Sunday, June 5, 2011

Defending My Extreme Couponing Addiction

Here's another post for my "Living With Excellence" column.  Please note that I do absolutely nothing with excellence save for the one time I took a really excellent nap after a big meal in Spain. Anyway, without further ado...

A few months ago TLC began airing a program called "Extreme Couponing", which for those who are not familiar with quality cable programming, is a show which chronicles people who spend up to eighty hours a week going dumpster diving, stealing newspapers out of people's driveways and bribing the night watchmen at recycling centers, all to collect and clip as many coupons as possible.  They then study the floor plans and shelving schemes of their local grocery stores and map out a military-like campaign to invade, divide and conquer the neighborhood Kroger.  If all goes well they will usually emerge from check-out process with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise for somewhere in the ballpark $8.65.



Watching this show my best friend Chastity and I were laughing at how ridiculous these people were...mapping out their plan of attack on the warehouse grocery store like they were hitting the beaches at Normandy on D-Day.  We laughed even harder when the "Extreme Couponers" showcased their stockpiles...which were in some cases garages, extra wings on the house, commandeered spare bathrooms and the spaces underneath beds where these people stored their thousands of tubes of toothpaste, paper towels, razors and soaps: their spoils of war.

Perhaps you think I am joking or exaggerating.  I am not!  One man had over 1,500 tubes of Colgate toothpaste which he built an extra room in his house just to store.  Another woman had hundred of packages of diapers stockpiled for the children she didn't even have yet!  And yet another woman had completely filled her shower with paper products...rendering it unusable.    I thought to myself that A) I don't think it would be cost effective to spend $15,000 to add an addition to my house just to store all of the free toothpaste I scored, B) perhaps one should wait until one crosses the pregnancy bridge before stocking up on 5,000 Huggies Cruisers and C) even if I had close to $10,000 in free paper products from Wal-Mart I would still rather have an extra shower and toilet in my house than an endless supply of toilet paper.

Anyway, Chas and I were a bit shocked by the hoarder-like mentality of these individuals evidenced by the almost ubiquitous compulsion to buy 450 bottles of Vitamin Water just because it was on sale.  However, we did think that while trying to get hundred of dollars worth of stuff for next to nothing seemed a bit ridiculous...just trying to employ the same couponing principles utilized by the people on the show to shave 30-35% off of our bills at the register didn't seem half bad.  After all...we are in a recession.

Within a week Chas had become a couponing guru complete with a binder full of alphabetized coupons and a working knowledge of how the Catalina machines work at the grocery store.  *(Oh and for the uninitiated...the Catalina machine is that little register that spits out coupons after your receipts print at the supermarket)* She had even converted our friend Camille (known more commonly by her street name CaMMac) into an extreme couponer.  I now credit her with everything I know about the world of extreme couponing...information that I will now happily pass to you.

Chas started by frequenting a few handy websites:


Needless to say, she got me hooked and I started clipping the coupons from the Sunday paper and printing them off of the internet and creating my own accordion folder of savings.  I decided to go couponing one night with my Dad who was skeptical of the whole phenomenon.  Before got out of the car we laid out two simple ground rules: 1) don't buy things we don't need just because we have a coupon and 2) don't buy more than we can fit in one shopping basket.  The last thing we wanted to emulate was the guy on "Extreme Couponing" who bought 400 boxes of General Mills' brand Total cereal for under a dollar just because he could. 

Anyway, we attacked the local Target on a Sunday night, with one basket, one folder of coupons and two level heads and managed to rack up $306.97 at the register...however once I used my coupons the price was reduced by $97.86...bringing my total to $209.11 which equals an almost 32% savings.  Plus if you buy certain items, Target gives you gift cards back so I got two $5.00 gift cards (=$10.00)...good towards my next purchase.  Mission Accomplished!

My actual receipts.

Now couponing isn't just about hoarding and it isn't just about saving money...it's the rush that one gets when you manage to "stack" a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon increasing the total amount that is taken off of the item.  *("Stacking" is just another word in the vernacular of extreme couponers, much like Catalina that you must know if you want to run with the crowd.)*  The rush has gotten to be so extreme that this weekend, rather than going out on the town for a hot Saturday night, my best friend Chas and I decided to get dressed up and go out to the Wal-Mart Super Center.  Not only was it relatively empty and stress free there (go figure), but oddly it was much more satisfying to spend a hundred bucks on a fantastic assortment of canned tomato products that on valet parking and tipping a waiter for delivering an overpriced pasta dish to our table.

While I was standing at the end of the aisle sorting through my assortment of shaving product coupons a couple of teenage girls walked up behind me and said snidely, "Oh are you couponing?"and giggled with an heir superiority.  I replied, "Maybe...maybe I am couponing...but my legs have never been smoother."

Whatever...detractors aside...I walked out of the store last night with enough marshmellowy/chocolatey/graham crackery goodness to make smores every night all summer long.  So if you find yourself over at my house this summer roasting tasty treats over the fire...then you can thank extreme couponing...and my impeccable hospitality.


Now before I finish off this post I just want to add that for the most part I don't throw away coupons.  If I can't use them I give them to my friends who will use them.  But there is one product where I draw the line...Old Spice.  No one should wear Old Spice...no one should buy Old Spice.  Friends don't let friends associate with Old Spice in any way shape or form.  












1 comment:

Carrie said...

Hilarious post! Thank you! I had to stop watching Extreme Couponing because I was so angry at the hoarders for wasting resources - you can't use that much toothpaste in the next 10 years and even if it doesn't officially "go bad," who wants to brush your teeth with 9 year old toothpaste?

and I wonder if those people did the math on the 90 hours a week they spend sorting/clipping, are they really saving money or if they'd gone to a job and gotten a paycheck with those 90 hours, would they end up with more in the bank and then just shop normally?

Glad to hear you were able to actually save a good chunk of money when buying things you actually need - and that you aren't hoarding useless stuff!! you rock!