Debunking 3 ‘Extreme Couponing’ Misconceptions

As an experienced coupon shopper, TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” shocked me. Nothing in the show reflected my experiences shopping with coupons. Here are some of my tips for novice couponers hoping for extreme savings at the grocery store.

Is stockpiling the right choice?

Stocking up during sales is vital to saving money because some products tend to cost less at certain times of year. For example, barbecue staples such as paper plates, foil paper and condiments go on sale and feature coupons around warm-weather holidays such as the Fourth of July. It makes sense for me to purchase a little extra during these specials. Since I know a similar sale will come along for Labor Day, I do not bother dedicating a room of my home to storing barbecue supplies.

It is easy to fixate on getting free or cheap products, but the point is to save. Fewer trips to the store save time, money and gas. I stockpile by purchasing a little extra here and there during sales. Then I take a break from buying those products until my supply gets low.

Before stockpiling, consider how you will manage the stockpile, how long the product will last for your family, how much space it requires, how often that product goes on sale and if it really makes sense for you to stock up.

How many newspapers do I need?

Some of the extreme couponers recommend getting at least one newspaper per family member. I usually get two newspapers per week and that is enough for me to share with family members and donate some products.

Getting more coupons could improve my savings, but it is not worth the cost to me. Here in Dallas, the Sunday newspaper price kept growing and currently costs $3. Even when people give me their extra coupon inserts, it costs an amazing amount of time and energy to manage them.

Juggling more coupons means I have to lug a ton of coupons around the store and flip through them only to realize I do not have the desired one. With two newspapers, I usually know which coupons I have without looking at all.

Before giving your scissors a workout, think about how many coupons you want to handle. Also, keep in mind that some stores limit the amount of like coupons. For example, my neighborhood Kroger stores will only double or triple up to three like coupons under a certain dollar amount. It is sometimes difficult to redeem popular, short-dated coupons because the stores do not restock before the expiration date.

Do stores give couponers special treatment?

On “Extreme Couponing,” the coupon shoppers usually have their own register with management personnel acting as cashier and they get everything discounted correctly. My experience is much bumpier.

Some cashiers are extremely friendly and actually seem to enjoy watching the total go down as they scan coupons. More frequently, they seem frustrated that their line is not moving quickly or concerned about the dwindling total. I regularly encounter cashiers who shuffle coupons around instead of scanning them.

Frankly, I think the rockstar treatment depicted on TV is to entice aspiring coupon shoppers to choose that store. It is important to keep an accurate list and running total of the post-coupon prices. Pay attention to the cashier to make sure she scans all coupons.

Like other TLC shows, there are kernels of helpful information in “Extreme Couponing.” Look beyond the extreme behavior to discover the practical money-saving tips.