Have you ever seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC? It’s a television program that profiles die-hard coupon clippers who buy hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars’ worth of groceries and other merchandise with coupons to save up to 99%.
The show has caused quite a stir since it first aired. I myself was very excited to watch it when it premiered. I saw the commercials advertising the series and became excited at the proposition of picking up a tip or two on how to save money at the grocery store. Instead I feel like I got a glimpse into the secret world of grocery hoarders who dumpster dive and stockpile enough toilet paper to last the next 40 years in every corner of their house.
Instead of being enlightened I felt disgusted. A casual couponer will flip through the Sunday paper and cut out ones that they think they’ll use in the near future. More advanced couponers will do that and troll coupon distribution websites and make shopping lists based on what coupons they have in their pile.
The people profiled on this show however are none of these things. They are exactly like the title describes; extreme couponers. These men and women brag about spending 60+ hours a week planning their extreme trips, they create stockpiles of goods that will likely outlast their own lives, they create filing systems of all coupons to keep them organized so they don’t waste a single one. In addition to that many of them pay couponing services upwards of $70 a week for even more coupons.
What I don’t see these people buying is healthy food. All their couponing efforts go to hoarding ridiculous amounts of cereals, grains, candy bars, soda, pasta, condiments and such. None of which you can eat day in and day out while maintaining a balanced diet.
On one episode a wife has her husband load up their cart with over 50 bottles of mustard with the husband saying, “I don’t even eat mustard”. Now that is absurd!
These people may save thousands of dollars on carbohydrate and sugar-laden foods, but they still have to pay full price for healthy food staples like fresh fruits, meats, vegetables and dairy. All of which are essential for a healthy, balanced diet. The program doesn’t show that these people still have to spend money on those items.
It also shows these people spending up to 60 hours a week cutting coupons, organizing and categorizing them in binders, visiting multiple grocery stores in advance to check for the lowest prices and planning out their mega shopping trips. If these people put the same effort and time into other endeavors they could create businesses that make them money.
Most of these people started grocery hoarding because of a job loss, financial peril or to save money. It’s obvious they could use the extra money. Though, they should channel their determination and commitment to starting their own businesses. Any one of them could easily start their own couponing website (some of them do) or sell information about saving money on groceries.
While these people clearly take saving money to the extreme, sacrificing their dignity to dumpster dive for additional sales adverts and eating only what is set to expire first, there are better ways to save money on food at the grocery store.
Don’t get me wrong I get the Sunday paper and clip coupons for items I buy. I even try to match up my coupons with sales at my local grocery store. What I don’t do… Is waste a large chunk of my time on this.
Coupons are best utilized for items that you regularly purchase. Don’t buy an item simply because you have a coupon for it. That won’t save you any money. Some brands are more expensive than your normal brand even with a coupon. It’s essential to analyze the prices of items and get to know their costs at the grocery stores you frequent.
If you ever feel like the day after you buy an item at your local grocery store it goes on sale you might start to believe you have bad luck. You don’t. What’s happening is that grocery store sales ads run in six to twelve week cycles. Grocery stores in similar geographic locations put items on sale on a rotating basis. One week Kroger will have a sale on soda. Two weeks later Publix will hold a similar sale on soda. And so on and so on.
To take advantage of this sales cycle get sales adverts from several local stores and check out what items are on sale that week. Make a list of what’s on sale and what items you could use. To do this you must plan ahead, which is my next money saving tip.
When you stroll up and down the grocery aisles looking for ideas on what to make for dinner your adding items to your cart at random, whether they are on sale or not. Instead try to get in and out of the grocery store with just what’s on your list. The simple act of planning ahead is one of the best money saving tips available. Most likely you will be switching up the grocery store that you shop at each week to get the lowest prices.
In addition to shopping with a list, try to only purchase food items. Grocery stores usually markup non-food items like soap, laundry detergent and toilet paper by as much as 20 to 40 percent. It’s better to buy items like these at discount retailers like Wal-Mart which provide lower pricing on these products.
When I started writing this column I made a promise to my readers that I would never give them money saving tips they would be embarrassed to use. My advice is practical and easy to implement. The TV series Extreme Couponing shows fanatical money savers who get joy from looking at their stockpile of deodorant that could last them into the next decade.
If you’re looking for money saving advice that won’t make you self-conscious you’re in the right place. I hope to see you next week for more spending and saving suggestions.
What do you think about these extreme couponers? Are they money saving super heroes or just extreme hoarders?
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,