Discussion: TLC’s Extreme Couponing

I wrote a post on Rainy-Day Saver that’s suddenly seen a major uptick in page views. I think it’s because people are Googling the name of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” a new show that’s been getting a lot of attention over the holiday break. Searching for the show brings up the Rainy-Day Saver post on Google’s first search page.

One of the women profiled on Extreme Couponing picked up 20 liters of soda on one trip to the store. In another example, a man purchased 2,000 items in ONE SHOPPING TRIP, whittling down the bill from $5,743 retail to $241. This same guy has “10,000 items stockpiled in his garage” (TLC’s wording, not mine). And yet another saver has 3,000 rolls of toilet paper!

So I’d like to revisit the idea of extreme couponing — is it frugality at its best, or hoarding?

I’ll readily admit that I envy those who can whittle down a $300 shopping order to 20 bucks by stacking coupons, rebates and sales. But I think most people are hard-pressed to find the time and coupons required to get such fantastic “deals.”

That’s another thing — are they really “deals” if you’re buying 20 products that you won’t use before their expiration dates? Things like laundry detergent will last, but even toiletries like toothpaste are only good for so long. Same goes for grocery items such as canned and packaged goods. They have longer shelf lives, but they’ll still become unusable. I’ve seen it happen even when I “overstock” our pantry — sometimes, we just don’t get to that extra bottle of ranch dressing.

There are folks who donate much of their hauls to the less fortunate and organizations that help those in need. Some people dedicate tens of hours a week to finding these savings. Me, I try to save us money where I can, but I don’t always want to use the deodorant I can get for free, due to skin allergies. Or maybe I don’t like the taste of the pasta sauce that would only cost me $.10. But honestly, most of the time, I don’t discover these type of deals.

I’m just happy to clip my coupons and pair them with circular sales. If I happen to qualify for cash back toward a future order, that’s a bonus. But it’s hard for me to live and breathe extreme couponing, like some folks do.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Commentary: WE tv’s “Downsized”

Mr. NSF recently introduced me to this train wreck of a show, Downsized. It follows a blended family — a couple with 7 children from previous marriages — in Arizona who suddenly have to cut corners after the father’s contractor business went bust along with the economy.

I’m sure a lot of the things that happened in the few episodes we watched were orchestrated by the producers. At least, I hope so, because the things they were doing to make money made no sense to me.

In fact, every single scenario I saw drove me batty — so much so that I’m blogging about it two days later!

Here are just a few of the situations that made me nuts:

1. Wife takes on a part-time job cleaning a neighbor’s house. Then proceeds to make their 4 daughters come and help, promising to pay them $5 each as their “cut.” THEN she only charges the homeowner $80 instead of the $100 she first said would be the fee.

My thought: It would make much more sense to 1) Charge what you’re going to charge and 2) Not take all four girls with you and pay them a ridiculous $5. We’re not talking young kids here – the ages are 10, 14, 15 and 16. The older three could easily get jobs of their own and use the money to pay for a portion of their needs and wants. In fact, the oldest one is said to have a waitressing job.

2. The family JUST now starts to cut down expenses. This is after exhausting their savings and 401(k) plans. One episode has them outlining how much cable TV, extracurricular activities and eating out cost them. They figured out that they could pay the entire rent by trimming the fat and spending less. Their two homes went into foreclosure, but they’re still renting a pretty big house for what seems to be about $1500 a month — and that home fits all 9 of the family members.

My thought: Sure, they originally were living beyond their means, but once the contracting work began drying up, wouldn’t it have been smart to reassess their budget then — and not two years later?

3. The mom complains about giving up her morning coffee, which she purchased from a coffee shop. But her “morning coffee” is really some sort of iced coffee drink. The father comes home with the ingredients necessary for her to make her own, complete with a reusable plastic cup with a lid and straw. So what do we see? The mom proceeds to make a large quantity of the coffee drink and share it with the kids.

My thought: First of all, kids don’t need the caffeine found in coffee, and secondly, she just wasted her entire ingredients supply.

4. One daughter gets to go to prom (father’s daughter from previous marriage), while other daughter (mom’s from previous marriage) can’t, even though she already has a dress. This one really blew my mind. While I know the dad’s daughter was able to go to prom because her biological mother paid for her ticket to attend, the “destitute” family couldn’t afford the same ticket. Adding to the sad story, the tickets wound up being sold out before her boyfriend could buy them.

My thought: The money the dad spent on the coffee ingredients could have put a nice dent in the ticket price. And the situation could cause animosity between the stepsisters.

There were many more examples, but these were the ones that stood out to me. I won’t be watching this show ever again, that’s for sure.