Frugal Friday--My Perspective on Extreme Couponing

7:16 AMHeather

Let me state for the record that I was couponing before couponing was ever the hip cool trend that it is now. Yep, back in my Baylor days when I was paying my way, every penny of my monthly income was accounted for--and coupons helped me to accomplish important things like eating. I think one of the good things that has come from the recession is a renewed interest and appreciation for being frugal and living within your means. So, along with such ground breaking shows as My Secret Addiction and Toddlers and Tiaras, TLC has offered us the new "hit show" (as they like to say), Extreme Couponing. I don't know if you'd had a chance to watch it, but oh my word about sums up my response.

I applaud these people who are able to save SO MUCH MONEY. But, I keep coming back to this--at what cost to their lives are they saving all this money? You see, in my own couponing journey, I have gone back and forth on how much time and energy I can invest in order to save money. You know--time is money. When you are working full time or mothering little ones, your time is a precious commodity. And, I think the old saying about balance being the key really rings true.

On one of the first episodes, I was so struck by the mom who has her children clipping coupons for what seemed to be several hours a day. I greatly admire my many friends who home school their children, but I hope that this is not the home school education these children are receiving. When I saw those huge stacks of sorted coupon mailers and the mom calling her children to the table, I wondered how long it would take the little darlings to complete the task. And, I honestly felt a little conflicted about the children tackling the shopping list. I couldn't decide if this was a great teaching moment or if the mom was shoving off her duties because she was too busy with her coupon obsession? I just hoped that the segment was edited in a way that it didn't show a healthy balance where the children are the priority--not the coupons.

Speaking of mothers obsessing (maybe this show needs a new title), I was also bothered by the mom whose stockpile has taken over the house. I mean, literally! Her son's bedroom is being taken over by toilet paper rolls nearly pouring out from under his bed. The master bedroom has those tall metal shelving filled to the brim with stock pile goods. Every cabinet, nook and cranny has stock piles spilling over. I'm all for a little stock pile, people. I love when my kids run out of something, and I can magically pull from a shelf with what I have on tap. But, I'm afraid this family may end up on the show Hoarders next. And, while we are on the subject of stock piling, I was a little disturbed by the mom who showed off her neatly organized mini-market in her basement and said it was almost as beautiful as her family. I wonder how junior felt about being compared to a shelf of canned goods?

From the few episodes I have seen, I am struck by the hours these couponers spend in the store--after all their hours of clipping, organizing and plotting. One couple shopped for HOURS, cart after cart, and then went to check out. But a glitch with a coupon policy had them calling friends to come check out a cart on their behalf in separate transactions in order to maximize their coupons. Now, THAT is a good friend. And, I think I'm just way too self-conscious to take it that far. Not to mention that I think I'd die of a heart attack from all the stress of so meticulously choosing EVERY item to match particular coupons and stick with some detailed list. I am a detail girl, but perhaps these people need to be on a show called Super Memory.

Now that I've been all nay-sayer and negative Nelly, let me tell you what I enjoy about this show. I love the guy who did all this extreme couponing in order to make 1000 care packages for the military. Way to use your super coupon powers for good! Or the family who faced financial crisis and made their way through by couponing. In better times, they found it just didn't make sense to spend more than they had to. That is what I call good stewardship. I appreciate that this show, while taken a bit too far (thus the name--Extreme Couponing), I think it's great that it might spark interest in being wise with your resources. I just don't plan to jump into a dumpster in my quest for more coupons. I have my limits, friends.

INTENTIONAL challenge: Couponing and shopping by sales is a great way to stretch your grocery budget. Yes, by all means, pair the items you see on sale with a coupon! Load electronic coupons onto your grocery loyalty card and stack that savings with paper coupons. Take a bit of time to search for printable coupons to add to your clipped coupons. But buyer beware--sometimes a store brand is STILL cheaper than a name brand even with stacked coupons. And, what good is savings on items you'll never use or whose quantity will far exceed your ability to consume them in your lifetime? Personally, I think being a good steward is not just about my money--but it's also about my time. And, I rather like relaxing in my master retreat without looking at rows and rows of canned goods on the opposite wall.

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