By Kevin Meyer
Somehow I got roped into watching another mind-numbing show on TV… Extreme Couponing on TLC. How and why? If you're a married dude you probably understand. I was about to poke a stick in my eye when my lean lobe began to quiver – something just wasn't right, and there was a lesson in the madness.
Those of you who didn't have the pleasure to watch the show can probably figure out the premise. People with far too much time on their hands buy massive amounts of groceries, use massive numbers of coupons, and somehow get everything practically free. It is impressive – $638 worth of food for $2.64 in one case.
But it comes at a cost – an extreme cost – and one that is apparently hidden to these nincompoops.
First off they spend hours and hours researching deals. Then they spend hours and hours finding coupons – sometimes via dumpster diving or even paying a clipping service. Then they spend hours and hours making planning their attack on the innocent local supermarket. Then they execute – taking hours to find everything and check out – disrupting the store's inventory and a bunch of people's time. Finally they lug everything back home and find a place to store it.
And store they do. In almost all cases they had rooms and garages and such filled with groceries. Shelf after shelf. Meticulously organized, everything in reverse order of purchase or expiration. Everything their family needed for years… and years… and years. 150 years in one case.
150 years? Yes.
So explain that savings to me again. Tens if not hundreds of hours of time researching, clipping, executing, organizing. I don't know about you, but I do have place a financial value on my time, and it is far greater than "free." Hundreds of square feet of storage space. Expiring groceries that have to be thrown away. A decade or even century of extra inventory that will never be used, although a couple of them are actively thinking of how they have added their stash to their wills. Lucky kids. I hope Old Spice is still trendy in the 2060's. Maybe it will come back in style. Again.
Savings? Sorry, I think my wife and I come out ahead by going out to eat every night at one of our three or four favorite local restaurants. Nice places, not Subway or Big Boy. Usually a grilled local fish and glass of wine for me, a bowl of soup and salad and martini for the wife. We spend no time shopping, no time prepping, no time cleaning. And we get some nice relaxed conversation and great food prepared by pros who know us by name. Plus we have a lot of storage space we don't need. In fact just this past weekend we gave the Food Bank two more bags of canned goods from our pantry that haven't been opened in years – since our latest attempt at cooking. Which lasted about two days. Cupboards and pantry are bare. Maybe we can rent them out to these extreme couponers.
Sure it costs money, but my time is freed up and there's value to me in saved time, reconnecting conversation, great food, and a perpetually clean kitchen.
However I do need to say a couple of the people profiled in the show do have worthy goals. One really did just buy what she needed, and didn't maintain a massive inventory. Another bought hundreds of boxes of cereal – for a couple bucks after the coupons – and gave them to his church's food bank.
Good for them. But I'll still stick with seared ahi tataki at Giancarlos, mahi mahi with mango salsa at The Galley, or the cedar plank salmon at Windows. Thank you.