Is “Extreme Couponing” ruining it for everyone?

A few months ago my Handsome Husband became slightly obsessed with the TLC Show Extreme Couponing.  (If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the show, check it out HERE.)  Our DVR was filled with episodes showing the extreme savings and huge stockpiles of the featured coupon clippers.  We picked up some great tricks, and learned some helpful tips.  Watching the show motivated us to start visiting sites such as Coupon Mom and The Krazy Coupon Lady.  We don’t have a newspaper subscription, so we got coupons from my parents, my sweet Granny, and friends to compound the deals on sale items at our local stores.   A couple of times we saved 10-20% on our grocery bill thanks to coupon tricks my Handsome Husband learned from watching the show and utilizing the sites.  We even bought 4 tubes of toothpaste once for less than ten cents apiece! Four tubes!  Yes, we were rolling ‘high on the hog’ with our couponing folks! (Despite only being moderately successful we really enjoyed it, for the record.)

The problem with all this “couponing” was that by the time we went to the store on Sunday afternoon after church, the shelves were so barren that it looked like the weatherman had predicted a quarter-inch of snow. (If you live in the South you understand that the mere mention of snow means that there will be no bread or milk available within a 100 mile radius of the predicted “blizzard” area.  Even if you already have bread and milk, you are culturally obligated to dash to the store and purchase more.  Just in case you get  ‘snowed in’ by that quarter-inch of the white stuff because no one in their right mind would DRIVE in that mess, your entire family can survive on a gallon of Purity’s best and a loaf of Bunny honey wheat.  Known fact.)  Several times we gathered our coupons and Kroger card, loaded Little A into the buggy and found the shelves completely empty as described above.  We soon realized that apparently other people in middle Tennessee were watching TLC as well, and they were clearing out all the good bargains before we got there.  The store managers always apologized, but they simply could not keep up with the demand.  We were just a day late and a dollar short it seemed.

Winter soon turned into spring and our little big town had a monumental occasion, our first Publix opened.  You couldn’t even get in the parking lot of nearly a week, and people were posting pictures from the inside on Facebook like they had just given birth to their 2 lbs. of Boar’s Head deli meat.  (We get really excited about new stores and restaurants around here as you can tell.) Handsome Husband and I waited until the crowds dwindled, and on a Friday night when Little A was at her Mimi & Papa’s we had a date night consisting of dinner followed by an hour of wandering the aisles of Publix.  I discovered that I can keep our grocery bill under my goal of $100 a week by shopping their sales, loss leaders, and BOGO offers.  Admittedly there are not as many Publix brand offerings as there are Kroger or Great Value options, but the ones we have tried are all quite good.  I have yet to see an empty shelf at Publix, and although we don’t go big with coupons I have used a few and they always honor them.

It is my weekly trip to Publix that brought me to the subject of this post.  While waiting for a cashier, I watched the woman in front of me checking out.  She had quite a few coupons from the newspaper, but nothing excessive.  What gave me pause was the stack of printed coupons she handed the cashier.  This woman had a small forest worth of coupons.  She must have used an entire cartridge of ink in her printer.  It was fascinating really, but I tried not to stare.

Fast forward to last night when Handsome Husband was flipping channels (he gets to hold the clicker in our house) and stopped on the TLC show.  The woman featured was explaining that she uses her stockpile to bribe people she works with at a car dealership into giving her discounts on repairwork, doing her favors, and more.  That’s not the crazy part though.  She openly said on national television that most of her coupons are printable coupons.  She pointed out that most manufacturers only allow you to print one or two from an IP address to prevent abuse.  As she strolled through the dealership moving from computer to computer, she smiled as she proudly said “Luckily I work here with access to all these computers so I can print lots and lots of these coupons”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  No wonder the shelves are empty.  No wonder the store managers refuse to order more sale items.  No wonder people who try to coupon the right way are striking out.  There are people abusing the system, and I’m sure the manufacturers and stores know it.  Apparently this is not the only type of couponing fraud happening, either.  Jill Cataldo is a couponing expert who teaches people the CORRECT way to use coupons, and has been featured on ABC, CBS and NBC news.  I found this article on her site explaining another incorrect (and possibly fraudulent) usage of coupons that was shown on the TLC show, which also details the follow-up from the stores featured in the episode.

Seeing all this, it is hard to believe that rookies like Handsome Husband and I will ever be able to save any big money with couponing.  People who take it beyond the extreme and bend the rules to their benefit make it nearly impossible for a person who doesn’t devote hours a day to this practice to save.  It can’t be long until the stores and manufacturers start amending their policies to make up for the shortfall they are getting through the practices of people like the ones mentioned above.  One has to wonder if the show that has made couponing so popular is actually going to be the death of the practice all together.  It’s certainly ruining it for the little guys like me.

What are your thoughts?  Are dishonest coupon practices going to ruin the process for everyone?

How to survive dance recital weekend

We have survived!  The marathon of endurance and strength is over after four long days. It was all very stressful for the Mommies, and for the Daddies and family who sat through multiple 4 hour shows as well.  I must admit though that Little A thought it was the greatest thing ever.  She enjoyed every second of it and is ready to run back onstage and perform again.  I also must admit that once we got into the groove in the dressing room it wasn’t as difficult as it was the first night.  Keeping 3, 4 and 5 year olds occupied during the long wait between their performances was the most difficult part, but I learned a few lessons to use next year (if she still wants to take dance by then).

Lesson number one- all children would rather play with toys that other Mothers brought instead of the arsenal that you schlepped in.  New and interesting or not, if it belongs to someone else it is much more exciting.  (Also- portable DVD players are a gift from God.  See photo below for proof.)

Lesson two- other children will run around the room to occupy themselves during the long wait times.  This will entice your child, who will be deeply offended that you do not allow her to rip around the room like a scalded cat.  She honestly does not care if she ruins her $50 costume at that moment, but she would when it was time to go onstage. Take a walk, go outside, pace the hallways to hear tiny tap shoes make cool clicking noises.  Do anything to get the romping children out of your line of sight.

Lesson three-  bring ice for the soreness that will come from biting your tongue.  The Mom part of me wanted to correct kids who were running wild.  The teacher part of me wanted to correct kids who were running wild.  I think I literally bit through my tongue over the course of the recital weekend.

Lesson four- you can never have too many bottles of spray glitter, because not every Mom will bring it but ALL little girls will beg for spray glitter.  The whole point of recital is to play dress up and put on sparkly things, correct?  Also- even if you feel a little “Toddlers and Tiaras” about it, put some light makeup on her.  A little mascara and lip gloss for a few hours is part of the fun- Little A kept saying “I wook wike Mommy!”.  (Just don’t go full on Tammy Faye Baker- all things in moderation, remember!)

Lesson five- by the third and final day of recital be prepared to be exhausted.  Be pleasantly surprised that even without a nap all weekend, your three year old will have behaved much better than you expected.  Thank the Lord in Heaven that your family has survived all weekend with no major temper tantrums, no meltdowns, no anxiety attacks, and no screaming arguments (among adults for that last part).

Lastly, lesson six- be prepared to be amazed.  A three year old who loves to dance and wear sparkly things will forget all shyness when they walk backstage and away from you with the teenager assigned to the task of getting her class on stage.  She will grin and hop up and down excitedly, giddy with the prospect of dancing.  Somehow my child found a way to be first on stage of her group every time they performed.  She radiated happiness, and could have carried less about the audience.  She was spinning and dancing and sparkling- and it was the greatest thing in the world to her.

For all these lessons learned, nothing could prepare me for the unbelievable cuteness of those little dancers, joyful to be dancing in the spotlight and loving every second of it.  She wiggled, danced, hopped, and was completely adorable.  She has asked to watch the video at least 500 times and it was less than 48 hours ago.  She is already asking when she can do recital again.  For a mother who never danced as a child, this is all very foreign to me.  Handsome Husband still hopes that someday she drops dancing to play his beloved soccer, and part of me hopes she will become a world renowned violinist and pianist. For now, she is overjoyed at being a dancer and I am happy to give that to her.  It was a lot of work for the parents, and the time commitment and expense was great.  Yet through the exhaustion I can see that for her joy, I would gladly do it again if she asks.  For now though, all she asks is to be called “Ballerina”.