I came across some tweets a couple weeks ago on the Extreme Couponing fraud controversy and was like, what?!? (This, apparently, is old news.) After briefly admiring the cleverness of the numbers game the fraud lady played, I was taken aback by the effort of it all. Coincidentally, a couple days later, a friend of mine blogged about the show, basically capturing my feelings on couponing, extreme or otherwise: It’s not my thing.
Now today, after sitting on this post for a while, worrying about looking like some rich bitch who’s too good to want to save a dolla AND trying to find time to come up with some jazzy imagery, Jezebel posts on couponing, inspiring me to get off my duff and finish my post—and it’s just what I was thinking: most extreme couponers aren’t doing it for the savings.
I remember my mom clipped coupons, for a while. We were a one-income household of three kids and she was doing her part to spend my dad’s earnings wisely. Even mom gave up, though, after realizing that time (and effort) to some extent, really is money. The time it would take to go to this store versus that for the better deal. The time to go through the paper, organize the coupons, keep track of expirations and such. You have to buy two of this, four of that. Sometimes its just better to dash out and get what you want or need when you need it, rather than being lured into buying certain things because you have coupons for them. And, oh yeah, you have to remember to bring the coupon to the store! (I can’t even remember to bring bags to re-use.) OK, well, I guess it’s not that hard, if you keep it basic, but for many women, even this feels just like so much more household drudgery and wouldn’t we really rather be reading the paper instead of combing through coupons for processed foods we shouldn’t be eating anyway? I have NEVER seen a coupon for an apple or a tomato.
These extreme couponers employ strategies like buying multiple newspapers for more coupons (even the “realistic couponer” buys two newspapers), and then stockpiling goods, and buying things they never even would use—just for the thrill of the deal. Or, is it something else that drives them? A yearning for some sense of purpose? Has the dignity of keeping a home been reduced to commercial feats of acquiring the most goods while saving the most money? And at what cost? Does couponing provide them with a feeling of security? Maybe having 100 cleaning wipes, 450 rolls of toilet paper and 250 paper towels in stock makes a person feel prepared for anything? Of course, maybe to many it’s just good fun, and how someone chooses to spend their free time is really not my business. I’m sure many wouldn’t “get” why I’d choose to go run in the woods for four hours. Like the hoarders, though, in my view, extreme couponers seem to be pining for something beyond a good deal or well-stocked cupboards that I am not sure the couponing experience can deliver.