There has been a lot of BUZZ about the TLC show Extreme Couponing. Basically you either LOVE it or you HATE it. I shared my thoughts on the show back when it originally aired in December 2010 and I still pretty much agree with my initial reactions. The season premiere aired last week and there is a lot of controversy and commentary surrounding it (more on this later) and the second episode airs tonight.
I was talking with my sister this morning (she’s not much of a couponer) and she said to me, “I was watching Extreme Couponing last night (a rerun) and I really wish I could save like that!” She was inspired to want to start couponing more, like a lot of you who might be new to my site this week looking for couponing advice.
My first response to my sister was: That’s not reality. Most real-life (and have-a-life) couponers don’t shop like that. It’s made for TV. The show is all about the most extremes of extremes (hence the name “Extreme Couponing”). The producers encourage the show participants to do their best shopping trip ever. That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s intent is NOT a “how to” show, but rather a “how cool” show.
I’ve also had e-mails from readers this week asking me what I think about the show. I’m not interested in placing judgment on the show participants (the couponers and their families), the show itself, or anything related to it. But I DO want to EDUCATE new couponers or people who watch the show.
So here are my basic thoughts on it:
It’s not reality. . .it’s reality TV. It’s edited to look as extreme as possible. Most of the coupon shoppers on the show spent HOURS (maybe days) planning their shopping trip, placed special orders with the store ahead of time (to ensure the stock was on hand), ordered coupons ahead of time (which costs money!), and worked with the store manager to arrange their shopping trips.
Saving thousands on one shopping trip is not how the average couponer shops. I personally save 80-90% on most shopping trips, but my total (before coupons and store promotions) is $100-$150. So I’m spending $20-$40 and I’m buying real food – THINK MEALS, NOT JUST DEALS.
It doesn’t happen overnight. So you saw the show and you want to start saving big. Sorry to rain on your rainchecks, but you won’t be saving big overnight. There is a learning curve, you’ve got to start collecting your coupons and you gotta get in the couponing groove. Be patient. You’ll get there. I tell people it takes a few weeks (maybe a couple months) to see real results and to build a stockpile.
Stockpiles – Size isn’t everything. The show really focused last week on these huge mini-mart-style stockpiles in people’s homes. Stockpiles are the KEY to saving money, with the idea of NOT having to run to the store and pay full-price for something when you need it. Buy staples when they are at rock-bottom price (about every 12 weeks) and buy enough to last your family long enough until it goes on sale again. If you have seven kids – yes, a big stockpile is an important part of making your budget stretch. If you have a family of two, maybe not so much. AND – the size of your stockpile does not matter if you can’t make any meals from it. THINK MEALS, NOT JUST DEALS.
Learn the right way to coupon by taking a coupon class!
In full disclosure there is some controversy regarding last week’s Extreme Couponing show and the use of coupons by one of the couponers on the show. There are some serious allegations of fraud floating around. What do I think of this? The evidence is pretty convincing BUT I won’t personally place judgment (I wasn’t there, I don’t know Jamie, etc.).There are people in the business of investigating coupon fraud and I’ll leave that to them.
I WILL say this – if you shop with coupons, it’s your responsibility to follow the rules and be ethical. Make sure you are informed about the right way to use coupons and follow those guidelines. Pleading ignorance is not an excuse. We owe it to fellow couponers, the stores (who graciously accept our coupons) and the manufacturers (who generously offer us discounts) to coupon the right way, everyday. I plan to write about this more in the coming week. The Coupon Information Corporation is a good resource and they have a fraudulent coupon database.
If you missed last week’s Extreme Couponing episode 1 you can download it for FREE right now on iTunes. (Thanks, Bargain Briana!)
I’ll be tuning in tonight (Wednesdays 9/8 c) to see what the next episode has in store for us!
Want to get a crash course in couponing and learn the right way to save money? Take one of my coupon classes!
UPDATE: I recently talked with KIRO 97.3 Radio (Seattle) about the Extreme Couponing show and couponing in general. Listen to the KIRO 97.3 Radio :: Extreme Couponing interview here!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Please chime in!