Thursday, November 3, 2011
I'm sure many of you have at least heard of, if not seen, the TV show Extreme Couponing. I had heard about it and was intrigued, but seeing as we don't have TV, it made it a little difficult to watch. However, while visiting my parents a couple months ago, I was able to watch a couple episodes. I will admit that it is amazing that people are able to buy multiple cartloads of items for pennies, but it definitely isn't practical for most of us.
Let me start with the positive of the show. I think that seeing what can be done by shopping sales with coupons is inspiring. If you didn't previously use coupons, maybe you were encouraged to try your hand after seeing how much you can save with coupons. I myself use coupons, so I know that they can be a great tool for extending your food budget.
On the other hand, there are also things that I don't like about the show and that aren't helpful for viewers. First of all, for someone who decides to start couponing as a result of the show, I think it can be discouraging. Even basic, simple couponing takes time. Searching for coupons, matching them up with sales, cutting them out, checking ads, organizing your coupons, etc., takes a lot of time even with the utilization of websites that do much of the work for you. I can't even begin to imagine how much time the shoppers on the show are spending each week on couponing. Further, if you don't know how to pair coupons with sales, you may actually end up spending more money by using coupons. You typically only find coupons for name brand items, which, if not on a good enough sale, will cost you more than the generic store brand even with the coupon if you're not careful.
Another weakness of the show is the type of products they're purchasing and stocking up on. Most of the products they buy are prepackaged, imperishable, or convenience foods. I'm going to step out and say that the items they are able to score for free are not sufficient to feed a family nutritiously. So in addition to the many hours it takes to assemble their coupons and plan out their trip, they also have to plan additional shopping lists to fill in all of the missing holes if they want to feed their family a healthy and fresh diet.
Additionally, there are common courtesies involved in couponing. Many of the shoppers on Extreme Couponing will clear the shelves of certain items. I understand that they are getting the item for free or even making money off them, but it is important to keep other shoppers in mind. When I have the ability to purchase a lot of something for free or really cheap, I take into consideration how many of that particular item the store has and always leave plenty on the shelves for other shoppers.
I really do encourage our readers to give couponing a try, but please do it with realistic expectations. You are not going to be able to buy cartloads of groceries for a couple cents without spending hours and hours working on it. Utilize coupon websites such as Money Saving Mom or Coupon Mom. These sites will give tips and advice for realistic couponing and expectations. Basically, what it comes down to is priorities. For me, getting cartfulls of Ramen noodles, toilet paper, and deodorant is not nearly as important as caring for my family, taking care of my home, teaching and interacting with my daughter, and serving in my church. If I worried too much about coupons, much of the time I devote to these other things would be lost and these activities would no longer be priorities.
Sumiko's view of couponing:
As Kimiko stated above, to get a brand name item cheaper than the generic, you have to pair a really good sale with a coupon. Not only that, but you usually have to have it doubled or tripled to get the item free. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have absolutely no stores that double coupons. Consequently, I hardly ever use them.
Also, as my sister mentioned, food coupons are generally for pre-packaged, processed foods that I wouldn't feed my family on a regular basis even if I could get it free. And they just don't print coupons for dried beans, rice, and fresh produce.
Plus, I just can't drive from store to store to get the best deals. I have small children. It takes us 20 minutes to get in and out of the car at each stop. I'm a one- or two-stop shopper: WinCo and Costco.
There are actually only a handful of items that I use coupons for because I like the brand way more than the generic: Crest toothpaste, Prego pasta sauce, Ken's Steakhouse salad dressing, and Oral-B kids toothpaste (I have yet to find a generic fluoride-free toothpaste). I honestly can't think of any other coupons that I regularly use.
In addition to the websited Kimiko linked above, I'd also like to include The Frugal Find. She discusses Extreme Couponing on multiple occasions. You can check out her post about coupon fraud (some extreme couponers rely upon it) and her sarcastic post, "How to Be an Extreme Couponer." If you want to give couponing a try, check out her coupon class videos.