Extreme Couponing Reality Check

You’re probably familiar with the term “Extreme Couponing” by now, thanks to TLC and the bazillion new coupon blogs. The main benefit regarding extreme couponing is the massive amounts of money you’ll be able to save on (and get for “free”) groceries, health & beauty items and essentially everything else under the sun.

But what about the downside, can it end up costing you more in the long run? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a coupon-lover myself, but I don’t take it to a dark place (anymore). So here are some of the potential costs that can be associated with Extreme Couponing:

The cost of all those coupons- If you intend to go out and get 30 of an item, it’s only expected that you have 30 coupons, right? Are you dumpster diving or digging through recycle bins? In some cities this is illegal (possible fines) and overall it’s kinda gross. There’s also a possibility of infections and dangers (possible medical expenses) when dumpster diving.

Are you going out and buying 30 issues of your Sunday paper? Buying coupons online? Quite often couponers don’t take into account the amount it cost to acquire these coupons. Are you buying extra computers so that you’re able to print more than the standard 2 coupons? Printer paper and ink cartridges should also be taken into account.

Filling up the tank- If you’re making numerous trips to multiple stores each week, then you’re probably spending more money on gas. This should also be considered when calculating those “great deals” as should the additional wear and tear on your vehicle.

Sales Tax- unless you’re fortunate enough to live or shop in one of the 4 U.S. states (Oregon, Montana, Delaware and New Hampshire) that doesn’t charge sales tax, this is yet another factor to consider. When you use coupons to purchase items that will incur sales tax, you are required to pay the pre-coupon amount. Example: Buy 20 Men’s Razors @ $5.00 each = $100.00 minus your 20 $5.00 off coupons = $0.00 add in sales tax on $100.00 in Washington state (8.64%) = $8.64 for the “free razors.”

Print Free Grocery Coupons at Home

Freezers & Refrigerators- if you’re an extreme couponer, you probably need more places for cold storage. An extra freezer or refrigerator (just 1) isn’t uncommon for couponers or even regular people who don’t coupon. But did you need to buy another one because of all your “deals”? Is that extra purchase cost and the additional energy cost being factored in?

Storing your stockpile- with all that “free” and cheap stuff coming into your home, you need somewhere to put it. Sure you can start off using things you already have, but the more you get, the more storage you’ll need.

Between shelves, buckets and whatever other containers or storage options you choose, it’s probably going to cost more money. If you just get one thing at a time, it’s easier to ignore the cost. For those who want to show-off their stockpile, you could easily spend a few hundred dollars to spiff things up and make it nice and presentable.

Time- if you’re out there getting all these deals, how much time are you realistically spending? If you spend only 6 hours total per week at the stores, that’s not really all. There’s also the research to find the deals, which might be as simple as spending 20 minutes each day at a coupon/deal blog or even a couple of hours.

Coupon acquisition, clipping and organization can also take up a big chunk of time. If you’re out dumpster diving, then you should take that time into consideration too. Personally I have a super-simple system for my coupons, and I still spend at least 30 minutes per week cutting out the coupons I might need.

That’s without all the fuss of planning multiple transactions, sorting into categories and such. Our time is valuable and never guaranteed; would it still be worth it if you knew you were dying in a year?

Getting $hit you don’t need/use- This one is tricky because most people might say that they give away or donate these things. When you’re getting all this stuff for “free” it’s amazing what you might end up keeping.

If you don’t use this stuff, then it can go to waste. You’re only really saving money when you get stuff you/your family uses at a total price lower than you would normally have to pay. Total means all factors included, not just the price after the coupons.

Relationship issues- Not everybody’s partner/family will think it’s great to have 50 boxes of tampons (sorry guys) in their garage. Maybe other aspects of your life are suffering from the time put into the couponing, or lack of space at home or even them thinking you’re totally nuts.

A couple of years ago, my honey sat me down and told me “no more toothpaste.” Then it hit me, but it might not happen so easily with everybody. Granted, most of the toothpaste I got from couponing was for donating (without tax benefits- that’s just how I roll) and just made me look crazy. It still made sense to me though. Relationships can suffer without all parties being aware unless there is excellent communication going on.

Space- each new thing you bring in will require space. If you get a ton of deals, your available space will slowly start shrinking. Will you be storing things in your closets, under the beds, in your children’s rooms? Is there already stuff everywhere? What if you have to move, that would mean more boxes and more work for moving your stockpile.

Print Free Coupons

I bet all the extreme couponers are gonna hate me now, but that’s okay. :-) Sometimes the details can get overlooked. For some other interesting posts related to extreme couponing, check out: Weighing in on “Extreme Couponing.” over at Surviving and Thriving or Extreme Couponing. Wow. over at Budgets are Sexy or ‘Extreme Couponing’ Is Back On TLC, And We Can’t Look Away over at The Consumerist or Extreme Couponing: What’s Your View? over at FiveCentNickle.


Did I leave anything out?

About Jen Perkins

Likes: saving money, being debt free (aside from our house), zombies, travel, getting money, blogging and dogs. Dislikes: debt, being broke, bunnies, wasting money, not having enough money to travel the world and paying interest. Facebook  ♥  Twitter  ♥  Google+  ♥  RSS


Extreme Couponing Reality Check — 10 Comments

  1. You got most of the reasons! Good list!
    I don’t use coupons much because we are trying to eat healthy foods, such as fresh produce, meat, dairy, and whole grain breads. Sometimes there are coupons for these, but most coupons are for highly processed foods. I’ve seen people go nuts with couponing, even devoting several closets to it. It’s just not for me.

    • Thanks Maggie. It is definitely a lot easier to get ‘unhealthy’ foods with coupons. I never went really nuts but I did have the equivalent to “several closets” worth of stuff. Not tons of food but mostly household and health & beauty items. Lately though, I’ve really chilled on the intense couponing—thank goodness. :-)

  2. The several closets were just for the coupons and coupon flyers waiting to be cut out! It became an obsession with this person taking up all of her free time. It was quite a scene when she dragged out the boxes of this stuff! Fortunately she has recovered from that mania & now only clips a few coupons.

  3. OMG! This is EXACTLY! what I’ve been searching for! I knew there had to be some hidden disadvantage to couponing. Don’t get me wrong. After watching an episode of “TLC EXTREME COUPONING”, I was so intrigued to get started clipping away. Of course, first things first. It’s been a week since I’ve been doing my research and building knowledge on couponing before I venture off into my journey of SAVINGS! I find this extremely useful information & to consider what probably never crossed our mind to begin with. Gas, time, storage, etc. etc. I was just so eager to get started! Anyways, thanks again! HAPPY COUPONING!

    • Yay! I’m so happy that I was able to help you in your research, Natalie. When I had started a few years back, I had no clue about the ‘real cost’ of couponing. I still use coupons today, just nothing like before. Happy couponing, Natalie. :-)

  4. Great post! I live in a one bedroom apartment. I don’t have a lot of space, so I guess I would have to be creative with stockpiling if I actually did do it. Ie putting stuff in my ottoman cubes.

    • You could also get those buckets that go under your bed, those are pretty popular with couponers. The less space you have, the more challenging it can be to not look like a hoarder. 😉