Last week, TLC aired a controversial show titled “Extreme Couponing“. It caused quite the stir among couponers and non couponers alike. When I first heard about it, I was excited and wrote about it here. After the show, I felt the need to talk about it a bit more because I felt that there were some parts of the program that were overly sensationalized.
The last participant on the show was the owner/creator of the popular couponing site We Use Coupons…Mr Coupon/Nathan Engels. Nathan reached out to me and asked if I would like to interview him after the show. Definitely!
In this interview, Nathan shines a bit of light on what we didn’t see, what he hoped we would have been able to see, and what he hopes people will take away from the show.
Heather: What made you start couponing? At what point did you consider yourself an “extreme couponer”?
Mr Coupon: Well I don’t really consider myself extreme, I consider myself strategic. They use that label, not me!
Heather: Do you ever do “normal” grocery shopping trips with just a few coupons? Or is every trip as large as the trips seen on Extreme Couponing?
Mr Coupon: I rarely do this type of shopping!! The majority of my coupon trips are rather normal!! I use my coupons and stock up and freebies!!
Heather: How much do you generally spend to save? In other words, how much do you generally spend to buy coupons from clipping services, in papers, etc.?
Mr Coupon: I get my coupons from everywhere!! I dumpster dive, I buy coupons from clipping services and I get the paper every week! This is a FrugalTV episode I made that walks people through dumpster diving for coupons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI5qLtZY8H0
Heather: People were pretty concerned about whether the participants in the show hoarded or if they donated what they did not use on their own. You were shown donating to a local food bank. That’s awesome! How often and how much do you donate?
Mr Coupon: Since 2009 my wife and I have donated around $45,000-$50,000 worth in product to various organizations in our area. That is one piece of the puzzle I think TLC really missed. ALL of the people featured donate product. I was on ABC’s Nightline in March and the camera’s followed us to the food bank as we gave away almost $25,000 worth in product and it wasn’t even mentioned. I don’t need a pat on the back, but it rubs me the wrong way to leave that out intentionally. Often times I think the media wants to portray couponers in a negative light. We donate because we want to enrich our community!! Product donations are a very powerful way to give back. To learn the details on the donation we gave during the taping click here.
Heather: How do you feel about the way Extreme Couponing portrayed you? Do you feel they were unfair or that they overly edited to make things appear more “extreme”?
Mr Coupon: I would agree with that. I also wish they would have gone into more detail about the donation! It’s such a big part of couponing, extreme or not. As for accurately portraying me, all I have to say is that it’s TV. They filmed for 27 hours total and took 13-14 minutes, LOL. If I would have edited it, I probably would have edited out a few things, but again it’s TV and it’s designed for ratings! Our goal when doing any media is to educate and inform people about couponing!
Heather: What do you want people to take away from the program? What is the message you want the world to hear?
Mr Coupon: Well I KNOW what thousands of people heard loud and clear: coupons really work. Our site nearly crashed, we were trending 6th worldwide on twitter and I got real phone calls from people desperate to learn how to coupon. This show is great because it inspires people to save money. No one would ever watch 4 grandma’s clipping one coupon and going to the store, but they would watch people buying thousands of products for nothing. The show brings coupons primetime in a way nothing ever has before and for that I am grateful because THOUSANDS of people in our country our hurting. If even one starts couponing because they watched the show, then in my book it was worth it!
Heather: I love We Use Coupons and I thank you for building up such a supportive community and like minded frugal folk, want to do a shout out for the site?
Mr Coupon: Go right ahead, I love it too LOL!!
I really appreciate Mr Coupon taking the time to answer some questions that I knew were on everyone’s minds! I’m so glad the show was such a huge overall success. Unfortunately, TLC was going for a specific vibe with their show, but luckily I don’t really think the point was missed. I think every participant went on this show, not for their own fame, but to help others. Sometimes it really does take extreme examples to show that there really is a better way to do things.
I do have to say it is a relief to know that these extreme couponers don’t always shop that big! I was feeling a bit mediocre in my savings compared to their amazing savings! Want to learn more about Mr Coupon and We Use Coupons? You can visit this vibrant community of frugal minded folk right here!
Do you want to learn more about how to shop with strategy? Sign up for my free e-book which walks you through a week long coupon course so you can get started saving too!