I'm Addicted To 'Extreme Couponing" But I Hate Coupons

TLC’s new reality show, ‘Extreme Couponing’ is captivating. This show, about real people who use enormous stacks of coupons to get thousands of dollars of groceries for free, is both alarming and endearing.

The critics are raving about this show and I’m hooked. But, I’ve never used coupons and I probably never will. According to the show, neither do 97 percent of Americans. Still, that doesn’t stop me from watching.

These extreme coupon shoppers range from soccer moms trying to keep their family food budget manageable to single girls with severe cases of obsessive coupon disorder.  Most extreme coupon shoppers started couponing as a result of a financial hardship like job loss. But, soon they found it addicting and kept going. They can’t stop, even if they wanted to. One described the high like being on “crack”. WTF?

Are the savings of 99 percent on a grocery bill really worth it? Extreme coupon shoppers will spend 6 hours preparing to grocery shop and another 6 hours in the store shopping. Can you imagine spending 6 hours in your grocery store? I can’t!

The drama begins when cash registers crash due to the thousands of coupons they hand the cashier. Tensions mount and we see them screaming at spouses, threatening to punch boyfriend on camera, panic attacks at checkout and the ultimate success of a transition completed for mere pennies on the dollar.

The pride and joy of these extreme couponers is their “stockpile”. Rooms in their houses are filled to the ceiling with products. Bathrooms are used as the pantry. Toilet paper is shoved under their kids’ beds. These shoppers aren’t brand-loyal. They buy anything that has a coupon. And I mean anything. Cake mix to last 15 years, 70 bottles of mustard, makeup and more. Some stockpiles are worth $75,000.

But, who really needs 75 bottles of hot sauce? Hundreds of cat treats for a family that doesn’t have a cat? 500 sports drinks? Sleep aids you don’t use? Can you say hoarder?

This show is captivating because of the OCD quality of it’s participants. It’s also about the little shopper going up against the big corporate supermarkets we all love to hate. You know, the ones with the wilted produce, expired milk and long lines? Yes, those supermarkets.

I love watching the obsessively organized couponers take on these corporate supermarket giants and win. They often wipe the shelves clean, dumping ever last item into one of many shopping carts.

At checkout, the tension peaks when, well into hour two or three, the register crashes and harried managers must figure out a way to accommodate these shoppers. Ultimately, they figure out a way to scan the coupons, even if it means going to another register, calling in the big boss or imputing each one by hand. The stores must hate these shoppers!

I can’t imagine clipping even one coupon. I’d never dive into a dumpster to get a coupon. Even when I was on a tight budget in college, clipping coupons never appealed to me. I don’t have the patience. I hate coupons because they never seem to offer deals for the stuff I want to buy. But, I love watching these slightly off-balance, compulsive couponers do their thing. I’m cheering for them every step of the way. 

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