Extreme Couponing: Is it Worth It?

Extreme couponing is all the rage. Those who watch the television show, “Extreme Couponing” on TLC, see men and women across the country save over 90% on their shopping. Whether they are buying groceries, health and beauty items or cleaning supplies, extreme couponers are saving big bucks (really big bucks) on their purchases. That sounds all well and good, but is it worth it?

Stress – Extreme couponing is stressful. Extreme couponers know that one little mistake can cost them a fortune. Watching the cash register total your purchases into the thousands of dollars and knowing you have less than $50 to spend can cause the bravest person’s heart to race.

“I don’t mind the stress that much,” Lara, from Kansas, stated. “It is much more stressful for me to try to live within our budget without using coupons. It would be impossible for my family to have what we have without coupons.”

Fran, from Oklahoma, doesn’t think it is worth it. “I love saving money, but I don’t need the stress,” she explained. “I’m not going to put myself in a position to freak out because I can’t buy 100 tubes for a dime each.”

Time – Extreme couponing takes time. Many extreme couponers consider couponing a full-time job. Gathering coupons, clipping coupons, watching for sales and shopping with hundreds of coupons at one time takes hours.

“I quit my job to coupon,” Sandy, from Texas, said. “I save more money with coupons than I was making working 40 hours a week. It takes up most of my time. Even when I’m not couponing, I’m thinking about how much I can save – how much I should save.”

“I’d rather do something else with my time,” Kayla, from Kansas said. “My kids need me too much. I save 50% on what I buy and that is okay with me. We go to park and play instead of clipping coupons.”

Effort – Extreme couponers put in a lot of effort into couponing. “I make hundreds of calls a week to get more coupons from friends and neighbors,” Lara said, “That doesn’t count all the calls I make to see if store policies have changed or if they got an order in.” Extreme coupons go to great lengths to get their coupons. “My husband and I go dumpster diving,” Sandy explained. “We get all sorts of coupons out of trash cans.”

“I can’t imagine my sister dumpster dives for coupons,” Danielle, from Texas, said. “I love saving money, but I have to draw the line somewhere. That is too over the top for me.”

Costs – Extreme couponers spend some money to save all that money as well. Most extreme couponers buy several newspapers to get the coupon inserts. Many also pay to use “online coupon clipping services.” Those services do not sell coupons (that is illegal), but they do charge their clients for processing and handling of the coupons.

“I can spend several hundreds of dollars a month for the coupon clipping service I use,” Lara explained. “I subtract that money out of my savings. I still save money. The thousands of coupons I get from them is worth it.”

“I understand you have to spend money to make money,” Kayla stated. “I don’t think those services are legal. The websites say you aren’t buying the coupons, but if you didn’t give them money for them, they wouldn’t send them to you. It is a loophole in the law that will be fixed eventually.”

Storage – Extreme couponers need storage for all the items they end up stockpiling. They find themselves tucking toilet tissue and paper towels under beds and in closets. Guest rooms, garages and any extra living spaces are turned into mini-groceries stores.

“Our garage is stuffed with non-perishable food,” Sandy said. “We have hundreds of cans of vegetables and fruit. We keep our cleaning supplies out there, too. At any given time, I have at least 50 bottles of laundry detergent and even more dish washing liquid.”

“I don’t have the space for things like that,” Danielle explained. “What would I do with all that stuff anyway? That is a bit obsessive/compulsive to me. Buy enough to last a while and stop shopping until you start to run low.”

Whether extreme couponing is truly worth it is up to the individuals doing the couponing. There are pros and cons to both side of the debate. Using coupons is usually a good idea, as long as your couponing does not take over your life. Saving money is always a plus, but balance must be maintained between saving that money and being consumed by extreme couponing.