The new season of TLC Extreme Couponing starts tonight. To be completely honest with you, we are not excited about it nor are we planning to watch any of the episodes.
Even this past season we only watched about three episodes as we were incredibly disappointed and quite frankly it was downright BORING! Seriously, each show was utterly predictable with the the climax of every episode as: “Oh no, the register is going to break. What are they going to do?”
One reason of many we don’t particularly like Extreme Couponing is its giving the real couponers and money savers a bad reputation from fellow shoppers and the stores themselves. Before TLC Extreme Couponing, it wasn’t a big deal to take our coupon binder into the store and coupon shop with hardly any gruff from the fellow shoppers or the store employees. Now, it is rare if we don’t get some disgusted looks, rolling eyes and a few huffs and puffs at us as we are shopping. We have heard it many times from you and experienced ourselves that we are often treated like criminals – even when we are trying to obey all the rules. See our rant about a recent trip to Walmart to see what we mean!
But even more importantly is the effect that TLC’s Extreme Couponing is causing on how stores are now handling coupons, couponers, and their deals. Store policies are constantly changing and the perks we previously enjoyed are disappearing. What I’m referring to here are the perks we used to receive from responsible and respectful coupon shopping. This is the most sad and disappointing affect of the so-called reality show.
However, even with all the negative response, there is at least one positive in regards to this show and the world of couponing. It has helped others understand they can actually save a significant amount of money at the store while encouraging many to take a more serious look at couponing with the ultimate result of taking those initial steps to change their family’s lives and their budgets. But here’s the problem. The show may get them interested in starting, but they quickly learn their results are not the same as what they see on the show. We have heard time and again how discouraging this is to many and oftentimes prevents them from continuing.
We want to help you wade through the “reality” tape and lay out 20 reasons why you are not getting the same results as the extreme couponers.
1. They are emailing companies directly for free coupons – Many of the Extreme Couponers said it themselves “I emailed this company and they sent me FREE or very high value coupons!” This is truly a great way to try free products, but a company is not going to continue sending you these free coupons. If you knew you were going to be on the show, you’d probably starting sending those requests ASAP so that you collect as many free product coupons to make your results for that ONE shopping trip much better.
2. Coupon fraud and using coupons on wrong items – There was some blatant misuse of coupons with the intention of not using them on the intended products just to make the numbers look better and to be able to show the lowest prices – but it was wrong, not real and certainly not ethical. Savings does not and should not come from fraudulent activity. You can see one specific Extreme Couponer who committed fraud from this Youtube video.
3. Number of coupon inserts – We don’t all have a resource where we can literally get an unlimited amount of coupon inserts (and we have no clue how some of those Extreme Couponers are getting them). In our area, we buy the weekend newspapers to get the inserts. Our local newspapers do not even contain the Red Plum Insert – we only get one copy in the mail each week. Most of us run into these limitations, and if you are like us you can’t even get the inserts from friends or family either as they are all couponers too 😉
In our area, there aren’t any extra inserts easily available. We have talked with employees at our local newspapers about this (as we would love to find a resource for a large number of inserts to pass around too!) and each one has explicitly told us that they are under contract with Smart Source and Procter and Gamble (the two companies offering inserts in our local newspapers) to only distribute inserts to paid subscribers of the newspapers. In fact, we and many of our friends have delivered newspapers for extra money, and we were required to turn those extra Sunday papers and inserts back over to the paper. Our numbers had to line up so they wouldn’t break their contract with Smart Source or Procter and Gamble in guaranteeing that only real subscribers were receiving the inserts. Now we are not sure if this same rule applies across the country but it would only make sense. So how they are getting that many inserts would sure be nice to know – but of course they are not disclosing!
4. Printing methods – We also noticed the large numbers of the same printable coupons. In order to do this without photo copying (which is coupon fraud), they would need to have access to many, many computers as you are generally only able to print a maximum of two of each coupon from each computer. The average person only has a small number of computers in their household, so some of these really hot high-value printable coupons would most likely only be a handful per household instead of dozens.
Again, if we were getting ready for a show like TLC Extreme Couponing, we would find access to any and all computers that we could to print as many of those hot printable coupons, but this isn’t possible for everyday lifestyle couponing.
5. Reusable bags – This isn’t playing a huge factor to their savings, but it is a contributor nonetheless! We noticed that several of the extreme couponers had dozens of reuseable bags with each of those bags taking another few cents off the total. Its not a bad idea to use them to save money over a long period of time, but the initial investment in literally dozens and dozens of those bags at $1.00 or more each is not considered although the few dollars deducted off the end is.
6. Stacking with ecoupons – There are ecoupon resources such as Shortcuts and CellFire that have similar or even the same coupons as the paper coupons. These are manufacturer coupons and they technically cannot be stacked. However, in some of the earlier episodes of the show the stores’ computer systems did not have a way to detect both the ecoupon and the paper coupon and was giving double discounts (we have never recommended that policy).
Probably mostly due to the popularity of Extreme Couponing, the stores computer systems have been reprogrammed to not allow both coupons to be deducted. If an ecoupon was used, a manufacturer paper coupon cannot also be used and the register will beep alerting the cashier of a duplicate.
7. Using previously obtained catalinas – This struck us especially in a few episodes. We noticed that many of the Extreme Couponers were using catalinas to help bring their totals lower. What is a catalina? It is not referring to the island or the salad dressing! A Catalina is coupon that prints at the register. It looks somewhat like a receipt, but skinnier and longer with thicker paper. It is the same thing that prints at Walgreens when they have their register rewards. Now while this is a perfectly legitimate way to save, the way that you get these is by making a previous qualified purchase and the large numbers of used catalinas cannot be a regular method of saving.
For example, there could be a catalina for $5 when you buy 3 cereals. You earn this catalina for buying those three cereals and then you can use it on your next transaction where you will see that additional $5 savings. During many of the checkouts, we saw a large number of catalinas passed to the cashier (and the register on one episode showing several $20 coupons being deducted?!). The only way we know to do this is by accumulating these catalinas from several previous transactions (and who knows whether or not they received deals on those initial products to earn the catalina) in the form of several dollars (potentially hundreds) in savings just from the catalinas redeemed.
8. Double coupons – Many stores do not double coupons (e.g. making a .50 coupon worth $1.00). We do not have the privilege in our area of doubling coupons on a regular basis and many other people do not receive double coupons in their area. This would have a HUGE affect on the results people would get (as well as the amount of free and overage items possible!).
9. Stores breaking their own policies – This somewhat goes along with point #8 (lifting the limit on the amount of double coupons for the show but sticking with the rules for everyone else), but for the publicity for the TLC Extreme Couponing show, many stores were breaking their own policies just for the sake of publicity. There is no possibility of the regular “non-reality-TV-show-star” being able to get away with breaking the same rules. Some of these rules include limiting the number of items you can buy, limiting the number of coupons you can double, limiting the number of coupons you can use in total, just to name a few (there can be many as each store has different policies).
10. Holding out all the good coupons for the trip – This is just an assumption on our part, but probably a pretty accurate one. If we were preparing to go on TLC Extreme Couponing, we would hold onto all of the free product coupons, the high value coupons, etc. for this one trip. If you have seen the show you have heard time and again every Extreme Couponer state “This is the biggest shopping trip I have ever done.” It only makes sense that you would not have that amounts of coupons to use each week or even on a regular basis.
11. Store stock – This is really a big one. We are not sure if you have tried to get the latest deals in your area, but our local stores are not able to keep stock. Each week there is usually a handful of deals we cannot get because the store’s shelves are just clean wiped out – especially on the items that are free, money makers or just plain cheap! For this show, many of them admitted to arranging with the store before hand to have the stock available for the filming of the show. We can’t all arrange with the stores to keep the stock just for each of us to come in and buy by the hoards!
12. Purchasing coupons – There is a way that we know of where many of the Extreme Couponers are getting enough coupons to make these excessive trips. They are purchasing inserts or individual coupons from coupon-clipping services. In some cases, there are reports that many of them spent hundreds on these coupons. This significant expense is not calculated in their totals. All you see is the result of using the coupons – not the expense to obtain them.
13. Not always huge sales – There is not a rock bottom sale every week. There are great deals very frequently and most often weekly, but to hit those huge rock bottom sales where many items come out close-to-nothing has only happened for us a few times a year. You can see our shopping trip results that we post to see you can clearly catch great deals by running around town, but those “once in a few months sales event” are really just that!
14. Store limits – Many stores themselves have limits on how many of the same items you can buy or how many coupons you can use. Again, just like stated in point #9, many stores set their policies aside for the taping of the show.
15. Coupon limits – Some manufacturers, such as Procter and Gamble, have now placed a limit on how many of their coupons you can redeem per shopping trip. Procter and Gamble coupons state in the fine print “limit of 4 like coupons.”
16. Not just buying for the sake of the sale – How many times during the season did you see and hear an Extreme Couponer buying large quantities of an item they don’t use or didn’t care for. Why would they buy it? Granted, we have and encourage buying products you might not use yourself when they are cheap to donate to those in need – which is fantastic – and some Extreme Couponers did this. But many were buying things that they would never use and KEEP IT in their storage just for the sake of bragging about the great deals they received! But it is not a deal unless you have a use for it or will give it to someone in need.
17. No or minimal perishables – Many of the Extreme Couponers had very little or no perishable items (meats, dairy, produce, breads, etc.). These items are a challenge to get a good deal on, but you can’t avoid buying them on a regular basis. This will always affect your bottom line and make your savings much less when you actually include them in your transaction. As we all know, they cannot live off of what they bought!
18. Store coupon policies – Everyone is going to have a different experience just based on their local store’s policies. Unfortunately there is not one universal approach, or set of rules or policies at each store. You can take two identical shopping trips and end up with different results in different areas, just based on your local area. There isn’t a way around this. Some people live in a very coupon friendly area, where others not so much!
19. Not being able to do multiple transactions – In many of the circumstances, the Extreme Couponers were having to do multiple transactions on the same shopping trip to achieve their results (and to roll catalina coupons one after another). Many stores will not allow multiple transactions, so in those cases, those couponers would not receive the same results!
20. Most stores do not allow overage – In addition, to the previous 19 points, one final thing that we wanted to point out, many stores do not allow an overage on a coupon. Many of the Extreme Couponers were able to achieve their results by buying 50 or 100 of an item that was going to give them a $0.50 overage each. This gives them an extra $25 – $50 to work with by just buying that one item – most had several of these types of overages to apply to their balance. The reality is, if your store does not allow overages then this whole concept goes out the window! You would just receive that item for free (they would either adjust the coupon value or the price of the item to make the item free instead of giving you the overage) but not having the extra amount to work with. This would have a great affect on your results!
We didn’t want to write this post to discourage you in any way, but rather to be an encouragement to you. How? Well, there are real and true blessings from taking the time to use coupons for your groceries and everyday needs. It is something that we don’t others to miss out on because they tried it and it didn’t work out as they thought it would.
Couponing as ONE way to save is a great way to meet your financial goals. It was a contributing factor to helping us achieve debt freedom sooner. It is just learning the right way and the REAL way to use coupons that will help you achieve those goals. As far as TLC, the only show that we will keep watching on the network is the beloved Duggar family and their 19 Kids and Counting show! We find them amusing (not boring), fun and a huge encouragement!
We are not saying that EVERY Extreme Couponer did all of the above, but many of the above points above affected each one of their results in some way as they prepared for the show. They do not and cannot shop like this on a regular basis. Many of them spent several months and even years to build their storage to where it is today. We even have what we call “The Thrifty Store” in our basement, but we have built it up over time and with the limitations to couponing that we have in our area.
If you would like to learn more about the real way to coupon, we encourage you to follow these steps:
- Read up on our “How Do I Start” section
- Read up on understanding coupon lingo
- Follow the store deals each week
- Check our site often for the latest deals, Best Deals, freebies, coupons, and money saving tips and articles and much more…
Then, you too can be THE REAL COUPONER!