Grocery Cart Confessionals: Extreme Couponing on TLC

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This week TLC announced the popular show – Extreme Couponing – has been turned into a series with the premiere on April 6, 2011.

Click here to see a preview.


This show makes me cringe for a number of reasons.

The stockpiles. Yes, I have a stockpile – but I have not converted my garage into a stockpile area (complete with air conditioning). I do not have 1000 Yakisoba Noodles or a wall of toilet paper. I have enough to provide for my family and to be able to donate to local charities.

The number of inserts. HOLY COW, Batman. 1000 inserts? Seriously, you do not need that many! Sure it is nice to have extra inserts, but most families can get the items they need with one insert per family member, not 100 per family member.

The lack of balance. If you have a room dedicated to couponing, spend all of your spare time couponing, and have converted your garage to stockpiling – you have lost your balance. Couponing is suppose to help you buy the things you need, so you can afford the things you want. If all you want is the next deal – you are out of balance.

The manufacturers reaction. As a former corporate marketing “doink”, this isn’t what coupons were intended to do. Coupons are about inciting trial and rewarding long-term customers. Yes, when used strategically, they can also help you save a boat load of money.

But I guarantee you, the conversation in the marketing meeting has never been, “Let’s help Sally stock-up on 100 bottle of laundry detergent because that is a great use of our marketing dollars.” Because of this show, most likely the conversation is now, “How can we put a “fail-safe” on coupons so Sally can’t buy 100 bottles of laundry detergent?”

The non-focus on charity. I’ll admit, I have purchased items that were free or nearly free after a coupon, specifically to donate (like peanut butter, Betty Crocker Potatoes or Helper, canned fruit, cereal, canned soup, etc.). Helping provide food to charities by using the skills I have learned feels good. I like giving it forward. TLC people -you want to watch a food pantry staff jump up and down in joy – donate that wall of Stayfree or bathroom tissue.

The inaccurate portrayal of couponers. I’m a couponer. I’ll say it LOUD and PROUD. But my lifestyle doesn’t resemble anything that is portrayed on this show. Our family eats a balanced diet. I cook most of our meals from scratch (not Yakisoba noodles). We eat fresh fruits and veggies. And I still have a life that includes shopping at Nordstrom’s (on occasion). I save big bucks at the grocery store and live in a pretty tight budget – but I do it without being a whack-a-do.

The honest answer. If you are new to couponing, please know it is possible to save big money at the store. Check out my Couponing 101 and FAQ sections about tried and true principals to save money or check out some of my shopping trips. If you want a more in-depth tutorial – think about hosting a coupon class with your friends.

What do you think TLC Extreme Couponing? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. princessbooboo says

    Oh my… I watched the preview and I think this is crazy. I do couponing too looking at many blogs (including yours!) or inserts, but not like they show on the preview. How do you get 2500 inserts? lol
    In my opinion, couponing is to save money here and there to help my budget and save money or use that money for fun (like a nice date night with my husband).
    Oh well… Maybe just me, but I thought it is just too extreme for me, i guess… When my husband saw that preview with me, he looked at me and said “um… you are not going to become one of those people, right?” haha. No way. I don’t have time to clip 2500 inserts anyway!

  2. Elizabeth says

    That is a little bit sad the woman spend 30 hours a week on couponing.
    I understand spending time if you have blog to update about couponing and deals, but that seems a but much to spend that much time on just couponing.

  3. Bugmagnt says

    Kelly, I agree with you!

    When Extreme Couponing first came on, I was curious and decided to watch.. and got through most of the show. But, I, too, was disgusted by the HUGE stockpiles (Do you really need 200 toothbrushes? Will you use those in your lifetime?) and people clearing out the shelves so that other shoppers cannot take part in the deals.

    And I do like getting an extra insert when the Sunday papers come to my work, but I also share with my other coworkers who I know are couponers too…. I get satisfaction on sharing my knowledge and coupons! For instance, it was great being “coupon fairy” in Petsmart yesterday with my clipped dog food and treat coupons that I won’t need (after my 15 year old Basset died 3 weeks ago) — someone else can spoil their pet and save money! Or I have sent packages numerous times to overseas military families with coupons for them to use….

    Yes, it is a great feeling when you get free or almost free stuff… and a person can get caught up in that “game”…but, my time and space are more important to me. Even if there is a killer deal on shampoo, I know that I already have several bottles waiting in my stockpile. And they WILL go on sale again — and there WILL be coupons for them again….

    Life is about balance and living to the fullest. And saving money is fantastic — especially now in our economy… I grew up with a frugal single parent mom, but my coupon skills have also helped my family survive after my DH was laid off a year and a half ago while I was looking for a new full-time job. My “temporary” full-time job and couponing as well as his periodic consultant work help to pay the bills and give support as he is starting a new home-based business…but we can also still splurge on occation to go see a concert or do something special… And yes — I love to give to charities and my knowledge and couponing skills help me to do that!

    I’m not telling you my personal life story for sympathy, but to show that coupons can help you LIVE WELL and have balance in your life.

  4. Rebeccah says

    AMEN! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I was beginning to think I was THE ONLY person in the whole entire world who HATES that show! Of course, i finally watched it, but I can’t stand what it shows: HOARDERS! Yeah, I get things free too, but maybe 2 of them, not 200. All I can say is “ditto”. Yikes!

  5. says

    You hit it on the nose, my friend. The whole balance thing is key for me. If we can balance providing enough for our own families (without having to build an addition) and using our mad couponing skills to help others, then we’re doing alright. I can’t imagine having enough time to truly live life if I was clipping 1000 inserts worth of coupons!

  6. says

    I think the show is completely insane and I do not think it needs to be aired at all. My main concern with this obsessive behavior is the family. If someone is spending that much time finding, clipping, sorting and shopping, where does that leave family time? The kids have got to be suffering. I run my website, but my website is LAST. My child, Fiance and home come first, then my website. I cannot imagine doing a website AND going out and spending hours finding coupons and shopping. I just don’t understand how anyone could..

  7. Ellen Moore says

    I have used coupons for over 50 years and have managed to get some great deals and have saved a bit of money. I believe in moderation in everything and extreme coupons is as bad as it gets. I am still the fun loving, giggling, spontaneous mother and wife, and now grandmother, that I was 50 years ago. Nothing should take my time away from my family, no matter how much money I save.

  8. Noelle says

    Kelly, very well expressed! I completely agree with you. I think everything you said could have come from my mouth!

    I just get a bit concerned by what the recourse could be? Like you said, will this show change how manufacturers handle coupons?? Or could it cause more cashiers to be anti-coupon friendly, and in turn start to treat people who use coupons poorly??

  9. Chris Snyder says

    Kelly, thanks so much for the buy one/get one burrito from my favorite restaurant, Chipolte! I am taking a friend to the airport next Wednesday and can use it then! I’m also loving the SWAG bucks, they are piling up nicely!

  10. Teresa says

    I agree. I think we are starting to see some of the change of coupons already. I have noticed some coupons that used to not have size restrictions now do. It is OK in moderation, but having hundreds of the same product is over extreme. You are never going to use 200 toothbrushes unless you change every day or week. Sharing your found fortunes also.

    There are so many families hit everyday by tragedy or disaster. Our best friends lost their home to a fire a few months ago. They had nothing. They came to our home and I was able to give them all the necessary toiletries to get them through for a while. Our friend told me you don’t realize how much we take for granted until you don’t even have a toothbrush or soap to your name.

    So think about what you have and how can you help if you have mastered the coupon game. You can make a difference for someone.

  11. Nada says

    Very well said!!!
    I know a few people that have gone to the dark side of couponing.
    It’s about saving, providing, and giving.
    What will happen to the stockpile when they are gone????
    Someone will have to dig thru it, and most likely it will be thrown out.
    People are starving. Let’s share what we have.
    That being said, I haven’t watched the show, and don’t plan to. I couldn’t anyway cuz we get our tv reception with “bunny ears”!!!

  12. Sandi says

    I couldn’t agree more. I cringed when I saw the original show and was sort of pissed off when I saw it had been picked up as a series because I kept thinking…this is going to ruin everything…..the manufacturers will take one look at this show and freak out and change the way they do coupons if they continue to do coupons at all.

  13. Mary says

    I think TLC’s quest for reality show’s is getting out of hand.. come one after John and Kate plus 8 went off the air we felt the need for Kate plus 8, then Sarah Palin’s alsaska… now this. This show will only give those of us who use coupons a bad name, and make it harder for us to get good coupons. I say the best approach is to not watch and ask your friends and familes not to watch the show.

  14. katie z says

    You have hit the nail on the head. The “extreme” portion is there but the hoarding attitude of some of these people is not good. The very first show there was only one person that I actually liked was the older lady from philadelphia. She walked to get her inserts from friends, helped out in the store and got what she needed. She was sensible about it.

    After the first show, I had a few people tell me in the store “you are one of those extreme” and I nicely replied “no that is not me. this is just for my family and what we can use”. I try to fly under the radar and dont want this label.

    The show really does not portray the majority of those who use coupons. But that wouldnt be that exciting now would it! I do wish that they would show more people donating items and where they could donate them too.

    and for some reason I keep wanting to call them “contestants”.

  15. JL says

    Who does TLC think the audience will be for this show? If they think Women (Moms) 18 – 45, I think they are sadly mistaken! I think with the economy being what it is, the majority of women (or families) already use coupons to a point. Don’t you? Some (like us) obviously use coupons more than others, but we are not crazy or extreme ~ The only point to watching this show (if people watch it at all) will be to see how “crazy” these hoarders can get. I don’t know about you but I have much better things to do with my time. I hope the series tanks and hopefully they’ll pull it after the first show or two.

  16. Heather W. says

    I love the girl at the end of the preview saying “welcome to my world.” Seriously? I don’t think I want to be part of her world! lol 2500 inserts, 1,000 packages of sodium laden noodle packages?? That’s just ridiculous. If I ever came close to anything like that, it sure wouldn’t be so I could hoard it. Share the wealth, people. Like someone said in a previous post…I have enough shampoo for now and it will be on sale again in the future….no need to hoard it now.

    “Sorry little Johnny, mommy can’t come to your school play, baseball game, basketball game, etc. because I will be too busy clipping coupons for 30 hours.” Perhaps they should have a reality show called “Get a Grip.”

  17. Sharon says

    It has already affected my life, at our local Target I was being treated very badly by one cashier, glares and such, going thru my bags, this week she closed her register while there were people waiting, came to my cashier and kept loudly telling her I could only use one coupon of any type, etc, it got out of hand, so I asked for a manager, and she claimed to BE the manager, would not allow my cashier to call the manager. She was screaming at me. I finally told her to back off, or I would call the police as well as the manager, and she started crying, screaming, I wasn’t even speaking to you. I told her she had had 3 weeks of treating me badly, I am not leaving without a manager. I even walked away, and she followed me.
    When the manager came she said they had had a bad few days, a woman came in and cleared the shelves of Finish, and another came in and use the 5 off of jeans for 300. of jeans. I showed her my cart, with its 3 boxes of cereal, and other stuff we eat, and she clarified that you can only use 1 Target coupon, and apologized. I said it was there mistake for letting the other customers use more than one at a time, and I don’t think punishing me when I am not breaking the rules is gonna be the answer.
    She said, its just been so difficult since that show, and I said, well, the show is making it hard on all of us, and I hope the week gets better for them, but, if the cashier continues treating me badly, next time I will be speaking to the regional manager. And said, so I’ll see you next week, with coupons in hand. And said good luck.
    I think people forget, just because someone is pleasant, does not make them a push over. I am a librarian, my husband is a cop, we follow the rules, and are rather boring folk, so it was especially offensive to be treated this way for these last few weeks, we have never been subjected to anything like it, and have lived all over the world, and the states, used coupons everywhere – when they are available. We are frugal, not thieves.

      • Sharon says

        I know, and I think thats what stiffened my resolve, the more nasty she was, the more determined I was. Bullies sometimes pick the wrong person. I won’t stop going there, and I won’t allow it anymore. My casier told me that “she is like this to everyone” and that just made me more determined.
        AND I must be sure to say – she is the only person in that Target to every treat me badly, everyone else has been very nice and friendly.

  18. says

    Wow…. well there was the guy on that first episode they did who donated all that cereal to charity, but I agree with everything you said! Why would you want 1000 boxes of msg-filled (or sodium-filled even if it is msg-free) noodles?? They could save a ton of money even without coupons if they’d buy the basic ingredients to make that stuff instead of buying it packaged! (not that I don’t ever buy packaged foods)

  19. Brandi says

    I agree! The stockpiles just bothered me…The majority of food probably couldn’t be used before expiration dates. I am sure that many manufactures are working on how to keep coupons from being used like this, which will end up hurting the average person just trying to save money.

  20. michele says

    I like being prepared however I try NOT to prepare to eat low quality expired food and that seems to be what they’re preparing for.

    I have a large stockpile (not that large) of tampons and pads and I always think, after all that we’ll probably get a leak in the roof and ruin them all lol

  21. Kelly Garza says

    This bothers me too! Another thing I have to teach my children after watching something like this! This does not show a giving spirit but behaviors that are not acceptable.
    I think people like this have a problem – or they are selling the items to make a profit – think the IRS will catch onto this????
    Balance, balance is needed. I do have a stock pile of items that will not spoil like laundry soap and the like – but I also have a large family – so 15-20 bottles of laundry soap will last around 6 months with CAREFUL use!
    Please, please TLC show someone who donates and does good with couponing.
    The stores are going to get wise and start setting limits besides the manufactures posing limits on coupon use – so yes people like this HURT everyone!
    Sorry to RANT – but this does not teach a good life lesson- it teaches greed and to be selfish.

  22. Sarah says

    How in the world does anyone have time to cut out that many inserts? I can’t even keep up with 10 for my personal use. Many of my friends, family & coworkers give me their coupon inserts. So when I can get items for free, I will buy them & give the extra items back to those who gave me the inserts as a thank you. But it is still overwhelming sometimes to keep track of just that many.

    I don’t think you can use 1000 inserts per week and be happy. Not to mention that I doubt that person is obtaining those inserts in any legal fashion. If she were buying that many newspapers, it would cost a fortune. The inserts are not just sitting around for everyone to take as many as they want. I’m interested to watch the show to see where she says she is getting them from. And I hope nobody ends up losing their job over it.

    I don’t understand what the people who go on this show expect to get out of it. All I see is everyone now thinking they are insane and as a result, the stores and manufacturers becoming sticklers to prevent this. I hope that both the stores and manufacturers realize that this is not the norm. But the backlash will probably be obvious for awhile.

    However, with that being said, if manufacturer’s start to limit coupons similar to what P&G has done with the limit of 4 like coupons per shopping trip, it really won’t affect the casual coupon user that significantly. Yes, sometimes I do want to buy more than just 4, but that can be accommodated by making more than one trip or having someone with me to check out as well. Slightly inconvenient yes, but worth it to stop shows like this, ABSOLUTELY!

    I want to be able to use my coupons now and for years to come. The money that I save with coupons allows me do things that I couldn’t otherwise. By being able to purchase 10 of an item now, it also means that I can take a week, or a month, off from shopping when other things become priority. I don’t want that leisure being taken away by media-hungry coupon addicts.

  23. says

    My thoughts exactly!! I like your take on it on your about page.. where you have your “charity” items. I think that is the way to go. I would think all of their soda’s and pasta that they had would expire before they could ever touch it!!

  24. Leslie says

    I agree as well. Who needs that much deoderant and toothbrushes to last them 150 years? I love a good deal and would love to take a $300 grocery bill down to just a few dollars but I really don’t need that many toothbrushes.

    I have seen a few of these shows and quit watching them.

  25. Leigh says

    I have a plastic container that I keep my “stockpile” in. These are items that I purchased (or were free) that are not a brand I use but were a really great deal. These turn into stocking stuffers for Christmas and fill the yearly basket for my child’s classroom where they have adopted the local shelter or food bank. Couponing to me is the hunt for the best deal and knowing what is the lowest price as well as knowing what price NOT to pay for something. I do have to reign myself in sometimes when I see great deals so that greed does not take over.

  26. Jesse says

    I agree with all of these comments. I am new to couponing and must admit that I caught one of the Extreme Couponing shows and it in turn got me interested in the “Idea”. However, I don’t think I will be going over the edge and stocking up on 1,000 Toothpastes just because!! I am just tired of dropping $300 on groceries and having nothing after 2 weeks! With my husband being the only one working, we really can’t afford much these days and it would be nice to score extras so my cupboards weren’t so bare!!

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