Extreme Couponing: Is it Worth it?

Extreme couponing, for better or worse, has now become mainstream.

TLC has launched a full 12-episode series, Extreme Couponing, based on the success of a premiere feature they ran on extreme coupon tactics back in December – which had an amazing 2.1 million viewers tune in to show their interest in the practice.

Some of the video content shows extreme couponers raking in $640 worth of goods for $6.43 and even $870 for FREE. Amazing!

extreme couponing

The Benefits of Extreme Couponing

There are no doubt, benefits that can be achieved from extreme coupon tactics. To get $870 worth of product for absolutely nothing speaks for itself.

It gives those who don’t have much to do with their time an outlet for creativity. There is a definite art-form in getting that much product for free. It takes planning, skill, hard work, strategy, and some luck.

And I get the whole ‘beating the system’ appeal to extreme couponing as well.

But there are some significant costs to extreme couponing that would lead to me never doing it, which I’d like to highlight.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Extreme Couponing

I’m sorry, but I do not like extreme couponing, and I have some reasons why:

  • Zero Societal Contribution: More than anything else, I do not see the societal value in extreme couponing. Those who spend 6-8 hours per day trying to reap rewards at the expense of others, could be contributing in a much more positive way to society. The savings that they enjoy are subsidized by a net increase in costs to others. That free stuff has to come from somewhere. Instead of spending 6-8 hours a day working very hard to get free things from others, why not spend that time making money doing something positive in the world instead of being a leech?
  • Time: In order to enjoy the types of savings extreme couponers do, you have to spend a hell of a lot of time at it. People have quit (or refused to find) jobs so that they can spend their time doing this. It takes a lot of effort and work. It’s not work that I’d personally want to spend my time on.
  • Questionable Ethics: In order to be one of the pros, you have to do some questionable things. One video depicted a woman dumpster diving for coupon inserts and I’ve heard another tactic is to steal inserts from neighbors Sunday paper’s. And even if you attain your coupons in ethical ways you have to be comfortable in knowing that you’re completely taking advantage of the brands and retailers.
  • Crappy Product: One episode depicted a man who gave away all the free product he received to charity. That’s cool. But it’s also a rarity. Others simply stockpile and hoard product in their basements or garages. Scanning the stockpiled shelves of these extreme couponers, I noticed something. Everything on those shelves is mainstream name brand product: Coke, Pepsi, Crest, Tide, Ragu, etc. It’s stuff that I personally don’t buy and would not use. And if you were to use all that product and try to live off of it, you’d probably die of a heart attack or cancer in a few years. I think I’ll take a pass on that.
  • Addiction: In order to be really good at extreme couponing, you almost have to be addicted to it. And unlike an athletic hobby or cooking or something productive, I can’t see it as being a healthy addiction.
  • Inconsistent: I’d much rather do something that I can use consistently, without much effort beyond the initial creation. That’s why I’m a big fan of a per volume grocery price list spreadsheet, and would highly recommend you become one too. Extreme coupon is just too chaotic and inconsistent for my tastes.

What is your Take on Extreme Couponing?

  • You know how I feel about it, but how do you feel? Do you approve or like these extreme strategies?
  • Have you ever tried extreme couponing? What is the most product you’ve received for the lowest price? What was the time investment/strategy needed to get that?

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