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Friday, March 26, 2010

Extreme Couponing -- How Far Is TOO Far???

About a week ago, I received an e-mail from a faithful reader. She gave me a link to a blogger who bought over $1000 (yes, thousand) worth of groceries for less than $20. She posed a very valid question to me -- "Will I ever see THESE kind of savings here in Jacksonville?"

My answer? Yes, it's definitely possible to spend pennies and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars ... But only if you are prepared to do a number of things that, quite honestly, I don't really personally believe in doing as a couponer.

Couponing is great, and all of you know how much I love it. And we all live for seeing those savings on the bottom of our receipts. But how far is too far, really?

In my opinion, here is when you know you've taken couponing just a little too far:
  • You're spending a good portion of your day-to-day life going dumpster diving, going through other people's recycle bins, or paying quite a bit of money out of pocket to collect 10 to 20 copies of the Sunday coupon inserts. (20 newspapers would cost $40 - that's almost my entire grocery budget each week.) In order to have insane savings, you have to literally have this many inserts.
  • You're running out to buy printer ink and paper every week, to re-fill the 5 printers of the 5 different computers you have (so that you can print 10 coupons - print limit of 2 per computer!). Let's think about the costs of this!
  • You have decided against a well-rounded, wholesome grocery trip each week that includes plenty of ingredients for meals, fruits, and veggies (of course, in addition to all of the pantry, canned, and frozen items that you get for free after coupons). Rather, you will now only buy items that are either free or generate overage. In this way, you are able to rejoice in seeing on your receipt that you spent pennies or a couple dollars in order to save hundreds of dollars. That's nice and all, but what are you going to eat this week???
  • You're constantly fighting with cashiers and managers, demanding your way, and basically giving couponers a terrible name. (Which in effect makes it awful for the rest of us out there. Why do you think there are such strict coupon policies at some of these stores?)
  • You're insisting that a store manager PAYS YOU CASH MONEY for the groceries you just bought. *Not Cool* I don't know how much I can stress this. People, if you are lucky enough to shop at a grocery store that allows coupon overage, at least be kind enough to grab extra groceries to cover it. Don't allow your bill to go negative and then demand to be paid. That's ridiculous and absurd. Think I'm kidding? People do it all the time.
  • You're literally wiping out entire shelves of items, just so you can gain overage or stock up on a year's supply of free ketchup. Again, not cool! Ever think about saving some for the rest of us eager couponers out there? I have both seen and heard of couponers who will ask a manager to go to the back and bring out every crate of tomato sauce that they have - all 200 cans. Again, come on. To me, that is not being an ethical couponer. Help out your fellow couponer! Leave some for everybody else. I don't know about you, but nothing is more frustrating than driving up to CVS or Walgreens only to find that the shelf is completely empty of what you were planning on getting for free that week with coupons. Remember that awesome FREE Purex deal at Walgreens recently? This blogger that my reader sent me a link to...yeah...she bought TWENTY bottles of it. Needless to say, she wiped out shelves at 3 stores to get the deals, and left them empty for the rest of the couponers out there! Be considerate...
The bottom line for me? Couponing has been a BLESSING in my life. God has provided for our needs through couponing. Abusing it in the ways mentioned above is not being a good steward of your money, but that's just my opinion.

It's nice to see that savings to spending ratio on your receipt, but abusing the system is not what it's all about. Use your coupons wisely. Discover your priorities and what matters most to you.

What matters most to me is saving money with coupons, having a decent savings to spending ratio, staying under my designated grocery budget, getting most of my household items for free at the drug stores, giving away as much as I can to others, and planning nutritious/wholesome meals every week. If I'm doing that, I'm okay. =)

Plus...aren't coupons supposed to save TIME??? When it's becoming time-consuming and making life harder, I would say it's time to re-evaluate!

Want a good example for comparisons? Nightline just recently did a contest with 2 extreme couponers. They gave each of them $50 to get as much as they possibly could with the money and coupons. In this video, I think Jill has a pretty good idea of using coupons how they're meant to be used. I have nothing against Nathan, but I think he's taking it just a little too far. Jill knows she could just as easily do what Nathan is doing, I'm sure. She is simply choosing to use coupons wisely, though. Notice the wholesome, nutritious, and even organic products she has in her cart. She's buying what she needs, and stocking up on the close-to-freebie items (but not in excess). She spends a good amount, and has a great savings ratio!

What About You: What are your thoughts on this subject???

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Blogger Crystal said...

I completely agree with you on not wiping out the shelves! I also bought over 20 bottles of Purex at the recent Walgreen's sale, but I went to about 7 different stores and did not wipe out any of them and even waited until the second to last day of the coupon to purchase the majority of them and left some coupons on the shelf of the last store I went to because they still had many bottles left! There is nothing wrong with stocking up, but not at the expense of others!

March 26, 2010 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Mommy Octopus said...

Great post!! Wow... 1000 for that low? Crazy! Around here, we have a large fleamarket. I walked through it a few weeks ago and it occurred to me why our stores shelves were always empty.... people were buying it all for cheap or free and reselling it at the fleamarket. The same stuff that was sold out at every store in the area. Very infuriating!

March 26, 2010 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I HATE going to a store and finding items gone! I also think that when people pull off peelies when they aren't buying the product is just WRONG. I also seen a video about a lady who saved LOADS of money, but she mostly bought Rolaids and Kaopectate. I mean really, how many rolls and bottles do you need, just so you can say you got $100 worth of it for a dollar?

March 26, 2010 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Kelipso said...

I'm the first to admid that I have VERY low grocery expenses because I use overage to the extreme - I do NOT however think its ever ok to walk out with more money than you came in with. I'll spend 12c on $400 worth of groceries, but I wouldn't dare going over and asking for a gift voucher (even though its ok at our commissary). I also don't clear the shelves on anything unless there are only a handful to begin with. I make special orders so I don't deplete any of the stock that other couponers or (gasp!) people who just need to buy whatever product it was, even without a coupon. People who abuse the system are the ones who are going to make couponing that much harder for the rest of us. Its a privalege I treasure and don't want to mess it up!

March 26, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Anonymous sara said...

Great post and great morals. Being considerate towards others is a must!

March 26, 2010 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

The guy in the video has a crazy amount of stuff!!! He can't even park his car in his garage! Seriously, he should donate it or run some kind of store for the needy where they can pay what he got them for. When I first started using coupons around Thanksgiving, I got whatever was on sale. Now, I won't get the junk food even if it's just pennies because we are trying to be healthier. If I get the junk food and it's just there in the house, we'll eat it. Now I use any overage I have to buy fruit, vegetables or meat.

March 26, 2010 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sherry, I'm the same way. When I save lots of money with coupons I'm like "Yippie, I'm heading to the produce section!"
Just because items are almost free doesn't mean I need to buy them. I don't understand people posting how they saved 80% or some other high number when the "groceries" are sugary cereals, cookies, chips, Ritz crackers, candles...
I also have some brands that I'm loyal to, like Tide, and won't buy other brands no matter the price. (But I did check Consumer Reports to see if Purex is anywhere close in quality to Tide, because the FREE was so tempting. :) Sticking to my Tide.

March 26, 2010 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Ive only been doing this since I saw you on TV in November -
Ive saved Lots of money thanks to you! I have never walked out of a store with More money than I went in there with. Its so frustrating to go to target or Wags and see the shelves empty! I mean, how many airwicks does one house need?I recently started to teach my eldery neighbor who is living on social security and She is loving it, But we keep running into empty shelves :( Its a shame that people get greedy-the temptation is there as with anything else I suppose. I worry that they will cut back and punish all of us for what some people are doing. I sure hope not

March 26, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, funny how being frugal can lead to GREED, huh? I am a home schooling mom of 6 children and we are out of work. I need to buy smart and stock up. But, I was in the store yesterday and I thought to myself, I don't really need to be here. How blessed I felt. How blessed I am. I grabbed only what I needed that was a good price. Yes, NEVER take everything. And always share. This site is so inspiring. God bless you all!

March 27, 2010 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Klee said...

That guys garage was intense.... i think that chili is going to go out before he eats it... he needs to engage in some freely giving...

March 27, 2010 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was impressed by both shopper's coupon acumen.

To me, the woman showed what the normal shopper could buy and save. One could really feed a family on what she bought.

The guy, showed great shopping skills and how to take advantage of what is offered. However, that was a lot of stuff he purchased. He could be proud of all the food stuffs he had in his garage, if his goal was to have a year's worth of foodstuffs for in case of an emergency. There are ppl that advocate being self sufficient and keep a larder.
Still wanting to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, it appeared to me there was still some "overage" of some products that I would hope could go to food banks or shelters before it went bad.

I enjoy Meagan's blog here, and used it as a guide for shopping as it covers local shopping in some of the stores close to me. I was so impressed with her TV interview on the local channel!

All in all, I was very impressed with the items that were purchased.

March 27, 2010 at 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's wonderful to use coupons and it's great when people are able to support their local food pantries but there really is too far. Here is why I can rarely join in on the great sales
She does work with managers to get items such at 200+ boxes of cereal but still the shelves are empty...

March 27, 2010 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Most excellent post Meg!

March 28, 2010 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

I never wipe anything out and I get so frustrated when the shelves are empty. I actually had more coupons for BOGO Purex than I needed, so I mailed some to other couponers. I used one coupon and got two boxes/40 loads. I'm single, so why would I need a zillion? I only do about 4 loads a month, so I'm set for about a year. =)

March 28, 2010 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger Jeddie said...

I agree, there's nothing worse than making a special trip to a store only to find the shelves empty of what you're looking for. But I'm with Crystal on this one...

There are multiple ways to look out for our fellow couponers, not just lowering the amount of products you get at a particular store ( I bought over 20 Purex at the Wags 11PM on Sat. night!).

You should also know, many store accept special orders; so, if you're anticipating wiping out shelves, you can call ahead and have them ship more of that product just for you (I do this at Publix all the time, and boy do they appreciate it a lot!). =)

Great post.

March 29, 2010 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I went today to get Thermacare wraps....and the shelf was empty.

I went to get the purex....and the shelf was empty.

It happens every single time, and it's made me unmotivated in continuing couponing. I go to all the trouble of searching, cutting, driving....and I'm left with coupons to throw away and sad drive home.

BUT....every once in a while, I do make it before the selfish, inconsiderate people do, and then I walk out with my one product and feel very happy. :)

April 20, 2010 at 11:42 PM  

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