Did anyone catch TLC’s Extreme Couponing Segment two weeks ago? It was shocking. I was at home on our couch working on some writing when it caught my eye. I consider myself to be frugal with a few bouts here and there of extremism, though I am working on a more balanced approach. However, the men and women on this show make me look like Paris Hilton on Rodeo Drive…after 23 days in prison.
During this show TLC’s producers and cameramen followed around four different people as they prepared for a large stock piling grocery store trip. While the overall strategy used by each of them is similar—use a grocery game service or sales ad, get as many coupons as you possibly can per sale product, and buy as much as you possibly can—each of these people had their own bizarre habits. One woman procured extra coupons by dumpster diving, two of the people purchased mass quantities of coupons off of the internet, and two of the people had dedicated several rooms of their home just to stock their food and toiletries (complete with wall-to-wall warehouse metal shelves). I watched most of it with my mouth open in shock.
This show was part documentary, and so each of the people and their families discussed the why and how behind their syndrome (I am purposefully using the word syndrome). Each gave a story centered around the same theme: fear. Whether the person had gone through a time of no money and little food, a period of unemployment and instability, or was overly concerned for the future, every person acted in this extreme way due to the fears they held about money and food security. Extreme behavior is often a result of some deep (or not so deep) feeling that compels a person to act a certain way or do a certain thing—even extreme couponing. In fact, I have realized through my own self-analysis that I tend to approach money from a position of fear: fear that it will not continue to come to me. Each month that I am paid, each article that I sell, each tax return I receive, could be my last. Because of this, I could identify with the people on this show…except that I have evolved a ton and enjoy my frugal lifestyle. The people on this show do not seem to have evolved, and while many referred to the game aspect of getting free items, I suspect the fun went out of the game long ago.
I have written before about how frugal people can also be plagued by overconsumption, though frugal and overconsumption may seem like an oxymoron. These people coupon very effectively and to such a large scale and seem to have no “off” button. What is enough for them? How many boxes of cereal do they need to feel secure: 20, 100, 1000? Because they have no inner filter, they overconsume like crazy. In fact, there was only one woman on this show that was not heavily overweight.
Here’s a final thought: one of the couples mentioned that they were $20,000 in debt, and that their couponing was allowing them to pay down their debt more quickly. Couponing and shopping sales will definitely help you to pay down debt more quickly, so long as you bank the savings. But they should think a little bit outside of the box, or even see what is right in front of them. The couple was $20,000 in debt but had shelves upon shelves of a total of 10,000 products they had scored for close to free. For a two-person household (heck, for an 8 person household), most of those products would likely expire before they can use them. They should use the products to pay off their debt by either donating the products for a tax deduction that can go towards debt repayment, or by opening up their garage like a shop and offering their 10,000 products at a severe discount. If they sold each piece for $2 each, they could pay off their debt tomorrow.
Did anyone else catch this show? What were your thoughts?
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