The simple answer is yes, I've seen it, and no I am not. TV shows are about the extreme; as we all know, “reality” TV is staged and edited carefully, and you can’t always believe what you see. I watched one episode (and a bit of a second) and that was enough to know that it was an over-the-top show.
But there’s a bit more to it. The truth is that I can’t ever see myself being the subject of a show like that for five big reasons:
1. I don’t have the space for a giant stockpile. I have one refrigerator with a freezer compartment and one small pantry. That’s it. I’m not willing to give up a room in my house just for nonperishables, and I don’t have a garage or extra office for that. When I buy a few months’ worth of something, which I have done, it’s something small or something easily stored or something I’m going to actually use in those few months.
2. My philosophy is pretty straightforward: it’s not how much you save, it’s how much you spend. I don’t care if you saved 80 percent on your grocery bill. How much did you spend and what did you wind up with?
Can you feed your family on 100 bottles of mustard? No. Did you spend $100 and then save $800? Then you still spent $100 of your money on groceries. I know about the thrill of the hunt and I love a good freebie. But if it’s not something we use regularly, I limit how much of that freebie I acquire.
If it’s something we’ll never use and isn’t something I think I could donate, then I don’t bother with it at all. And if it’s a discount, rather than free, I check how much it actually costs before deciding if it’s worth it - sometimes a 10 percent discount is amazing if it’s something that we use that rarely goes on sale, while half-price widgets that are expensive and unnecessary to start with get passed on by.
3. I don’t use coupons fraudulently. It’s come to light that at least one of the subjects of that television show may have done so. Even with computers and barcodes carefully matched up by the manufacturer, there are always ways to fudge the system (illegal ways). If you only use a few coupons at a time, like I do, you’d never get away with it anyway. But if you walk into a store with hundreds of coupons and items, like those on the show do, well...it’s going to look like you achieved some sweet bargains when you did little more than steal. Not everyone does it - probably very, very few people on TV or off do it - but it happens.
4. I don’t plan ahead well enough to make sure I have extra coupons to cover extra sale items. I usually have two or three coupons, so I buy two or three things. Very rarely do I learn about a sale early enough that I can rally the troops to get coupons to stockpile.
5. I’m married to someone who would never let me buy out a store or buy 50 tubes of toothpaste at once. Ever.
And Yet, They Do Get Great Deals
I admit, sometimes I’m envious of the deals some of the people on this show get. Some of those people do donate vast quantities of food and toiletries to food pantries. Some of those people do have a useful stockpile of food and household goods that not only lasts them months (and that is properly rotated so it doesn’t sit around and expire) but that also can help friends and family in need.
Some of these people shop once every few months, spend very little, and don’t need to shop again until the next sale cycle. And some of those people are truly being thrifty in an economy that requires cutting corners.
You know it and I know it; most of the people on that show are on that show for a reason - to get you to watch. Nobody wants to see me use 20 coupons, save 30 percent, and fret over the fact that I paid full price for my vegetarian frozen entree. Nobody wants to see my chaotic but small pantry. No, good television is extremes and drama. None of that here. (Well, not enough of it for TV, anyway.)
Are you worried about being judged like those on this show? Don’t be. Use your coupons with pride, be excited over your savings, and don’t worry about the very few people who use or abuse the system. If someone asks you about the show, just say that you don’t watch TV, as you’re too busy reading great works of literature...