I’m So Over Coupons

Fri, Sep 9, 2011

budget, confessions, coupons, rant, saving

This post was inspired by a Google search for “so over coupons” that led someone to my site. I laughed when I first saw it, then I realized, Hey, I really AM over coupons! So, for the person who searched for that term, I don’t know if you’re still reading or not, but this post is for you.

My Historical Hatred of Coupons

When I was a kid, my mom had this ugly vinyl pouch full of coupons. In all her OCD glory, Mom stuffed that pouch so full of coupons the Velcro wouldn’t even fasten, and they were all alphabetized by brand. (Does that make her a hipster since she couponed before it was cool? She would be so excited!) I used to roll my eyes when she brought it on grocery trips - sometimes I even stayed in the car while she lugged her pouch and looked for deals. It was SO EMBARRASSING.

Of course, I didn’t realize how poor we were growing up. My parents were experts at spending money where they thought it counted. My sister and I had name brand clothes, cute backpacks, and we were the first family in our neighborhood to own a Nintendo with the PowerPad. I had no idea how hard they were working in the background to skimp on other things so we could look like everyone else. All I knew was, using coupons seemed like we were trying to get something for free, and I didn’t like it.

So anyway, that was my sole experience with coupons for a lot of years (except for the fact that Jayden’s great-grandmother on his dad’s side uses them to hoard laundry detergent, and pronounces it “Q-pins”). When I got married and moved out on my own, I didn’t clip coupons, even though we were pretty broke. I didn’t know anyone my age who walked around the store with coupons in hand. I even got pissed off standing behind someone in the checkout line trying to use Walmart’s price match - “Those 12-packs of Cherry Lava Spit Soda are on sale at Kroger. The chips are buy one get one free at Save-a-Lot.” Then the clerk spends 30 minutes searching through the various print ads to make sure the person isn’t lying.

I mean, REALLY?!?!? Can’t you just pay for your stupid groceries and get out of my way?

The Couponing Frenzy

Oh yes, couponing is a verb now. That’s how many people have jumped on the bandwagon. TLC’s popular show Extreme Couponing has created a monster. And I’ll just tell you - I’m over it.

If I thought it was bad before, all I had to do was wait for a recession. Suddenly it’s trendy to buy these enormous color-coded binders, hit up everyone in 3 states for the ads out of their newspapers, and post freaking PICTURES of your “savings” on Facebook. Oh, and you have to buy all kinds of stuff you don’t even use just because you can get 30 of them for $6 instead of the $79 retail price. And be sure to take pictures of the bottom of your receipt so everyone can admire how much you saved.

Question: If you have to go spend money on binders and tab dividers and baseball card holders, then drive around to get all those newspapers, then spend 200 hours a week organizing all the coupons and checking expiration dates, what exactly are you really saving?

Oh, America. Even when you save, you waste.

I watched a few episodes of Extreme Couponing. For research purposes and out of morbid curiosity. And while it was definitely entertaining, I’m not sure it was for the reasons TLC intended.

So these people literally have shelves and shelves of STUFF in their basements. Shampoo. Shave gel. Canned corn. Fabric softener. Their homes look like grocery stores. And they’re all like, “ZOMG I never have to buy mustard ever again LOL!” Except they do - the next time there’s a coupon for mustard.

One lady bought like 60 bags of cat food and she didn’t even own a cat. In her defense, she did say she planned to donate it to an animal shelter. But I have a friend who constantly buys cheap dog food and doesn’t have any pets. She’s keeping it “just in case” she ever decides to get a dog. I’m sorry but that’s bullshit. Because then people like me go to the store to get the certain type of dog food that my picky dogs will eat (you know, because I actually OWN dogs), and the shelves are empty. “Sorry about that,” the employees say. “There was a coupon in Sunday’s paper so it was gone really quickly.”

What exactly are we stocking up for, people? A zombie apocalypse? Shouldn’t there be a point where you don’t need to go to the grocery store anymore EVER, because you’ve purchased all of the things available for sale? But the coupon-obsessed are in the store every five minutes because they need their fix.

That’s right - couponing has become an addiction. The rush of waiting to see if you can get $1000 worth of junk for $300. The panic attacks when a coupon can’t be doubled, rendering your entire strategic plan useless. The back pain when you carry 60 bags of cat food to your 3rd floor apartment, just because you saved money doing it. The SUV you buy to bring home all those bags of cat food because they won’t fit in a car.

People from other countries make fun of us because of our affinity for excess. As a nation, we’re fat as hell. We drive Hummers that require $200 in gas just to pick up our little snowflakes from school, because riding the bus is for common people. (I admit I’m guilty of this - not the SUV part, but picking Jay up from school even though he could totally ride the bus.) We consume food, electronics, media, and clothing like the world is ending and we’ll never see these things again. And now we’re using coupons, something that should SAVE us money, to buy and consume more than ever before. Yeah, I think we kind of fail at frugality.

Don’t send hate mail.

I know there are some people who use coupons like normal humans. They are trying to provide for their families on a limited budget, and the money they save on groceries is carefully budgeted to pay for other necessities. Those aren’t the people I get mad at.

But when you’re strolling through Walmart with two shopping carts, chatting on your iPhone while trying not to ruin your manicured nails, buying 100 bottles of ranch dressing to lug into your McMansion so your housekeeper can put them away? Get over yourself. You’re just doing that to be like all the other cool kids. And you aren’t saving any money because you probably spent $500 on the clothes you’re wearing. And you probably used a credit card to pay for all those groceries in the first place.

If coupons work for you, that’s fantastic. For me, it just doesn’t make sense to put forth that much effort to save $10 on my groceries.

Personally, I’m looking forward to a new trend. Hopefully something like Extreme Saving. Because no matter how dysfunctional most of us are (and I’m including myself in that category), it’s pretty hard to screw up actually saving money instead of just pretending we are.

PS. Right after I published this post, someone on Facebook posted about attending an extreme couponing class for “only $50 a person!” So now you’re spending fifty bucks to figure out what binder is best for your coupons?!?! WTF?

50 Responses to “I’m So Over Coupons”

  1. Eric J. Nisall says:

    This post would go perfectly in my "Rants, Raves & Reviews" category Andrea! Don't hold anything back now.  I have to admit that I do use coupons, but I look for them only after I make up my list and know what I am going to buy.

    I think the same way there is a speed-line for 10 or less items, there should be a coupon line for 10 or more coupons at the supermarket.  That way, these people who ave nothing but time on their hands to search print and clip those things can spend all the time they want in their very own line going through their stacks to see which ones they need to pull out.

    • That's exactly my point. I wouldn't turn down a dollar off the laundry detergent I already buy, but I'm not going to spend 40 hours a week clipping and organizing coupons.
      A coupon line at the store is an AMAZING idea! I am totally going to suggest that to the manager at Walmart the next time I'm here. If certain cashiers were trained to handle a large number of coupons (because they are forever holding up the line when they can't figure out how to apply them all), the couponers could just go to that line and leave the rest of us alone. I love it!

  2. Annabelle Hepburn says:

    As an ex-cashier, I support this wholeheartedly. People who freak out over $0.10 savings and hold up the line and make you do price checks, and then whip out a binder of coupons were my nemesis during my checkout days. It's worth a few extra pennies to me to just get your groceries checked out as quickly as possible. Totally not the same thing for people with smaller budgets who need the savings - but those aren't the ones with the binders full of coupons and the SUVs full of dog food (for dogs they don't even own?? That's insane!)

    • Exactly. The people who NEED coupons aren't making a spectacle of it. They buy their items, use coupons where they can, and get the heck out of the store. They aren't buying hundreds of dollars worth of stuff because they can't afford it even with the savings.
      If I was a cashier when the Extreme Couponing team came in with all their cameras, resulting in a crowd waiting to see if the person saves a ton of money, I'd probably walk out and quit.

  3. Carla says:

    You can't even pull that crap here in Canada… If extreme couponers take over the U.S. You're always welcome in Canada! lol!

    • Well Heeled Blog says:

      I've heard that many Extreme Couponers get special permission to double / triple up on the coupons from the stores because of the show.

  4. Carrie Smith says:

    This is my kind of post, and the exact reason I look forward to your next update everyday. It's to the point and not full of BS. I share your sentiments exactly: couponing has become an addiction, and somewhat of an overindulgent waste. 

    My sister uses coupons, but she pretty much uses everything she gets and lives by the rules of "only taking what I need". Any excess she gives to me or other family members to help them out. I think that's a good balance, but strolling through Walgreens a day after the Sunday paper is out is annoying as hell.

    The shelves are bare, and I'm only a single gal trying to buy some milk and toilet paper for the week (I'm only a little bitter). But seriously what's the purpose of couponing if you are stashing items you don't need or will never use. That's pretty much the definition of gluttony.

    I've even read where people are caught stealing the coupon inserts out of newspapers, and they lady said "Oh, I didn't think that was stealing". OMG! In any case, this is a perfect example of something that means well but when taken to extremes is completely unnecessary.

    By the way, I love your zombie apocalypse analogy. Classic.

    Awesome post!   

  5. Mutant Supermodel says:

    My mom was a couponer a long, long time ago. Her pouch was a small red fabric one. She also participated in a rewards program where the store would give you these little stamps and then you could trade them in for stuff. She bought us Christmas gifts this way.

    Needless to say, I'm a couponer. Furthermore, I hate TLC's Extreme Couponing.

    I have recently converted to a binder system because my old way of keeping inserts in file folders was great for matching coupons to sales but awful for things that weren't on sale that I needed anyways.So you'd probably make fun of me if you saw me at the store :)

    I only clip coupons for things I use or would like to try. I only get coupons from my Sunday paper and my mom gives me hers too. I've never "bought" coupons because I think that's just dumb.

    For me, it's worth it. Saving $10 on groceries is actually nothing. I can save A LOT more than that. And not because I bought 100 bottles of mustard at Buy One Get One Free plus coupons so my total comes out to $2. I think that's wrong. I've heard quite a few of the people on that show have been busted. They buy the goods and then turn around and SELL THEM.

    My biggest issue is that show can make coupon life hellish for someone like me. I always make it a point to 1) let the person in line behind me know I have coupons (my Mom used to do this) and 2) ask the cashier what would be the fastest, best way for us to do the coupons. Some cashiers don't care and just ask for the stack at the end and don't check anything, just scan. And others love it when I line up every coupon to its respective item on the belt. And others don't care what I do, they just hate me. Which I don't think is fair. Despite my effort to make it easy on everyone, people look at me with this evil freaking look in their eyes that's not nice.

    Couponing used to be much more standard in life. I have seen many magazines from the 1950's and 1960's peppered with coupons. And when you buy the magazines used, they're often clipped! It fell out of fashion during the glut of the 90's and now the pendulum has swung WAY to the other side.

    Whatever. I really wish they never made that TV show. People used to stop and ask me how I got so much savings in my shopping trips. Cashiers used to congratulate me!!!! Now, not so much.

    P.S. I actually love the couponers who use their scores for charity. There's even a blog for this but I forget the name. Especially in today's economy, food banks, shelters, etc need more help than ever and this is a great way to get corporations involved indirectly.

    • Thanks for your perspective! It's helpful to hear from someone who uses coupons for good instead of evil. :)
      I think the crazy coupon people have definitely given normal couponers a bad name. It absolutely drives me up the wall to see people gaming the system when they don't even need the cheaper prices.
      Even though I agree with you, I will totally laugh if I ever see you shopping with your binder. :)

  6. Cherleen @ yesiamche says:

    I use coupons, too… but only for the things I really need and use. I get coupons from the Sunday paper and other websites. If I have a coupon for something I don't really need, but I know somebody will benefit from it, I give it to that person.  

  7. The College Investor says:

    I don't see anything wrong with using coupons… but hoarding items simply because you have coupons, even if you don't need and then keeping the items to yourself "just in case" you need then in the future, is the most ridiculous and the most horrible thing to do!

  8. Lindy Mint says:

    Try as I may, I've never been able to get into coupons (or Q-pins, that's so cute). I'm certain it's a personality trait, you're either into it or not. I've heard that even in moderation you can save a lot, but I can't break away from the individual savings of $0.35. It just doesn't seem worth it for something I don't enjoy doing. 

    I felt dirty after watching only half of the first episode of Extreme Couponing.

  9. Bridget Gibson says:

    I love you.

  10. Bridget Gibson says:

    I love you.

  11. Bridget Gibson says:

    I love you.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Think about how much time they are spending putting all that stuff together?

    I can't tell you how many times I've heard people on that show say that they wanted to take their stash to the grave. also, the patient spouse that asks, "don't we already have over a year supply of that? Accumulation of stuff is not saving, it's hiding from your real problems.

    Normal people use coupons, but they use them to save money; not buy stuff!

  13. Sandy - yesiamcheap says:

    Coupons aren't bad.  I mean they're OK but I just couldn't waste time hunting them down.  I just print a couple that I need from coupons.com or if there is one on the back of a box of something that I use.  I see the psychos on line checking out with a crapload of coupons and while they might save money I wonder how much of the stuff in their carts are there because they wanted to buy and use them or because they had a coupon for it.  I'm not a slave to the coupon.  Makes no sense to me.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I would venture to say that the Extreme Couponers  are hoarders of a different breed.

  15. Onecentatatime says:

    Another masterpiece Andrea! Extreme couponing is some disease, saving $100 on 60 cat food is so enjoying than saving $1.5 on one cat food, its more money you saved, right? 

  16. Insomniac Lab Rat says:

    I finally saw my first extreme couponer in the store a few weeks ago! Haha. Fortunately, we don't seem to have too many people who buy up everything that goes on sale at my local grocery store, and I haven't gotten held up behind any in line before, so I was always curious if there were any around here (there must be, it's a big city). Then I saw this woman with a binder with the baseball cards thing, demanding a rain check for something that was on sale that she also had a coupon for…

    It does seem like an addiction- a classmate of mine was all excited when she first save a few bucks with coupons, and then she started getting the Sunday paper for more coupons, and a second Sunday paper to get double…and she said she was only buying stuff they'd use before it expired. And at first, I think she was. But I was cat sitting for them recently, and saw that they had about 15 bottles of barbeque sauce, Now, it might have a long shelf life, but seriously, how much barbeque sauce can two people really go through in a reasonable amount of time? They also had dozens of boxes of cereal, and about a dozen boxes of pain killers, antacids, and a couple of other medications…which I'm pretty sure they won't use before they expire.

    I don't NEED to save the money, but I do glance through the coupons we get in the mail before tossing the rest in the recycling bin…I've saved a few dollars each month on things I buy anyway. It's not much, but it also only takes me about 2 minutes a week, so I'll take it. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get addicted and start hoarding stuff, though :)

  17. Red says:

    My god, you're hilarious. Also just notices your "If you read these posts, I'll remember you in my will" footer. Thanks for the chuckle!

    I personally would like to be organized enough to do SOME couponing. I don't want to go to the extreme that the people you mentioned do. Mom said she saw some show where a woman admitted to spending 6 hours a day finding/clipping/organizing her coupons. Uh… Yeah… My time is worth more money than that. If I didn't have a job or a life and those coupons saved me at least $1,000 a month… No, I still wouldn't do it.

    Personally, I envy people who are able to get toothpaste free. Because I hate buying toothpaste.

  18. Alltid Blakk says:

    Great post, loved it !

  19. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on couponing. I'll admit, "extreme couponing" doesn't sound like nearly the adrenaline rush as something like "extreme skydiving" or "extreme pie eating".

  20. Stephanie says:

    I read this post while I was trying to install a printer so I could, GASP, print some coupons.  I rarely if ever use them, but knowing that there are coupons for the exact item I want (which rarely happens), I feel dumb spending full price.  Honestly, I don't get a Sunday paper, so I don't get coupons that way.  I mostly just use grocery store coupons that they print out with my receipt.  If I remember to use them before they expire.

    But yeah, the whole Extreme Couponing craze is just that.  Extreme.  It's possible that, with bigger families, it's harder to feed everyone on a small budget.  But that means you just don't buy all the fancy stuff.  I tend to buy store brand whenever possible (with a few exceptions!)

    I don't like spending money.  But I hate spending time on boring things even more.  I'd rather sit and watch a movie with my boyfriend than jump into a dumpster to find extra coupons.

    One thing I do wish they did at more places is let you put coupons on your membership card.  I saw that on one of the shows.  I wouldn't mind logging in before I go shopping and just click a bunch of buttons in case I want something, and have that coupon automatically applied at the point of sale.  Hmmmm.

    • I long for the day when you can fill a cart with groceries and use a smartphone to automatically look for coupons for what you buy. If that ever happens, I will like couponing. I'm with you - I would LOVE to save money on the things I'm buying if possible. But the time it takes to find, organize, and use the coupons just isn't worth it to me. I know there are a few coupon apps out there already but they don't seem to get very good reviews. Hopefully the technology will improve and it'll be easier to save money!
      The people I know who are nuts about couponing don't work, so maybe that's the difference. If I had lots of spare time on my hands, who knows? Maybe I would love to spend it finding ways to save money.

  21. Crystal @ Home Ins C says:

    I'm even beyond normal couponing now…I used to clip 5 or so from the weekly papers to use on stuff we buy anyway and I don't even bother anymore.  My time is worth more and I'm lazy…that combo has led me to using maybe 2 coupons a month…

  22. Serendipity Savings says:

    Although I personally love the idea of using coupons, I think it's harder then it looks to me. I'm not interested in stock piles or matching up sales ads for things I can get necessarily for free. I'm not interested in buying newspapers just for coupons. And I find it hard to find coupons for stuff I use anyways. I'm a coupon hater sometimes although I'm tempted to make a small coupon binder, only because I've been seeing somethings in the clearance racks at Target that I have coupons for, like razors. I hate paying for razors. 

  23. Bank Aim says:

    I just watched that TLC show Extreme Couponing.. How the heck do they manage to get money back! Those people are nuts! They spend over 40 hours a week looking for coupons and figuring out how to get everything for free! And all of that hard work for more toilet paper than they could use in a lifetime.. doesn't make sense. These people are closet 'Hoarders'. One of the shows I saw the woman had enough toilet paper, tooth brushes and tooth paste to last for the rest of her life! If that was me I would be selling that crap to my neighbors

    I personally love to use coupons and with anything I buy online I always search for a coupon. You are more likely to find a coupon today.. on anything that you could think of. But when searching for a coupon that would save me a few bucks takes a lot of time to find.. then its not worth it. My time is more important than saving a few bucks on something.

  24. Bank Aim says:

    I just watched that TLC show Extreme Couponing.. How the heck do they manage to get money back! Those people are nuts! They spend over 40 hours a week looking for coupons and figuring out how to get everything for free! And all of that hard work for more toilet paper than they could use in a lifetime.. doesn't make sense. These people are closet 'Hoarders'. One of the shows I saw the woman had enough toilet paper, tooth brushes and tooth paste to last for the rest of her life! If that was me I would be selling that crap to my neighbors

    I personally love to use coupons and with anything I buy online I always search for a coupon. You are more likely to find a coupon today.. on anything that you could think of. But when searching for a coupon that would save me a few bucks takes a lot of time to find.. then its not worth it. My time is more important than saving a few bucks on something.

  25. Jackie says:

    I'm not into extreme couponing by any means, but I'm also the person who will buy a heck of a lot of the non-perishable items I do use on sale (+ a coupon if I have it!) if I can.  For example, I buy BBQ sauce once a year, because it lasts all year. I figure if I can buy 4 bottles at 88 cents each instead of 4 bottles at $3.99 each, why not?  Buying things just because there are coupons for them is not for me though.

  26. Shannon says:

    omg! i love this…you are so right. i have gotten into couponing a little and it is SO TIME CONSUMING. i have saved on my groceries..but i hate it when i go into walmart and i see the same thing..people buying everything on the shelf…and its ridiculous. the other day i went into a gas station to buy my papers i only buy 2 everyweek., and this lady was in there, she had 20 papers..this older gentleman came in to buy his paper and the clerk told him they were out., but behind the counter she had stacks and stacks of them. he asked her what all the papers were for and she said they were all on hold. thats just wrong! that man actually reads the paper!, people act so stupid. i gave him my paper, and he was thankful. i work in retail as a manager, so i see these tweaked out couponers everyday, and they will even try to use coupons that they dont even have the merchandise…and then they say if it scans you have to take it. i'm like no i dont. you dont have the correct item that matches that coupon. i think that before to long, all of the stores will have so many strict rules that it will hurt shoppers like me that are not so greedy. i enjoyed reading your post. thank you! Shannon :)

    • Just more proof that (some) couponers are effing crazy. And I appreciate your use of the term "tweaked out" because that's exactly what they are!
      I like the cut of your jib, Shannon. Glad you stopped by my little hole in the interwebs!!

  27. mamatoria says:

    I love this article!  Thank you, thank you , thank you on behalf of us normal people who actually use coupons to just try out a new product or, "gasp," save some money for our weekly shopping!

  28. canyongal56 says:

    I rarely use coupons, and then only on items I would buy anyway, and even then I'm careful. Generally, even with coupons, store brands are cheaper. I do tend to stock up on sale items, though not anything near like what you are reporting that some people do, and only if it's something I actually use. 36 oz. bottle of Heinz ketchup for a dollar at wal-mart? I'll buy 10. Once I found a really good deal on soap, 8 packs of Caress for less than $3.00 and bought several over a one week period. If it's items you will use and signifacant savings, then it's almost foolish not to, but I never clear the shelves, and I keep it to a reasonable limit. Doing this has helped us through many a tough time, buying on sale when I can afford it, so I don't have to buy it at all when I can't. I live in an apartment without much in the way of storage space, so that of course helps keep my stocking up in check!

  29. 2pesopistol says:

    I'm so with you on this. It makes absolutely no sense to buy 200 units of something you don't need. My theory is these folks are more about the "getting something for nothing" than anything else. There's no denying the 'I showed them!' perception they display. Further, I think they know it's an exploitation of the intended marketing purpose of a coupon, which is to incent consumers to try a product, in hopes they will purchase it again. Just because it's not illegal, doesn't mean it's right. I predict if this becomes a trend, savvy corporations will make this impossible.

  30. Sunisshining3 says:

    I think I just found my new favorite blog :)

  31. Stella Inchaurregui says:

    I know I'm way late in commenting on this particular post, but I wrote a similar entry in my blog a few weeks ago ( http://needtospeakout.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/mo… ) about *real* ways to save money on groceries without having to be a crazy-extreme-couponing-lady. I also find the current trend a little disturbing, I must say… but there are perfectly real (legitimate) ways to save money while shopping without having to go to these lengths. I'm with you, I'm over people who coupon like it's a contest, or to hoard items.


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