Extreme Couponing: Finding Balance While Saving Big!


Tonight, at 9pm, TLC will air a brand new episode of Extreme Couponing! In case you’ve been off in some foreign land and haven’t heard about it, Extreme Couponing is a hit show that follows couponers around as they save insane amounts.  It’s fun to watch and it’s awesome that so many people are learning about coupons – but there’s a big downside we wanted to address:


After the last episode, we received emails from readers who were discouraged that their savings were nowhere near that of the folks on Extreme Couponing.  We felt it was important to explain why this reality show is a far cry from reality!

I want to start by assuring you that you truly CAN save big using coupons – just this week we’ve shown you how to get FREE laundry detergenttoothbrushes, toothpaste, dog food, and salad dressing – amongst other things.  But unless you are a tooth-brushing dog with a hankering for ranch dressing and clean clothes – you have to shop like a real person.  That’s why we strive to teach you how to coupon for Real Life, not just a trip on reality tv.

Shoppers on Extreme Couponing are saving an average of 98%, but this isn’t “normal”.  Let me show you what I mean…

Lets start with Nathan, from the last episode. We know Nathan personally – he’s a Christian with a generous heart, a family, a new baby and two jobs, as well as running the coupon forum WeUseCoupons. (Bless his heart!)  While on Extreme Couponing, Nathan bought 1,100 boxes of cereal, 300 toothbrushes, and 60 bottles of handsoap – among other things.  His total went from $5,743 down to a staggering $241.  Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, let’s get some perspective:

Reality Check!

  • First of all – is this a grocery list that would feed your family for a week?  No way!
  • Secondly, not even Nate shops this way normally.  He bought these items and these items only SPECIFICALLY to achieve the lowest total possible, and with the goal to donate most of it to his church’s food bank.
  • In order to even buy this quantity, he had to meet with the store manager, acquire tons of coupons, and devote lots of time to planning it out perfectly.
  • Besides all that, stores typically have policies which limit the number of sale items you can get and how many of your coupons you can double.

So this is an example of an EXTREME trip with extreme savings.  It’s not a realistic shopping trip, and trying to save that much consistently is not a realistic goal.

Finding Balance

We want you to succeed in real life. Our heart is to help you save money by shopping wisely, and through that, to be able to give to others.  We want to teach you how to coupon effectively, and in a way that you are able to maintain. Sure – it’s possible to have an amazing trip, and we’ll show you how to do that too – but it’s important to set real goals and find a good balance.

Couponing has to fit into your life, not become your life!

I usually go to the store with a plan to buy a few amazingly cheap items, a few pretty cheap items, and a few things I simply can’t do without.  Counting just my cheap/free items in the buggy, sure – I might have 95% savings.  However, once I throw in a gallon of milk, a bag of apples and carrots, a couple pounds of meat, and the “Good” turkey my husband requested – my average savings goes down.  That’s life – and couponing has to work within YOUR life, or you won’t stick with it.

We have to find balance, because our most important roles lie beyond our grocery cart! We are mothers, wives, and friends. We are called to be good stewards with our finances and bless others with our surplus, not merely bring home that trophy-receipt. For us, it’s not just about getting a deal, it’s about making a difference.

If anything – we strive to be Extreme Givers. Every week we list all the items at the grocery and drugstores that are very cheap or free.  We encourage one another to shop purposefully with a heart for giving.  If you can get soup for $.20 – doesn’t it makes sense to get a few extra for your church’s food pantry, or the local food bank, or a struggling neighbor?

What you will find here  (Also see our schedule of Live Coupon Workshops):

Our mission at Time2$ave is to help you save money each week, give inspiration for giving to others, and encourage you along the way.  If you are looking for a community to support and encourage you – we hope you join our Facebook Page, where friendly people are always there to answer questions and share tips!

Thanks and God Bless You!


  1. Momofsix says

    @Kathy Johnson. TLC doesn’t do “realistic” shows. They want to show us extremely unrealistic shows that feature extremes like families with19 children and people who save close to 100% on some specific food bills. They need a disclaimer that says something like, “Please don’t try this at home. The people featured here have mental and/or emotional issues and may have professional help and monetary assistance not mentioned on the show. Um……no way are situations like this even a good idea to try to emulate. They’re just for “shock value” and a ratings manipulation.

  2. jodi says

    thank you. i needed that post desperately. i was feeling so much better about my financial situation now that i’m saving around 75% on my grocery bills. but, after watching the shows, i started feeling like i wasn’t doing the best i could do, and that i needed to do more. my life was quickly becoming out of balance, trying to steal all my extra moments by searching out the best deals/coupons. now i’m back to my “ahhh, i just saved us money honey” self! thanks for the encouragement, and for making sense out of this idea of balanced couponing.

  3. Rose says

    great article, i had the shows set up to record, watched afew and deleted them, dislike this show! love your article!!

  4. Angel says

    When watching these shows I’ve noticed that a lot of what is purchased is unhealthy foods. Although these items are at a good deal, is it still a good deal when you see the future doctor bills for unhealthy eating. Thank you for pointing out that these shows are not realistic. I coupon, but I also use good sense when shopping. Not that I don’t love a deal on candy or my favorite junk food,…occationly but when shopping, I concentrate on quality….my coupons just help me afford those quality healthy items.

  5. CCB says

    I am glad that you posted this message. I have watched these shows and questioned if I was doing something wrong. My purpose is to save money and feed my family. I have learned to take my excess and give it away. I have told others that rotating that much stock has to be time consuming and you have to commit to it. I am not willing to commit. I already know my limitations. Sometimes I get discouraged because I make a mistake or I do not save as much as I think I should. But I am learning and hey at least I have saved something. I am not making as many mistakes as when I first started. People can ask me questions and I have the answers. Thanks for all you do!

  6. Dana Meade says

    My concern is that the people who are doing the extreme in this! Will make grocery stores discontinue coupons. :( Which will spoil it for the rest of us who are genuinely trying to help with our family financial needs. I agree, some of the people on extreme couponing. Need a reality check.

  7. Missy Hilton says

    Thank you so much for this post! My husband watched the show with me. We were so appalled at a couple of the people who were just doing it to STOCKPILE massive amounts of food. I don’t mind seeing people who give back or who have a large family get great savings. I attended the Time 2 Save Workshops two years ago. I am happy if I get 60% to 70% savings when I go to the store. I have reduce our grocery bill by half. My husband was wowed yesterday when I had him use a coupon and a competitor’s coupon for Wish Bone dressing. We had to use a filler (a pack of fig newton cookies) and walked out paying $0.28.
    Thank you for the “REALITY” of couponing! Even if you save a little, that’s money you didn’t have the last time you went shopping!

  8. Amanda Yelverton says

    Thanks for posting this! I went you one of your recent workshops and really felt like I left with a good knowledge on how to save my family money! Thanks for all your hard work!!!

  9. AnnR says

    I agree with Kathy above, the show got on my nerves. It was so unreal for most couponers. I think the people shown have deep emotional problems. I think it is wrong to be a hoader of food to the extent these people do. My supply of food is probably 6 months for soups, 4 months for other canned goods, cereals, crackers, etc. I am thankful for all of the help you give me. I have been able to reduce my grocery bill by about $100 a month and I am happy for that amount at the age of 75 for me and 83 for my husband. It helps us pay our soaring insurance premiums and utility bills!!

  10. Amy Phillips says

    Thanks for this great post and encouragement to keep the right perspective! I’m sharing this on FB. We women-folk are so often tempted into comparing ourselves to others and then placing upon ourselves UNREALISTC EXPECTATIONS based upon what we’ve seen, read, or “heard” somewhere that we become paralyzed and ineffective in the callings our Great God has given us. You reminded us that couponing is a tool for us to use to better minister to our families and to the hurting, needy community around us. And I LOVE the idea of being an “Extreme Giver”! Lord, that I would become more like Jesus, who gave it all!

    Thanks Time 2 $ave, for helping me realign my expections and refocus!

    Amy P. in Hixson

  11. Kathy Johnson says

    Excellent job explaining !! Last time it was on it drove me crazy, I would like for TLC to do a more realistic show

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