Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you all know about TLC’s newest reality show, Extreme Couponing and the buzz that has come from it. I’ve been waiting a bit to share my opinion on the show, only because it requires a longer stretch of uninterrupted thinking time than my four kids usually allow me!
I seriously must be one of the only bloggers and coupon commentators out there who love the show (or else will actually admit to it). I think it’s great! Yes, it’s dramatic and yes, it’s a bit unrealistic. But I am so excited that the show has brought what I call strategic couponing to the reality-show-lovin’-public. And I’m thrilled that you all have come to FrugalLivingNW.com to learn more about couponing in the Pacific Northwest!
What I love about Extreme Couponing is that it profiles people who truly love to coupon, stockpile and give their extra to people in need. Some of you are turned off by their enthusiasm. Know that most of it is for TV. If you don’t think you’d enjoy couponing or it ever becomes burdensome, don’t do it. Just shop at WinCo, buy generic, menu plan and stockpile the loss leaders at Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer. You’ll still be saving tons even without clipping a single coupon.
I also think it’s amazing to see what’s possible to score with coupons. Obviously those huge transactions are for television. And since the show profiles people from around the country, you’re seeing transactions that are simply not possible to do in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s why:
Most free or nearly free deals include double coupons — A double coupon a store coupon that doubles the value of a manufacturer’s coupon up to a certain dollar amount. The only stores that double coupons in the Northwest are Safeway (in Oregon and SW Washington, not Puget Sound or Eastern Washington) and Albertsons (on average for 6-10 days a month) and these stores have restrictive limits on their double coupons.
Because of this, we absolutely cannot get carts full-o-groceries for $50. It’s just not possible. We have to do small transactions that contain 3-10 items (on average) over and over again. I received an email from a sweet reader a while back that said that her husband was thrilled with her small transactions, but really wanted her to do one huge, rockin’ transaction. Sorry, dude. We just can’t do that. Our double coupon policies dictate several small transactions. No way around it.
There’s one more reason big shopping trips don’t work in the Northwest:
Our stores offer very few awesome deals at any one time, so you’re usually only doing a couple types of deals during any given week. You’re not scoring your entire week’s menu items for $10. You’re getting, say, cereal and spaghetti this week and chicken stock, marshmallows and dental floss next.
When new couponers or lurkers see my shopping trips, they mistakenly assume that I only feed my children Quaker Oatmeal Squares because that’s all I purchased that week. I only purchased cereal because that’s all that was on sale. Now I don’t have to buy cereal again for three months. Next week when I buy a bunch of marshmallows, don’t comment with, “How could you possibly feed your children all those marshmallows? It’s soooooooo unhealthy.”
Seriously. Do you really think we’re solely feasting on puffed sugar? Or could it possibly be that I got free marshmallows to supply our three, multi-family camping trips this summer and now we have s’mores supplies for 16 people? Which is more likely?
Here’s how I roll: It’s generally not my business what each of you feeds your family. It’s up to you. It’s my job to help you buy what you want to buy for as little as possible so you can positively contribute to your family’s financial situation — to help pay the light bill, get out of debt, make up for lost income, send your kid to private school, quit your job so you can stay at home, have fun money and, most importantly, give like crazy.
Do you guys eat Pop Tarts? Then I’ll help you get them for free. Do you eat organic blueberries? I can help with that as well. I’ll leave the nutrition, ecological, sustainable, child training talk to the blogs that focus on nutrition, ecology, sustainability and child training. Not because those things are not important and worth discussing, it’s just not the purpose of this blog.
When you are watching Extreme Couponing, keep in mind that the show is not showing you the participant’s refrigerator full of produce, dairy and meat. It’s just not exciting TV. Just like you don’t want your parenting to be judged based on your children’s behavior in Costco right before dinner, don’t judge people’s eating habits on their non-perishable food stockpile.
I’ll step off my soapbox now and let you all in a little secret.
Back in March, I had the privilege of joining Amber from Coupon Connections as her shopping buddy during her Extreme Couponing sho0t. Tune in May 18 to see Amber absolutely ROCK the deals at the most friendly Albertsons store I have ever entered (Lynnwood, Washington). I will be there, pushing her cart and generally enjoying her couponing awesomeness (and trying not to look pregnant, ’cause I’m not, or stupid, ’cause I tend say stuff I shouldn’t…)!
If you’re looking for a more eloquent discussion of Extreme Couponing, Heather at Queen Bee Coupons wrote the post I wish I had the skills to write last week. Go check it out.
Come back Wednesday as I cover Extreme Couponing: Don’t call me a hoarder. And you think I was on fire today…
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