extreme couponing 2(My “not so extreme” shopping trip today – $7. Already eaten was our dinner –  a bucket of chicken on sale for $4.99, but marked to $1.99 because the deli was closing, as well as marked down apples.)

Extreme Couponing: the Reality

Many of you may have seen or heard about TLC’s show that have been airing, Extreme Couponing.
The first show highlighted four avid couponers who take their stockpiling of groceries and coupon cutting to the extreme. Not only do they take deal seeking to a new level, which some called OCD,  but the amount of time spent to find and conquer the deals each day is extreme.  There are so many aspects of the show that I want us to learn from about couponing, both pro and cons, cons, cons, but I am just going to address one aspect – we’ll look at each of these couponer’s best shopping trip.
Is Extreme Couponing real?
Shopper Nat’s retail value of groceries were $5,743.00. His cost after utilizing his coupons: $241.00 – 95% savings! This included 2000 items with 1,100 boxes of cereal, 300 toothbrushes and 60 bottles of hand soap.
Shopper Amanda’s retail value of groceries were $1,175.33. Her cost after utilizing her coupons: $51.67 – 98% savings. Her trip consisted of nine baskets of food, beauty and pet products including 218 boxes of pasta, 268 containers of noodles, 100 bottles of sport drink and 150 candy bars.
Shopper Joanie’s retail value was $638.64. Her cost after utilizing her coupons: $2.64 – 98% savings! (Obviously, she drove to a state or lives in a state that had no grocery tax because my tax alone would have been more than that.) During this trip,  she filled four carts full of 250 items including 40 boxes of pasta and 20 liters of soda.
For those of you who do not coupon, you wonder, “How in the world can anyone get all that for practically free? Here is the reality of those shopping trips; they are not possible if one adheres to typical store coupon policies. Those trips, as is, could not occur just as portrayed on the show. Extreme Couponing is not reality for the typical shopper.
My knowledge of couponing can teach the best of them.
I know that coupons are only worth it 8% of the time. Yes, 92% of all coupons are NOT worth it (click here to read why not).
I understand how those couponers on the show purchased thousands of dollars of “free food.” I understand the principles behind them, and I could do the same, but unfortunately, someone new to couponing would see that show and perceive a “get rich quickly” type of couponing scenario. There are already so many people committing coupon fraud (they are not on this first episode) or using coupons for things in which they are not intended, that a show like this can tend to hyper-inflate and encourage that over indulgent aspect.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for getting items for free. I am a Grocery Guru. I can share extreme couponing how to’s. I am all about saving money and being good stewards with the resources we are given – coupons being one of them, but there must be a balance. There must be moderation with our pursuit of the “best deal.”
Learning the art of couponing and creating a stock pile takes time, especially since every store has a distinctive coupon policy to limit the type of activity that was portrayed on the show. Now I understand that it’s TV, which means ratings is their number one goal, and major editing had to occur. No one wants to see a “normal couponing” show, so to achieve these trips, some stores had to bend their policies a bit for the additional publicity they would receive. To allow this show, without full disclosure of editing, did a disservice to all of us who use coupons in the manner for which they were intended.
I love that it opened up the world of saving money and got people buzzing about the creative ways some of us have been been pinching pennies for years, but honestly, people already raise their eyebrows at me when I have my coupon binder in the store, which I don’t mind, but to have the only example of extreme couponers being people portrayed to have some serious boundary/balance issues doesn’t help mentor or coach anyone in the art of couponing.
Most stores that double coupons have a limit per day of 20, so when math was shown about doubling coupons and then hundreds of items were purchased, that isn’t reality. Also, most stores have a per “like item” limit on coupons, meaning you may use three like coupons. That is why I only have 3 Lysol and not 20. Personally, I had a $1/Lysol wipes, so I could only get 3 of those in one day, and any more than that would be breaking this particular store’s coupon policy. (They are all a bit different.) If the coupon was for $1/2, then I could get 6 etc.
My desire is to have six months of a stock pile on necessities, so that does require quantities of multiple items. I’ve shown some of my larger shopping trips before, and yes, they have been amazing, but what I showed in these pictures is more realistic, more doable…for anyone. If I am trying to stock up on that many pantry items, it doesn’t happen over night or in one shopping trip. Since the store I frequent limits items, I would need to go back every day while those items were on sale (if the shelves weren’t already cleared),  and use my coupons to create a small stockpile of items.
There are a few national stores that may not limit coupons, but unless you have prearranged additional product for that item during that sales week, clearing the stores of 100, 200, 300+ of any item would just be excess.

Extreme CouponingSales are cyclical, and as you become a grocery guru, you realize that if you miss a deal, it will come back around within a few months. Now, if I could have bought ten Wholly Guacamoles at one time, I would have because we go through it so quickly. Please understand I think stock piling is a wise, financial principle for our family and our grocery budget, but I believe in everything there’s moderation, even in achieving Grocery Guru status. 😉

And since I know that some of you are wondering how much the groceries from my two pictures cost – $7/two separate days. What cracked me up was the shock from my college aged cashier. She picked up one of the feminine products (I don’t think any guys read my blog…sorry if you do), and said, “I just paid almost $7 for this and you got all this?”

Yes, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?

Join me as I continue sharing Grocery Guru tips, but we’ll do it well, do it right, and do it without regrets.

Looking for ways to immediately cut your grocery bill in half? See my Top Ten ways to budget your grocery budget that doesn’t always include clipping coupons.