Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Extreme Couponing" - not a review, a discussion

Back in January or the end of December, I watched the first episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC and the show lived up to the hype.  It featured people who spend 40+ hours a week collecting and clipping coupons, organizing them, and even more time in the actual store.  Some people did this from what they saw as a necessity, a lost job, for example, some from obsession. 

Like anyone who finds something worth doing and works very diligently at it, there are qualities to be admired in what they do.  They work very hard to spend the least amount of money possible with the greatest return.  Some even donate the surplus they gather, a very admirable thing to do!  We call this "couponing for a cause" and it's wonderful to be able to bless people in that way.

Last night, I watched 2 episodes with my husband and we talked about what made these couponers "extreme."  He calls me a "reasonable couponer."  Doing my best not to have a critical spirit, I do want to express some concerns that I picked up on while watching.

One, anytime something becomes "extreme" in our lives, we run the risk of making it an idol.  Even when something is good, when it takes a position in our lives that overshadows or takes the place of our focus on God we have made it an idol.  Obviously this is from my perspective as a Christian, and one we as believers need to be reminded of frequently.

I also had to wonder what all of those kids were doing while their parents were pouring over piles of coupons.  I usually take a couple of hours during the week to print coupons and cut them.  I'd say 5-7 hours in a really big week.  The average week, maybe 2-3 hours.  Then I spend time making my grocery list and organize my coupons by aisle in the grocery store.  My 3-year-old plays pretty independently when needed, so some of this is done while she is awake, but most of my couponing takes place during nap time so that I'm not taking too much time away from her.  I'm blessed to have a husband that works from a home office, so I also often get to grocery shop during nap time, too. 

If I was spending 30-40 hours a week couponing (not to mention the other things I'm responsible for like laundry, cooking, cleaning) what would my little one be doing?  Watching TV?  Running around unsupervised?  Probably not learning much, not getting cuddle and story time with mom, and not being disciplined.  Even writing this blog entry, I type a little while, then stop to wipe hands, type some more, help a doll stand up, talk to her about not yelling when frustrated, etc.  I'm sure these things go on in the extreme couponer world, but I think it would have been helpful if they had shown what the kids were up to... were they all in school?  There were some really little ones.  Was there a mother's helper, a family member helping?  I know that extreme couponing is not for my family because the reason I stay at home is to raise my children, and I do what I can to save us money (and even make a little if I can) and try not to let it interfere with what my kiddo needs.  That doesn't mean I never tell her to "wait just a minute" while I'm making my grocery list, or zone out in the middle of posting a hot deal on amazon, though!  If I didn't have kids and was at home for whatever reason, now that would be a different story!! 

Now let's address those hoards stockpiles.  First, let me say, I am all about a stockpile of things we will need and use in the foreseeable future.   We have a small stockpile of things like pasta, beans, evaporated milk, cereal, oatmeal, baby food, diapers, wipes and toothbrushes.  Sometimes the stockpile has other things in it if it's free/super cheap and something we use.  Beyond what we will use in the next 3 months (I'll explain why 3 months in the next post), we might donate the other items or I'll use them to make things to bring to a church gathering or for being hospitable to guests.  A surplus is often a great reason to have a party and share your abundance with your friends and neighbors!  We don't have a lot of extra in our budget for "entertaining" so it usually comes straight from the surplus.  

As one reader on the Frugalista Find Facebook Page mentioned, "imagine all the needy people they could help by donating their extras."  Not only are others not being blessed, but having such a stash can indicate an unhealthy fear about what the future brings.  There's preparedness, and there's hoarding.  I'm blessed to have a husband who would keep me accountable if I were to cross the line, and I think it's important to have someone in your life who can be honest with you if you've taken something to an unhealthy extreme. 

Well, now it's your turn.  What did you think about the show?  Inspiring?  Frustrating?

1 comment:

  1. I didn't watch the show, but I did see the first TV special about extreme couponing, which I guess was kinda the pre-quel to the TV series. But in the special, there were definitely people doing it out of necessity, and then there were those that simply got a high off of saving so much money and basically had a mini-mart in their garage of items they realistically couldn't use in a lifetime. Couponing out of necessity I believe is honorable and you are using your brain and working the system that is already in place to save a whole ton of money and keep your family out of debt. So to them I say good job. But the one's that are stockpiling, what's the point? They do most likely have a compulsion issue/fear of what might happen in the future. And you're right about the idol thing, it's just harder to see when what you're doing isn't necessary "wrong."

    And with the kid thing, we can't know exactly how they handle that situation because to most of them, this is a job in their mind's. To them, it's either go to work for a week and make $400-500 bucks, or stay home and save that much in a shopping trip/gas money. I know plenty of parents first-hand that work from home and still send their kids to a daycare or have a nanny that takes care of the kids even though the parent is home. So these "extreme" cases are just that, and anyone who is putting anything above their LORD and their family needs to do some reevaluating of priorities.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!


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