Thursday, July 21, 2011

I’ll take a pass on Extreme Couponing

Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, but it was just this past weekend that I tuned into a few episodes of TLC’s Extreme Couponing. As a frugalista, one would think that this would become my favourite show ever as the couponer’s profiled are saving thousands of dollars on their grocery and household bills with their savvy coupon clipping matched against store promotions. However, the show made me anxious and rather than applauding the Extreme Couponers, I felt sorry for them.

Their lives are cluttered with “things”

In the four episodes that I watched, eight women were profiled and they all took great pride in showing off their inventory. These were rooms upon rooms of consumer products meticulously organized, more closets than you count filled with coupon booklets, and up to five computers per house to maximize the process of downloading e-coupons. Who wants to live like that?

I understand the benefit of buying items in bulk (I’m a Costco girl after all), but I am actively trying to become a minimalist. Buying stuff got me into trouble with my credit cards in the first place and now, my closet is filled with clothes that I wear, my pantry has empty shelves instead of being stuffed with processed food, and I’m actively selling items on Craigslist that I no longer need.

Seeing the thousands of products in these Extreme Couponers’ homes is not how I want my home to be. While these women got their products for next to nothing, why do they need a four year supply of toothpaste or 350 bottles of nighttime pain reliever? It’s unnecessary excessive consumption.

Rebecca wakes up at 5:00 am everyday to start 
her couponing and can't get enough of stuff. 

They are not eating well 

At the end of each segment, the announcer recaps the bill of what the purchased items should have been (e.g. $1,208) and the cost that the Extreme Couponer actually paid for it (e.g. $9.47). Then the announcer recaps what they purchased. This part made my stomach turn over as the list would include things like 128 bottles of 1L Coke, 72 frozen pizzas, 46 bags of Lays potato chips, and so on. I suppose this is when the audience is supposed to give a round of applause to the Extreme Couponer for her purchases, but seriously, why would you ever eat that?

Of the 4 shows that I saw, only one woman purchased a fruit – and it was only one bunch of bananas because the store was giving them away for free (they were so ripe you couldn’t even make a smoothie with them). Another woman would use her coupon overage (when the coupon value exceeds the retail price) against meat purchases. But here’s the gross part, she would select the cheapest and smallest packs of ground beef find in order to maximize her overage. You couldn’t pay me to eat ground beef from a grocery store (and if you want to know why, please read Fast Food Nation). If I want ground beef then it’s coming from a butcher where I see him pick up the slab of meat and grind in front of me.

I understand that not all families can afford to buy local meat and shop at farmer’s markets for fruits and vegetables, and I think it’s shameful that potato chips are cheaper than a bag of apples. But if these Extreme Couponers are savvy enough to work the system for free jars of Tums, then they can certainly figure out how to get a discount on fresh food. After all, you are what you eat.

Their lifestyles are not healthy

These women dedicate 35 – 60 hours a week to couponing and shopping. Granted, only one of the eight held a full-time job (and her husband was a stay-at-home dad), so I suppose you could argue that their ability to save thousands of dollars on household expenses offsets their lack of income.

But it wasn’t the fact that these women didn’t work that bothered me – it was the fact that they didn’t work out.

Now, I’m not saying that they need to go out and become Jillian Michael look-alikes, but six out of eight of the woman that I saw profiled could have been contestants on The Biggest Loser. It was obvious that their lifestyle was so consumed by couponing that they didn’t make their health a priority. In addition to eating poorly, the Extreme Couponers were not even attempting to exercise off the 720 calories that comes with eating a Kraft Delissio pizza.

What brings you joy in life?
For Amanda, it's staring at her toilet paper stockpile.
In one segment, Amanda Manders (who was on the show for a second time) said something to the effect of, “when I look at my piles of toilet paper, it brings me great joy.” Seriously? I’d much rather spend a few dollars on toilet paper in order to make time to go out for a job and get a runner’s high.

No redemption by me  

All in all, the show left me unmotivated and disheartened. While I believe a penny saved is a penny earned, the woman profiled in Extreme Couponing reveal that this comes with a cost to your health and achieving a balanced lifestyle. I am going to continue to browse through my Thursday night flyer bag for coupons & and keep an envelope in my wallet well-stocked with rebates against my favourite products, but this is where my relationship with Extreme Couponing will end.

Does anyone feel the same way?



  1. Totally agree. Coupons can be great when you're buying something you'd regularly buy, but "saving" hundreds of dollars in order to stockpile so much stuff your house looks like a supermarket? It's wasteful, not thrifty.

  2. Agreed! Many friends and coworkers had recommended this show to me so I thought I was missing out. Not in the least! The extreme lifestyle is far from the fabulous and balanced one I'm trying to have.