Tuesday 29 October 2013

Devouring TV: Extreme Couponing

One of the most astute things that my dad (and maybe anyone) has ever said about me is that I only watch really really good or really really bad TV. It's so incredibly true that I couldn't even say anything about it, just nod in agreement because, yeah. Absolutely. I can't explain this paradox, but the fact is that I want to watch Breaking Bad and I want to watch Hoarders, and I don't want anything in between. The best or the worst, that's all I want.

One thing that no one has ever said about me, but which I know to be true about myself, is that I like to mix the highbrow with the lowbrow- talking about parts of pop culture in a ridiculously over-analytical way for what they are. And that's what you're going to get here, so I can try to justify watching all the Extreme Couponing Netflix has to show, except for the stupid episodes where they've messed with the format and made couponers compete against each other for some reason... That, apparently, is where I draw the line. Weirdly.

So, Extreme Couponing. It's an American reality show wherein people who coupon basically for a living get huge amounts of shopping worth hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars for about $5. It is RIDICULOUS, and so much more exciting than it should be, and it's a shameful yet excellent thing to watch. There are quite a few reasons I suspect I'm so into it, not least of which is that you literally can't do this kind of thing in the UK. We don't have nearly as many coupons, there's no such thing as 'doubling coupons' (Americans: Your shops really do that?!) and most money off vouchers have small print that say 'cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer'. So, there's no possible way for me to ever be, say, paid to take things out of shops, so I have to live vicariously through these people.

A weird and unexpected side effect of watching Extreme Couponing has been that I've started to see the logic in doing what these people do. I mean, don't get me wrong- mostly I watched it because it's completely compulsive and also slides down so easily after a day of unpacking, but, of course, I've thought about it a bit more than that. At first I had a lot of criticisms, like 'whyyy are these people doing this in their free time?' and 'Do they really need that?' and 'Well, they can't get anything healthy with those coupons, anyway.' and it was like the programme had anticipated each of my criticisms and had an answer for all of them.

Like, 'whyyyy are these people doing this in their spare time?' Well, they're doing it so that they can save money. Or so they can support their extended family. Or because their husband lost his job (yeah, it's mostly women who do it...). I'm not saying there's not some kind of compulsion involved, but frankly, I think that if someone wants to do couponing instead of, say, a full time job, then I think that's an equally effective use of one time and also it's kiiind of the opposite of Capitalism, to which I say YAY. I have slightly more of a 'whaaaat?' reaction when people have a full time job, and in their spare time they coupon, because when do you start living, people?!

And 'do they really need that?' Well, they sort of do. Obviously no one needs a fifty year supply of toothpaste all at once, or an entire room for sweets (I actually do need an entire room for sweets, so) but on the whole, the people featured on Extreme Couponing kind of buy things they at least like (apart from this one woman who made her son eat cereal he didn't even like because it was free, which seems a bit against everything I'm trying to say here) and if they don't like them, or won't use them, then they donate them. And you can't really argue with that. Couponing for the good of humanity? That's cool.

'Well, they can't get anything healthy with those coupons anyway.' Well, for the most part, this is pretty true. I've seen people buy many many bottles of vitamin water, packs of oreo cookies, this same brand of noodles over and over again (there must always be coupons for them!), but, as the narration constantly reinforces, coupons for things like meat and produce and basically raw ingredients of all meals are pretty much like unicorns. So, I could watch with the smug belief that, well, at least I eat better than these people. BUT THEN I watched this episode with a vegan couponer, and well. I mean, what can you do with that? She must be pretty healthy AND she saves money. So, my conclusion is that you can be an unhealthy couponer, but you don't have to be.

Obviously, I've overthought this a LOT. But it's fun to do and I like it, so leave me alone! Here are a few random side effects I've experienced watching Extreme Couponing:

  • I've wanted to smack the voiceover person so much whenever he says 'a x% savings.' NO. It's either 'a x% saving' OR 'x% savings'. NOT BOTH.
  • They almost always get tons of vitamin water and it makes me crave vitamin water so badly. This wouldn't be a problem, but vitamin water is SO EXPENSIVE over here. It's not just a little bit more expensive, it's like the same as the dollar price, only in pounds but also with more money added to that? I can't afford that shit, someone find me a coupon!
  • Extreme Couponing is the only thing I've ever watched that makes me kind of want to live in one of the crappier states* in the US because they have better coupons. This is RIDICULOUS, and yet.
So basically. You probably shouldn't watch Extreme Couponing because MY GOD the amount of time you'll spend doing so, but if you feel a compulsion to watch really bad TV (I can't be the only one...) then you couldn't do much better, or in fact worse, than this. I love it, really.

*By crappier, I basically just mean not California or New York. Their couponing deals suuuuuck.


  1. Oh maaaaaan I love hoarding programmes. But I watched a UK thing about some extreme coupon people/super-shoppers and I wanted to kill them all. The people on the programme weren't donating to humanity or living in poverty, they were middle-class bores with anal retentive personalities who spent all their time fighting over which supermarket had the best deals on Hovis and crowing over the fact that they'd bought 20 tins of soup for 50p. It was more like competitive shopping than doing it for a reason, and that kinda sucked. Because that saved money wasn't paying the rent, or going to charity, it was probably going into a car upgrade or something. GRRRR NO. *steps down off soapbox and sidles away*

    HOARDING programmes, on the other hand, always make me cry at the end when the person's all over the moon because they can see their bed again and everything is looking nice at last, and they are SO INSPIRING when I need a good clear out and can't be arsed. True story.

  2. If Extreme Couponing is on tv, I will usually watch it much to my husband's dismay. I would never have the time or energy to do it but it sure is fun to watch!

  3. Watching really, really good TV and really, really bad TV is way better than watching a bunch of mediocre TV.

    It does make me feel better when they buy all this food that they really don't want but then they donate it to charity because AWWW. At least they're doing something good with it. Otherwise they're just buying a bunch of crap and coupons don't work on fresh food. Although one of the guys did say that he does the extreme couponing like once a month and the rest of the time he buys fresh food because OBVIOUSLY no one needs to eat all that canned/frozen/processed food.

    I'll let you know if I find another ridiculous reality show. OH actually, TLC has another show coming out called Extreme Cheapskates and in the commercial the people are sharing floss. FLOSS! Dentists give that away.