Confessions of a Reformed Extreme Couponer

I started using coupons long before couponing was “cool” and before the phrase “extreme couponer” came about.  When I first started using coupons, I mainly focused on grocery store deals.  Then I discovered the “drug store game.”  In coupon forums I belonged to, people kept talking about shopping at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens and sharing pictures of all their deals.  I discovered I could get shampoo, razors, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for FREE and it was a rush.  I also learned that I could actually get “paid” to buy certain items after store loyalty programs such as RRs or ECBs and rebates.  I became obsessed with planning out scenarios and trying to get the most bang for my buck.

At that time, there were frequently deals were you could “buy” blood glucose monitors, earn ECBs or RRs and get a rebate as well!  There were also coupons that you could use to “buy” the monitors so it was a total moneymaker.  Before, I knew it, I had accumulated quite a supply of blood glucose monitors.

I remember one year on New Years sending my husband out after midnight to a 24 hour CVS store so we could get this deal on monitors.  While he was there, he ran into an elderly couple who was looking for the monitors as well.  They were both diabetic.  Knowing he would probably face my “wrath” when he got home, he still decided to do “the right thing” and gave them a coupon and told them how they could get the deal themselves.  When he shared what he had done with me and as I evaluated the entire situation (honestly who sends their husband out to do a “deal” on New Years?), I realized that couponing had become an obsession.  I had tried to justify my purchases by saying “but it was free” or “I can donate it” but truthfully I was overly protective of the stockpile I had accumulated and wasn’t donating as much as I should have.  That experience made me realize I was going in the wrong direction and that just because something was free or a moneymaker didn’t mean I HAD to have it.  I decided to move in a different direction, started my blog, and began teaching coupon classes. We organized my stockpile, donated many items we didn’t need, and developed a rotation system.

Here are some things I learned along the way:

Don’t be a shelf clearer – I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t believe in being a shelf clearer (even when I was in my crazy, “extreme phase I didn’t believe in this).  Buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time.  Telling yourself that you will donate items doesn’t justify it either (again this is my opinion and I’m entitled to it).  If you want to stockpile a certain item, visit multiple stores or make arrangements with the manager ahead of time to order what you need.

Buy what you need, donate the rest – It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes when you learn how to use coupons and take advantage of store deals.  It’s easy to convince yourself that you WILL find a use for those items at some point or that you can at some point donate them if you don’t need them.  If you plan to donate, then donate right away.  There’s no reason to have shelves filled with dog food if you don’t have pets or cereal and pasta that you will never need.  If you’re not planning to donate, just buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time (before the items expire).

Evaluate the time spent – Since this is a “confessions” post, I admit it.  When I was at my most “extreme” phase, I would sometimes make multiple trips per day or week trying to scout out the best deals.  It was time consuming.  It took time away from my family.  At some point, you have to weigh things out.  I have since learned how to prioritize deals and have realized that sometimes the “deal” is just not worth the time spent.

What do you think?  How much is “too much”?  Do you have any “extreme couponing” confessions?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information


  1. Hey Melissa, yeah… my husband and my 7 year old daughter are my reality check team! When I take my coupons out to cut/organize, I put them away when I’m done, before I would have stacks all over the house. And shelf clearing? NO way!
    CJR @ The Mami Blog

  2. Kearston says:

    Melissa, I am so glad you wrote this. I too have very recently discovered that I have become a bit obsessed with couponing. The deals, the money makers, the possiblity of getting so many things for little to no money has overtaken all my free time. So, just recently, I totaled up all my receipts from couponing this year so far. Savings came up to over 1400 dollars, but spending was at 1700. Definitely not what I wanted to happen. So I have developed a new plan of action:

    1. Since I now have a mediocre stockpile of things (suitable for a family of 4) I will only shop for things I ultimately need (currently I have about 12 boxes of cereal…yeah, not buying that for a while).

    2. I’m going back to the grocery list, as opposed to the couponing list. Again incorporating step 1.

    3. I will only enter the store with the coupons I need, pre-shopping through sales ads/online ads.

    Have anything to add to my plan of action? I’ll take suggestions!

  3. Thank you, I have seen this show and wondered what on earth these people needed all that stuff. I never knew you could coupon this way. My hubby lost his job two years ago, and need to learn how to do this! Any help would be very much welcome. How is the best way to get started??

  4. Thanks for sharing. I never got super extreme, but I still could relate to what you said. I was surprised at how few people highlighted on the TLC show were donating anything when I used to watch it!

  5. I can totally relate to your post. I have cut waaay back on my couponing obsession. I have realized I was buying more than I need, buying a lot of stuff I didn’t need and now have more razors, pantyliners and bodywash than anyone will ever need!

    It’s great when you can stock up on something you need or use for cheap but otherwise I have learned a lot more self control etc. in planning trips and picking deals.

    Not to mention, I really have to cut down on the clutter my coupon obsession has caused.

    • Audrey – I can totally understand the clutter you are referring to! It seriously becomes an addiction and its very hard to keep up with everything!

  6. T eresa says:

    Thank you for your article. At least a year and half ago I decided to do what you have stated in your article and purchase what my family needs. I do have one bookshelf with 5 shelves in my garage with a small stockpile of non-perishable items. I have been able to give to others on different occasions. I feel blessed to do this. I no longer feel guilty or like I am not measuring up to some couponing standard. I am a perfectionist by nature and could get caught up in the whole mindset. It is very irritating to plan my shopping trip and arrive at the store only to find that some thoughtless couponer cleared the shelf. It has truly been a lifesaver with our budget since I am currently unemployed.

    • Teresa – I’m sorry to hear that you are unemployed! We have been through a few rounds of unemployment now, and I sure have been grateful for our stockpile! It’s so nice to be able to have the things that you need on hand when you need them! I hope you’re able to find another job soon!

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