I am not sure when coupon became a verb. But since TLC says it's so, everyone now thinks it's a sport. A way of life. Seriously. Have you seen this show?
These people, mostly women, have actual grocery stores in their houses. One woman and her daughter joked that though the kids have moved out, they frequently visit her storage room to stock up. I've watched the show twice and both times, it's been similar.
Usually, it starts with the women having a large family and they have to save money. But then they get out of control. Their life becomes the search for the ultimate coupon experience. Shopping is now a job. They talk about losing sleep over the next day's shopping trip.
Some get the whole family involved. They line up their 7 kids and cut, cut, cut. They say it's a learning experience.
They work out deals with the newspaper delivery people to give them all of the Sunday leftovers so they can have the coupons.
They buy from other people who hoard coupons and get boxes and boxes full of coupons.
They spend 4-6 hours PER DAY online getting deals.
They buy PURE CRAP for the sake of saving money.
They use spreadsheets and plot their shopping journey and then recruit friends or family to help push the overflowing carts.
They call ahead to the store to let them know they are coming with tons of coupons and it takes like 3 hours to check out.
And then they go home and they reveal to the viewer where they stash it all.
The virgin couponers have no clue. They didn't build their houses with a room dedicated to supplies, so they are forced to store everything under beds, in kids' closets, in their garages, anywhere they can. Gallons of bleach in the toddler's closet? No biggie, it was free! Blue toilet bowl thinggies to last a lifetime stored next to cereal? Who cares if the smell of public restrooms oozes from every pore- we saved MOULA!
The experts, the "professional couponers" shall we say, have actual rooms devoted to their sickness. They show the viewer their special shelves that they bought (they never tell us how they swung a deal on those...) that are like the soup shelves at the grocery where you put a new can in and it pushes the old one to the front so you always rotate your stock. This is the language they use. They "rotate stock". Just like Angelo's, the A&P, Stop and Shop, Kroger, Plublix, what have you.
They have a whole bedroom or garage just for their scores. Tubs and tubs of products. Shelves to the ceiling filled with stuff. Cabinets filled to the brim.
I keep thinking, if you didn't have a house big enough to give you a whole room devoted to your sickness, would you even need to save the money in the first place?
Now, being a little money savvy myself, I am slightly intrigued by all of this, until I see what they buy. You'll notice I didn't mention that in their special grocery store rooms they don't have any refrigerators. It's not lettuce and milk they are stocking up on
These growing families are scoring free..... Candy bars. Canned foods. Ramen noodles. Products I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. I'm not sure when I last needed 50 free Snickers bars. Or 150 packets of rice. Or one can of air freshener let alone 30.
I said it's a sickness, a few lines back and I firmly believe it is. What starts as excitement over saving a few dollars becomes a true illness. These women are hoarding. And they are using up precious time in their lives to score the next free shopping trip. This is no different from any other obsession. If they were drinking 4-6 hours a day, we'd get them treatment. If they were hoarding mail and trash, we'd have an intervention.
Instead, we glorify their savings. They are hoarding toilet paper and Huggies and we think that's fine. TLC shows us their special rooms and systems. They make us think we too could save all that money at the grocery store and have a year's worth of food and supplies at our finger tips. We just need to quit our jobs, get a computer and sit for hours a day searching and clipping.
In the 2nd episode I watched, the woman told us how some food pantries and animal shelters had contacted her for free food so this shopping trip was for them. Yes, how nice it is that she's using her illness to buy things for free for hungry people and animals. But this is where I know it's a sickness. If she just liked saving money and wanted to help her family, it would be one thing. But to be known in town as the woman who has so many coupons she can get anything for free and then to go and enjoy getting 400 boxes of cat food- it's not right. Yes, she's doing a good thing and isn't hoarding it all for herself, but--- really?
I recently had a very exciting money saving moment that made me think I might be just one step away from what got these women started on this slippery slope.
I use my Discover card for EVERYTHING and instead of taking the cash back, I use my points for gift cards. The gift card redemption process usually takes 20 points and gives you a $25 gift card somewhere and sometimes even better than that. They make great gifts and cost me- NOTHING.
Recently, I have also started to use ebates.com. You go through them to buy things online and you get percentages back. Really. I tried it and it worked, so I am hooked.
K-ster needed shorts, so I went to ebates and then to Sears.com because that's where I got them last year. However, last year, I swear I bought every pair they had, so I had no hope. This year, they had them again but they were $14.99 instead of 20something99. Add to that that Sears was giving a percentage off if you spent $50, I saved a lot. And then I used my $50 Sears gift card that I got through Discover for 40 of my points. And I redeemed some of my Sears points that I had for swiping my key tag that I didn't think did anything. And guess what- I paid 71 cents for many pairs of shorts. But it gets better- I get $2 in ebate money back. So ummmm, I made money from this deal.
It is a great feeling to know I didn't spend money and actually earned it back. And I know this is how those Extreme Couponers feel because they will brag about spending nothing and now the store owes THEM money. But I did this mostly by accident. I didn't know Sears.com was doing a deal. I did know that I had the gift card, but I did not know I actually had points from my keytag swipes.
Like anyone, I do LOVE to save money. Primrose Jim probably thinks I can't wait to be an extreme couponer because he's always telling me I am so cheap. I get a little thrill when I save crazy amounts of money. Who doesn't? You feel like you've tricked THE MAN.
But I draw the line at spending hours upon hours trying to save money on dog treats when I don't have a dog. Or enough toilet bowl cleaner to last me a lifetime and then some, when I try to use safer cleaner products. Or 50 Snickers bars. I just can't get past that one, can I?
You know that this very act is what will make manufacturers stop giving out coupons. You're all just spoiling it for yourselves.
I can't wait for the next TLC reality show- the show about what happens when your 1500 boxes of cereal become infested with mealy bugs.
Or when you open your jar of spaghetti sauce that you bought for free in 2008 and it gives everyone bochulism.
Yep, can't wait for that show.