Extreme Couponing: Frugal or Obsession?

Extreme Couponing is a TV reality show that first aired on TLC in April of this year, in which contestants try to get as many grocery items for as little money as possible. Thus far, there have been two seasons and twenty- four episodes of the show. The show has become a model for collecting and using coupons in the real world. Even though the show depicts an unrealistic display of coupon use, many are turning towards this fad as more than just a way to save a few dollars. Those with obsessive tendencies are finding solace in the new wave of shopping.

For any that have seen the show, they will notice the stockpiles of goods purchased during their extreme couponing shopping trip. Some may consider this as a type of hoarding. Each shelf is line up as you would see in the stores, perfectly squared and organized, in as many would consider being an obsessive manner.

From the very beginning, we see people stocking up on much more than they may actually need, simply because they have the coupons (and probably also because they are contestants on a reality show). The very first contestant had accumulated 450 rolls of toilet paper and 250 rolls of paper towel, as well as 60 boxes of cereal, 70 bottles of laundry detergent, 100 containers of cleaning wipes, and 200 soaps.

The second contestant had to keep her huge stock of purchases all over the house (which her children have even called the Ivanovsky mini- mart). She even had to put a new shelving system into her bedroom! “Sometimes I feel as though the walls are just closing in on me,” she said. There is a large collection of paper towels beneath one of the children’s beds. Imagine what it must be like to have to run all the way upstairs to one’s bedroom to get the food that should be right on hand in the kitchen.

Some consumers, such as those on the second episode, also use a large portion of their coupons to buy food that has absolutely no nutritional value, which seems more like a need to use the coupons rather than the need for the item they are purchasing. Examples such as this show the fine line between being frugal and becoming obsessive with couponing.

The ways in which some of the contestants obtain their coupons is also a cause for concern. One of the contestants gets hers in perfectly legitimate ways; from newspapers, the Internet, product packaging, and store displays. But other contestants get theirs in less savory ways, such as rummaging through their neighbors recycling bins late at night.

At this point many would take a step back and see just how far their compulsion for couponing has come. If you are digging through the trash late at night to save 50¢ on a can of soup, are you being frugal or has your obsession reached a new height?

The show itself is very entertaining and the use of coupons is definitely a recommended way of saving money. However, the extreme couponing craze that is becoming more popular shows what it truly means to direct an obsession. With the amount of time, effort, and planning that goes into creating an extreme coupon shopping trip, one could facilitate a full time job.

On the surface, extreme couponing may sound like an excellent way for people to learn about budgeting and planning a shopping trip. But it can also foster many bad habits such as buying junk food, going through other people’s trash, and getting more than one needs.

In today’s economy, becoming frugal is becoming a necessity. However, for some it has become an obsession that is unhealthy, dangerous and overall unnecessary. Some smart shopping tips can be taken from the extreme couponing model, but as with everything else, it should be taken in stride.

About the Author

As a stay at home parent, Mary Blanchard understands the importance of making her dollars stretch. Frequently she searches many deal sites for the best deals. She prefers the discounts on Amazon products at Coupon Croc to many other sites offers.

*Image by BigFreaky.*