Extreme(ly) Weird

I didn’t really intend to watch Extreme Couponing. In large part, I objected to use of the word “coupon” as a verb. Not. A. Verb. “Couponing” therefore is not a real word. The proper way to verbally characterize the act of clipping and using coupons is to say “clipping or using coupons”. There’s no need to mangle the language and make up new verbs instead.

(For the record, I feel just as strongly about the word “incentivize”. It’s on the Merriam-Webster website but I think it’s wrong. There was nothing wrong with saying “create incentives”. “Incentivize” is just dumb corporate-speak gone mainstream.)

Anyway, imaginary vocabulary words aside, the entire premise of Extreme Couponing didn’t look like interesting television. Who really wants to watch people shop for condiments? Not me. But I do like to watch polygamists and Extreme Couponing comes on after Sister Wives so I ended up watching part of it kind of by accident and kind of because I could not look away. There was this lady who spends dozens of hours each week researching sales and coupons so she can spend next to nothing for more mustard than anyone should even consider eating over the course of a lifetime unless they are participants in an experiment to see how quickly one can develop condiment-acquired hypertension. I think she bought about 60 bottles. This broad pulled up to the register with multiple carts and watched as the retail total on her merchandise crept up over $1000 (which is more than I spend on groceries in a month, I might add) and then she handed over her coupons and brought the total down to something ridiculous like $100.  Then she took it all home to store in her bunker in the event of the apocalypse.

No, not really. This would all be easier to take if she were a garden-variety doomsday conspiracy theorist who was preparing for life after a fiery end to humanity, or at least the food processing portions thereof. Instead, she’s a woman whose husband lost his job and she didn’t want to change their standard of living, which apparently involved a cut-glass goblet full of mustard as a beverage at each meal. So, she figured out how to buy stuff using coupons and store sales for a fraction of the cost. Which would be admirable if she wasn’t basically just a really cheap hoarder.

Apparently there’s a whole sub-culture of people out there who time their grocery shopping to coincide with sales and they use coupons as well to bring prices way down. They buy enough of any given product to last them until the next time it goes on sale, which I guess is every few months. That sounds like a reasonable goal but the behavior can be taken to disturbing extremes, as evidence by Extreme Couponing. Like the guy with over 1,000 tubes of toothpaste. Or the lady with 4,000 diapers stockpiled in her basement even though she has no children. Oh, and the lady with all the mustard has been accused of coupon fraud so there’s even a coupon underworld where nefarious actors make the rest of the harmless bargain-hunting stockpilers look bad.

Now, tell me this: what is the difference between the man with hundreds of pounds of toothpaste stacked neatly in his garage and those people on Hoarding: Buried Alive who have Christmas ornaments stacked to the ceiling of their downstairs powder room? Because to me, they look like different versions of the same disorder.

When did we become so obsessed with stuff that we have to have it, even if we don’t have the money? Why not use less mustard per sandwich? Switch from paper towels to cloth ones that can be washed to save a little money? Make chicken soup from the bones of a chicken you already ate instead of buying a case of canned soup at cost? Or what about only buying the stuff that we need instead of the stuff that we might need at some undefined point in the future? What comfort does a basement full of bodywash and sports drinks really bring? It won’t make life less uncertain. It won’t stave off misfortune. It’s basically an illusion of security. And the hours spent poring over circulars and websites is time that never comes back. Sure, it’ll save you money but what will you be losing instead?

Maybe someday a day will come when my resources are so restricted that I’ll understand diving into the world of radical coupon usage. But until that day comes, I’ll satisfy my desire to be thrifty by scoping out the sale racks at Target and use the time I save to hang out with my family. Ans I’ll never use “coupon” as a verb.




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17 comments for “Extreme(ly) Weird

  1. Kristi
    April 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Holy cow! I just stumbled on that show, too. It’s a sickness, indeed. It’s also really greedy. I’d like so see those people donate some of that metric ton of mustard to those in need.

  2. April 19, 2011 at 9:36 am


    While I do believe in having a stockpile, just in case of a zombie apocalypse, I am stymied by the fact that a) I hate shopping, especially in any kind of quantity, b) I have no space for a stockpile and c) if I had any extra hours a week, I imagine I would spend them doing more family things rather than cutting coupons.

    Also, all the coupons I find are for things we don’t use. When they start printing them for organic veggies, I’m game. Until then, you can keep your Dinty Moore and Hungry Man.

  3. April 19, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this! I overheard wpmen talking abput it and i thpught i heatd wrong! I thoight for sure, if the show existed, i would hsve been alertrd by my fellow bloggers. And now it’s confirmed.

    Two things: sister wives is back on????

    And: i also hate the word green Used as a verb. “green your cleaning routine”


  4. wendy
    April 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

    If I find something I love at Costco, I might buy a few extra, because you never know when Costco will make it go away. Coupons? I might snip one here and there, and then I leave it on the desk when I go to the store. What I really want to know is when are they going to make their giant mustard slip & slide?

  5. April 19, 2011 at 10:15 am

    This would be me if I lived in the States. I got a small taste of it when I was shopping at Wegman’s and a cashier took pity on me and used a few coupons so a box of cereal I bought cost me all of 32¢.

    I would make it my hoarding sport. I have no doubt.

    It’s probably best that I live in Canada where “couponing” is lame.

  6. Shelley
    April 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I totally understand using coupons and I use them frequently myself. But it is freaking insane to buy 60 bottles of mustard because you had 72 coupons and your store doubled the coupons and you got them for 1/10th of a cent. What in the hell do you do with that much mustard? I don’t get it. Did you hear the part where Mustard Lady (She lives in Maryland by the way. Great, make MDers look like big idiots.) was buying the mustard and her husband said that he didn’t even eat mustard? Also, my friend told me that the episode showed a copy of the mustard coupons and they weren’t even the right coupons for the product she bought.

    “Extreme Couponing” is not the right name for the show. It should be called “Coupons: Hoarders Gone Cheap”.

    Also, I can understand buying more than one of certain things when they are on sale and you have a coupon – laundry detergent for example. But not useless shit. And not enough to have to store it in a shower stall or under my kid’s bed.

    And I did not see any of the people buy enough food to produce actual healthy meals. I didn’t see fresh fruits or veggies, bread, milk, or anything like that.

  7. April 19, 2011 at 10:35 am

    HA ha!! So glad someone else thinks the way I do!!! I don’t NEED 15 bottles of ketchup….E-V-E-R!! Who has an entire extra room reserved for hoarding items they bought w/a coupon or on sale?? Not this mama. The idea of using coupons is great…but stockpiling seems, well, silly to me. but that’s just my opinion (and I think it’s right by the way!)

  8. amy
    April 19, 2011 at 11:31 am

    OMG hit the nail on the head as usual. I use coupons because everyone likes to get a deal but what this show is showing us that there are some people who really need some therapy..stat!

  9. Emma S
    April 19, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I happened to catch the same show, but watched it through to the end. While I think some of these people are just batsh!t crazy, the toothpaste guy did actually donate that toothpaste at the end of the show. The very end showed him making up hundreds of personal hygeine goodie-bags (each including toothpaste, deodorant, and the like) that he was sending to the troops overseas. I just wish that all of these people were doing the same thing. It’s no use getting something for free just to have it sit in your basement for 5 years taking up space and collecting dust.
    On the previous week’s episode there was a woman who was doing the same thing with goodie-bags for the people of Japan who were affected by the earthquake/tsunami.
    It seems there are a few who take to be able to give back.

  10. April 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    There are coupon extremists who donate a lot of that extra to food shelves – THAT would be good television.

  11. April 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    You know, about the lady with the grocery carts full of mustard…I have a question. Does anyone’s grocery store even carry that much mustard? I mean, thinking about our local Walmart, it doesn’t carry nearly enough mustard to fill half of a grocery cart, let alone multiple carts.

    I’m calling shenanigans.

  12. Laura
    April 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I watched an episode once, and that was enough. This lady had enough toilet paper to last decades. I don’t care if it was free, I seriously have no need to turn my basement into a mini-Walmart. At least take some of the stash and donate to a womens’ shelter, homeless shelter, or any similar charity that would more than gladly take it, especially in this economy where there are a lot of people who need it. I like to save a buck, who doesn’t? But this is just beyond logic.

  13. Jules
    April 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I hate “reference” as a verb. Again, M-W likes it, but no one else, especially me, does. And that show is weird.

  14. April 19, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    couldn’t agree more!

  15. April 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    The word that irks me: architecting. Ugh. An architect is a person. An architect designs stuff, he doesn’t architect it.

  16. April 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I gave up reality shows and am regretting it! Lol I heard some lady bought 14,000 rolls of paper towels to save money.

    By the way, I could totally hoard ketchup because the twins go through a bottle meal. Seriously.

    Xo susie

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