What Has Extreme Couponing Done to the Way We Shop

From Extreme Couponers getting banned from Walmart, clearing grocery store shelves to uneucated, newbie couponers not following store coupon policies, it is ruining the use of coupons for the “average shopper” and making it bad all around for everyone. If you viewed the Extreme Couponing series on TLC you know that some couponers go to extremes by getting all kinds of groceries for next to nothing or even free. What they don’t show you is how they staged the show to make it look like this is how they shop all of the time and they are most likely cheating the system. This isn’t true for the majority but there are always a few bag eggs and the show is producing uneducated, newbie couponers who don’t want to be bothered by finding out the proper way to use coupons.

extreme couponers

I know a few of these Extreme Couponers and most spend a lot of time making sure they know their local grocery and Big Box stores (Walmart and Target) and drugstore (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc) coupon policies. They want to make sure they are following the rules.

You may or maybe know that brands put out all kinds of free coupons online and the policy for using them is to never photocopy the coupon. Most of the time they want you to print them only once but sometimes you can print them twice. You need to read the fine print to find out what is allowed. This is part of doing the research so you can save money and stay within coupon guidelines for proper usage.

Each coupon you use should have a unique UPC code, unless otherwise stated. What I see is uneducated, newbie couponers who watched the TLC Extreme Couponing series who don’t care about following the rules or staying within coupon guidelines. They saw a way of getting free food and said, “they can do it, so can I” and they will do whatever they need to get their groceries for free, whether it hurts the rest of of the grocery shopping world or not.

Rules are there for a reason whether you are entering a sweepstakes or using a coupon in a store. Brands want you to try their product and are offering the coupon so you will try it and buy it again if you like it. They aren’t giving you coupons so you can get all of your groceries for free or clear all of the groceries off of the store shelves. I don’t agree with hoarding tons of groceries, 10 or 20 or something is the limit I think you should have at any one time but that is another topic. If you have to insure your stockpile there’s something wrong.

I agree with using coupons to save money but what some of the Extreme Couponers, whether they were featured on the show or they are coupon newbies, is hurting the entire population of shoppers, not just one or two.

Get Educated in Coupon Shopping

Here are some things you can do to become an educated coupon shopper.

  1. Before you set out to use coupons on your shopping trip make sure you know the policies of your local store. Go to the Customer Service desk or look at the grocery store’s website to find it.
  2. Make sure you never photocopy a coupon.
  3. Don’t argue with the store manager. Being polite goes a long way in creating goodwill. If you have an issue in the store make sure you have a copy of the coupon policy with you to show them.
  4. Be prepared and be aware and you will save money on your groceries and help out your fellow shopper too.

Read my Guide to Using Coupons

Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links. Some products may be media samples given to us to for our honest review. All opinions are our own and not that of the brand. Read our policies for more details.


  1. donna k says:

    Good article..I have not seen the show on TLC, and I don’t intend to. It does seem that the show has brought unwanted attention to coupon.s,unfortunately stores now “have” looked at their store policies a bit closer. I agree this has hurt anyone that uses coupons the “Correct” way.

  2. Very well said! It is a shame how that tv show is ruining people that use coupons. I always advocate for using all the stores guidelines. Get friendly with the store employees, it will go a long way.

  3. Very well stated Wendy…Anyone that watches that show and thinks that they can automatically walk out of any store with multiple shopping carts is very uneducated in the process. One thing I keep in mind when going is that if there is an issue with using a coupon in the store it is best to walk away without an altercation. Go home review the policy online and if you are in the right go through the proper channels to file a legitimate complaint. Stores are VERY MUCH now on their toes with this showing drawing so much attention. I personally don’t do any of the things shown on tv ( like take 6 shopping carts to the checkout!)..I set a budget..Clip my coupons accordingly match to the current weeks ads and go do my shopping with the full price in my head…that way after coupons whether I save a little or alot I am happy! And at the end of the day its about being happy with yourself and accomplishing saving money for your family. On a final note thank you for all the ad matches that you post showing us how to better use our money saving coupons legally!

  4. Hi Wendy,

    Nice post. This show inspired my wife to coupon, which has made it easier for her to stay home with our 8 month old. She has cut our grocery bill by about 30 to 40 percent per month; not crazy, but it’s a lot when you add it up. However, I’ve heard that some of the stores featured on the show bent their own rules to make the show look better, and a few bad eggs in the system are causing couponing as a whole to be re-evaluated and end up punishing the people who are playing by the rules. Either way, I have a humor blog and I a wrote a pretty amusing story about the first roadblock my wife hit as a couponer: http://simplemanssurvivalguide.blogspot.com/2011/05/word-of-advice-to-paperboy-who-forgot.html



    • Thanks for stopping by and reading my article about extreme couponing Travis. I will take a look at your blog. Couponing is a great way to save money and I’m all for getting free food but there is really a limit – well in my opinion (we all have one). I just don’t like it when people don’t think of the other customers they are hurting when they bend rules or clear shelves. Just think of your fellow man once and awhile and we all win.

  5. Thanks for posting this Wendy. I do watch the show and shake my head because here in South Jersey, the stuff they do on the show is not allowed here. For instance, our Shop-Rite only allows 4 like coupons, they don’t allow for any overage and coupons only double up to $1. (For instance a coupon for 75 cents off, will only be worth $1.00, not $1.50.)
    I also don’t understand why some of the people on the show need over 100 bags of crouton for their stockpile. They would be stale by the time they get to use them. Likewise for the 100 packages of Excederin. Wouldn’t they expire before you would ever be able to use them?
    It makes it very frustrating to shoppers like myself who just want to get 2 bags of croutons, 2 boxes of cereal, etc. for free or nearly free, but we can’t because the shelves are wiped clean.

  6. destiny says:

    Good post Wendy! I have used coupons for years I usually get 2 Sunday papers one local and one national and make use of the coupons in them. I think some of the people on that show are great especially the ones who give back to their community from it. Then there are the others they are “hoarders” there was an episode with a lady who had enough diapers to last 2 years and didn’t even have kids yet! Diapers don’t last that long she should have donated them.
    I don’t have room to keep any kind of stockpile the things I do keep on hand at a max of 5 are laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner things of that nature. Today I took my coupons and went to the store and got $205 worth of stuff for $66 not extreme but not bad.
    I hope more of those extreme couponers will start to give back if they can but I think the average person will realize really fast that it is almost impossible to shop the way they do. Mostly what they buy is a lot of junk too each show I saw had those noodles in it they are usually $1 each my kids won’t touch them so even if I could get it free the only place I would take it would be to a homeless shelter. I agree with Lori though, when I went today the shelves were almost clean of things I had coupons for and I saw multiple people with coupon binders trying to figure out their “stackable” coupons. Hopefully it is just a fad and things will go back to normal soon.

  7. ShellyP says:

    Thanks for speaking on this matter Sweetie. I was in the supermarket the other day having this same conversation with someone. I’ve been using coupons for years, but I’ve never gone to an “extreme”. As for the show, I’ve only watched it once and couldn’t do it again. Stockpiling and donating half or more of the purchase I can see, but clearing shelves and keeping everything…Wow. Those actions are hurting the rest of us and companies are gonna cut back on coupons.

  8. yea, and now they are wanting to do a show about extreme sweepers… I can only imagine what harm that will do they way it did with extreme couponers… 🙁

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