Is Extreme Couponing Worth It?

If you've seen the TLC's TV show Extreme Couponing, then you know the drill: extreme couponers dragged supermarket cart (or even carts) full of stuff worth hundreds of dollars, then checked out to find the register showing a bill of hundreds of dollars, which then miraculously dwindled down to zero or close to it after a big wollop of coupons got applied.

Then cut away to their home's pantries or basements, where the extreme couponers proudly showcase hundreds of single-ply toilet paper rolls, travel-sized toothpaste tubes and several lifetime's worth of Vitamin Water.

Granted today's economy is tough, but is extreme couponing - which consumes so much time that it's like a part-time job - worth it? No, actually, according to one former extreme couponers.

Christy Rakoczy, who used to be an extreme couponer from 2007 to 2010, explains why she has stopped extreme couponing in an article over at Money Crashers and an interview with NPR's Michel Martin:

MARTIN: You also wrote in your piece that you found yourself buying products that you really didn't need or particularly want just because you were getting bargains.

RAKOCZY: That is absolutely true. That's pretty much what you see. Any time someone's really saving a fortune, they're not saving a fortune necessarily on things that they can use. It's, you know, 200 Tic Tacs, 100 jars of tomato sauce that you're probably not going to use. A lot of diabetes monitors. Those are free almost all the time, because they want to get you hooked on using their brand. But, really, what are you going to do with them? It's just stuff that kind of clutters up your house.

MARTIN: Wait a minute. So you were getting diabetes monitors. Do you have diabetes?

RAKOCZY: No, I don't. But any couponer...

MARTIN: So you bought a diabetes monitor but you didn't have diabetes. OK. Well, that's kind of an example, I think, isn't it, Of what you're talking about - buying stuff that you don't need.

RAKOCZY: I bought about 60 diabetes monitors and I don't have diabetes. So I still have a few, actually.

Link (Photo: Shutterstock) - via TIME

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One of the commenters at the Time site is Moola Saving Mom, who has a site and does classes. She makes an excellent point: you should do strategic couponing.

Rakoczy had couponing OCD, which seems to befall a lot of extreme couponers: they buy stuff because they have a coupon, not because they need it.

I do coupon (I started because of watching Extreme Couponing, so I have to give them credit), and I use a couple of sites to help me match coupons with sales to get the best deals. I've stocked up on certain items (personal care coupons are the most common coupons that you get that you can mix with sales), and by saving on those items I have more money to put toward other things. I buy a lot of organic, mostly at Costco, and I have the extra money to do it now.

Also, I can now wait for a good sale, because I will buy multiples of an item on sale, instead of just one or two, and it will last until the next sale. (No, I do not clear shelves; that's rude and selfish.)

I'm a single mom with a full time job and a commute, so I don't have time to spend physically shopping for the best deal. I plan ahead and limit browsing, as browsing tends to lead to a cart of stuff I didn't plan to get, and probably don't need.
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What a surprise! I've only watched that show once and even then I could see that extreme couponing was a waste of time. Who could possibly need a multiple-year supply of a food with an expiration date? If you really need to get your kicks that way, donate it to a food kitchen, already.
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