The show “Extreme Couponing” is a reality TV series that follows those who have a passion for couponing, budgeting, and saving money. Or does it? The show, while very entertaining, and sometimes educational, can easily scare the potential casual couponer away from even starting. This show truly portrays the “extreme” in how far people will go to save money. There are some very important differences between how couponing is portrayed on the show, and how the practical aspect of budgeting and couponing is performed by the typical family, or for anyone trying to save some money.
Spending Money to Save Money
The point of couponing is to save money on the things you buy anyway like clothes, shoes and groceries from the stores you love to shop at like Kohl’s, Overstock, Nordstrom Rack, Hudson’s Bay, Wayfair and Amazon. You can find coupons in your local newspaper, online (on our site, of course!), or in stores. For the most part, you shouldn’t be spending money to save money – we believe that coupons should be free! The show takes the practice of couponing to such an extreme that the people on the show are actually spending significant amounts of money in order to obtain a large number of coupons. They will spend money on dozens of newspaper subscriptions, buy from third party coupon vendors who sell in bulk but charge for the service, or go so far as to buy multiple laserjet printers so they can print mass, and unrealistic, quantities of coupons.
Many extreme couponers spend upwards of 60 hours a week collecting coupons and shopping. Anyone who works full time knows that 60 hours spent on couponing a week is a mighty task, even when done entirely from home and online. The extreme couponers essentially make a job out of couponing. For the average consumer, couponing is a way to save money over time. While you may only being saving a few dollars per shopping trip, over an entire year the little amounts will add up, and spending countless hours trying to save hundreds of dollars on every single outing isn’t something the average consumer needs to do.
Ability vs. Need
This is perhaps the most significant difference between the reality TV show, and the actual practice of using coupons to save money. Some people featured on the show are not purchasing things they need, or will even use. Sometimes extreme couponers donate their purchases to those in need, but the majority of them are stockpiling 50 boxes of cake mix for themselves. The typical person who clips coupons uses them them for things that they already buy. If you’re buying something that you will not use, or don’t need, are you really saving money? Many of those on the show are saving money because they can, not necessarily because they need the items. Some are so impassioned about saving money that they are willing to devote endless amounts of time and money to save hundreds of dollars on products they may not ever use. We’d rather spend that money on travel and adventure!
The Reality of Couponing
Couponing and extreme couponing are two different things that shouldn’t be confused. It’s important to understand that there is a way to casually use coupons while still saving money – you don’t have to devote hours on end to save hundreds of dollars on every purchase. Don’t be discouraged if on the show you see someone saving $900 on a $1000 bill. When was the last time you spent $1000 online or while shopping? It’s more realistic to save a few dollars here and there, making a long term budget strategy that’s realistic and accumulates savings over time. Remember, reality TV is not always reality!