31, 2011 3:02PM
I like the idea of this show, but I tried it in "real life" with little success. I don't know where the people on the show shop, but at my local Kroger Supermarket the store manager put a limit on how many coupons they'll accept. The manager told me they didn't have to accept anything and after calling Kroger Corporate he was right. My supermarket doesn't don't do all the "doubling coupons" seen on the show. Finally, once I got what I could get back to my home, I realized it would take me years to use what I bought. I'm sure these are real people doing this. However, these are the lucky few who have a store manager willing to put up with them. Also, do you really want to be the jerk who takes all the toothbrushes & cereal so no one else can have them?
May 31, 2011 2:56PM
I think it's a good lead-in to HOARDING.
Jun 14, 2011 5:08PM
I have a friend that is into this and takes pictures to post of facebook. Just like the lady in the video, what do you need all that junk for? She doesn't think 5 toothbrushes are enough? I have one for home and one in a travel bag so I don't have to worry about forgetting. I get a new one for free at my dentist every 6 months. Why do I need to store 5? You buy 100 of something just because it is "only" $0.20 now you have spent $20 on something you won't need for 10 years. Not a good investment.

If you have that much extra space in your home to store all that junk, sell your home and buy a smaller home. The ROI will be through the roof better. Using coupons to buy what you need when you need it (or maybe a month early to get the expiration date) is cool. Buying a lifetime supply is just stupid!
Jun 1, 2011 2:05PM

This show disgusts me because 1) You never see these people donating (at least) some of the food they purchase- I mean seriously, how may bottles of mustard do you need? and 2) The coupons they are getting do not go towards the purchase of healthy food. Most of it is processed junk that people don't need anyway.  I'd be interested to see exactly how much food goes to waste and gets thrown out?

It's the same sort of gluttonous behavior I see everyday - overweight and unhealthy young people, on cell phones, eating their Big Mac's and drinking their Big Gulp's. 

Jun 29, 2011 2:39PM
Extreme Couponing = organized hoarding. Over 1/2 of the people featured on this show are overweight, go figure, those "free" ramen noodles have 3 days worth of sodium in 1 package, not to mention the "free" soda they're consuming. Shelving, space, time, it's not feasible for most consumers. Entertaining show, but not realistic in most markets.
Jun 14, 2011 2:49PM
Very unrealisitc I watched the whole season and many of these items they are buying excuse me getting for FREE are not even some of the esssetials to operate a household. Don't get me wrong I say plenty of fabric softener and dish liquid as well as deoderant and toilet paper but as far as fresh meat and cheese, potatoes, lettuce and crablegs even contact cleaner are not shown. They need to stop promoting this and making it seem like these people don't need to ever buy with out coupons because I have never seen a coupon for fresh tomatoes or lettuce and they didn't say they grew them!
Jun 2, 2011 3:15AM
These women suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder when things are carried to this extreme.  If they suddenly had money tomorrow I'll bet they could not stop! 
Jun 14, 2011 7:46AM
I watched one episode and thought the same thing, obsessive compulsive behavior.  After watching hoarders, the doctors and counselors on that show say it is a mental disorder.  Not all the people on extreme couponing are in that category, but there sure were a couple in the episode I watched.  Instead of showing how smart and efficient they think they are, I merely saw mental disorder.
Jun 14, 2011 2:21PM

We have a local lady who does this type of thing - except that she does it to get supplies to send to our troops overseas - it's amazing how much they appreciate someone like her!


There was another local lady who set up a website to track local sales and coupon flyers, and she encourages people to get free stuff to donate to the local food pantries.


My wife and I watched one episode and thought it seemed rather excessive. And, unless you have a lot of time to give to it, it won't work that well; and if you do... maybe just get a job?

Jun 14, 2011 2:06PM

Coupons and saving money is GREAT!!!!


However, I have 1st hand experience with extreme couponing before it was *in* (we're talking 6 - 7 years ago). It can be truly truly time consuming. You feel like your life revolves around it. Keeping track of coupons, trying to buy certain coupons (yes, people buy coupons), going through the weekly ads, going through the message boards of coupon or savings sites, developing a strategy to stack coupons along with the store saving card and literally mapping out a route of certain stores to hit.


The time and effort put into extreme couponing can literally be looked at as being a Full Time job. Seriously!


I still love love love saving money and using coupons but I'm not nearly crazed like I used to be. My life started to revolve around it too much.

Jun 1, 2011 1:46AM
The show leads people to believe that this can be done by you are me, NOT!  Some of the things we see on EC are doable but far from all. The people that suceed at this type of shopping and many do are only hurting themselves and others by forcing managers and store operaters to impose tighter restrictions on the use of coupons. Learn coupons free at all sorts of blogs around the country. you will learn what is realistic for your area  check out  Stl Coupon Wizard  ask questions I will help as will many many others,
Jun 14, 2011 9:00AM
If you have nothing else to do what is the problem.However most people do not need 10 bottles of TUMS.
Jun 14, 2011 2:53PM

The show never makes it seem like it's easy. The people stress, "This is my job".

A lot of them do donate, and/or give to their family members. Now some of the things they do, I've never been able to do at the stores I shop in because of the policies they have in place.

In general, stores don't lose money from Mfg coupons because they get reimbursed, unless it's doubled...or is a store coupon. Stores will stop/reduce the number of coupons printed when they start losing money - be realistic. So obviosly, they are NOT losing money, they even advertise along with their store coupons sometimes that a mfg coupon was recently printed that would reduce the price even further. I'll bet the drug stores never sold as much stuff since that show has started. Eventually, the list price increases, so it does hurt the non-couponer. Also, when you use your "reward" card, you are telling the store what and how much you buy, that is marketing data they would pay gold for, so a little savings to make you feel good about problem! - We have been trying to coupon over the last few months, and have been doing good (not preparing for the next disaster) saving at least $100.00 a week, and yes, it does take time, and yes, we consider it a part-time job. It's also like a game, like a riddle, how to mix and match for the best savings, at least it can save you money in the end. As for making stores be more strict on their policies....oh well, now you can't cheat them, which you shouldn't have been doing before anyway.

Jun 14, 2011 1:23PM
Re: moomoo152 If they had more money, why would they stop? Rich people know the value of a dollar and how to save as well. That's how the rich STAY rich.
Jun 14, 2011 1:34PM
Re: greatneckgal The show is called "Extreme Couponing" not "Extreme Donating". Also most healthy food is FRESH food, and fresh food doesn't have a long shelf life, thus people do not buy them in huge amounts to stockpile. Most stockpiled food is used at SIDE dishes, to go with meats and vegetables as well. You don't know how people are eating or cooking their meals, because it's not a cooking or eating show, so calling them "gluttonous" is ridiculous. Pantries and cellars full of food were how people used to live. Society has gotten away from storing and preparedness and now people live off the seat of their pants, buying at a whim, and when they are hungry instead of making menus and buying for the month or longer. I suppose it makes more sense to you to pay what the store wants at any given time, than paying what YOU are willing to pay when the price is right.
May 31, 2011 1:43PM
Extreeme Couponing does show the pain of the time it takes to coupon.  We've created the free online service Valet Deals to address this very issue where we search the major printable grocery coupon providers for you, all you do is print!
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