Internet myths are something we’re all familiar with. There are myths about car maintenance, myths about marketing, and actual myths about ghosts and unnamed heroes. There are MLM get-rich-quick schemes and super-savings schemes. But one of the most virulent myths online and on the television today is the myth of Extreme Couponing.
Now, you’re probably thinking that couponing is a pretty good practice, one you enjoy from time to time when your favorite shampoo or your family’s brand of fish sticks are on sale. But extreme couponing is different. And if you’re not careful about myth debunking, it can cost you so much more than you’re saving.
Today, we’re here to debunk the extreme couponing myth by breaking down hype-by-hype to show you the reality discovered by so many ex-extreme couponers.
What is Extreme Couponing, You Ask?
Typical couponing is when you sign up for email alerts or skim your local newsletters for coupons on things you like and were already going to buy. Or coupons on things that are normally out of your price range, but would be nice to try.
Extreme couponing, on the other hand, is the practice of trying to squeeze a dollar out of every single purchase. No matter where you have to shop or how long you spend searching for and clipping coupons. Extreme couponers collect every coupon they can find, arrange them by store and buying requirements, and then hit the venues for an all-weekend savings spree.
The TV shows and enthusiastic testimonials show happy families with heaping carts paying pennies on the dollar. But there’s a dark underbelly to extreme couponing that the hype and internet myths don’t show. Problems that could cost you time, money, sanity, and even your physical health.
Let’s dive right into the debunking, because there’s nothing better than a well-debunked internet myth. Just ask Snopes.
1. The Myth: Save Tons By Cutting Your Shopping Costs in Half
The first myth of extreme couponing is the simple claim that you can cut your monthly shopping costs by a fraction. With a stack of coupons, you can apply savings to almost every single thing you buy. This sounds pretty awesome. After all, who doesn’t want to get a few cents to half-off all the items in their usual grocery list?
The Reality: Wind Up Overspending on Mandatory Purchases and Minimum Requirements
In reality, coupons don’t really work like that. Anyone familiar with coupons will know this with simple reflection. If they did work that way, venues wouldn’t offer the coupons in the first place.
There are minimum purchase amounts, meaning that you may find yourself picking up more items than you need just to take advantage of a coupon. You may also have to purchase a certain pre-requisite item or a certain number of duplicate items to take advantage of a coupon. Items you didn’t need or wouldn’t have bought otherwise.
In this way, you’re actually spending more on your monthly shopping, and on things that you wouldn’t normally buy. Not spending less.
2. The Myth: Feed Your Entire Family for Pennies
Now let’s look at the myth from another angle. The idea that you can buy a huge load of food for your family, an overflowing shopping cart or even two shopping carts, for less money than you would spend on a normal trip to the grocery store. Again, this sounds great!
The Reality: Coupons are for Unhealthy Food and Things You Don’t Need
But as one very smart mom-blogger pointed out: look at the carts. Look closely the next time you read a pro-extreme couponing article or watch an episode of a show featuring the practice. Look at what is in the carts.
It’s nothing but junk food. Poptarts, corndogs, frozen dinners, soda, chips, and cookies. That’s the kind of food you find coupons for, not the healthy stuff like chicken breasts and produce vegetables that your family really needs to stay energetic and healthy. Feeding your families nothing but extreme-couponing fare is just asking for early-onset obesity and increases the risk of household diabetes.
3. The Myth: Extreme Couponing is Efficient and Streamlined for Your Family
Then there’s the idea that you can get exactly as much as you would normally buy for much less than your usual price. With normal couponing, where you only clip coupons for things you already buy, this can be true. But extreme couponing, where you target your purchases for mathematical savings, the reality is often less than ideal.
The Reality: Extreme Couponing can Lead to Hoarding and Spoiled Food
In reality, extreme couponing does not lead to a practically stocked kitchen and bathroom. Instead, you find yourself buying tons of whatever’s on sale and skipping things your family may need. At best, extreme couponing can lead to a unhealthy and hoarder-like stockpile of goods you won’t use for months or years. At worst, it can lead to spoiled food because you bought too much at once just to “save a dollar”.
When stockpiled food spoils, the money was wasted either way.
4. The Myth: There’s No Cost for Extreme Couponing, Only Savings!
One of the hype-myths repeated many times over in the extreme couponing community is that it doesn’t have to take all of your time. The better at couponing you get, the faster it goes. With a few hours a day, you could save hundreds of dollars. Who doesn’t want to save hundreds of dollars for just an hour or two a day?
The Reality: Your Time is Worth Money, and So is Your Car’s Gas
But the fact of the matter is that your time is worth money, and boy does extreme couponing take up time. Some couponers find themselves spending five to eight hours a day searching for, printing, and clipping coupons. Add this to the time you lose driving from store to store, trying to get all the best prices and biggest baskets of discounted goods. Add this to the cost of gas in your car and the fact that your time really is worth money. Time you could be spending with family, at work, or focusing on an actually profitable side-hustle.
5. The Myth: Get Tons of Stuff for Free
Then there are freebies. Free stuff is awesome, and everyone likes getting something for free. One of the advantages, they say, of extreme couponing is never missing a chance to get something completely for free.
The Reality: Free Stuff is Free for a Reason
But let’s be realistic. What kind of stuff is offered for free in our world today? Paper-thin T-shirts, cheap plastic toys, kitchen gadgets that will break within the week, and products the store just can’t legitimately sell off the shelves. In other words, freebies are free for a reason, and it’s generally not worth your time to go pick them up.
6. The Myth: Extreme Couponing is Fun and Easy
People who hype extreme couponing often harp on how much fun and easy it is to do. Anyone can do it. It’s fun to look through the coupons and exciting to find savings. These things may all be true, but they come with a dark downside that few extreme couponers will admit (to themselves or anyone else.)
The Reality: Extreme Couponing can Become a Time-Consuming Obsession
If you enjoy couponing and get a thrill from saving a buck, it’s better for your mental health to stay away from extreme couponing. As many ex-extreme-couponers can tell you, it can become an obsession. You may start having a hard time doing normal shopping without coupons. You may find yourself spending far more time than is healthy trying to find and catalog coupons, up to the point of neglecting yourself or the family you are working so hard to feed. Beware, that thrill and the obsession symptoms are real and known.
7. The Myth: There’s No Harm in Extreme Couponing. It’s Just Extreme!
Finally, there’s the underlying myth in all internet myths that there’s no harm in following the trend. Extreme couponers aren’t doing anything wrong or harmful (other than to their dietary health). Right? Unfortunately, not so.
The Reality: Many Extreme Couponers Break the Law by Using Coupons in Illegal Ways
The obsessive desire to save money experienced by many extreme couponers, quite sadly, has led to an excessive amount of mildly illegal behaviors. Duplicating and re-printing coupons, sharing coupons that are supposed to be personal, and knowingly using coupons in ways they were not meant to be used are all ways that extreme couponers regularly break the law and commit minor fraud to save a few more pennies. Do not get caught in this trap, illegal couponing is not worth $1 off this weeks’ box of Oreos.
Extreme couponing is a dangerous myth that has recently become incredibly popular. Don’t get caught by the hype or allured by the myth of half-priced groceries. Extreme couponing is not the usual practical approach and, as many ex-couponers have reported, it can take over your life, pantry, and still cost more than you expect all at once. For more smart financial insights on everyday issues, contact us today!