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Extreme Couponing or Extremely Annoying?

“Extreme Couponing” is a show on TLC that follows the exploits of self-proclaimed “extreme couponers” and the over-the-top tactics they use to gather as many coupons as possible so they can add to their stockpiles of food and household items.

They will often leave a store with multiple carts filled with hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise procured for just pennies on the dollar.

What the show doesn’t address are the hidden costs of extreme couponing tactics that get passed on to other shoppers in the form of higher prices. Plus, consumers who practice extreme couponing will often clear entire shelves of merchandise in one shopping trip, leaving nothing for the next shopper simply looking for the paper towels they saw on sale in this week’s circular.

Most of us don’t have the time, patience or sense of entitlement it takes to engage in extreme couponing (and do you really want to fill a room with 1,000 bottles of mouthwash?). But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to maximize your savings by using coupons in a respectful, reasonable way – what the Coupon Information Center refers to as “Considerate Couponing.”

Here are some helpful dos and don’ts that can help you maximize coupon savings without going to the extreme.

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Stack the Savings —  A great way to get the most bang for your buck when couponing is to stack your savings by using a manufacturer’s coupon in addition to a store coupon, sale price and/or loyalty discount.

Stay Organized – Keep track of coupon expiration dates. Have your coupons ready when you get to the cashier and hand them over at the beginning of the transaction. After all, would you want to be stuck behind someone fumbling with a stack of coupons at the register?

Know Your Sources – There’s more to coupons than what comes in the Sunday paper. Search online, go to manufacturer’s websites and sign up for store loyalty programs to receive coupons via mail and email. Remember to look for on-package coupons and don’t forget to redeem them at check-out. If you’re a Target shopper, be sure to download their Cartwheel app to get stackable coupons you can redeem directly from your phone.

Pay it Forward – Use your expired coupons to help others. Troopons® is a program that sends all coupons – active and expired –  to military families overseas to help them stretch their buying power at on-base stores.


Photocopy Coupons – Doing so is actually considered a form of counterfeiting and is a punishable criminal offense. Any potential savings simply aren’t worth the risk.

Use Expired Coupons – Extreme couponers may cut off or obscure an expiration date just to use a coupon. While not illegal, it’s a practice that costs everyone in the long run. Manufacturers will not reimburse stores for expired coupons and these losses get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Buy Coupons – All coupons printed in the U.S. have a non-transferability clause, which makes the coupon void if sold for a profit. Plus, many coupon sellers offer stolen or counterfeit coupons, leaving you liable to potential litigation if caught. Again, it’s simply not worth the risk.

Clear the Shelves – Shelf clearing is another extreme couponing tactic to avoid. Think of how frustrating it is when you need a staple item like toilet paper or toothpaste and it’s completely sold out. If you don’t like that feeling, don’t inflict it on others.