Extreme Couponing

Oh, TLC, you get me. You know just how voyeuristic I am and design your shows to let me stare, slack-jawed, at the strange lives of Others. My latest obsession? Extreme Couponing.


From the time I first heard about the show, I knew I HAD TO SEE IT. I searched in vain online for videos and wasn’t able to find more than wee snippets (come on, TLC, get with the program – full episodes online prettyplease). The past few days, however, I’ve been staying in a hotel with unfettered television access. As Extreme Couponing has been generating a lot of buzz, it seems TLC arranged a mini-marathon for me.

Many hours later, I can relay that the episodes follow the same narrative arc:

First, we meet the Extreme Couponer. Every Extreme Couponer shares some variation of this back-story:

  1. Protagonist does not Coupon
  2. Protagonist suffers Traumatic Life Event*
  3. (Optional) Protagonist receives Personal Directive from Higher Being as to the Holy Merits of Couponing
  4. Protagonist becomes Couponer

* Select all that apply: Protagonist and/or Spouse loses job; Protagonist and/or Spouse develops Un-Diagnosable yet Costly Illness; Protagonist and/or Spouse racks up Unspeakable Credit Card Debt.

Then we get a glimpse of the Extreme Couponer’s sacred Stock Pile. Said Stock Pile  usually consumes the basement or garage of the family’s house, but has also been shown spread into every nook and cranny of available space (e.g., in the master closet, under the kid’s bed, in a makeshift “room” made by knocking out a wall that one hopes isn’t load-bearing). Here we are shown endless shelves of paper towels, more toothpaste than a family of four could ever consume, piles of microwaveable noodles, endless arsenals of deodorant and potato chips. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching Hoarders. Except… we are supposed to be oddly proud of these thrifty shoppers (as they are clearly proud of themselves) whereas Hoarders handles mental illness and fragile psyches with a dose of public shaming.

I’m so confused, but I can’t look away (sidenote: Is this how people feel when they watch Jersey Shore? If so, I take back every mocking comment I made about your addiction to Jersey Shore).

We then learn that the Extreme Couponer is – for our benefit, apparently – about to endeavor on their “biggest haul to date.” We watch them Prepare. Said Preparations can involve up to sixty hours (sixty hours!) of clipping, filing, arranging, and strategizing.

Shopping commences. Three or four shopping carts are quickly filled with all manner of non-perishables. After what we are lead to believe is three to four hours of wandering through the grocery store, the Extreme Couponer approaches the checkout lane.

{Cue dramatic music}

Hearts race as items are scanned. Will all the coupons work? Oh, the dramz! One Extreme Couponer notes that the grocery store is “not a restaurant,” and, as such, she can’t “wash dishes” to make up for any amount not covered by her coupons. True, but she could just put the items back. She’s buying Cheetos, not Insulin. Perspective, people.

In the end, everything works out, and the Extreme Couponer leaves the store with enough Orange Soda to last a nuclear holocaust and goes on to live Happily Ever After.

Now, in several episodes, Extreme Couponers mentioned donating parts of their massive wares to charities. If this is the case, more power to them. However, we only actually saw such a donation in one episode. That’s not to say it only happened once… but I have my suspicions.

Let it be said that I love a bargain. I shop sales racks. Garage sales are my Happy Place. I’ve clipped a few coupons in my day. I’m in no way condemning others who want to save money. I am, however, calling into question the benefit of having a basement full of Corn Nuts. Of all the Stock Piles I was shown, I’d estimate that 5% were foods a pediatrician would recommend feeding your children. What good is a coupon for candy when you don’t really need the candy in the first place? What good is a Stock Pile that is eating into your family’s living space? It’s cost savings at the expense of mental clarity.

However, as an Extreme Couponer, you get to be on TV and you’ll never run out of Crystal Light. You got me there, Extreme Couponers. 


About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on May 6, 2011, in Pop Culture Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I don’t know how I found your blog, but I liked it so I put it in my Google Reader. And I’m so happy that I did.

    This post made me laugh. You’re so spot on with what is going on in this show. These people are goofy.

    I feel the exact same way as you do: “I’m in no way condemning others who want to save money. I am, however, calling into question the benefit of having a basement full of Corn Nuts.”

    Too funny.

    • Aw, thank you! I’m so glad I was able to make you laugh! I can’t look away when that show is on, but I’ll never understand the desire to develop a Stock Pile.

  2. HILARIOUS. I had heard people talking about this show, but you shed some light on it…so thanks. (If I had cable, I would totally watch this show.)

  3. I have to admit that I have started couponing, shopping the sale ads in the Sunday paper and clipping those coupons to save $30 or more a week. I have yet to watch an episode of Extreme Couponing… it feels a bit as if they are mocking the average shopper. “Look I got 600 rolls of paper towels and they paid me $3!”. Totally unfair. Absolute insanity. A little bit awesome.

    • Oh, normal use of couponing and budgetting is totally fair game. These people, however, will fill up on WHATEVER shite they can get (whether they need it or not). One woman bought 62 bottles of mustard even though her husband told her he doesn’t eat mustard.

  4. Very well-written post. I almost felt like I was watching the show (which I’ve never seen)! And yes, that is how we feel when watching “Jersey Shore”. You’re forgiven.

  5. Yeah, I’m all for coupons, but … the kind of stuff they buy en masse with coupons is ridiculous. A lot of it is junk food or overly processed.

    I’m confused, you don’t have cable, how do you watch TLC?

    We have cable and we do manage to get stuff done … even with 200 channels there can still be nothing on 🙂

  6. I found you via Twitter, and I’m so happy I did! You are so entertaining to read!

  7. Spot on – I’ve watched a few of these episodes and it appears to me that these folks are on a fast track to hoarding….

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