Coupons can help you save quite a bit of cash, but can you take it too far?

I’ve Been hearing a lot lately about couponing that is extreme. The hit reality show on TLC and economy appear to be driving interest in this phenomenon that takes clipping coupons to, well. (This isn’t the neatly-organized coupon folder your mother used to keep.)

For The stars of the show, the uninitiated spend hours meticulously coordinating their coupons before traveling to stores with coupon redemption policies that are lenient , often with dozens of coupons for the exact items and then searching for. They proceed to get hundreds of dollars worth of products but wind up paying only a few dollars for the whole haul. Inevitably, the series ends with the couponers unloading the bounty into a pantry overflowing with five-year supplies of canned goods, mustard, and pain reliever.

We know this fad is intense –but can it be a crazy or brilliant extreme? I set out to investigate.

First, I wanted to see what happened in the news with couponing. I hunted through recent news articles and found some interesting stories. It was enlightening to read about others’ opinions and about intense couponers’ customs.

Here are some of the news clips:

“A Self-proclaimed extreme couponer states Walmart banned her from all shops for life after a heated argument with a manager over coupon policy”

“A Her aim was to grab as many coupon inserts as possible.” –The Consumerist

Extreme Couponing: Student Saves $300 a Month

“On That first shopping trip, she felt the rush of watching her fall from $263 to $50 and presented the cashier with her coupons. “Pretty good for the first time!” –CNN Money

“Clarissa Eggers is an intense coupon commando from way back. For that, she thanks her exceptionally frugal mother.

Next, I asked our Facebook fans (if you’re not a fan yet, join here) what they thought about extreme couponing. Here’s what they said:

I also asked tweeters, who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the subject.

After Asking around and digging through news articles, it became clear that a lot of folks shared my reaction: intense couponing isn’t exclusively crazy or brilliant, it’s a bit of both.




First things first, intense couponing does seem to hoarding like a gateway drug. 62 bottles! I don’t know about you, but I’m one bottle and a mustard-lover continues me, a year, like. It would still last me even if my mustard consumption double. That’s longer than I have been alive!

Does Mustard maintain its edibleness for 62 years? I’m guessing it does not. Therefore, unless I had been to increase my one-bottle-per-year rate of usage, this wouldn’t be a great deal for me.

And, as a couple tweeters Hoarding is extreme couponing and a serious problem . Lots of people don’t appear to care about getting good deals on things they really need, instead they care about how much they could get and how little they could spend on it–no matter what it is.

The Questionable thing I notice about extreme couponing is the time commitment. I’ve clipped coupons before, but just those thin circulars that you find in the Sunday newspaper. (And, I just buy one newspaper–not 185.) The Sunday coupons when I clip, I save $ 4 or $5.

Therefore, if I wanted to Begin saving hundreds of dollars, Obviously I’d have to start devoting several hours per week. That’s not something I’m sure I wish to give up. The opportunity cost doesn’t make it worth it.

I think the time Commitment reaches full-on crazy once you’re spending hours on your coupon clipping habit. And people actually do spend that much time on couponing that is intense. These individuals are sometimes even called”professional couponers” and there are countless blogs and forums dedicated to becoming a successful extreme/professional couponer.

Finally, doesn’t it seem that extreme couponing makes people act, well, a little extreme? I mean–being arrested for sneaking over 100 newspapers and being banned from Walmart for lifetime?! Both seem like nearly unbelievable stories. And both crimes–albeit benign –seem like ones which were committed by people who have lost some sense of reality from the couponing game that is intense.



There seem to be two Common extreme couponing trends which produce the habit brilliant: saving money (obviously), but also the ability to give away products to charity.

The student couponer from Missouri managed to purchase 30 cans of infant formula (and make money from the process since her coupons were more than the actual price–this is known as”the holy grail” of extreme couponing) and donate the formula to neighboring Joplin, Missouri, which was hit by a monster tornado earlier this year.

And tales of charitable giving through intense couponing are numerous. And probably the biggest couponing donation ever was shown on the TLC show that kick started the occurrence: a woman has given over $100,000 worth of food because she started couponing.

Reading Those stories swayed my perception of intense couponing quite a bit. If saving intense amounts of cash inspires people to do out extreme good and help others, then it it’s not crazy after all? In my eyes giving is the core of all that’s good in the world and it seems that extreme couponing gives some people the ability to provide and help which is something they might not have been able to do.

And, of course, the personal perk of extreme Couponing is the insane amount of money that you can save. People really do save hundreds, even thousands of dollars. 1 new couponer said she saved in her first 12 months of couponing; another slashed her grocery bill.
Enticing to many–especially as our country heads into a recession that is second that is possible. Jobs are at stake, the housing market is still struggling and everybody is eager to save an extra buck.

Charitable Giving and saving money are just two powerful motivators for couponing. So much so, that I think that they outweigh the crazy side of couponing.