Thursday, December 30, 2010

TLC Extreme Couponing Show

Did you watch this show last night? If not, it's airing again on January 4th. The show angered me and got me excited all at the same time. I even received emails from a few of you asking if I was that extreme.
No, I'm not that extreme. I do get the "high" they talked about when I get a good deal, but most of these folks went WAY overboard. I don't have a huge stockpile for a couple of reasons:
  1. I live in an apartment in Brooklyn and don't have the space.
  2. Nobody actually needs to buy that much stuff. It's all going to go on sale at those rock-bottom prices again in about 6 weeks.
I have two kids and a husband. We buy REAL food, not thousands of candy bars and ramen noodles. I don't save $1000 each week on my grocery bill. However, I am able to buy a week's worth of healthy food (including meat, and produce) for my family of four for less than $100 per week (sometimes less than $50). We rarely eat out, so that's a lot of groceries! Almost every store prints the amount you spent and the amount you saved on your receipt. I ALWAYS save more than I spend, making my groceries at least 50% off. In my best week, I purchased $360 worth of groceries (including 30lbs of meat) for just under $80. It doesn't sound as impressive as some of the totals on the show, but again, I buy real food to feed my real family. I don't spend crazy amounts of time couponing, I don't hoard, I don't buy tons of junk food, and I don't pay extra for my coupons.

Here are some of the things that happened on the show that need a second look:

People said (happily) that they felt as though they were cheating the store.
Manufacturer's spend tons of money each year putting these coupons in papers and on the internet so that you will use them. The stores are not being cheated at all by your use of coupons. For EACH coupon you use, not only does the store get reimbursed the full amount of the coupon, they also get 8 cents for their trouble (it's printed on every coupon). Please don't ever feel as though you're hurting the store by using a coupon.

People bought hundreds of the same item. 
  • Many of these people weren't just couponers, they were hoarders. If you're getting that much free food, you need to DONATE SOME. I noticed that one person had about 100 bottles of Kraft Salad Dressing in their stockpile. I buy 4 of these when I can get them for less than $0.50, but any more than that and they'll expire before you can use them.
  • It was obvious that the stores were overlooking their own policies for the sake of the show. Most stores have a limit to how much of a good deal they'll let each customer have (usually 5 or less). It isn't fair if one person goes in and clears the shelves of a particular item.
  • In the areas where these people live, the stores double and sometimes triple the value of the coupons, which makes it easier to get lots of free items. Even without doubling and tripling coupons, it's still possible to get items for pennies or even for FREE here in NYC.

People spent 6 hours per day on couponing.
It doesn't take that much time to gather your coupons for the best deals. You should be able to make your list(s), print, and gather your coupons together by spending about an hour or two per week.Less than two hours per week is worth watching your grocery total go from $250 to $36, trust me.  Do I spend more than an hour per week? Of course I do- I'm searching the internet, doing all of the match-ups, and finding the deals for you! But, when I'm making the list for my family's shopping trip, I spend about 40 minutes.

The people on the show were only shown buying pantry items and junk food.  
Yes, you can get frequently find free deodorant, toothpaste, bodywash, shampoo, cereal, pasta, and sauce... if you're not particular about the brands you purchase. I wish they'd shown how people save money purchasing produce, meat, and healthy or organic products. Manufacturers of all products put out coupons. I've purchased Boca Burgers for $0.50 per box and gotten FREE produce, so it's very possible to save on the healthy items as well.

Obtaining additional coupons
  • One woman was shown dumpster diving and it just grossed me out. The woman took a 5 year old and her pregnant friend dumpster diving for coupons. You won't catch me doing that, but I do walk around on Mondays and pick up any of those newspapers left on the ground from the previous Thursday. You know, the one with all of the grocery store ads. There's a SmartSource coupon insert in that paper each week and having extra copies of a particular coupon can come in handy.
  • The woman from Philadelphia made a great point by saying to contact the product manufacturer if you love their product and ask for them to send you coupons. Trust me, they'll do it. I received 2 coupons in the mail yesterday from Johanna Foods for 2 FREE 10pks of Ssips juice drinks. All I had to do was email them that I loved their product, but was unable to find coupons for it.
  • A few of the people profiled used coupon clipping services. These are a great way to obtain additional high-dollar coupons for items that you love, but they do charge for their services. Most clipping services charge between $0.05-$0.10 per coupon. I have never personally purchased coupons from a "clipping service", but I did buy some on Ebay a couple of years ago for $2 off Gillette Men's Shampoo. CVS had it on sale for $4 with $2 extra bucks when you purchased a bottle. Combined with a $2 off coupon, it made for FREE shampoo. Of course, I did have to keep going to the end of the line and do a new transaction for each bottle, but my husband got to use expensive shampoo for a couple of years (he's on the last bottle now).
I personally think that TLC put a negative spin on something that can have a very positive impact on your family. Did you watch the show? What did you think about it? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I don't think that it was particularly negative. They had to punch it up a bit. It is show business afterall. If all the people that TLC profiled were sensible then it wouldn't be "extreme" enough.I thought the show was informative. I am going to encourage my wife to employ some of this coupon-ing stuff. I also liked your article because it cleared up some of the aspects, which I did not understand.

  2. Thank you for commenting. The show was definitely inspiring. Even as a seasoned couponer, I was pretty jealous of some of the savings. I don't think that it was entirely negative, but I do think they used the most extreme cases (which did make for good TV!). I just would hate for someone to miss out on saving a ton of money because they thought it was going to be too time/labor intensive, or that they came away thinking that couponers were crazies.

    Are you in the NYC area? If not, I can recommend a site that covers your local grocery stores.

  3. I don't think the show was particularly negative. It really outlined 4 seperate cases. It appeared they had one extreme coupon/hoarder; one family that works by necesity and doesn' seem to go too overboard; one interesting lady prostelyzing the benefits of couponing; and one couple using his talents to donate much of his good deal to the food closets. Great show, love your website as well.

  4. The show inspired me to clip the coupons from last Sunday's paper. I have a family of 6; I only bought items regularly use, that either were on special in the store and/or I had a coupon for it. I saved $70 or 36% on my bill. It paid for a 6 week gymnastics session for one of my kids. Well worth it; I' ve bought in.


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