Is Extreme Couponing the New Hoarding?

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I set my DVR to record the new Extreme Couponing show on TLC and I watched it at 3:30 a.m. this morning.  (I couldn’t sleep thinking about all the things I need to do today.)

I have to admit that I was both fascinated and disturbed with the show…let me explain.

As a former “couponer” I am in awe of how the people featured on the show can get over $1000 worth of groceries for about $100.  When I was a college student, I would go through the Walgreens insert in the Sunday paper and cut out all the coupons of the things I needed for my weekly shopping trip.  If there were “extra” coupons in the paper for the same items I was going to buy, it was a bonus day for me.   I used to love getting all my hair spray, mousse, makeup and snacks at a great price.  As a working college student, I had to stretch my paycheck to the max.

Unfortunately over time, I’ve gotten away from that.  I still look at the coupons and cut a few of them out on occasion, but I don’t always remember I have them and I am certainly not organized about it.  Truth be told I need to get back on the coupon wagon.  So to see these people organize their coupons and strategize their shopping trip truly fascinates and inspires me.

But here’s where I got a concerned and frankly disturbed:

As part of the show, TLC highlighted two families and both that were featured on the episode I watched had stock piles of inventory. Their houses looked like a grocery store!  They had shelving to hold all their merchandise like:

  • 130 rolls of paper towels
  • 100 boxes of cereal
  • 120 bottles of hand soap

And the list goes on.  At one point, the commentator said that one family had enough inventory to last 3 years!  One of the ladies bought something like 72 bottles of mustard just because she had coupons. What is anyone going to do with 72 bottles of mustard????

While I must say that both families were extremely well organized and their inventory looked neater than the grocery shelves at some of the stores I shop at, I have to ask “why“.

In reality, both families had so much at home, they really didn’t need to shop for staples anymore.  Maybe just fresh fruits, produce, meats, dairy and bread since those items can spoil.  But I just don’t understand why they have all that stuff.

Is it a visual sign of their accomplishment?

Do they sell it?

Are they greedy?

Or, are they a new “breed” of hoarders?

I definitely enjoyed the Extreme Couponing show on TLC and I’ll keep watching to learn.  I’m sure I could save our family a few hundred bucks a month on groceries if I really pay attention and make it a priority.  But I’m still concerned with all that inventory.  It’s not a good deal if they aren’t going to use it. But I can tell you now, I won’t be stock piling inventory.  A shopping trip to Sam’s for one industrial package of toilet paper is enough for me.  We don’t have room in my house to keep a mini grocery store.

What do you think?  Did you watch the show?  Am I being over critical or has extreme couponing gone too far with the stock piles of inventory?

One last thought: I have to wonder if the major companies like Proctor & Gamble and the grocery store chains are going to see this and pull the plug on their rewards cards, doubling the face value of the coupon and imposing limits on how much you can buy.  Can this type of behavior ruin the extreme couponing experience for the rest of us?

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  • Michelle Wolski

    It’s totally hoarding for some of them. I coupon, but only to save money on the things that I will already be buying. If I’m not going to use it, I’m not going to buy it–unless I am getting it for free, then I will donate. I am not going to store years worth of items in my house, even though I have more than enough space for it. The only things that I would stock up on would be toiletries. There is absolutely no reason, in my opinion, to have that much food or medicine in your home.

    I do wish that more people who shop this way would donate the items. Then it would make more sense and not look so CRAZY!

  • Jan

    I think that it crosses the line into hoarding when you store more than you could possibly ever reasonably use. If you are continuing to play the coupon “game” then you should be taking items out of storage as fast as new items coming in.

    I do think that the best use of those extra items would be to donate them to a food bank, where they could be appreciated and used now. Nothing (other than maybe toilet paper) will truly last forever! If you have enough to make a comfortable stockpile for your family (6 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, whatever it is for you) then donate the excess.

    I think that couponing is a great way for some families to be able to help out in a charitable way when they don’t have huge amounts of money to give.

  • Ivette Muller

    Donating the extra items is a GREAT idea Michelle! I hadn’t even considered that – I think I was so overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff. I wish more people thought like you :) Thanks for posting this idea!!!

  • Ivette Muller

    That’s exactly what I thought Jan – if you’re really playing the coupon game, then you should only be buying to replace what you don’t need. There are some things I have “in-stock” like soap and toilet paper (usually). But I don’t need extra bottles of ketchup and mustard for an emergency. (That’s what I save the little packets from take out for!)

    I am definitely going to look at couponing as a way for me to make some donations to my favorite charities. I don’t always have the cash available to participate in their big fundraisers by buying stuff (I don’t really need) or attending some overpriced dinner. This may be a REALLY good way to go!

    Thanks so much for posting – I appreciate you!

  • Natalie

    We don’t get that programme here in the UK, but it certainly looked interesting!

    I really don’t know how they do it… I am lucky if I ever catch sight of a coupon and at the most they tend to be 20p off your next purchase. Sometimes £1. But that is only valid against one item. I give up, it’s too much like hard to work to find them and then remember to use them!

    Kudos to people that actually save money and benefit the household… but all that mustard? That is hilarious!

  • Anonymous

    Ievette, did you see this too –…Come to find out not ONLY is it hoarding, but now TLC has put a punishable crime up on National Television and glorified it…. They need to stick to shows like WHAT NOT TO WEAR….(why cant THOSE practices catch on as the new fad?!?!) I’m just sayin…

  • Ivette Muller

    No, I had NOT seen this! I read the article and it was shocking. I had no idea she did this! I kept wondering how she saved so much money on the thing she did. Now I know she cheated. :(

    It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out with that post.

  • Lilic

    funny you should think that. I thought the same thing. must be bragging rights

  • Ravish30

    I do use coupons and I do keep a very small stockpile of things we use frequently. When I say small stockpile, I mean a small pantry closet. I think hoarding a slew of items like that couponers do is totally ridiculous!

  • Ivette Muller

    Yes Shelly, me too. I usually have one on the shelf, once I use that I restock with 2 or 3 on soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. The only “food” I have an inventory of is canned veggies, especially tomatoes and potatoes. Hmm, wonder what that says about me! LOL

    I’m going to learn to cook good meals in 30 minutes or less if it kills me. I just had a Pampered Chef party last week and learned all sorts of new tricks. Wish you had been here to share yours!!!

  • bg06

    I have also thought that extreme couponing is a form of hoarding. Why buy something you will not use? I don’t care if it is free. Why stockpile it? 

  • Christine

    Everything you wrote here passed through my brain as I watched several episodes On Demand last night. I was strangely drawn to the show, but at the same time disgusted by it. The worst thing I saw was the family whose stockpile spills out into the kids’ bedrooms and the master bedroom. Yuck.

  • Ivette Muller

    I know, right?! I have to admit I haven’t watched the show since I wrote this post. I almost feel like I shouldn’t support the show if I have a problem with the process. A little judgmental – maybe. But I really wanted to watch to learn how to save money not hoard. I have enough stuff in my house! :)

  • Manna

    I really think that stockpiling the items bought with coupons is way too much, it is hoarding. These people should share what they have with those who are less fortunate.  What is the point of shopping for 47 bottles of mustard, really it is insane. This is why people from less fortunate countries think Americans are greedy, selfish and cheap. This has got to stop, or at least have some sort of limit.

  • Ivette Muller

    Hi Manna! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting.

    I totally agree with you that they should share their “steals” with those that are less fortunate. There is really no need to stockpile anything. Even people who are prepared for emergencies usually don’t have that much stuff in their basement! :)

    I personally think that all this attention on extreme couponing is going to cause the manufacturers and maybe even the stores to enforce limits soon. It certainly can’t be profitable. Especially if they are “teaching” others to do the same.

  • luke

    There is no such thing as having too much paper towels or hand soap because they last forever.  Unless you can honestly say that you’ve stockpiled more than you can use up in your lifetime then how can it be too much? 

    Cereal is a different matter.  The question should be whether you will use it up before it goes bad. 

    People that judge couponers don’t seem to have a proper understanding of sales cycles.  Some things only go on sale once a year, so if you stock up then it will save you throughout the year.  And yes, policies are now getting stricter because of the show.  This is unfortunate but the fact is that it proves us couponers right for what we have done.  I am damned happy for my 40 bottles of shampoo and conditioner and 60 bodywashes now that it’s almost impossible to get new ones free. 

    You judge people without thinking that maybe they coupon because they have to. 

    Hoarding is by definition useless. A stockpile has monetary value as well as use.  I have sold OTC meds and make up on EBay as well as given to my family. 

    Be happy that you are priveledged enough for couponing not to be a neccesity at your house, and the next time you see someone getting 80 free boxes of pasta with coupons, remember that he might not be eating at all if he didn’t get them.

  • Gerard

    The show is very interesting, but I fully agree with your post.

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  • Amesler

    I was utterly disgusted when I watched that show for the first time this weekend.  I also watched the Hoarding show on TLC for the first time.  I quickly picked up on the similarities.  I really have to wonder how this type of “shopping for free” affects the cost of groceries for the rest of us.  You know the manufacturers are making up somewhere for the person who buys 50 packages of cream cheese in one transaction and doesn’t pay for them.  The majority of the food they are saving on is packaged food with little nutritional value (one woman got 300 cans of soda), and that’s what they’re feeding their kids.  How about spending $75 on fresh, sustainable food that your body can actually use?  If you’re really on a budget, you should be focusing on those food items you really need.

  • mmama

    um they do give some of it to the less fortunate, they give some to the army, and food pantrys. t

  • sandy34

    is anyone here going to grow a heart and respect what  people do?

  • Daniellel3566

    I will tell you this I am a couponer and I do have a little stock pile no where near the size of the ones on the shoe though. I have a family of 5 so I always need shampoo and paper towels ect. If you use it great but the people who are abusing it like the one lady who used coupons on items that they where no intented for ruins it. Recently our kroger changed their poilcy because they had people buy 100 toothpastes. If I bought 100 toothpastes I would be set and not buy anymore. Couponing is great if you use the items and you just don’t buy it because its free. Like I don’t have a cate so even if I saw free cat food if I bought it I would donate it not just save it. I have dontated with my couponings here and there. I save about 60 percent on my food bill and I dont thinl that is overboard and I think it is smart for people who do not have a big income. Just don’t get it if you won’t use it or donate it.

  • Bellaambru90

    I don’t think it’s considered hoarding, hoarding is completely different it’s when you keep collecting items and never use them and to where you can’t even walk through your house lol. Extreme couponing is PROVIDING FOR YOUR FAMILY, I’m a couponer not as extreme as the ppl on the show but i believe it’s proving for your family, and preparing for any type of disaster you never know and it’s better to be prepared it’s just like have an emergency fund in case anything were to happen.

  • Ashley

    To me I see that this is the new hoarding. Yes they are organized and that’s all fine and dandy, but if you buy a bunch of shampoo do you really need more coupons to buy more shampoo? And the answer is no. It’s great to save money. Stockpile for a month is fine, but this behavior is symbolic to hoarding, the feeling that you need these things, but what if someone asked are you willing to get rid of some of your stockpile because you don’t need it? Their answer would be ‘No, I can’t get rid of any of it’. Hoarding is a disorder, and shopping should not be a stressful situation. In many of hoarding situations as well as those who get into extreme couponing are the same, they lose their jobs and therefore they need to stockpile to protect their future. Of course, this is an opinionated subject, and everyone is going to see things different. But my point of view is no matter how neat it is it is still hoarding. 

  • not a waster!

    With the way people are so “use by date scared” most of the foods in their “hoarding” inventories will be tossed in the garbage at some point.  Don’t say they won’t because YOU KNOW….most people will put food in the garbage the day of the use by date!!!!  Selfish hoarders…just because it is free does not mean you need it or will use it!  You are giving to a false economy for the companies, filling the landfill and getting morbidly OBESE in the mix!!! 
    No one needs to have more than 3-4 months of supplies….for god’s sake there is a grocery store on nearly every corner.

    If you shop with coupons and get mostly everything free, why not donate half of your purchases to the food shelves!!!  You won’t be losing money, you will be giving away some thing you got free or very very cheap!  Think of the children who maybe get one meal a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Someone

    Sad but true!  A friend bought enough toilet paper to last a family of 5 for 10 years….stored safely in her basement.  They went on vacation, the sump pump didn’t work.  The super absorbent tissue sopped up the water beautifully.  They were able to save a few packages.  (Even the plastic outer wrap is not totaly waterproof.)
    Sorry, but I laughed!  Shelves could have saved some……

  • Alfred Dadda

    I will disagree with you on the hoarding aspect of this show; one distinction is the reason for compiling up so many things if you will. A hoarder uses the things they keep as a barrier to a traumatic event in their lives. For example the man who turned his whole house over to the rats, he did this because he lost is fiancée to a cancer I believe. So the rats represent life to him and he becomes emotionally attached as well, associating the rats with the love he lost.
    Extreme couponing would fall in the category of obsessive compulsive disorder. The need to keep the stock pile is key in that they see the fruits of their labor. In the case of the man who had like over 1000 tubes of tooth paste and prized his collection could be viewed as a type of OCD. for some people it is cleaning, performing subtle hand movements before entering and exiting a room. They also keep their stock piles very well organized again displaying traits of OCD.
    If you could correlate a link that is true for both the hoarder and the extreme couponer I would agree then but it would be a new type of hoarding. I may use this for my next thesis.
    A theme I see in most of the blogs about this couponing is many feel they should give a portion of their goods to charity. There is some logic to that but in the mind of one who has OCD, and you did imply they would say no to it, parting is hard to do and it can leave the person feeling a bit empty. But to force someone to give up some of their stockpile is like telling someone who has a job they need to give up a portion of their pay check to one occupy protester. It really makes no sense, but I do understand the angst with it.
    The antics that take place on the show are just for the show and ratings, as well the grocery stores do give up the recoupment on the coupon to get their brand out there to the public.
    Finally, the days of this type of couponing may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. Currently you can use a coupon that gives $2.00 off, for example, on a 10oz. jar of pickles for the smaller cheaper 2.5oz. Jar of the same brand of pickles. The couponer can get away with a bigger savings this way.  The scanners in the grocery stores just recognize the family of brands not the specific size. This is an effort to reduce extreme couponing but it does pass on the cost to all consumers the same as shoplifting.

  • leanne

    sad to think that some of us have to juggle two jobs just to put food on the table while others buy shite loads of stuff they are never going to use and let it rot in their basements.

  • Ivette Muller

    Exactly! I could use a couple of bottles of that mustard and some paper towels right now!

  • bob

    I could not get through 20 minutes of this show before I was disgusted. I understand shopping for a lot of things when your done with the rest of your supply, but shopping when you have years of food left in your basement. These people have a serious problem and it needs to be addressed. It may not be considered hoarding, but it is a problem. It’s an addiction and should be treated as severely as an addiction to amphetamines. It’s no wonder people look at our country and just roll their eyes. This show should not be on TLC it should be on A&E intervention and have a harsh look on this practice. I always say, anything in moderation is okay, but when you start emptying the shelves just to stock them on yours’ it’s too much.

  • Harmony Healer

    Extreme couponing people should be made to pay a fringe benefits tax, where the savings have to be declared as ordinary income just like debts forgiven are taxed.

  • Harmony Healer

    No one does it better than South Asian cabbies and security guards.

  • Laura

    I think that the show does glorify it and I believe that a lot of them need to donate a lot of what they buy. I coupon but for stuff I really need and if there is a really good deal on something I will stock up on that to get me through a month or two. But I get what I can store. I do not have storage shelves and extra freezers like what a lot of these people have. I mean it’s smart to get it while its cheap but not the extremes you can feed the whole neighborhood for a year!

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