Weighing in on Extreme Couponing

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Last night, out of the kind of curiosity that will make you watch Hoarders, I caught some of TLC’s new show Extreme Couponing. While I don’t think I will ever have the patience to do what those people do, the lifestyle is strangely fascinating.

No one on this show eats laundry detergent or has a home filled with old newspapers and other detritus, but the people on Extreme Couponing are the obsessive and, yes, extreme types who have come to define TLC programming.

In addition to spending hours researching deals, assembling coupon binders, and actually shopping, everyone on the show has a stockpile. One guy had a room devoted to a thousand boxes of toothpaste; as he put it, “This is my wall of toothpaste.” (To his credit, he did use his coupons to make another thousand care packages for troops overseas.) One woman stored salad dressing in a secret compartment under her daughter’s bed, while another with no children had shelves of disposable diapers. For those who have the space, that’s their prerogative, but it’s just overwhelming to me and my two closets.

Next, while I admired the one mom’s dedication to meal planning, pretty much all the food I saw people buying was canned or shrink-wrapped. I saw yogurt, but I didn’t spy one fresh fruit or veggie. Judging from the image shown here, these shoppers also need to invest in more reusable grocery bags!

Also, I just feel bad for the cashiers who have to spend up to an hour checking these shoppers out. One woman broke her purchases into eighteen separate transactions in order to maximize savings. Another cashier had to wait while a couple called in and waited for five friends to help them get an extra deal. (That couple spent a total of five hours at the grocery store.)

At the end, I had to be amazed when these people walked away having spent pennies for hundreds of dollars worth of groceries. That requires a lot more planning and math than I ever use at Safeway. They each averaged something like ninety-nine percent savings, which can be a huge deal for a family. It’s not enough of an incentive to make me devote that much time to coupons — or even watch more episodes — but it’s a reminder that there are deals to be had.

Have you seen this show? What do you think?

Image: TLC