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Reader Q & A: Is Extreme Couponing really possible in Michigan?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. 14 comments

Reader Question:

Just curious. I’ve been couponing for 4 months and have learned a lot. Just wondering if there’s more about this to learn. I don’t get $1,000 worth of groceries for $40 like on TLC’s Extreme Couponing show, but I have saved $800 in four months and have gotten many free products. Are the results of the show possible here in Michigan, or is it just a lot of drama?

Answer:

On television, anything is possible. In real life? Well, you might not want to try it at your store.

The basic money-saving principles are the same. Match sales with coupons. Stack store and manufacturer discounts. Stock up on the best deals.

But if you think your cashier and all the customers behind you in line will be all smiles and encouragement as you present a stack of hundreds of coupons at the register, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. :) In fact, you’re likely to freeze up the register.

The show can seem somewhat misleading – but remember that it’s not a DIY try-this-at-home show. Instead TLC’s Extreme Couponing show is “for entertainment purposes only.” Because of the coupon policies here in Michigan, you can’t expect to save money like that. Your store wouldn’t allow you to redeem 100 identical coupons. And your normal shopping trips likely include basic staples like milk, produce and meat – and theirs don’t.

What don’t you see? The final tally and savings percentage shown fails to consider some very important details:

ADDITIONAL COSTS
The volume of coupons required for such a trip comes at a cost – both of personal time and money. Those shoppers featured on EC spent solid DAYS preparing a single grocery shopping trip; that is time that could have been invested in other things. They also generally either order coupons from a clipping service or purchase mass amounts of Sunday newspapers – and 100 copies of anything costs money. For example, one EC show member admitted to purchasing 200 papers per week for the coupons; $2 x 200 papers = $400. Those costs are certainly not mentioned in the final tally.

DISHONEST PRACTICES
Not only that, but in the past a number of shoppers have used misused coupons in a number of ways – counterfeit free item coupons purchased online, using coupons on items the coupon was not intended for, etc. You can read more in the Coupon Information Center’s information about TLC’s Extreme Couponing.

STORE LIMITS
Your Michigan grocery stores will limit you to 2 or 3 identical coupons in your order; sometimes even less. Not all stores will double. Policies vary greatly, even by regions within the state.

There’s good and bad with everything.

The good? Extreme Couponing has enlightened shoppers to realize that they don’t need to pay full price for groceries – coupons CAN be useful in lowering a budget. People who need to save have been able to start renovating their grocery spending and working their way out of debt.

The bad? Extreme Couponing encourages unreasonable practices like coupon misuse, shelf-clearing, overbuying and hoarding. Stores and manufacturers now tend to view ANY couponer as those featured on the show, looking for ways to abuse the system. Store coupon policies and manufacturer coupon fine print have become more strict – and with cashiers on high alert for coupon fraud, honest coupon-users tend to suffer, being falsely accused of illegal methods when redeeming coupons in the store.

Yes, you can SAVE using coupons in Michigan, but it’s not free groceries all the time. Stick around Bargains to Bounty and I’ll show you REALISTIC COUPONING: how to stretch your money, including the best deals at area stores with coupons each week. :)

What are YOUR thoughts on Extreme Couponing?

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Comments

  1. 1

    I find it disturbing to watch Extreme Couponing. It is a variation of Hoarders, Buried Alive. I don’t understand people having a lifetime supply of, say, toothpaste warehoused in their garage, along with hundreds of other lifetime supplies of other stuff. It seems selfish and unhealthy to me. If they need the ‘high’ of purchasing in massive quantities then I don’t understand why they don’t donate the overflow to charitable organizations to help those in need. It makes them appear selfish and mentally unhealthy.

  2. 2

    Thank you so much for your candid and factual review of the TLC show! I am a single mother of two boys, I have always used coupons even when I was young and single and married feeding a family. I have found that since that show has come out, even some friends ( who are not any longer) have made comments to me about “extreme couponing” and how I must be one of “those people”. No, I am not a hoarder and I coupon to make ends meet. So that when my boys ask to go to a movie or do something special I have the little extra money to say yes and do it.
    i personally think that if the reader has saved $800 in four months that is amazing for just getting started.
    Thank you for your website, I refer to it often and I appreciate the time you must have to put into it.
    Kim

  3. 3

    it can be done in michigan 2 weeks ago i went shopping at our krogers and made three different trips to the store and spent less than 30.00 on all three trips and saved 763.87 not bad if you watch what is on sale to your coupons in paper weekly, some krogers double unlimited coupons upto 0.50 cents so yes it can be done ive also gone to howell krogers total bill was 964.00 and spent 184.35 not bad for me, but a friend was shopping with me and saved 250.00 but spent 0.46 cents pretty good, mine was 12.00 only because i miss counted my items but was still happy to get 124 zbars i try to always shop weekly by the adds just to keep up on stock pile ,so i dont run out on things needed but?i do donate alot of stuff to our local food pantries, very well needed, so if you always cut all coupons weekly and take old ones out of book you will get there too,,,,,,,

  4. 4

    There are some people who i know who do this type of shopping.They will spend hours in different supermarkets buying excessive quanities of products with couponss trying to save money.In my opinion it does not justify buying every box of Rice Krispies on the shelf unless you have a family who eats the cereal all of the time.shop smart buy what you need not just because it is on sale and you have coupons for those items

  5. 5

    I think that the show promotes misuse of coupons and coupon policies. Shelf-clearing is the most irritating practice to me. There is no reason why anyone would need 256 Campbells’ soup in a bowl. It’s great to say that they donate it, but now that the shelf is empty, how does that help regular people get a reasonable amount of an inexpensive product? I can’t go to a food pantry to get the items they donated, so I would like to purchase my own.
    It has definitely made it harder to be a “normal” couponer. I get dirty looks from cashiers when a coupon won’t scan and feel like I have to defend where my coupons came from (for example: “no, I didn’t copy these, I printed them from my home computer” or “they came in last week’s paper so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be legit”). Slow and steady wins the race….I pick up a few free/cheap items every week and in the long run, I save a TON of money. Thanks for all the work you do Jolyn :)

  6. 6

    I agree with some of the other comments. When people at my work found out I coupon-ed they would ask me where my stock pile was and how I dealt with my hoarding problem. I’m glad you’re shedding the light on an important fact – not everyone who coupons is an extreme couponer!!! Buying boxes of cereal that are good for 6 months at $1 or less isn’t hoarding… ugh!
    But seriously, Jolyn, thank you so much for all you do. I just referred my mom to your site so she can start couponing. I told her that I would know nothing if it wasn’t for you! Keep up the amazing work :)

  7. 7

    You hit the nail on the head, Jolyn! The average person coupons to save money not buy every item on a store shelf just because they can. I don’t have a room dedicated to my “stockpile” but my closets are full of stuff that I use and got at a great price or free. My son is away at college and I buy him supplies he need while away from home. My son did make the comment that at least now I buy name brand stuff instead of store brands! LOL! A little time, effort and of course, this site can save you a lot of money! Thank you so much for all you do!

  8. 8

    Glad this topic came up. I was hit with an unexpected financial crisis about four years ago. By using local websites like this one for over 18 months I was able to do surprisingly well by shopping sales and using coupons. HOWEVER the best I ever did was getting about $136 for $33. Realistically on average able to cut my grocery bills by 25 -35%. Once Extreme Couponing came on TV that more or less shot my best deals. Yeah you can get some deals but not like you used to. Being in a genuine financial crisis I buy only what is truly needed and I can’t afford, nor do I have the room to stockpile. In truth my best coupon deals was mostly highly processed foods or sugar ladden food which as we all have know is very unhealthy.

    I have more or less quit couponing for food anymore. The money spent previously on food using coupons I now use to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and by drastically cutting my meat intake I shop at Krogers or Trader Joes coupon free. I doubt I spend more than 10% more than I used to using the coupons. I understand to many shoppers coupons are like a game, a challenge, but by adjusting your lifestyle and shopping sales you can also easily live without them.

  9. 9

    Jolyn, You did a wonderful job in explaining the practice of couponing. Every week is a different experience. I agree with you about clearing the shelves. They could have the same things on sale in two months but with a better coupon. Have a wonderful labor day! you do a great job.

  10. 10

    The savings you might get one day with one particular sale at any one store could be very good.
    But when you look at the cost of everything you need to buy for an entire family during a month’s time, there’s going to be a limit as to how much savings you can do. In fact, I’ve often found that couponing allows me to get more merchandise for the money, or a more popular brand for the money, than slash the average cost of groceries dramatically. But either possibility might be desirable in its own right.
    The lesson I teach, and you can find it as a guest post in the B2B archives, is that a reasonable grocery budget is USDA Cost of Food Study’s “thrifty” range for your size family.
    http://www.bargainstobounty.com/2010/10/guest-post-whats-a-reasonable-grocery-budget/

  11. 11

    To j howard- during the time you started to use the coupons ( when you first were) also taught you to think more clearly about your purchases, and the value of each and every purchase. This was very helpful in changing your spending habits, therefore now you are able to shop coupon free and still be thrifty, had you never had to use those coupons then most likely you would not be able to stretch your dollars as well as you can now. Think of that as a learning experience. Most items that people buy are wasted normally, im sure that through your tough times you learned how to avoid waste, which is a value that is priceless.

  12. 12

    Most items non-couponers buy is what I ment to say sorry

  13. 13

    I love to coupon! The thing that does irritate me is certain people that assume people that coupon do it extreme style! I don’t! Don’t get me wrong I do stock up on stuff when there is a good deal,but im ususally giving stuff away to my sister or friends..AND that makes me feel great being able to give stuff away! Thanks so much for all that you do :)

  14. 14

    I quit my job to go back to school last year and my family now relys on my husband’s income as our sole income. Couponing has helped us cut down our grocery bill dramatically and I am now able to afford brand names which is very exciting for me. I love this website, to me it is my favorite and is the one I use the most. I always find the best deals here. I never clear shelves and with all the limits there are these days it’s really not possible. I also share the stuff I get with friends and family and I share coupons as well. Couponing has changed my life. :)