'Extreme Couponing' misses the point
I'm not saying these folks don't exist. I'm saying that we're not all like that.
Technically I could see a couple of episodes because the TLC publicist kindly gave me online access. Ultimately I decided not to watch. Based on what I've read and also on what my daughter told me and wrote about the show, I would just wind up depressed. Post continues after video.
My daughter thought it was to have been "a celebration of couponing." Instead, she says, the stories are presented with "bemused condescension, with occasional moments of admiration."
- Calculator:How do your finances stack up?
A woman featured on the program also shows up in one of my MSN Money columns, "Shopping pays off big for couponers." I met Tiffany Ivanovsky last year at a conference. Tiffany, who blogs at MyLitter.com, spends just under $500 a month on food, toiletries and household products for her nine-person family. That's why I called her for the coupon column; at the time, I didn't know she was going to be on the show.
She's a super-shopper, so it's no wonder that TLC wanted her. But as a mutual acquaintance pointed out, the program didn't mention that Tiffany regularly donates food and toiletries to charity.
Her most recent project was over spring break, when she and a few of her friends went through their stockpiles to fill 350 one-gallon Ziploc bags with personal-care products. These "hygiene kits" went off to quake/tsunami survivors in Japan.
Apparently that wouldn't have made good television.
Yes, I know you can't include everything you film. But the fact that she doesn't hoard is a vital part of the story: Here's how my strategic shopping not only helps me stay on budget, but lets me help others.
With seven kids it'd be hard to hoard very much anyway. The little stinkers want to be fed every day.
That's entertainment -- not reality
"Extreme" is an adjective that can inspire either admiration or derision. Extreme sports figures, for example, are edgy daredevils whose fearlessness is just plain fascinating.
Even when they crash it's exciting. Especially when they crash it's exciting. Who knew a bike could go so high? Who knew a dude could bounce so high?
Heck, there's even TV coverage of "extreme eating," aka competitive eating. The notion makes me profoundly sad. In a world where so many people are hungry, why do we have an organized league of gluttons? Yet the contests inspire laughter and cheers from audiences (audiences!), to say nothing of corporate sponsorships.
- Calculator:Is your budget in balance?
The phrase "extreme couponer," on the other hand, may well become shorthand for "you people need help."
Obviously TLC is in the entertainment business. The network wants viewers, and what better way to get some butts in the seats than to show a guy buying 1,100 boxes of cereal at a time?
I'm not saying such people don't exist. I'm just wishing that (a) networks didn't exploit their tics and anxieties for ratings, and (b) we everyday frugalists won't have to hear "What are you, one of those extreme couponers?" the next time we try to use some Qs.
I fully expect to hear that, and to hear it spoken with a tone of impatience or, yes, derision. Saving money doesn't have the same cachet as, say, BASE jumping or eating 39 slices of pizza in 10 minutes. And that quake/tsunami thing is so last week.
More on MSN Money:
I think the reason stores are beginning to limit the practices used by 'extreme couponers' is because the shopping habits of these people create a shortage of items for purchase by other customers. They are actually trying to help the 'average' customer, by limiting what the 'extreme couponer' can do.
Let's say there's a 'buy one get one free' offered by the store, plus there's a coupon from the manufacturer of half off. So you combine the two, get them for 25% of the original cost.
Someone comes in and buys up every item the store has in stock.
Then another customer comes in who just wants a few, but there's none available. So they lost out on the savings completely, because the extreme couponer grabbed it all.
If it happens often enough, the customers get mad at the store, and go somewhere else to shop.
As for 'buy 3 get $1 off' on a product selling for 3.49 -- I'd take it. Saved me 33 cents each, that's more than 10%. If I could save 10% off my entire food budget, I would have enough to pay the phone AND gas bill.
I am thrilled to pieces when I can score a deal playing "the drugstore game". Just this morning I was able to bring home 4 bottles of laundry soap and body wash for 66 cents out of pocket *using store scrip ExtraBucks from prior purchases.
Yesterday I stocked up on sale for coffee without coupons but-I didn't clear the shelves!
It's a matter of being courteous. The folks on this show don't appear to be courteous, and appear to be buying far more than they can reasonably use in a lifetime (in some cases).
How can a family of 3 or 5 or 10 for that matter really be able to purchase 63 bottle of mustard and claim they will use them all in the next year or 2? And the cost -Even at 23 cents this is no bargain!
When I am now asked (as I am invariably asked) if I am an "extreme couponer:" I answer "No, I am a moderate couponer".
This show is embarrassing!
Dislike the show.
Why in the world would anybody need 50-60 chocolate candy bars or over 100 bars of soap or anything in that nature?
I use coupons on items I already buy to save money and sometimes I use a coupon to try a new item or a splurge, but the extremes of these people is ridiculous...
Now making it more dificult for the regular customer is absurd, most people are not going to use coupons in this way, especially if you live in the Northeast, where they believe everybody is a millionaire, or close to it at least, so policies are more strict.
Please take that trash from TV and bring some other more constructive and creative show!!!!
I have watched this show a few times because I wanted to see exactly how they were doing it. They all saved tons of money by using the coupons and many have donated to charities, which I find commendable. What I don't understand are those who are hoarding the food and building extra rooms in their homes to store the items. What I really find deplorable is the response by some store chains in changing their policies regarding their coupons. It seems to me that they don't want the average person to save any money in their stores and making it difficult for them to do so. I mean I have seen coupons advertising "by three of these and get a dollar off" The product costs $3.49 apiece!! Is that really saving?
The bottom line is that these are specific examples of extreme circumstances... Anyway, you know that it is just for television... how do I know this? Ever see the episode(s) where the store tells the couponer that they cannot use all of their coupons in one order... and then they hold up the checkout line while these people call up everyone they know and WAIT a half-hour for them to get to the store to use the coupons for them... If I was in line and a store did that in front of me I would NEVER shop there again...
I worked as a checker while in high school... SO many people trying to use expired coupons... or for the wrong item... or for the wrong brand... or for the wrong amount... and then taking it out on me simply because I knew how to READ the coupons and they didn't...
The purpose of coupons is supposed to be to get you to try a product and then if you like it, you will purchase it again in the future, not to clear out the entire store inventory of an item. In theory, coupons work fine. In practice, however, I am sure that most people use coupons to purchase items that they normally would not, but do so only because they are "on sale". Why not just eliminate coupons and lower the prices across the board?
And BTW, why does a 17 y.o. MALE need 47 packages of TAMPONS (Season one)???
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.