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5 Myths About Extreme Couponing

Many Rochesterians are intrigued by the idea of saving massive amounts of money through extreme couponing techniques. Having watched TV shows like “Extreme Couponing” and “Extreme Cheapskates,” local consumers know there is money to be saved through the savvy use of coupons. But can you really pay pennies for hundreds of dollars worth of food? Some people are skeptical.

Here are five of the biggest myths surrounding extreme couponing:

1. It’s illegal. The fact is that extreme couponing and 99% of its tactics are completely legal. Yes, there are some tactics that are not – like presenting coupons for trial size products when the coupon clearly states it doesn’t apply to trial sizes. But most are just fine. As long as you follow the rules set by manufacturers and retailers, you’re in the clear. So what are those rules?

Many stores now limit the number of the same coupon you can use to buy a particular product. So you may be able to use up to, say, five of the same coupons for facial tissues, but not 20. Most stores do allow you to present both a store coupon, such as at Target, which issues its own, and a manufacturer coupon for the same product. Right now there are plenty of double-dipping opportunities on sunscreen, for example. If you earn money back through Catalina coupon offers you typically can’t use it until your next shopping trip, but those are the big restrictions.

2. You have to cheat the system to save big. Not true. I’ve taken a number of shopping trips where I purchased only products for which I had coupons and ended up saving as much as 90% off the original retail price. Did I cheat? No.

What I did do was plan ahead, matching the coupons I had collected with the products on sale that week at Wegmans, or Tops, or Target, or Walmart.

3. It’s a full-time job being an extreme couponer. Sure, there are plenty of couponers who approach the challenge of saving money as their job, but that doesn’t mean they pursue it full-time. Granted, the more time you invest in studying sales flyers, reading emails summarizing upcoming savings opportunities, and clipping the physical coupons, the more you’ll save. But you can save a big chunk of your grocery budget with just a couple of hours of focused work.

4. Extreme couponers are hoarders. Given that less than 1% of Americans are suspected hoarders, it’s unlikely that all extreme couponers are hoarders. Granted, some bargain hunters may go overboard in stocking up when they can get products at no cost, but that doesn’t mean they have hoarding tendencies across the board. They may be obsessed with saving, but that doesn’t make them hoarders.

Nor do you have to be a hoarder to save big with coupons. By buying strategically, planning ahead for what you’ll need in the next 4-6 months, you may amass a stockpile, but unless you’re considering building an addition to your house to make room for all the paper towels you’ve gotten for free through extreme couponing, I think you’re safe.

5. Extreme couponers are selfish. A focus on saving money generally stems from wanting to provide more for others, not themselves. Many extreme couponers stock up on products so they can give them away to those in need, whether that means family members, community members, or local charities, such as the Open Door Mission. The vast majority of extreme couponers are very generous.

Whether you're interested in saving money for your household through extreme couponing or you're inspired to provide more for others by making better use of your money, extreme couponing can be very rewarding.