Extreme Couponing vs. Realistic Couponing

by Beth Montgomery on April 7, 2011 · 16 comments

in Coupons & Rebates, Entertainment & Fun

I’m sure so many of you watched Extreme Couponing on TLC last night and were in awe by the savings.   It was impressive.

Is it possible?   Yes.

Every week? No.

I used to say that I’m an extreme couponer, but after watching this show, I’d say I’m a realistic couponer and I teach realistic couponing in my classes, with the understanding that some people are brand-specific, some want organic and all-natural foods that are more expensive, and some will only use a few of the savings tips I teach.   My goal is to provide for my family and community, not the entire neighborhood for a year in case of a freak blizzard that blocks us off from the rest of the world.

With that in mind, here are some things you may not realize about me and may be shocked to find out:

  • I spend $50 per week on groceries, including a $49 organic grocery delivery we get every other week.
  • I get one newspaper each week and have enough coupons to do the deals I want to do, so I never pay full price for things we need.
  • I stockpile using a small pantry the size of a coat closet and that’s it.   I only keep enough on hand to make it to the next great sale price and donate the rest.
  • In my stockpile, I have exactly 5 boxes of cereal, 10 rolls of toilet paper, 5 rolls of paper towels, 4 tubes of toothpaste, and 1 bottle of mustard at this point in time.   That’s it.
  • I spend one hour a week preparing to shop and am always in and out of the store in one hour or less.
  • I miss some great deals, because I only go to 1-2 stores a week and only go to the store once a week or less.   And, I’m happy with that.
  • I aim to save 50% per week. That’s a lot!   That’s a realistic goal.   And while I have saved 70-100%, that’s not the norm.
  • I rarely buy coupons, unless they are for a product my family uses a lot or it’s a high-value coupon.
  • I’ve never done more than 3 transactions at the store to save money.   And, when I do multiple transactions, I let those behind me go in between transactions, so I’m not holding up the line.

Extreme couponing is fun to watch, but it’s called extreme for a reason.   Keep that in mind while watching.   Paying under $50 for $1,200 worth of groceries isn’t something most couponers should expect without devoting 100% of their time and energy to coupons and taking some extreme measures to make sure you get the lowest prices.   It’s just not realistic, but then again, when is reality t.v. realistic?

Also watch with care and investigate any tips or methods you see.   There’s are some rumors of coupon fraud occurring on the show, though I didn’t see it and cannot confirm or deny.   However, these couponers may not understand that a saving method they are using isn’t on the up and up, so research before you try it at your store!

My advice – realistically, aim for 50% savings, but if you even save $0.01, that’s great.   Celebrate that you saved.   It doesn’t matter how much or how little it may be and only buy what your family needs and will use!   Couponing with grace is an important part of couponing!

Did you enjoy Extreme Couponing?   Did you learn anything new?   What’s the most you’ve saved using coupons and what’s your goal when you plan your trips?

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1 Beth April 7, 2011 at 10:37 AM

You put it perfectly! I was at the store the other day and some lady asked if I was “into that extreme couponing like on TV” I had 3 whole coupons in my hand. ummmm no? I don’t think 3 coupons classifys at “extreme” From now on my answer will be “I’m into realistic couponing.” Thanks for a great answer!

2 Beth April 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM

LOL, Beth. That is too funny! Maybe for someone who never uses coupons 3 is extreme :)

3 Kristen @ JoyfullyThriving April 7, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Well stated! I rarely do more than one transaction, buy only one paper and don’t order any coupons. Yet, I have been under my $160 monthly budget for the past 3 months. Yes, that is a budget for 2 (right now), but that is still a great amount of savings! I think your savings goal is a great idea. I have some great weeks in the 70 percent, but some weeks in the 30 percent. Average? I guess I’m right around 50 percent with you. Let’s keep up the reality of couponing and graciously show others how it is done!

4 Beth April 7, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Wonderful, Kristen! Honestly, I get coupons from so many different sources that I’ve never needed more than one insert. I always have the coupons to take advantage of a deal. 50% is great!

5 Gretchen April 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM

I caught a bit of Extreme Couponing last night, specifically the part where the couple needed to call friends to make all of their transactions go through, were holding up the line, and told us that they’d been in the store for a total of 4-5 hours. I’m sorry, I want to save money, but do I want to spend that much time and energy on it? No!!! Nor do i want to be that annoying woman who holds up the whole line with all of her coupons and multiple transactions. Thank you for giving us your realistic perspective on how to make couponing realistically work for us!

6 Beth April 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Thank you, Gretchen. Yes, I feel awful when I hold up the line with my pile of coupons for one transaction, so if I do a second, I almost always let those behind me go ahead. One mentioned that she spent an hour in line simply checking out, because her transactions were so complicated! I’d much rather spend time with my family, then 4-5 hours at the shopping and an hour checking out. And another one said she quit her job to dedicate 100% of her time to couponing. You have to think about what you’re giving up to save money… 100% of my time is not worth any savings.

7 Ann-Marie April 7, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Here’s another funny observation I had about last night’s show(s). It was the one that was in the store for 5-6 hrs and had to call in the friends for multiple transactions. One of the items in her cart was raw chicken. Ok, raw chicken in a grocery cart for 5 hrs? No thank you. Even if she put it in right before checkout, I’m sure her checkout was at least 2 of the hrs, in any case the chicken surely would not be at the right temperature by the time she got it home.

All of these families profiled stated they were going on their biggest shopping trip ever, so it’s obvious it was for the purpose of the show. I would much rather see a typical/average trip for an ‘extreme’ couponer. They haven’t said how often they go on a large trip – with so much stockpiled (“hoarded”), is that once a month? every 3 months? It left viewers with the impression this is a weekly obsession. Of course, maybe it is… I would get more out of the show if it were on extreme-but-not-obsessed couponers, because if they keep up at this pace it will lose interest from at least this viewer!

8 Beth April 7, 2011 at 10:27 PM

I need a “like” button, LOL. I’m already losing interest. I watched the 2 episodes last night with the 4 shopping trips… I was bored after the first two… I wish they offered more tips for “realistic couponing”, so people could start to save in their families. But, I think that would cause people to get upset when they couldn’t achieve those results with the tips.

9 hollie May 16, 2011 at 4:02 PM

have always used coupons here and there…saving 20-40 dollars. i watched extreme couponing and said i can do that. 5 hours of time getting coupons together of stuff we buy, i spent 197 for 611 worth of groceries. i am so happy. we have a year supply of bathroom, laundry & cleaing products. i feel i could have saved more, but 5 hours getting & sorting coupons and determining where to use and 3 hours going to 3 different stores, thankfully they were within a mile of each other. 8 hours total…..saved $414.00!!

10 Krista June 14, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Exactly – the show is not “realistic” and I have noticed the past few days when I go to get my few items, that the shelves are cleaned out! I never clean out a shelf, that is rude in my opinion. I have had to go to 2 different stores to get what I wanted and still haven’t been able to get it because the shelves are cleared out. My best savings has been 61%, which was last night. I average around 50% and that is fine with me. I really think that people are out there trying to do what they do, but don’t yet realize what is all involved. Spending an extra 60 hours preparing for a shopping trip is a waste of time to me. I spend a few hours on Sunday afternoon while everyone is napping to print out my list and get my coupons, but that is really it. Love your quote and will most definitely use it!

11 marcie March 14, 2013 at 11:22 AM

the show is called extreme couponing, not realistic couponing. its ment to show you extreme amounts you can save, extreme coupon use, what you could do extremely not realisticly. but anything you do save, helps even if its 5 cents it counts and it helps for realistic goals..but you cant say the show isnt realistic, its not ment to be, itsm ment to show you extreme money savings with extreme coupons..

12 Beth March 14, 2013 at 1:46 PM

The problem is that may viewers don’t understand this, so they are trying to replicate what’s done on the show. However, since stores have waived coupon policies and made other changes to accommodate the show, it’s nearly impossible for the average person to do so. Plus new couponers watching the think it’s education and don’t realize some of the actions have been fraudulent. They don’t know to check before trying what they’ve seen to see if it’s on the up and up. But, you’re absolutely right – every penny you save means you saved and that should go in the win column. I just wish Extreme Couponing was more educational and taught others how to truly save money realistically. It is on The Learning Channel after all.

13 Nichole June 22, 2011 at 10:34 PM

I wont to know when does nthe next eposoie come on !!!!!

14 Mary October 28, 2012 at 9:17 PM

Before my daughter became ill, she was a great couponer. I learned a few basic “rules” and being thoughtful in the process. I have watched xtreme a few times. There are no stoes that I know of in our area where you can do multiple,multiple and MULTIPLE transactions and where the store PAYS you to take their products out the door and gives you money back for overage, Am I missing something ? I think the program should be extreme food hoarders. Are there grocery stores that you can actually call up and place your “order” for pallets of food that will not be on the shelves ??To me, it is even rude to clear off the shelves. Ithas gotten so extreme at the Walgreens that I go to every Sun., you have to carefully look thru the paper for the coupons to be there! That is just called plan stealing. A few bad ones ruin it for the honest couponing and it makes me upset….Love your site, keep up the great creative, informative work. Sincerely, M.

15 Marcie March 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM

I agree. There should be another show “realistic couponing” lol I recently got into it.. I watched the show every episode. I don’t know where they find the coupons..but when I find them even doubled never make an item free. I.
Look through every sale ad. And get 2 papers and get coupons online in on one site because they are the same.. I realize they get let’s say 200 newspapers. So they have. 200 coupons then they get it on sale buy I can’t ever get anything free they get well over half free. I’m lucky to be saving at all.. But makes me very curois

16 Beth March 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

They also purchase coupons online, which sometimes results in fraudulent coupons. That’s how they manage to have multiple of one coupon and they time the episode to match up with the perfect sale at the store to make sure they can do an extremely impressive shopping trips. What they don’t factor into the final price is what they paid to obtain all those coupons. That makes me wonder if they really saved as much as they appear to save.

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