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Extreme Couponing: Causing Highs or Lows?!

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Check out the following email I received from an anonymous reader…

I have decided today to officially give up on coupons. I started using coupons 7 years ago when my husband and I got married. He was in the military, and every little bit helps. Since this coupon craze, and TV shows, I can’t go to a store with out seeing at least 5-10 carts of people with their huge coupon binders and the shelves wiped. I spend all this time, and money on ink, and newspaper, to end up dumping them (expired) in the trash or giving them away on Craigslist. I can’t afford to drive store to store (hence saving money). I have stood next to people, with my coupon in hand waiting my turn and they wipe out the shelf with whats left. Its come to the point where people are being selfish, rude, and “who has the bigger stock pile”. This use to make me happy, now I am just disappointed and dread going to the store. Thank you Collin for your site, and inspiring people to save money. My sanity is no longer worth it, and my children would agree.”


This email saddens me so much. 🙁 Couponing should be a fun way to help you save money. And this email, well, makes me want to hug each of you who are struggling with making this coupon thing work. I  don’t want any of you to give up and quit. Couponing has changed my life in so many positive ways and I know (if it hasn’t already) it can do the same for all of you.

Here are a few tips if you are currently struggling…

* If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to take a break from using coupons entirely and come back to them at a later date. Miss a few deals… they always come back around. You can also check Amazon while you are taking some time off. They have tons of great grocery deals AND you can snag them in your pajamas! Love that! 🙂

* Find a coupon buddy. It’s nice to have a person you can brag to and also someone who will listen to your rants and frustrations. You can also take turns with friends and family getting deals and clipping coupons.

* Be pro-active when the shelves are cleared. Get rain checks and inquire about ordering sale items in advance. That way, when a situation like the above arises, you will have a plan in place. And know, there will be times when you just can’t get the deal… but have the mindset that an even better deal is just around the corner.

* Keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes the best deals are unadvertised sales or in-store promotions that nobody knows about. Also, clearance finds can make for amazing bargains when paired with coupons! Scoring deals like this always motivates me to continue this frugal journey of mine.

* Last but definitely not least – be positive. The glass is never half empty!

What are some of your tips? How do you stay motivated and positive?!

Join The Discussion

Comments 461

  1. Catherine Baxter

    This article really hit me. I feel the same way so many times when I go shopping. Not just that people are being rude but that it’s turning into a trend that everyone does. People ask if I’m an “extreme couponer” just because I have maybe 10 items and 10 coupons. I just starting being serious about couponing last year and then TLC’s show came out and now it’s so different. I think people should boycott the show. We do not watch it in our house. On a good note a found Dove Men’s Deodorant at Target for super cheap on clearance. It’s little deals that make you remember that this is fun when things get bad.

    • My Oatmeal Kisses

      Dang! I feel bad for that lady! I LOVE the “Clipless” method of couponing! I have two very small children so I don’t have the time to keep up on all of the expiration dates. I go to GROCERYSMARTS.com and click on the store that I’m about to go to. It ranks the items and tells you if it’s a good deal and gives you the date of the coupon insert. I quickly go through my inserts (the night before) and get everything ready. Then I have a small stack of coupons cut and ready. Stress free saving!

      Click here for more info:http://www.utahdealdiva.com/2010/01/thrifty-thursday-clipless-method-of.html

    • Carla

      I had a guy follow me through the store every day calling me an extreme couponer and asking me if I was going to get everything for free. I was like, no… just trying to grocery shop.

  2. Anonymous

    Even more annoying and irritating than cleared shelves is the CONSTANT, UNRELENTING WHINING about cleared shelves and the Extreme Couponing show! The show has shown MILLIONS of people who did not realize the benifits of couponing how much money they can save. So of course there is going to be hundreds more people looking for the EXACT same bottle of shampoo or box of oatmeal that you want! Such is life. You are still saving so much more than the average shopper. Your life will not end because you could not get that tube of free toothpaste this week. Couponing is harder…we all know and have witnessed it. Let’s move on! No need for 400 duplicate comments whining about the exact same thing. Be positive! Pay $1.00 more and move on! Everyone has that crazy lady who buys 50 items..you don’t like her…I don’t like mine…and I don’t need to hear about everyone in every town. They exist and annoy like the begging drunk outside your local gas station. Next subject..

    • Anon

      It might be annoying to read people complaining about the Extreme Couponing show, but if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.

      • brodricka

        Unfortunately, many people post their griping along with and mixed in with helpful post and in order to get to the helpful ones, we are forced to look at all the whining. Its very unfortunate.

    • Anonymous #3

      I agree with both of you–I very much dislike the whining, and can’t stand to read lots of comments on hip2save (so more often then not, I chose not to read the comments). It didn’t used to be like this. I try to skim for the helpful comments sometimes, but then I see the whining and it drives me nuts!! People are still complaining about the same things, even when advice and alternatives are provided!

    • Melinda

      To Anonymous: Thank you for saying that! That is exactly what I have been thinking about this whole topic. I am tired of the whining as well.

    • Cina

      Well said! Thankyou!

  3. janet

    Don’t you think that (like most “trends”) this will fade out? The show had introduced me to couponing, but more importantly, it has brought me to blogs like yours and others and I’ve met some really neat people. I love that I’m saving money and appreciate all the hard work bloggers do to show us the deals, but my initial frustration of seeing cleared shelves is dying off (partly because WalMart is stepping up to the challenge) and I’m just enjoying meeting new people and reading new blogs!!

  4. Sarah

    Thanks for the encouragement. I started couponing 2 years ago and loved it. Now–it is a hassle to even find a newspaper, much less fight the race to the shelves. Taking a break for a while. After the hype is over maybe it will be more fun to get the deal, but until then, I’ll just shop the sales and check your site for other deals that do not involve newspapers and store shopping. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this site. I still check it even though I haven’t used a coupon all summer.

  5. Lindsay

    I TOTALLY agree with the way this person feels because I feel the exact same way. I started couponing way before it became the newest craze and I do not have the patience anymore for it. I used to be able to buy coupons without any hassel and now EVERY time I go to buy them they are sold out or are being sold for like $10.00 on ebay whereas it used to cost me $1.00 for the same coupon on ebay. It is such a pain and not even worth it. I hope it does fade so I can get back into it.

  6. Missy

    I too am discouraged. Though I don’t mind paying $1.00 for a tube of toothpaste. I did it before and I’ll do it again. I think the point is that people should just be more considerate. You can’t really save that much if you can’t ever get the items that are on sale. It’s hard for me to get the news papers too. Unless I get up at 5 a.m. So, I haven’t bought any for 3 weeks now.

    • april

      its the same here!

      the one thing that upsets me the most is the shelves being cleared. why that really makes me mad is because there is no excuse for this; and a lot of the times the normal household items i use are the things that are gone! my husband busts his bum for our money and i bust my bum to save the money. then seeing shows like that and people like that, just make it all seem not worth it anymore.
      i too just wish this “fad” would get over, and get back to the way things were!!!

  7. whosmome

    I get discouraged too, I would head to my drugstore and find the toothpaste, razors, tampons, etc completely gone. So now I go to the website and use the “find in your local store” feature, it tells me if the items I need are in stock and at which area store. I am lucky in that I can shop at 3 different Walgreens within 10 mins of my home. I make my list, find my coupons, check availability and head to the store that has the most of the items I plan to buy. It has worked to my advantage so far….saving me time, money, gas, and sanity!
    I have been couponing for as long as I can remember let’s just say 15 yrs or so, since the extreme couponing show came along it is harder to find great deals. We have a houseful here…( myself, my hubby, and 3 sons, live with my parents) we have to survive on a very limited income, coupons have always helped us out, we rely on them and clearance racks.

    • Amanda M.

      What website has the “find in your local store feature”? I am new to the couponing and have also run into the cleared shelves more often than not since we usually don’t get to the stores until the weekend and 90% of the deals are gone by then. It is a little frustrating, but I keep reminding myself that a few months ago I was the one who clipped the coupons then forgot them at home, so I’m still saving WAYY more money than I was just by remembering to bring the coupons with me. :o)

      • whosmome

        Walgreens has the feature and it is pretty accurate, Walmart also has it, but its hit or miss, as well as Target.

    • kate684

      Thank you for your suggestion of check on-line for a local store. I have been very frustrated lately also when I go in and there is nothing left. This will help me decide if my trips are actually going to be worth it or not. Do you know if Rite-aid or CVS has this also?

      • whosmome

        I checked both websites and neither one has the feature. I live 30 miles away from the closest Rite Aid, and the closest CVS is in a bad neighborhood here. So i just stick to Walgreens. Some of the specialty stores have it, like Best Buy. I just check the website to the store I’d like to shop at and look for the feature, I’ve found that easiest.

  8. Rana

    This is such a sad email, but I can relate just a bit. I too go thru ebbs and flows with my couponing… and like Collin said, it really is a fun way to save money. I’ve had many clerks express their frustration with the “extreme couponers” and assured them I’m not one! BUT I THINK, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER FAD, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Those of us who are serious long-timers who are in it for the long haul will see that things go back to normal once the economy picks up or people get bored, frustrated or (just like most of us sometimes) burned out with this hobby.

  9. Melissa

    Yes things are getting horrible! On the front page(BIG BOLD LETTERS) of my towns news paper about a week ago the new show has been blamed for our town having well over 400 news papers stolen each week. People are paying for one but grabbing several. I’m taking a break but never giving up! I still save more than I use to just by going to Publix and getting their BOGO deals each week!

  10. jody

    It is amazing to me all the whining couponers give about missing a sale due these “alledged” shelf clearers. For sure some people do clear shelves but seriously if it’s a great sale and you have great coupons, more power to you; buy it!!! That’s why there are rainchecks! And most stores will accept your expired coupons for raincheck items. And I’m confused over several posts stating that people buying a large quantity are stealing….if it’s on sale and you have a coupon, no matter how many, and you take it to a register and ring it up…how in the heck is that stealing?! You didn’t stuff it in your purse…and last I checked if you pay sales tax on something it’s a pretty legit transaction. Maybe instead of complaining those should take that time to head out to a store and find a deal! One more thing…when I buy items in bulk; if my household wont use it I share the extra with my extended family or friends and what I have leftover I donate to our personal needs/food pantry. I think people are way too quick to judge what people are doing with THEIR product…and if you do want to throw it in a garage sale it’s really no different than that unopened toy or shirt with a tag still on it that you put in as well. The one gal that called the garage sale lady crazy…how crazy is that you stalk her garage sale?? Sorry; I’m sure this will tick people off but the more I read the more disgusted I got. There are enough sales to go around ladies/guys!!

  11. ROBYN

    I can’t get past the picture.LOL!!! I love how she does those, Inserts herself in a picture.

  12. JL

    OK who knows if anyone will read this but but hear it is. Yes couponing can be stressful but nothing in life is fee even if you do have a coupon. The show is annoying and inaccurate view of couponing and there will always be people that will assume that is what you are doing. The way I see it I would not let anyone tell me how to raise my child so why would I let them interfere with how I provide for my family. It is not illegal and it actually has allowed me to be amore giving and helpful person. There are extreme christians out there that sometimes make it difficult for the rest of us but i still go to church. Just remember who you are and why you do it. As far as the shelf clearing it happens. The main stores I shop are Harris teeter(which has a strict 3 like coupon limit) and Publix (which has now set limits on there b1g1) I personally love the limits. It makes it fair for everyone so one person can not clear a shelf.. But I have seen alot of people complain about limits. Oh well. Life is too short to be worried about that. Have a great day.

  13. Ali

    I think more education about the consequences of how we shop is in order (i.e., if you take all of the available product, other shoppers won’t get any), but to be honest, a lot of the comments here make me despair more for humanity than any extreme couponer or hoarder could ever accomplish. I didn’t reply to any particular comment because I don’t want to put anyone specifically on the spot, but I have to wonder–have we become so judgmental/lacking compassion that some of you feel you have the right/desire to pass judgment on other people’s shopping carts? Personally, I don’t feel like I have to explain myself, so I laughed at the last person who passed their oh-so-helpful criticism of my cart/coupons and said ‘hey, fella, why don’t you mind your own business?’ I mean, I know times are tough, and a lot of people are struggling, but I don’t think griping about other people is the answer. You don’t know other people’s financial/emotional/family situation in most cases and, truly, most people likely have good reasons–at least to them–for what they do.

    For example, people in my community might have seen me at Kroger last week buying $.25 crayons and cried, ‘OMG, Extreme Couponer alert! She doesn’t even have KIDS!’ What they may not know is that I have a niece whose parents are divorced. Instead of subjecting her to their arguments over who *should* buy her school supplies and who has the most time to run around to the stores to do it and why, I printed out her school supply list and bought most of it myself since I have every retail store imaginable within a few miles of my house and shop there anyway. It also keeps my mother, who is on half-pay following a surgery, at home instead of taking upon herself to schlep around all of the stores to spare my niece’s feelings.

    I’m also one of those ‘horrible’ couponers who buys things when they’re free/cheap to give to food banks, human and animal. Not to ‘make myself feel good’ about saving a lot of money, but because I sincerely want to help people/animals who are suffering/struggling right now and using my mad shopping skillz ;0) to help others is the best use of my talent. I do put dollar/quantity limits on how much I buy at one time, but I don’t think I need to ask permission from other shoppers before I put whatever shampoo, cat food, tuna and cereal I want to buy into my cart.

    BTW, if some of you are in such bad shape that missing out on sales keeps you from providing for your family, maybe some of you need to check out your local food banks. I’m really not trying to be cute or a smart-aleck. I’m serious.

  14. Patti

    I, too, have given up couponing. Just too much trouble and not worth it to me to save a few dollars. It is crazy for shoppers ot clear shelves. I think the TV show has hurt couponing because it puts couponers in a bad light. I still do not understand all this favor with stockpiling. Too me, that is nuts. Get back to basics and buy only what you will use. I can see where this whole thing can turn into a real addiction. For me, I am walking away. I can find something else to do with my time. JMO

  15. Megan

    I think an important thing to keep in mind is that sales run in cycles. As a couponer of 5 years, I know that every 6 months to 1 year I will undoubtedly get free pasta, salsa, soup mix, snack mixes, etc. With the abundance of new couponers, I’m sure this group will eventually learn that for themselves and not feel the need to buy 50 bags of Chex Mix, because it will be free again within the year. When I first started couponing, I went completely overboard. I bought 50 of this and 50 of that. Within a year I learned that I could just buy 10 or 20 of each free item and do the same again once the sale cycled around. After learning that, I now buy what I know I will need until the next sale and almost nothing expires in my closet.

    As for the people buying tons and tons of each product and re-selling it… Is it really worth it? Once you figure in gas at $4 a gallon, the cost of coupons (which is ever-rising), and time, how much are they really making? Your typical free item sells for $1 or $2 max at a garage sale… and that’s for quality ones like good shampoo. Factor in the cost of store employees giving you hassles, feeling paranoid during trips because you’re clearing the shelves, and a guilty conscious? Doesn’t seem worth it to me.

    • Carla

      Yes! I had a friend that is new to couponing and she was over the moon that she could get free pasta and went out of her way to get tons and tons. I just calmy showed her my pasta stock pile and said – seriously, I’ve never paid over a quarter for any of these, for years. It will come back around, there is no reason to hoard it because it will come back around again. I taught her about the cycles.

  16. mmmkcabot

    I started couponing when I got married, almost 25 years ago, when we were dirt poor, as a way to save as many pennies as possible. People thought I was crazy, including my wealthy in-laws. My husband was in construction, and we saw several periods of layoffs. My stock piles kept us eating well, and our two babies in diapers, during the leanest of times. My family never did without because I shopped wisely, matching my coupons to sales, buying three newspapers each week (before the internet came along and clipping services came about!) and stocking my freezer and shelves, rotating stock, etc. I amazed my husband and friends that I could buy several hundred dollars worth of fresh foods, pantry items, h&b items, with a budget of $50. Couponing was fun for me. It was the challenge of finding the best deal for my bucks. A true adrenaline rush for me! When my husband was killed seven years ago in a construction accident, I stopped couponing for a while. I stopped cooking too—so I didn’t need to buy much anyway. But when my kids went away to college a few years later, and we were feeling the financial pinch, we all rose to the challenge. My kids are in East Lansing, Michigan now, and I’m in Maryland. My son and daughter (soon to be 22 and 23 years old) call me each week to ask what the coupons are for the week so they can match to the sales in their stores, and we combine our coupon orders for the clipping service. My daughter laughs at THAT SHOW because she knows that it isn’t REALISTIC. Most stores now have restrictions on “how many like coupons” and “how many coupons can be doubled” –if they double at all–and in my area, grocery stores strictly prohibit cleaning out the shelves by limiting the number of “like items” you may purchase at one time (except, of course, Walmart.)
    I have never couponed “just to get a good deal.” I have only purchased items that my family regularly uses or genuinely wants to try. Buying ten boxes of cereal at once never made sense to me when only two people in my house eat cereal. But buying ten boxes of Luigi’s Italian Frozen Ice– when I can get it for free and my son is coming home in a week– makes sense–because my son will eat all six cups in a box in one day!! Don’t give up completely, folks. Just take a break and reevaluate why you love this hobby. Is it the challenge of the deal? Is it the neatly arranged bottles of shampoo and the rolls of toilet paper? The ability to make donations and sharing of the wealth that you’ve never been able to do before? The “bragging rights?” Or really saving money? All of the above? You all will figure it out. Until you do, remember to keep things in perspective, and HAPPY COUPONING!

    • Megan

      Great points. Thanks for posting this.

  17. Carla

    Yes, the show is annoying and so are the people that are unethically couponing, etc. Here’s what I am doing. I’m still couponing, but just not as much… I am living off my stock pile and still shopping strategically. This is all a fad and it will die down, especially as the economy picks up (eventually?) and people won’t need the extra money as badly.

  18. Jen

    It may be whining, but so what? I mean really….this is the ONE place that you can go to “whine” and know that someone, somewhere has had almost the exact same experience as you. I may “whine” on occasion but that’s because most of my friends and family don’t coupon at all. So if I call to complain that I was trying to buy school supplies for the Joplin school supply drive at my local Starbucks but the d*** shelf clearers got there first, well, they aren’t going to get it like my fellow Hip2Savers.

    We all need to vent sometimes and we all “whine” sometimes. If it’s not your time to whine, grin n bare it and know someone will be there to commiserate when it IS your time to whine.

    And as far as the TV show goes…..well, when I first started, I was a closet couponer. I would giggle to myself as I offered to bring smores to a bonfire, knowing that I hadn’t paid for the marshmallows or graham crackers and the chocolate had cost me pennies. Gradually, I introduced my friends and family to my hobby and everyone admired my little stockpile of laundry soap and toothpaste and TP. AFTER the show, I’m back in the closet, LOL.

    Good times….

  19. Sariah

    agreed it is one thing to go to the store and take a couple but to take hundreds in rude selfish and completely unnecessary! I don’t think asking the stores to stock more would help. If the stores put out a hundred more that couponer extreme would take 200 instead of 100.

  20. ozstateofmind88

    In 2007, my weak heart required me to stop working and rest until ready for open heart surgery. At the same time, high school music dept and athletics were entirely self pay. This had never ocurred my school district before. My son made the golf team, and there were only 10 kids interested in participating. How could 11 boys raise $9000 compared to other sports baseball, football, etc. I believe golf is a more life long activity besides potential business deals and company fundraising throughout their careers.

    Also, my children wanted to continue in marching band, orchestra and jazz band. The number of band members would be cut in half. I needed to conceive new ways to raise $$ besides selling candy bars, cash washes, and gift wrap to the same people over and over.

    I became a “responsible” coupon diva with the help of my children and their team members. The golf team and band members collected coupons, and I sent to them the stores where they could purchase items without clearing out the shelves. The parents short on funds and time, they had to pay the sales tax and any other cents to make the products free. We gave the golf coach free gum that he sold in a shoebox in his physics classes.

    I used baking and food items for very successful bake sales at school. The best one brought in $1500 for the golf team. (Because of that amount, I heard bake sales can only happen before and after school. The cafeteria manager was upset! lol) I sold bakery at the flea markets too. I only had 2 people who wanted to bicker about the prices – I looked them straight in the eye and said “come on…it’s all for the kids!”

    At school fleas sales, I used my stockpiles to make the most $$ compared to all the other sports. Hard times call for creative ways that involved the kids. All of us felt such relief to keep the spirit and opportunities available.

    When my children needed community service hours, I knew right away they needed to experience first hand donating to our local food bank. There were all ages and hardly anyone seemed like homeless and other ways that people are portrayed in the media to my children. We donated at least 2x a month for that entire year. We brought our local NBC affliate to surprise the director and volunteers with an interview. We took the same news reporter to our local animal shelter. The shelters have let us know how the amount of donations has increased even 3 years later.

    My open heart surgery came to be, and as I recovered, I discussed couponing with the heart nursing staff and helping. Just a week ago, I came home from a week long stay and found myself discussing coupons again. This time because of the new extreme couponing show. I told them about saving items that those serving our country need in far away locations. As well as those here who have survived mother nature’s wrath.

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