In today's environment, frugality has become trendy and shows like TLC's "Extreme Couponing" have gone viral with 2.1 million viewers tuning in for the premiere. The show depicts penny pinching as an extreme sport. For the stars of the TLC show, and for the customers who you see three carts deep in the supermarket check out line, this is no haphazard coupon clipping. This is an organized way of life. The concept is impressive, they may proudly hand over a handful of singles for hundreds of items, but is this level of couponing wise? (Use coupons strategically to score big savings on everyday purchases. See Coupon Shopping: Clip Your Way To Savings.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Time Commitment
Gone are the days of snipping a few interesting looking items from your local Sunday paper. Extreme couponing requires real commitment and organization. Before you even get to the store you have to start researching in newspapers and scourging online sites such as Coupons.com, RedPlum and the Grocery Game. Once you have cross-referenced your coupons you need to find a binder with slide-in slots and start filing them by item, expiration date and participating store. For the dedicated shoppers this gathering, cutting, printing and cataloging is a part time job taking up hours of each week. If you don't have several hours a week to dedicate to the work you will lose interest quickly. It might become necessary to create a support network of friends, family and neighbors so you can swap coupons and share ideas.

Once you have your binder ready and you have checked your email account for any last minute sale specials, you are ready to start the business of shopping. In the world of extreme couponing this does not mean a single trip to your local supermarket. Pack a water bottle and ready yourself for a long journey. Many coupons are store specific so you will need to start jumping from one store to the next. Is the saving worth the extra time spent in traffic, gasoline used or minutes spent waiting for public transportation? Unless you have gargantuan calf muscles and are prepared to carry a heavy load, cycling may become difficult for this type of shopping.

Stockpiling
If you are going to start extreme couponing, some serious storage is essential. Be prepared to look like you are preparing for the apocalypse. Depending on the size of your home, you will need to put up shelves in your garage or dedicate a closest to your loot. Extreme couponing may not be feasible for people living in small city apartments who don't want to see canned goods taking over their living room. If you do have the space for storage then organization is key. You will kick yourself if you squeeze everything into a cupboard and then realize that half of your goods have gone sliding past their expiration date. (Trim the fat from your grocery bill to reduce the impact of food cost on your budget. Check out 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)

Are you buying what you want?
If you are dedicated to couponing then you will do your best not to deviate from the shopping list in your binder. The problems with this are threefold. One, most coupons are for pre-packaged foods rather than the freshest and healthiest food products. Two, many of the products that have coupons are new to the market; they are often not the tried and tested favorites and may have very little user feedback to attest to their quality. Three, in your determination to get a great deal you may not be buying goods that you either need or want. Some extreme couponers get around this problem by donating many items to food pantries. While this is both worthwhile and noble, the food pantries may not need the more obscure items that you are generously giving away.

The Bottom Line
If you are organized, have free time, have the room for storage, want to save money or feel compelled to donate offerings to food pantries, then extreme couponing may work well for you. However, if you are attempting to re-create what you have witnessed on television, will you ever be able to save enough? If the extreme couponers are the stars of this world, your efforts may seem pitiful in comparison. You may save money here and there but will you feel like a failure if you spend more than you save? With the increased use of coupons in the wake of the changing economy and the popularity of the TLC show, supermarket retailers are starting to revise their couponing policies to avoid driving themselves out of business. As our expectations for frugal shopping rise, extreme couponing may become increasingly difficult with only a few dedicated shoppers seeing the addictive savings that have driven the craze. (Find out why good intentions can put consumers in an even bigger hole than before. Refer to Digging Out Of Personal Debt.)

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    4 Areas to Consider Roofing Material Types

    Roofing your home is very important, that’s why you should choose a roof specifically designed to handle your area’s climate.
  2. Budgeting

    The 5 Most Expensive States for Child Care

    To get a better sense of how child care costs can fluctuate, here's a look at the costs of child care across the country.
  3. Home & Auto

    Looking To Invest In Home Improvements?

    Some home improvement projects could cost you more to complete than they’ll pay out in equity. So, here we show you the worst projects to avoid.
  4. Fundamental Analysis

    Understanding the Internal Rate of Return Rule

    The internal rate of return rule is a popular method used to compare investments or projects.
  5. Active Trading Fundamentals

    How Groupon Makes Money

    Find out how Groupon makes money, including a rundown of how Groupon works and what benefits it provides to the businesses it partners with.
  6. Home & Auto

    Are Home Inspections Worth It? - Price vs. Value

    If you’re wondering whether home inspection is worth the investment, the following information will help you decide.
  7. Budgeting

    How to Defray Long-Term Care Expenses

    Here's a handful of options on what you can do to defray long-term care expenses.
  8. Budgeting

    The True Cost of Home Caregiving

    Caring for eldery family in-home might be unavoidable, but most caregivers don't realize the true cost of doing so.
  9. Budgeting

    Is Level Money the Perfect Budgeting Tool?

    Here’s a detailed review of how Level Money works and whether it could be the perfect tool to help you budget.
  10. Economics

    Explaining Budget Surplus

    Budget surplus is an economic term describing a situation where revenue exceeds expenditures.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Internal Rate Of Return - IRR

    A metric used in capital budgeting measuring the profitability ...
  2. Debt Consolidation

    The act of combining several loans or liabilities into one loan. ...
  3. Personal Spending Plan

    Similar to a budget, a personal spending plan helps outline where ...
  4. Fudget

    A falsified statement of income and expenses. A fudget or "fudget ...
  5. Capital Project

    A long-term investment made in order to build upon, add or improve ...
  6. Haggle

    When two parties involved in the purchase of a good and service ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What proportion of my income should I put into my demand deposit account?

    Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I use the rule of 72 to estimate compounding periods?

    The rule of 72 is best used to estimate compounding periods that are factors of two (2, 4, 12, 200 and so on). This is because ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How much risk is associated with subprime mortgages?

    A large amount of risk is associated with subprime mortgages. Since the mortgages are specifically for people who do not ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!