couponing

We’ve all seen it: the determined woman in the super market line, with her bag of coupons. Through dedication and a little bit of time, she saves a substantial amount of money on groceries because of her coupon clipping abilities. I always think to myself, “Good for her! I should start clipping coupons too.” It wasn’t until I came across an episode of ‘Extreme Couponing’ on TLC that I realized the subculture of people who are addicted to the rush that clipping coupons provides.

The two main things I took away from a marathon viewing of the show are: 1.) There are millions upon millions of coupons in circulation, and 2.) People hoard useless stuff. The first point is one that we can all apply to our own finances.  If there is a product that you use, you can usually find a coupon.

Most of the ‘extreme couponers’ on the show devote nearly 40 hours a week to finding coupons and then research which local deals are happening in their supermarkets. When they pair the coupon with the local deal together, it creates a force so powerful that the shopper can usually buy the item for very cheap, or even free. I don’t have the time, and even if I did, I don’t think I would devote myself full-time to the pursuit of couponing, but for items that you will use daily and weekly, seek out a couple of products and use a coupon.

Personally speaking, in my apartment where my roommates and I always argue about who’s going to buy dish soap, paper towels, and toilet paper, after applying the lessons we learned in ‘Extreme Couponing’ we now pay next to nothing for these common household items. If there isn’t a coupon available, one ‘extreme couponer’ suggests writing to the manufacturer to tell them how much you like their product, and they will shower you with coupons as a sign of gratitude. While I have yet to pen a letter to Charmin or Bounty, it’s a smart tactic for getting freebies.

Now, on to the second point of people hoarding useless stuff…  After watching the episode where a single, middle-aged man was hoarding a massive stockpile of tampons, simply because he got them for free, this is where the line is crossed, and you’re half-expecting a social worker from ‘Intervention’ to pop out from behind the shelf and confront him about his problem. Plus, even if he was stocking up for the impending apocalypse, I doubt that a thousand boxes of tampons are going to save humanity.

Couponing is a simple way to save money, cut some corners, and beef up your finances, but don’t get carried away. While I admire the savoir-faire and enjoy the entertainment value of the ‘extreme couponers,’ nary a sane person does it make.

Which items would you cut coupons for?