Save your first—or NEXT—$100,000!

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who’ve been there.

Get our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool: Our FREE 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on the money goals you’re working toward right now.

No, thanks
Advertising Disclosure

Extreme Couponing: Are These People Brilliant or Just Plain Crazy?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about extreme couponing. The hit reality show on TLC and dismal economy seem to be driving interest in this phenomenon that takes clipping coupons to, well, extremes. (This is not the neatly-organized coupon folder your mom used to keep.) Extreme couponing is a hobby less about saving money and more about gaming the system of manufacturer promotions and stockpiling—dare I suggest hoarding—absurd quantities of household products.

For the uninitiated, the show’s stars spend hours searching for and then meticulously organizing their coupons before traveling to stores with lenient coupon redemption policies, often with dozens of coupons for the same items. They proceed to buy hundreds of dollars worth of products but, thanks to their coupons, wind up paying only a few dollars for the entire haul. Inevitably, the show ends with the couponers unloading the bounty into a pantry overflowing with five-year supplies of canned goods, mustard, and pain reliever.

We know this fad is extreme—but is it a crazy or brilliant extreme? I set out to investigate.

First, I wanted to see what was happening in the news with extreme couponing. I searched through recent news articles and found some interesting stories. It was enlightening to read about others’ opinions and about the habits of so-called extreme couponers.

Here are some of the better news clips:

Couponer Banned From Walmart Following Argument

“A self-proclaimed extreme couponer says Walmart banned her from all stores for life following a heated argument with a manager over coupon policy.” —The Consumerist

Extreme Couponer Arrested For Stealing 185 Newspapers

“A woman who “just loves to save money” is in legal trouble after surveillance cameras caught her stealing bags of unsold newspapers from newspaper boxes. Her goal was to snatch up as many coupon inserts as possible.” —The Consumerist

Extreme Couponing: Student Saves $300 a Month

“On that first shopping trip, she presented her coupons to the cashier and felt the adrenaline rush of watching her total drop from $263 to $50. “Pretty good for my first time!” she recalls.”CNN Money

Shoppers Save Hundreds on Groceries, Staples

“Clarissa Eggers is an unabashed, extreme coupon commando from way back. For that, she thanks her extremely frugal mom. During a memorable coupon-fueled run a few years ago, [she] rode the Charmin wave all the way to Two-Ply Nirvana: For just a few pieces of [money], she acquired a two year supply of toilet paper” —The Daily Mail

Next, I asked our Facebook fans (if you’re not a fan yet, join here) what they thought about extreme couponing. Here’s what they said:

Facebook extreme couponing crazy brilliant

I also asked tweeters, who seemed pretty passionate about the topic.

extreme coupon tweets

After asking around and digging through news articles, it became clear that a lot of folks shared my initial reaction: extreme couponing isn’t exclusively crazy or brilliant, it’s a little bit of both.


First things first, extreme couponing does seem like a gateway drug to hoarding. One woman had stockpiled 62 bottles of mustard for her and her husband. 62 bottles! I don’t know about you, but I’m a mustard-lover and one bottle still lasts me, like, a year. Even if I double my mustard consumption, it’d still last me 31 years. That’s longer than I’ve been alive!

And that brings up the question of perish-ability. Does mustard maintain its edibleness for 62 years? I’m guessing it doesn’t. So, unless I were to increase my one-bottle-per-year rate of usage, this wouldn’t be a good deal for me.

And, as a couple tweeters mentioned, hoarding is a serious problem and extreme couponing seems to feed the addiction. Many people don’t seem to care about getting good deals on things they really need, rather they care about how much they can get and how little they can spend on it—no matter what it is.

The second questionable thing I notice about extreme couponing is the time commitment. I’ve clipped coupons before, but just those thin, shiny circulars you find in the big Sunday newspaper. (And, I only buy one newspaper—not 185.) Even digging through one Sunday coupon leaflet takes me about 15 minutes, give or take. When I clip the Sunday coupons, I usually save $4 or $5.

So, if I wanted to start saving hundreds of dollars, obviously I’d have to start devoting several hours per week to the practice. That’s not something I’m sure I want to give up. The opportunity cost doesn’t make it worth it to me.

I think the time commitment reaches full-on crazy when you’re spending full-time working hours on your coupon clipping habit. And people actually do spend that much time on extreme couponing. These people are sometimes even called “professional couponers” and there are countless blogs and forums devoted to becoming a successful extreme/professional couponer.

Finally, doesn’t it seem that extreme couponing makes people act, well, a little extreme? I mean—being arrested for stealing over 100 newspapers and being banned from Walmart for life?! Both seem like almost unbelievable stories. And both crimes—albeit harmless—seem like ones that were committed by people who have lost some sense of reality in the extreme couponing game.


There seem to be two common extreme couponing trends that make the habit brilliant: saving money (obviously), but also the ability to give products away to charity.

The student couponer from Missouri was able to buy 30 cans of infant formula (and make money in the process since her coupons were more than the actual price—this is referred to as “the holy grail” of extreme couponing) and donate the formula to nearby Joplin, Missouri, which was hit by a monster tornado earlier this year.

And stories of charitable giving through extreme couponing are numerous. Another woman donates $1,000 worth of extreme couponing goods to local charities on a monthly basis. And probably the biggest couponing donation ever was shown on the TLC show that kick started the phenomenon: a woman has donated over $100,000 worth of food since she began couponing.

Reading those stories swayed my perception of extreme couponing quite a bit. If saving extreme amounts of money inspires people to do extreme good and help others out, then it maybe it’s not that crazy after all? In my eyes, charitable giving is the heart of all that is good in the world and it seems that extreme couponing gives some people the ability to give and help which is something they may not have been able to do before.

And, of course, the biggest personal perk of extreme couponing is the insane amount of money that you can save. People really do save hundreds, even thousands of dollars. One new couponer said she saved over $2,700 in her first 12 weeks of couponing; another slashed her monthly grocery bill in half.

Statistics like these sound pretty enticing to many—especially as our country heads into a possible second recession. Jobs are at stake, the housing market is still struggling and everyone is eager to save an extra buck.

Charitable giving and saving money are two powerful motivators for couponing. So much so, that I think they outweigh the crazy side of extreme couponing.


I’ll admit that I became intrigued while reading these stories. I read one about someone who was able to coupon her way to a two-year supply of toilet paper for a mere $10. That’s a deal I could get into (I mean, we all need the stuff, and it doesn’t go bad).

But beyond a few necessary basics that everyone uses, I’m not sure I care to spend my time taking my couponing to extremes. I know some people get a thrill buying and owning, but I just don’t. In fact, owning too much stuff—especially stuff that I’ll never use—mostly just stresses me out (I guess that’s the inner-minimalist in me).

Plus, I think I’d become overwhelmed by feeling like I had to use up all those cans of spaghetti sauce. The pressure to consume my coupon winnings seems like it would take the fun out of using those items (besides, I like spaghetti and I’d like to keep it that way).

I prefer coupons to come to me rather then having to scout them out on a full-time basis. And I think this is true for many people. Everyone likes a good bargain, but smart bargain-shoppers recognize that there is an opportunity cost involved and weigh the options to decide on the best result (which isn’t usually spending your weekends inside, surrounded by tall stacks of coupons).

OK, let’s hear it. Are you a couponer? How extreme are you? What tricks do you use to get the best deals couponing? Let us know in a comment.


Published or updated on August 23, 2011

Want FREE help eliminating debt & saving your first (or next) $100,000?

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who've been there. Enter your email to receive our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool, our free 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on whatever money challenge you're facing right now.

We'll never spam you and offer one-click unsubscribe, always.

About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. jennifer g says:

    Oh my bob…well tonight was the first time i ever saw the extreme coupon show and the entire time the thoughts that were flying through my head was ” really? Cuz u need a ten ft tall stack of TP? Or 100 bottles of gatorade?” i was mortified at these ppl. Not one shopping trip showed a full weeks worth of meals for their families…just more stuff they do not need or hav room for. One woman find that buying an actual cow and having it killed for her family was cheaper than buy the meat at the store. WOW! Theres no way i would ever do that cuz for one thing my kids grow fast but cuz i hav the fat genes…..if my kids r not careful…well they will look like i do. And the sad part is we eat very healthy and the things i buy i hav never seen coupons for. Plus all the sites online do not hav the store in my area. I travel to the nearest city normaly to do my grocery shopping becuz its cheaper and our food and money lasts longer. But on one show one of the ladies drove like 100+ miles.in one direction to get something for free….ummm honey it is not free…cuz u just wasted a bunch of money in gas! Another thing that bothered me is i was under the impression that coupons had a limit of items u can use it on and that it was a one per customer as well?! Wth do they get away with using 10 of the same coupon?

  2. Tobi says:

    I have been couponing for a year… i take breaks from it and have a stock pile.on consumables items like cereal and pasta i have a 6 month rule. On items like cleaner and body wash and shampoo i have a one year rule… do i ever go over that? YES! Absolutly! I do purchase extras when i can and i put them all in Christmas baskets. This year i gave my son over $500 in products he needs and uses and can’t always afford. I gave my parents a few hundered dollars in items and all said i gave away $1200 in really good products where i would not have been able to afford as much as a christmas card for them what i ended up keeping was a years supply of a few items. All of my extras were gone and to my surprise i barley had enough to get. the baskets made. Though the year i gave to food banks and a youth shelter. Do i have the time to coupon? Absolutly! I am on disabilty and i have WAY more time then money lol. Now we are eating better and we can afford fantastic product that we get for close to free or paid to take out of the store. Going back to a life where we had to eat hot dogs and kraft dinner and buying no name shampoo and even tooth paste when we could be eating steak with veggies and potatoes is not something i will be changing. I might be pretty broke… but i am surely not crazy.

  3. dayna says:

    Sorry Dang computer I’m not ahorder my stockpile gets eating.If more people new how its done they wouldn’t be haters on couponing

  4. dayna says:

    Well I extreme coupon and my stockpile is worth about 4000.00 worth.Andim not a bordering eat my stockpile…lol Plus I donate a lot and help my family out a lot.If more people new how its done and how much they could save they wouldn’t be hatred on couponers.

  5. Eugenia says:

    I just started to coupon after my friend told me about the extreme couponing show on TLC. I have 8 kids to feed on a tight budget and although I don’t do “Extreme Couponing” I do find that I can get really good deals on things my family actually uses and pay less than half. I got many things for free (halloween candy, dish soap, personal items) usually from the drug stores. I have received items for either half off or more than half off retail price by using the extreme couponing ideas. The one issue I have is there isn’t many coupons for certain items say dairy and produce products. It is time consuming but i feel well worth it. In this economy it is essential to find any legal necessary means to keep to our budgets. I wouldn’t go hog wild on stocking things I don’t necessarily use like 62 bottles of mustard!! I do stock up on things realistically(ie 5 boxes of cereal) that I know my family will use and stick to a strict budget. the sales and coupons are circular so no need to go hog wild! There are other ways to save money like going to discount stores for grocery items and thrift bread stores as well.

  6. Angela says:

    I’m a stay at home mom of 6 and my husband is disabled. I’ve started to really get into couponing. I was able to save almost $100 during my last Walmart trip and I’m looking at saving about $200 when I go grocery shopping. For me, that’s awesome! I don’t agree with the people that clear shelves or the hoarders. 200 rolls of paper towel, come on! Plus, I only buy stuff I need. Couponing for us has really helped our limited budget.

  7. Lisa says:

    One sentence jumped out at me in this list , AND I usually do NOT hone in on ONE BUT ….

    The PERSON that said “Quality of life ” for their family . Obviously you have never watched the show . How is all of that processed food with not ONE dairy (besides all that yogurt which spoils in a few days) , NO vegetables ,

    THERE IS NO ACTUAL FOOD IN THEIR CARTS !! There is NO way I would bring all that CRAP home with me to clutter up my house and give me NO nutrition !! Dried this , canned that , powdered that , sugary drinks , GROSS !

    If these people call THAT food , and I have watched the show , then their doctors must just LOVE them .

    It is no wonder these women find nothing wrong with it — THEIR BRAINS ARE STARVED OF NUTRIENTS !!

  8. Jen says:

    I keep an eye out for coupons whenever I’m getting read to do our monthly grocery run but find the majority of coupons offered are for processed foods that aren’t good for you anyway. It’s rare to find coupons for meat and even rarer still for produce. The ones we use the most often are for dairy products.

    I have tons of friends who are obsessed with extreme couponing and their basements are filled with condiments, salad dressings, vitamin water, sodas, canned goods and processed junk. They might be saving money on groceries but their health care costs are through the roof. And let’s not forget about the 35 bodywashes, 78 tubes of toothpaste, 29 bottles of shampoo and 43 bottles of hair conditioner for their family of 4, I’m sure the products won’t have changed a bit by the time they get around to using all of them.

    Also, for some of the people who save 100s off their grocery bill (not talking about the extremes that pay maybe a few pennies & this certainly does not apply to ALL couponers), sometimes you need to look at where they shop. Even I can go to the local high priced grocery store and save hundreds on our monthly run buying items “on sale” but their sale price is often still higher than places like walmart, aldis and some of the less expensive chains.

    And nothing ticks me off more than hearing acquaintances say things like “CVS is offering Tylenol for free this week, I went to the three stores around me and cleared the shelves, bought 35 bottles!” None of them donate any of it so REALLY!?!?! Ever heard of expiration dates? Not to mention, what if someone actually needs the item and went to the store to purchase and its all cleared out because all the extreme hoarders have hit up the store?

    I think it’s great when people use coupons for items that can be donated to local shelters and food pantries. We were recently able to get a whole bunch of pet food on sale and donate it to the local animal shelter and that’s the kind of couponing I love and wish they would stick to showcasing. Let’s just skip the coupon fraud and illegal activity.

  9. Michelle says:

    We used to coupon shop casually, but then life got crazy with the addition of foster children. As we approached the finalization of their adoptions we knew we would have to make financial sacrifices and tighten the belt to make ends meet. Couponing is one of the ways I have chosen to do that. We are a large family: 9 children. We were spending about $1,600 per month on groceries, baby items and household products. $800 of this was at Costco. This is my first week of couponing again. We spent a total of $379 at 4 stores and saved $271, 46%. This is for a two week supply of food and essentials. All of the items we purchased are items we will use and I only purchased two papers. I agree that stockpiling with a ridulous amount of coupons for the same items is hurting other coupon shoppers. We did miss out on a few things that we really wanted because there was a good coupon and a store sale. Extreme couponers wiped out all three stores in our area.

  10. David says:

    It is crazy, as they have opened themselves to the ridicule to a pro-one world economy that would take away one’s right to save money by going on the show. It is brilliant as the vast majority of the extreme coupon-usage practitioners on the show are not just buying things for themselves. Some feed other relatives, other people in the neighborhood, and even are getting food and supplies for local shelters and charities.

    I find it amazing that so many people have criticized people for taking the advantage of stores that usually have to throw away at least a third of stock in the first place. It is also very interesting that it is “crazy” they devote their extra time instead of (heaven forbid) the local sports team or mindless couch potato activities.

    Genius and insanity ride a thin line on either sides of each other, but most of the people on the show do more with their lives than many. Perhaps it is jealousy that they can do it and others cannot.. or it shows how right some people are about how totally we all need a kick in the butts for letting our economy get this bad.

    They are a touch crazy, very brilliant, and all the way winners in the long run.

    • Debbie says:

      I use coupons all the time, not like these people do, however, I think it is all WONDERFUL…as long as rules are followed set down by both the stores and manufactures and as long as people are not stealing newspapers! Other than that, I applaud them! Wish I could be a little more like them, but just a little more!

  11. Sophie says:

    I’m always on the look out for couponers at the grocery store. I definitely do not want to be behind them in line!

    • Michelle says:

      lol. I totally understand. Since we are a large family, even before we started couponing, I would shop late at night so people didn’t have to wait in line behind my two overflowing carts. Now that I am seriously couponing, it is even more important to me to be considerate to others. If someone does get behind me with a few items, I let them go ahead or, if my order has started, I tell them that it may take a while since I have a large order and coupons.

  12. Janelle says:

    I have seen the show, actually a friend showed me it and she now does the extreme couponing. She’s “saved” a decent amount of money so far but nothing show (or spectacle) worthy. She buys 4-6 papers a week (from walmart not a subscription!) and sits on a sunday night, watches tv and clips her coupons and finds her sales…this actually doesnt take that much time for her. Maybe an hr or 2 and she “saves” a lot.

    My take on it…she’s a stay at home mom and she has the time during the week to do all the shopping at differnt stores and organize her binder through out the week, and find room to store it all. I cant imagine finding the time to do that while working 40 hrs a wk!! Plus, as other people have mentioned, she buys a lot of things she normally wouldnt buy or use. She ends up giving a lot of it to her friends (good for me!) and family. So while thats really nice of her, its not actually saving her any money.

    I’ve heard that some people assume that those on that show sell the stuff they buy and thats how they make money and what they do with their stock pile.

    For some, I really do think its a form of hoarding (even if they give it all away)/shopping addiction. its the security of having all this ‘stuff.’ And also a substitute since most cant afford to shop they way they once did.

  13. maria says:

    I think couponing is a great idea to some, what i don’t understand is why would you spend time on clipping coupons on items that you dont need or use just to keep for how long?.. to me thats not saving money….why not find/clip the coupons on the items you use on a constant basis, which i think its hard to do.

  14. Mara says:

    I definitely agree that extreme couponing can be, well, too extreme. The show on TLC is intriguing and inspiring, but what really frustrates me is the amount of hoarding many of the families seem to do, sacrificing space and so often their family’s sanity. Honestly, does a person really need 75 tubes of toothpaste for their family? I understand these nonperishables may eventually be used, but if a person is going on extreme shopping trips frequently, even if it is just once a month, how in the world can all of the products be used or consumed??? I think exploiting coupons should be used for good, not just to feed that urge or addiction.

    A while back I saw the Coupon Diva featured on Ellen. She obtains massive amounts of things for free or cheaply using coupons and donates them to her church or people that really need it. In this economy with so many people out of work and unable to support themselves, these items really should be going to those who need it. Not eventually rotting on a person’s shelves because they have an addiction to couponing. I suppose another big issue with feeding your family with these items is that there are never coupons for fresh produce. Feeding your family packaged and canned food all the time isn’t exactly healthy.

    To address another comment that was made about the cost effectiveness/time value of couponing, I think many of the people that coupon extensively do so to be able to stay at home with their children. So, one would have to take into account the amount of money saved by not having to pay for childcare as well.

    • Debbie says:

      Agreed with the child care thing, staying home can also ease the stress of working and trying to shop and clean house and feed your family all which can take it’s toll on a family, so being able to stay home can be nice.

      I can see having a small stockpile of nonperishable, but heck I wont eat even half the stuff you can buy with coupons, to high in fat ..salt.. and a million other bad things for us.

  15. David says:

    I think it is a little genius but mostly crazy. These people get a huge adrenaline rush when they go to the check out counter and see their bill drop from $1,000 to $50. It’s like a drug for them.

    I do agree with the opportunity cost issue… how much savings do you get versus the number of hours it took to clip and organize the coupons? Then again, when you’re poor and/or don’t have a full time job, extreme couponing makes sense from a opportunity cost standpoint.

  16. Michelle says:

    I am frugal, and briefly search for coupons before I shop, but NOTHING like these extreme couponers. I do the birthday deals, and love when there are freebies (without spending). On the one hand I think they are genius for being able to do all of it for a couple of bucks, but on the other hand I have no idea how they use all of the items they buy & using whole rooms to stockpile seems somewhat counterintuitive.

  17. I think extreme couponing for charity is a great idea. If it’s something you are passionate about and are already doing that amount of work for your family, you might as well help others out. If not, seems like another form of hoarding.

    • Monica says:

      I don’t know, the cynic in me asks “So now you are sticking a charity with a bunch of random items?” Not that a soup kitchen won’t be able to put some food to good use, but they’ll probably end up throwing out part of it as well. Further decreasing the value vs time trade-off….

    • Debbie says:

      I agree, if you are having a small stock for you and your family and donating to other who are in need, takes a little of the sting out. However, still no stealing or breaking coupon rules.

    • Joe says:

      However, in most cases this is not the intention. People go into stores with hundreds of cupons that give them overage, which they use to aquire all the items they want for free. They then unload there 400 disposable razor blades at food pantries and other donation areas. This is not someone trying to do the right thing, this is a scammer abusing the system and trying to make there act seem noble. Imagine all the people spending 30 plus hours a week on cupon clipping holding jobs. Not only would you have the money to buy your items, but you wold also be paying income tax and helping revamp the value of the american dollar. This would allow for the rebuilding of out countries infastructre, such as road ways and bridges. Instead, we give free money to those who do nothing. Giving them time to come up with scams such as exreme cuponing, which ony further devistates this countries econemy by allowing people to get someting for nothing. This can only last so long until our countries capatilist socitey comes crashing to the ground and we are all swearing our allegiance to china. After all we are already over 5 trillion dollars in dept to them.

  18. Louise says:

    I am definitely a bargain-shopper, but most coupons are not as good as the great deals I find on generic/store brands, shopping at Aldi, or buying at wholesale clubs. I do use some coupons – but only if I would buy the product without it – and let’s be honest, most grocery coupons are for expensive, unhealthy foods. Combining coupons for cereal (or chips or whatever) with store sales is an easy way to get a good stockpile of some household staples.
    If you are organized and disciplined, you can find really great deals combining coupons with drug store rewards, but I can never be bothered to make multiple transactions or get back to the store before the rewards coupons expire!

  19. Chase says:

    Our couponing is pretty simple. We have two divided folder things. One has 12 divisions for each month and we use that for restaurants and other non-grocery coupons. My wife maintains a smaller 3-division folder for all of the grocery coupons. When we get coupons in the mail, I’ll skim through them and keep anything we might possibly use and recycle the rest. My wife then goes through what I sorted and throws away whatever she doesn’t think we’ll use. We then file the stuff away. At the end of the month, we throw away all of the coupons we didn’t use.

    I think it’s a good balance of staying organized and not going overboard, but still using the coupons we naturally get in the mail.

  20. Mike says:

    Rather than spend countless hours looking through advertisements, and newspapers (which costs $12 a month), I simply buy generic items. I don’t shop according to the price tag, I shop with the unit price ($/oz). I have a monthly grocery bill of $80, spending even a few hours to cut that in half to $40 doesn’t make much sense to me.

    If I was in financial trouble I would probably clip coupons, but I am not, so I’ll leave the coupon clipping to those extremists on TV. I don’t subscribe to cable anyway and that saves $80 a month, fully paying for my groceries.

    • I’m with ya there — I’ve compared generic prices to coupon prices on name brands before and generic does seem to be the better option a good percentage of the time. And buying generic doesn’t take any extra work.

  21. LPO says:

    As a Loss Prevention Officer for a national retailer, I’d like to think I have a different view on this than most. Extreme couponing has become a huge thorn in my side because of the loss it creates to my company. Yes, when coupons are redeemed correctly, manufacturers reimburse the company for the amount of the coupon and no loss is incurred. To those people, the ones like Amanda above that use coupons for the correct products, in the correct sizes, during the correct time frame, I say more power to you. If you can shop at my store, save money doing so, and get what you need, then I fully encourage you to do so.

    However, in every single instance of “extreme” couponing that I have seen (and I see many every week), there is financial loss to my company, most often in the range of several hundred dollars. This loss is created by using expired coupons, getting the same product listed on a coupon but in a different (smaller) size, and doubling up when the coupons explicitly forbid doing so, among other ways. In situations like this, the manufacturer will refuse to reimburse the company for the item, as the conditions of the coupon were not met. While the people using the coupons may be able to get hundreds of dollars worth of product for a fraction of the cost, they are in essence driving the prices up for everyone else when my company tries to recoup their losses.

    • That’s an interesting perspective! Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t considered the loss that companies who accept the coupons have to deal with. No one really talks about what kind of impact extreme couponing has on the retailers.

    • Janelle says:

      Hmmm… im curious, in your instances all the loss is because of ‘bad’ extreme coupoing, things that shouldnt be allowed but are. Now I know with the extreme couponing it makes mistakes a LOT more prevalent but if it were done correctly would it still be a loss to retailers??

      • James says:

        Well, there’s a middle ground btwn. the “extreme” folks and customers who use coupons by-the-book. The middle ground can belong to customers who use multiple coupons from fliers provided free by retailers — so a customer who cuts many coupons from many flyers isn’t “stealing” as in the instance of the woman mentioned in the article.

        It frequently comes down to a judgment call that falls on the side of customer service. I work for a grocer with no stated policy on coupon usage other than an honor-system that relies on the “one coupon per purchase” language you’ll find on most coupons. Ultimately we allow customers to use as many coupons as they can until the transaction results in a negative balance, i.e. the customer has so many coupons that we owe them money back for the value of the coupons presented. As an employee of a retailer in an industry that has extremely tight costs on perishable product (as opposed to toilet paper) the abuse can be frustrating. Goods cost what they do, and the fact that coupons and sales are sometimes offered doesn’t mean the everyday consumer is the victim of a retailer-rigged game. The issuer of the coupon certainly doesn’t stick to our customer service standards; they reimburse us to their standards.

        LPO is correct that this can drive costs up — cost on the retailer’s side, and costs on the consumers’ side.

    • todd says:

      perhaps you should train your people better about the proper use of coupons. ( expired, wrong size item etc.) rather than blame the consumer who is paying for yor overpriced items made with slave labor in a third world country by children. just my thoughts on this one

      • James says:

        I’m not sure there’s “blame” on consumers being passed around here. Is your argument that retailers who offer discounts through coupons are necessarily selling, I assume, sweatshop product?

      • Joe says:


        Perhaps you shoud keep this statment in mind the next time you see a 400lb woman directing profanity at a cashier. The horrible truth is that when given an answer they do not like, people today will result to creating a scene in the store, in the hopes that the manager will give them what they want to simply to shut them up. In an country that is now more then 50% dependent on government assistance, people still try and find ways to get free money. In my opionion, work and earn your way of go without. Extreme cuponing is going to ruin savings for the hardworking people who try and follow the rules, as retailers will eventully tighten there hold on there cupon rules. Thinking that you should be paid to leave a store with merchandise, a word comes to mind CONARTIST.

  22. Carrie Smith says:

    I have sisters who are very good at couponing, but not as extreme as some of the people on TV. They just get what they need for their families at a 30-50% discount, nothing too over-the-top.

    Some of the hoarders…errr I mean extreme couponers on the show donate the food and clothing to local food banks and shelters. That in my opinion, is a great way to take advantage of couponing while still helping others (and living on the adrenaline rush of getting a deal).

    I also agree with The Oil Barron In Training above me, that time is money. Some of these people are spending far too much time and effort in “saving money” when they could still use coupons like a normal person while benefiting from time spent with family, a hobby or part time job.

  23. The Oil Barron In Training says:

    The thing that keeps popping into my mind is the time aspect. If these people are spending 30-40 hrs a week on this, then what is the opportunity cost? Particularly, are they saving more than they could earn with a full time job? That question is more than just salary, you have to include benefits such as insurance and 401(k) matching. Also, if you are buying a bunch of crap you don’t need, does the savings really count as a benefit?

    Being an engineer I feel the need to look at the numbers. Assume average salary of $35,000 per year. After 20% income tax, take home is $28,000. Include insurance benefit of $5776 per year (based off of national average of $13,770; $9,773 from employer and $3,997 employee contribution, which must be subtracted from income for a net benefit of $5,776). Also include 401(k) company match of 5% pre tax salary, which is $1,750 per year. The total benefit is $35,526 per year or $2,960 per month.

    That means that one would need to save more than $2,960 dollars per month to put weigh having a full time job. I also call true savings only that which you saved on stuff you actually need. So to me, the numbers don’t lie, it is crazy. It would bench more beneficial to have a full time job, generating actual cash.

    • todd says:

      maybe you should paid a little more attention to spelling and grammar rather than the numbers

    • Debbie says:

      There is also the fact that many can stay home with their children and coupon, they provide for their families.. and if they enjoy it on top of that, nothing replaces joy ..no pay check can do that, it is wonderful when you can have both.

      However, I draw the line when it comes to breaking the rules, or stealing newspapers, also when you have to make 17 transactions at once all separate for one day of shopping, that is so not fair to the grocery store. How can the grocery owners pay for that checker to stand there when they make no profit from the transaction?

    • Michelle says:

      You did not factor in childcare, transportation cost, wardrobe requirements, and the time spent away from family, as well as added stress. Many of the couponers are women who are raising the quality of life for their families by saving money thus translating into money in the bank. Obviously, I am not referring to the most extreme couponers. My children help clip the coupons, chosing things they would like. The older girls and I shop together, cook the food together and enjoy the recreational things we can afford from the money we saved with coupons. They are learning good money management skills. We also try to save the most on non-food items which allows us to spend more money on higher quality foods including organics.

  24. Colin says:

    It’s all about TVM (Time Value of Money).

    If I can save several bucks with 1-2 minutes of work, it’s worth it.

    If I save $100-150 bucks from more than 10 hours of work, it’s not worth it.

    Even if I slash my grocery bill, if they’re going to extremes of 30 hrs/wk it’s not worth it…they may be saving thousands, but it’s hours lost, it’s likely multiple trips to multiple locations (sometimes requiring cross-city driving) to bring back goods you need to find storage for…and even then, I have to wonder how much of it is lost to spoilage and the joylessness of eating the same meal for several weeks just to “get rid of it”.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself, really. I think for many people, time is more important than saving a couple bucks.

    • Colin says:

      Oops, lol. My 30 years of age is catching up on me…not sure why I said TVM…I meant opportunity cost as pointed out by Oil Baron in Training.

      I was skeptical of myself whether I was using the “TVM” in the proper situation and mistakenly thought TVM was another fancy name for opportunity cost.

  25. Amanda says:

    I’m a nice, normal, rational couponer. I’m skilled, but certainly nowhere near “extreme.” When I watch that show it’s just to enjoy the trainwreck. First off, if you’re spending 30 hours a week doing that, you’re doing it wrong! When I’m really into it, I maybe spend an extra half hour looking up deals and finding/organizing my coupons and maybe an extra hour running errands (and those are generous estimates – it’s been a while since I’ve been that into it). I have a modest stockpile of toiletries (groceries are harder in Chicagoland since there are very few places who double coupons) that I’ve actually lived off of for a good year without needing to replenish.
    The people on the show are simply doing it for the attention. Those that coupon seriously know that building good relationships with retailers (you know, by not monopolizing their checkout with multiple transactions spread over multiple lanes and not being rude, or committing coupon fraud) is key to success. There’s a big gap between training and understanding coupons so cashiers can often be leary of them. This show certainly hasn’t helped in that regard, in fact, it’s made it worse since it often shows outright coupon fraud, which does have the possibility to harm the retailer and certainly harms the manufacturer.

    They’re not generally hoarders (though it looks that way on tv), but they certainly are crazy! When practiced responsibly, ethically, and in moderation, couponing can help one save money, make money, and give back.

    • Linda says:

      I agree Amanda. When my children were younger and I had a daycare I would shop about every 2 weeks and save about $40, spending about $200 every 2 weeks before coupons. There are some items you can stockpile and it is great that some people give back to groups that need them. But a hoarder is a hoarder and who needs all that mustard, and most food does have an expiration date on it. Extreme is extreme.

  26. Speak Your Mind