I made it through 15 minutes of TLC’s Extreme Couponing last night before I had to turn it off.

The Excess!

The paralegal, Jaime Kirlew, they first featured had an enormous stock pile.  In fact, she has a shower that is no longer functional because she had it filled from floor to ceiling with paper towels and toilet paper.

What really bothered me was seeing her take 62 bottles of mustard off the shelf (she wanted 77, but there weren’t that many on the shelf) and buy them.  Why? Because with a .50 coupon that can be doubled, she was only paying .37 cents per bottle.  (That still comes out to $22.94 out of pocket for mustard.  Seriously?)

Two thoughts came to my mind–what can a typical family do with 62 bottles of mustard?  Yes, mustard has a long shelf life, but 62 bottles?  Plus, what about the other shoppers who may come to the store to buy mustard on sale and find the shelf cleared because of this woman?

When I watched the premier episode of Extreme Couponing last December, I knew they were featuring people who are extreme in their couponing, but I was hoping now that they are running a 12 part series that they would show more typical examples of great couponers.  Instead, they seem to be going further with the “extreme” part of the show.

Using Extreme Couponing to Benefit Others

I’ll be the first to tell you that taking $1,800 worth of groceries down to $103 as the paralegal did is certainly a talent.  Yay, to her.  But just because she CAN buy things so cheaply, does that mean she SHOULD?

In the Chicagoland area, one of our extreme couponers is Jill Cataldo.  She teaches others to do what she does, but she frequently donates her excess purchases to her local food bank.  That is a wonderful gift; she takes her couponing skills and buys enough not only for her family, but for local food pantries so others can also benefit from her skill.

If the extreme couponers on TLC donate their goods, TLC is opting to edit that part of the story out.  However, I do wonder how much they donate on a regular basis when couponer after couponer shows their house bursting at the seams with all of their loot.

If you buy that much and don’t share the bounty, it will go to waste.  There is just no way a typical American family can go through that many products before the expiration date.  Even if these couponers get the products for free, it is still wasteful if they won’t be able to use them before their expiration date.

Lives Out of Balance

While I wish I could view TLC’s Extreme Couponing to learn more couponing skills myself, that appears not to be the focus of the show.  Rather than helping other Americans who are struggling and would love to learn how to lower their grocery bills further with coupons, this show seems to be focusing on creating a freak show like atmosphere.

Several of these featured couponers state that their lives are out of balance and that their relationships are suffering because of their dedication to extreme couponing.   While they may have started couponing to save their families money, they now appear to have crossed over to hoarding groceries.  If they buy 62 bottles of mustard even though they will only use a few during the course of a year, it is wasteful.  They are wasting the groceries, their money buying all of the coupons (though some do get them for free) and paying for shelving to hold all of their goods, their household space, and, ultimately, their time.  The whole point of stockpiling is to buy enough to get your family through until the next sale, not to buy enough to create your own mini-mart at home.

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