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Coupons, with a Side of Obsession and Fraud

Coupon Crazy

Extreme Couponing is on the rise. TLC even has a TV show about it:

For those in the mood for a great review and entertaining rant about TLC’s Extreme Couponing, I recommend this post over at Scratchbomb.com: Extreme Couponing Induces Extreme Vomiting.  Matthew makes excellent points and I agree almost everything he has to say.  I particularly agree with the following:

  1. There is virtually no such thing as a coupon for decent food. There are no coupons for “bananas” or “organic chicken” or “fresh vegetables”. These extreme couponers are stocking up almost exclusively on packaged or frozen food, loaded with preservatives, salt, hormones, and a billion other horrible things. It’s all Franken-food, the absolute worst shit imaginable. Not a lot of salad in these people’s shopping carts, but a whole lot of things stuffed with cheese and/or skewered on sticks.
  2. The goal for most of these people appears to be not feeding/supplying their families, but accumulating the most stuff for as little money as possible, then shoving those things into every corner of their house, then building more corners in their house into which things can be stuffed. The line between “extreme couponer” and “hoarder” is extremely thin–if such a line exists.

Unfortunately, like many fast growing national obsessions, Extreme Couponing has its cases of scams and frauds.  Frugal Confessions has a interesting article on how relatively widespread coupon fraud has become.

Once I began researching, I was very surprised to find the problem is more widespread and costly than just a few consumers getting away with free products. Just in the month of May 2011 there were 25 counterfeit coupons posted on the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) website with various rewards being offered from the manufacturing companies for the successful prosecution of individuals responsible for producing the counterfeit coupon.

For those that are new to being frugal at the grocery store, consider reading: 5 Sneaky Price Tricks Your Grocer Doesn’t Want You To Know.

Before you start going crazy with the coupons, you might want to consider Extreme Couponing? 5 Reasons Why I’ll Pass.  Here Paul, explains 5 big issues with the practice.  Of his five reasons, 3 out of the 5 have to do with time:

1. It’s a Full-Time Commitment

3. You Become a Slave to Coupons

4. You Spend Hours at the Grocery Store

I use coupons all the time, but I take a basic time/value equation into account when I do.  For example, if I spend 2 minutes finding a coupon that can save me $3 off something I was going to buy anyway, this is effectively like earning $90 an hour.  Or perhaps I spend 20 minutes digging for a 10% off coupon for a on a major purchase — if this saves me $150 off a $1000 purchase, my effective hourly rate is now $450 an hour.  It works for small purchases too.  For example, Redbox always has codes available at sites like Inside Redbox; here it will literally take less than 60 seconds to find a coupon that could save you a $1.  This works out to $60 an hour, which is definitely worth the time.

So please, go find those discounts, but don’t make it your full time job or obsession and be sure you make a time/value calculation when you do it.  Perhaps your time is better spend learning something new or working to get a promotion or better career or maybe even spending more time with your family.

 

Photo Credit: Dmdonahoo

 

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