Is extreme couponing an effective way to save money on groceries or is it an unhealthy obsession that can take over your life?
As the economy continues to sputter along, extreme couponing is becoming more and more popular. It seems like every few weeks I see a story on the morning news detailing some new supermarket ninja with secrets and tricks for saving money on groceries. TLC’s Extreme Couponing is another program that shows shoppers who take couponing to the edge of insanity.
I just don’t get it. I mean I understand the allure of getting $950 in groceries for only $14, but there are just too many things that bother me about extreme couponing, including…
It’s a Waste of Time
Don’t get me wrong…we usually pick up the Sunday paper and either my wife or I will flip through and pull out any coupons for products we use. If we’re lucky we’ll actually remember to use them at the store. We could spend more time organizing them, scouring the supermarket fliers and coordinating coupons with sale items to maximize savings…but I’m lazy.
If I’m going to spend any more than a few minutes on something it had better be either something I enjoy doing or something that will offer me a rate of return high enough to make it worthwhile. Using a 20 percent off coupon at Bed, Bath and Beyond when I’m buying a $200 vacuum is worth the effort. Saving 35 cents on taco seasoning is not.
Extreme couponers spend countless hours pouring over weekly sale fliers and coupon expiration dates to squeeze every penny they can out of the supermarket and manufacturers. Then they typically spend hours at the supermarket gathering all of the items they need and checking out at the register. And you know the checkout process is going to take forever!
While they do walk out of the store with a ton of groceries while paying only a few dollars for them, extreme couponers don’t often factor in the value of their time. If they calculated what their hourly salary would be for all of the time they put into it, they might be surprised at how little they are really saving. I would suggest there are better ways to spend your time and earning extra money than cutting out coupons.
You can argue all you want that extreme couponers are just working the system, but in researching this article I read about all sorts of shady shenanigans shoppers pull in the name of saving money. Stealing newspapers from neighbors, photocopying or making their own coupons, and removing expiration dates from expired coupons are common practice. Another effective yet unethical technique is called bar code decoding.
According to The Krazy Coupon Lady:
[Bar code decoding] constitutes coupon fraud and is ILLEGAL. Decoders are shoppers who sneak legitimate coupons past their cashiers when using them for products for which the coupon is obviously not intended. Bar code decoders try to circumvent the computerized cash registers by decoding 12 digit UPC barcodes, usually using a high value coupon on a smaller or inexpensive product from the same brand but which is NOT listed on the coupon, thus getting it for free or with overage.
It is important to note that not everyone who clips coupons using unethical methods like these. But a few bad apples can make all couponers look bad.
You Become a Greedy Hoarder
Whenever you see one of these extreme couponers on TV they’re always so proud to show you their garage, basement, and attic full from floor to ceiling with all the stuff they purchased at deep discounts. I always imagine them as hunters bragging about their latest kill, only instead of a wild boar from Africa they brag about the ranch dressing from Shoprite.
Does anyone really need 87 bottles of shampoo and 130 bottles of barbeque sauce? Talk about a lot of useless clutter! Will any of that stuff ever get used or will it end up expired and tossed in the trash?
It Becomes an Obsession
It may just start out as an innocent way to save money at the grocery store, but extreme couponing can become an obsession. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, cursing yourself for misplacing that $1.50 coupon on Duracell batteries. You’re incapable of paying full price on any item, ever! You try to run down the paperboy because one of the coupon inserts was missing from your Sunday paper. You have 65 gallons of mayonnaise stored in your garage…and you don’t even like mayo!
Extreme couponing is a prime example of taking something good and going way too far with it. It’s an obsession and an addiction that can take over your life just as it has for the people you see on TV.
Are you an extreme couponer? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts on extreme couponing? Please leave comments below, I’d love to hear some different points of view on the subject.