Recently, TLC aired the first of 12 new 30-minute episodes of a new reality series entitled "Extreme Couponing". The show gained attention from coupon enthusiasts, coupon pro's, savings bloggers and curious on-lookers. It has also received some negative feedback from the same community regarding ethical coupon use, use of multiple identical coupons, stockpiling vs. hoarding and unrealistic expectations.
Since the show first aired Wednesday April 6, I have received quite a number of emails from Facebook fans and blog followers and while I was delighted to hear from and answer each email, it prompted further thought and speculation so I decided to share my REAL opinion of the show.
I am going to use some of the email questions I received and will further elaborate from there. Here we go!
Email: How much time do you spend clipping coupons?
HTD: I spend no more than 1 hour per day clipping, sorting, filing, etc. my personal inventory of coupons. I actually do this in the evening while I try to unwind from a busy day. I clip, one insert at a time, file, sort and put aside any expired or unwanted coupons. Although I am a self-declared coupon enthusiast, I am also a mom and a wife first and foremost. Those two grand responsibilities take precedence!
Email: The savings on the show are amazing!! How do I do that?
HTD: The savings on the show are amazing, I won't argue that. But the savings on the show, in my opinion, are for entertainment purposes. While I have walked from a store paying less than $10.00 for a purchase totaling nearly $100.00; it is not a frequent achievement. My weekly average grocery bill runs $25.00 - $30.00 for about $200.00 worth of groceries. This includes toddler necessities, fresh produce and healthy cuts of meat and poultry. To further elaborate, it is possible to enjoy impressive savings when you shop---it is something everyone can do! But it does take a little time, a little effort and a lot of know-how. Learning the basics is the best place to start and you will have to remember two very important facts: One, your savings will start small and two, in the end, it's all about saving money.
Email: It looks like the one girl was using her coupons incorrectly. How did she get away with it?
HTD: Oh this really clips my coupons! Although I have not heard proof-positive about incorrect coupon use by one of the featured shoppers, I have heard about the speculation. I teach coupon classes in and around my local area and one of the focuses of my class is ethical coupon use. When coupons are used correctly, we all win; we all benefit. When coupons are used incorrectly, it's a crime. It really is committing fraud. Coupons have printed stipulations for a reason. So bottom line: If you are going to use coupons, use them the right way and ONLY the right way!
Email: Do you have a stockpile like those on tv?
HTD: Yes, I have a stockpile. No, mine is not nearly the size of those shown on tv. Also, my stockpile contents are not found in my shower-stall, under beds or in dressing closets. My stockpile consists of one shelving unit, in a climate controlled area that is easy for me to maintain and sustains our family when necessary. I replinish the stockpile as needed and live by the 1-for 1 rule: when purchasing an item at a stockpile price, I purchase one item for each family member and 2 additional more. And I ONLY purchase the items my family will use. I suppose you might call my stockpile a sensible stockpile.
Email: Do you donate at all?
HTD: All the time. I am happy to give back to my community whenver I can.
Email: What do you do with your expired coupons?
HTD: I send them to TROOPONS. Everytime. I know they are needed and I know they are used.
The show is entertaining. And I can't help but be inspired by the savings. But I know how long it took me to master the grocery store and it didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen in one week. It took me nearly 1 year to feel like I had truly conquered my grocery bill challenge. I encourage you to let the show inspire you! I encourage you to watch for a few tried and true tips--because they are in there. But I also encourage you to start slowly, learn the ropes and realize that trial and error are often part of the challenge. But with a little guidance, a little savvy know-how and some serious excitement for savings, you'll soon be able to enjoy significant savings of your own. (Without a cart full of candybars!)
I wish you savvy savings and sensible stockpiling,