Extreme Couponing is the practice of combining shopping skills with couponing in an attempt to pay much less for items than other shoppers do.
The popularity of TLC’s TV show Extreme Couponing has shed a lot of light on this activity. There is no doubt that the recent recession has also contributed to the renewed popularity of couponing. Almost everyone is interested in saving more money these days.
Is extreme couponing just a sport or is it a sound financial practice? It’s true that coupons and in-store discounts can save you money on some groceries. However, an obsessive-compulsive quest to “save” the most can also have some unintended consequences.
Let’s look at a few of the pitfalls of “Extreme Couponing”:
1. Buying things you don’t need - Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Extreme couponing leads some people to buy things they would never buy otherwise.
2. Buying more than you need – Many individuals rack up big savings by buying large quantities of items that are one sale. This is great if you ultimately use the item. However, many groceries have expiration dates, so these items can expire before you get a chance to use them. .
3. Space – It doesn’t do any good to stock up on large quantities of groceries if you have no place to store them. Almost everyone I know has a shortage of space in their homes, and many pay rent for outside storage. Some people even buy storage racks and cabinets to hold it all. Making room for all of these groceries may only cost you more money in the end.
4. Cost of Capital – Any good businessman will tell you that you should not tie up your money in excess inventory. The same applies to your home. The money you have tied up in the groceries sitting in your garage could be in a bank or other investments earning income.
5. Travel Costs – Many people travel longer distances in order to visit a store where an item is on sale. With the cost of gas exceeding four dollars a gallon in many states, these trips can cost a lot of money. Of course the wear and tear on the car should also be considered. All told, the IRS estimates that auto travel costs an average 55.5 cents per mile. Do you still want to drive an extra 10 miles round trip to save $2 on laundry detergent? Plus, don’t forget that these trips also take a toll on the environment.
6. Time – Many extreme couponers spend hours searching for the best deals, clipping coupons and even watching TLC! Not many people would claim that their time is free. How much is your time worth?
7. Electronics – These participants now find many deals and coupons online. Is your computer free? Is your internet service free? Some individuals use mobile devices in the stores to check prices and find coupons. Using up the minutes on your smartphone to find a coupon could cost you a pretty penny.
8. Health – When was the last time you clipped a coupon for a tomato? Many of the largest coupon deals are for unhealthy foods such as sodas, snacks and sugar cereals. This can lead participants to eat less healthy diets.
After reviewing these pitfalls, do you still think that extreme couponing saves money? The reality is that this activity is just a hobby for most people, and those who enjoy it should participate in it.
For the rest of us, it’s best to shop at stores that have generally good prices. Do keep an eye out for coupons on goods you normally use and upcoming sales events at the stores you frequent. But make pragmatic decisions when you are in the store and take advantage of sales on the items that you intended to purchase anyway. You will come out ahead in the long run and might even have more time to “spend” with your family and friends!
Briana Fabbri is the Head of Marketing and also blogs for NetCredit.com, an online personal loan provider. Briana frequently writes about personal lending and credit issues, and holds a degree from the University of Chicago, where she also has guest lectured.
Note: Ms. Fabbri and NetCredit do not provide financial or legal advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor or attorney regarding your individual circumstances.