Sonya Sorich: Extreme Couponing on TLC is a little too extreme

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 27, 2011 

You preface the conversation with a disclaimer: “I’m not one of those people.”

Thanks to rise of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” that’s now a necessary way to begin any discussion about saving money with coupons.

On one hand, your ability to maintain a balanced budget in a rough economy will attract social intrigue. On the other hand, well, people might think you’re crazy.

That’s largely due to “Extreme Couponing.” On each episode of the reality series, we meet a spotlighted couponer, who describes the economic circumstances that led to his or her interest in coupons.

After watching that person’s coupon regimen -- usually a balance of clipping newspaper coupons and finding coupons online -- we get a glimpse at the couponer’s stockpile. The warehouse-like space usually contains 1,568 bottles of soap, 934 frozen dinners and 6,237 bags of kitty litter. I’m only slightly exaggerating.

Each segment concludes with a massive supermarket haul in which the featured couponer generally manages to freeze a cash register or two by using so many coupons.

Frightening? Yep. But it’s also a little appealing, especially when you watch the show’s featured couponers pay double digits for a stockpile with a triple-digit price tag. Plus, these people aren’t mathematical geniuses with Ivy League business degrees.

They seem like regular (borderline obsessive) folks who want to save money -- which makes you think, “Hey, maybe I could do that.”

That might explain the rash of nationwide newspaper thefts that USA Today attributes in part to the series. Not to mention the urge for budget-savvy shoppers to disassociate themselves from “those people.”

Kelly Pressy knows the tendency. The local woman shares coupon tips on a website, Kelly’s Coupon Addiction. She began a recent presentation at our office by reminding guests that you can save money without entering insane asylum territory.

On a basic level, the strategies depicted on “Extreme Couponing” are real. There’s some satisfaction in mastering the game well enough to defeat the big bad economy.

But when you measure your self-worth by the contents of your soap stockpile, you’ve gone too far.

If you watch: “Extreme Couponing” returns 10 p.m. Wednesday on TLC.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/blogs to read her Walk of Shame blog.

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