Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take the EXTREME out of Couponing

So a couple nights ago I sat down to organize some scrapbooking stuff and decided to flip on the TV, something I rarely do. Of course, there was nothing on regular TV worth watching, so I searched the free stuff that was on demand. I came across a new show produced by TLC which I have heard people talking about—it’s called Extreme Couponing.

Sucked in from the very start, I flipped on the first episode. It is completely mind-blowing to see how these moms can quit their full-time jobs to stay at home in exchange for becoming full time couponing. Even their children are already being trained to find coupons to clip. Crazy. Anyhow, the show basically shares the stories of two individuals on each episode, as the cameras follow the moms (in this case it was two moms) on the biggest buys they have ever attempted. In both cases, the total at the grocery store rang up well over $2,500 but after all of the coupons were added in, one mom paid $40 and another paid NOTHING!!! Absolutely mind-blowing to me. Defiantly makes me think twice when I see a coupon that normally would be nothing but trash in my eyes.

Anyhow, there are two things about this show that are incredibly frustrating to me. The first is that these moms buy TONS of food, cleaning supplies, sports drinks and so on and take it home to add to their stock piles of supplies. Literally each household has a room stacked from floor to ceiling with the products purchased with these coupons. The question plaguing my mind throughout the entire show it this:  what are you going to do with all of that food? Even with four kids and a husband to feed, there is no way you will even get through a quarter of that stuff in a month! All it does is sit there, waiting to be used and by the time these families use it, I’m sure there will be another ceiling-high pile waiting in the line-up. If these moms are so gifted at couponing, why not use it to help others?

I know that without a doubt, I would never have the patience or ability to spend hours searching for, clipping, and then planning to use coupons to the extent of these women in the show. I don’t think most of us women would, in all reality—life is busy. I know this may be stretching this concept a tad, but if God has gifted moms like these to save THOUSANDS of dollars by using coupons, then imagine how you could use that gift to further the kingdom? Granted, they may not be believers, but can you imagine how much money these women could save for non-profits, homeless shelters or churches? After spending some time in Tent City, a homeless camp in downtown St. Louis, this summer I wish with all of my heart I had the gift of couponing so that I could give endlessly to the men and women without a place to call home. I am going to begin praying for the Lord to break these women’s hearts for underprivileged women and families—that they may serve others through their gift of couponing and that TLC would promote such service so that the concept will spread.

My other frustration with the show was this—in all three episodes I watched, I never saw the women purchase one fruit or vegetable with a coupon. The majority of the product they bought was all located in the center aisles of the store—all of it processed. This makes perfect sense, considering you really cant buy fruits and veggies in bulk since they will go bad quicker then you could eat them. As a dietetics student, this makes me want to SCREAM!!!! Society totally promotes the purchase of processed products by creating discounts on these foods over natural, organic and wholesome foods and discounts the rates even more when you buy these processed items in larger amounts—which is ultimately the basis of couponing. The more you buy, the cheaper you can get it. This trend is also seen in the fast food industry—larger portions come cheaper. I do wonder what part of extreme couponing contributes to long-term obesity and disease. Of course when you buy a ton of food loaded with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, bad fats, empty carbohydrates, and filled with fortified nutrients over the real stuff, eventually it has to take a toll right?

So then I found myself wondering—is it worth it to eat for cheaper if the food you are eating is not really feeding your body the nutrients it needs to be healthy? For me the answer is no, it is really not worth it. So while the building of that big moment when the register drops from thousands of dollars down to nothing is surprisingly gratifying, I think I will remain content saving with a few coupons here and there on the things that I know will promote health and wholeness to my body for the long-term, rather then buying things that will harm in the long term even though my wallet benefits in the interim.

I am learning that in all things, balance is key. Whether it is shopping, seeking entertainment, eating, cleaning, working out…we must be careful not to become too radical in any area of life, to not become so caught up in a trend or a television show or belief that we can no longer hear the whisper. I have battled this “all or nothing” mindset for the past twenty years of my life (yes that’s my whole life!) and the older I get the more challenging and frequent the battle has become.

No more eating out, no more buying clothes, no more movies with friends—I am getting radical about my giving. Four months later—Lord haven’t I given enough? I want to go out with my friends.

I will never watch a movie with a cuss word…then I meet a friend that’s not a believer who invites me to watch a movie that’s PG-13…which usually entails cussing. So do I sacrifice that relationship in pursuit of purity?

After hours of cleaning everything in my room sparkles and shines—it is all put away and looks like a magazine image. As the week goes on, the demands of school and work tug me away from maintain such magazine-quality cleanliness. All of a sudden it is a disaster—just looking at makes my heart beat quicken—so I just give up on having a clean room. Everyone knows I’m messy.

I have got to lose twenty pounds—it’s time to get serious. No more going out for ice cream the rest of the summer. No more bread with dinner. No more fast food. I will never eat another processed thing in my life. Two weeks in, I can’t handle it—so I binge on every item I had been depriving myself of. That was pointless.

I start running five days a week—training for a marathon here! I push my body to its limits again and again. It hurts so good. After months and months of training, the big day has finally come—and gone. I don’t see the sun for weeks—guess those daily runs are over with.

This might be a bit extreme...

This black and white stuff is filled with lies and gimmicks! Everything in balance—if only I could learn how to trade in the black and white for a little gray once in a while. My life needs a little more gray sometimes! So just as with cleaning, food, shopping, exercise and entertainment—I think balance in couponing is key. Some gray coupons would be handy right about now. J Though it is entertaining to watch and I am all baotu saving some money, I think we need to take the EXTREME out of the couponing—I think we need to take it out of anything other then our relationship with Christ. He is the only one worthy of my extremes.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
-Deuteronomy 6:5


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  2. Let me just say you are very insightful....all of these thoughts stemmed from just one tv show - your writing is incredible and blows my mind most of the time!

    I love everything you said here - really good points! It is definitely super satisfying to save money with coupons especially that moment at the register when the total gets lower and lower...but I agree with you there comes a point when the whole couponing 'strategy' can turn into greed, and perhaps the person doesn't even realize it. I agree with you and have been learning myself that balance is what's important.

    I've checked out customer upon customer at Walgreens who know how to work the system with the coupons - the other day I had a lady buy 30+ things of tin foil for like $3 - what in the world are you going to do with that many things of tin foil????!!! Seriously. I think the key is using coupons for things you were already planning on buying and like you said, not sacrificing your health for a good deal (unfortunately, I do not think they make coupons for fruits and vegetables, at least I've never seen them)

    One of the coupon mom's I checked out at Walgreens informed me you can buy coupons on ebay!