A Look At The World Of Extreme Couponing

I’ve heard about this show on TLC called “Extreme Couponing”. I’ve never actually watched it for myself but from what I’ve heard it’s started something of a revolution in the frugal community.

For those of you who may not be aware, extreme couponing is the practice of collecting scores of coupons for everyday items and use them in such a way (cashing in on double coupon days or using a store coupon on top of a manufacturer’s coupon, for example) that allows the couponer to acquire goods at little or no cost. It takes a lot of work to make it worthwhile but those who are committed to the practice swear by its cost savings.


Extreme couponing has actually led to some unintentionally funny headlines in the newspapers lately. Take for example the Arkansas woman who was charged with misdemeanor theft after she stole 185 copies of her local newspaper in order to get the coupon sections. She told police she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong and that she “was just trying to save some money”.

Or the woman in Orange County who returned a stack of newspapers for more because, she said, they didn’t contain the coupon inserts. She was seen in her car pulling out the inserts after she traded in the old stack.

To these folks, the time and effort invested in couponing is worth it. And the work can be substantial. This isn’t just taking a glance through the Sunday paper to see if there are any coupons available for products you already buy. Extreme couponers pore through dozens of papers as well as online ad and coupon sites to find deals. Often, they maintain several binders’ worth of coupons at any given time and have been known to use hundreds of coupons at a time at the grocery store checkout.

Think that’s over the top? It gets worse.

One of the criticisms of extreme couponing is that it pushes people to literally hoard massive amounts of groceries that they can’t possibly consume all because they were able to get a good deal on them. According to a recent USA Today story, some shoppers have been known to clear out entire grocery store shelves and have even built additions on to their homes in order to store all of their surplus items.

The couponing trend has begun raising flags in the medical community. I haven’t seen the show Extreme Couponing but I have seen the show Hoarders on A&E. And I can say that I see a lot of similarities in the behaviors of hoarders when compared to couponers. Cutting coupons to save money is one thing but dumpster diving for coupons, stealing stacks of newspapers and building extra rooms on to homes just to store so many items you could never possibly hope to use seems a little on the extreme end of the behavior spectrum.

One of the other arguments to be made is that extreme couponing can actually end up costing you more money than it saves. And it makes sense if you think about it. These people are buying shelves of groceries at a time. If you’re buying things that you never end up using just because you get a good deal on them then it’s not really a good deal at all.

I’m all for saving money but it seems like extreme couponing is one exercise that is just not for me.

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Author Info

This post was written by David Dierking. David lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has been working in the financial services industry for over 13 years with a background in investments, accounting, and marketing. He earned his Chartered Financial Analyst designation from the CFA Institute in 2004 and was recently published in the Milwaukee Business Journal. You can also check him out at The Ultimate Fit Challenge

One Response to “A Look At The World Of Extreme Couponing”

  1. 20 and Engaged |  Sep 08, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I watch the show and sometimes it can be really disturbing. Like you said, people go to the absolute extreme when it comes to couponing. I like to save money but not if it involves dumpster diving and stealing.