Extreme couponing has become a popular topic in recent years. With the boom of coupon and deals blogs and the production of TV shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing, coupon clipping is more popular than ever. But is it realistic to expect to buy $300 worth of groceries for $1.89? Is it ethical? Is it practical?

There are pros and cons to extreme couponing, and whether it’s worth it will depend on your lifestyle.


The Pros of Extreme Couponing

  • Bargains Galore – The most obvious pro to extreme couponing is the bargains you find. Yes, it is possible to find freebies by matching coupons with sales. Popular blogs like Deal Seeking Mom will help you do just that. Though the kind of deals you find will depend on where you live and what kind of coupons you can save, nearly everyone can find a good bargain, even if you can’t compete with the coupon queens on TLC.
  • Your Stockpile – Those who use extreme couponing techniques always have a stockpile of food and supplies on hand. Most extreme couponers never EVER pay full price for a product. The benefits, of course, is that the extreme couponer never has to quickly run to the store because she is out of toothpaste. Likely she has a tube (or 14) in the garage, just ready to be opened.
  • Ability to Give – Couponers like Stephanie Nelson, the Coupon Mom, advocate giving away the freebies you can’t use yourself. Extreme couponing can be a great way to help stock food banks and domestic violence shelters.

The Cons of Extreme Couponing

  • It Takes Time – Even though blogs will help you find the great deals, you still need to print, clip, and organize your coupons. If you’re taking couponing to it’s highest level, you’ll also likely want to organize coupon swaps, buy coupons on eBay, and find other ways to obtain coupons.  All of these things take time. When I was a regular, light coupon user, I would easily spend an hour or two each weekend clipping and organizing coupons and making shopping lists. To be an extreme couponer, you must spend many more hours than that.
  • It Can Be Addicting – If you’ve ever watched TLC’s Extreme Couponing show, you will know that some people take couponing too far. Do you really need three year’s worth of deodorant? No. Three month’s worth will suffice. Sales and coupons tend to go in three month cycles, so a three month supply is all you need. If you’re stocking up on 500 bottles of shampoo, you’ve gone too far, unless you plan on donating most of it.
  • It Can Be Rude – Extreme couponing can tempt a person to grab every box of Fruit Loops off the store shelves, leaving none for the next customer. To be fair, most of the coupon bloggers I know tell their readers NOT to sweep the shelves of all the sale items. Still, if you’re couponing like the shoppers in the TV show, you’re probably sweeping the shelves. It’s technically not unethical, but it will annoy other shoppers for sure. I can’t stand it when I go into a store looking for one box of a sale item, just to find they’re all out and the lady in front of me at the checkout line has 15 boxes in her cart.
  • It Can Be Unhealthy – Though more and more coupons are becoming available for healthy foods, the vast majority of coupons are for highly processed, super sugary, and overly fatty foods. If you only eat foods you buy with coupons, you’re probably going to be paying higher medical bills down the road. Where’s the savings in that?

My Conclusion

Extreme couponing is not for me. I don’t have the time, nor do I want to eat the foods I could buy with the coupons I get in my area. I also don’t have enough space to store a year’s supply of groceries. In my situation, the time I’d have to spend and the way I’d have to eat are a price I’m not willing to pay for saving that much money on food and household items.

Couponing does have it’s place, though. You can find some great bargains on toiletries, detergents, and other household items when you combine coupons and sales. I have several friends who do quite well with the bargains they find from couponing. However, I don’t think any of them take it to the level of what you see on television.

My conclusion is that extreme couponing, the kind you see on television, is usually unrealistic and unhealthy. Extreme couponing gets a big “Nay” from me. Do you agree or disagree?

Photo by dmdonahoo.