Recently, TLC aired a show called “Extreme Couponing“. It produced strong reactions from pretty much everyone that viewed it and even became a trending topic on Twitter during the show. Here are a few reactions from the show from various bloggers/sites:
“We certainly saw some aspects of frugality meets “Hoarders” in this show. One couple had enough toilet paper to last 40 years. Do they really think toilet paper won’t go on sale again for the rest of their lives?” Teresa Mears from Your Money on MSN said.
“It would have been better if the show portrayed more savvy and consumer-smart shoppers (but then would they have to rename the show to “Above-Average Couponers?”) which we believe represent the majority of coupon users. Stock-piling is acceptable (we all have stock piles of a variety of items) but the “extreme” stock piling displayed on the show leans more toward hoarding.” Lisa B. from Obsessive Coupon Disorder said.
“…when does couponing and stockpiling, even extreme couponing, go too far?”Ryanick Page from Yahoo Contributer Network asked.
My own reaction of the show was pretty similar, and I was happy to get the chance to interview Nathan Engels to clear up some of the controversy related to the heavily edited show (which has now been picked up for a spring series, that YOU could be a part of…more on that later).
Every single one of the participants on the show received criticism that they were greedy, hoarding and fanatical. I have to admit, I thought the same thing. That leads me to ask, are all frugal minded folk fanatics?
Can you live frugally and not have a stockpile big enough to take you through Armageddon? Are you really frugal living if you aren’t doing it to extremes?
What if you use disposable diapers instead of cloth?
What if you purchase brand name household cleaners without *gasp* a coupon?
What defines frugal living and at what point does it cross the line from smart living to fanatical living?
It’s all relative
To be honest, I’m not sure there’s any measurable line drawn between smart and crazy when it comes to frugality. I know that personally…I’ve crossed that line a few times in my overzealousness to get a great deal. I’m blessed to have a husband that will say, “Okay Heather, that’s enough toilet paper“.
I think it’s incredibly easy to become fanatical about getting great deals. I mean if it’s free, or so close to free that it hurts to pass it by…what’s the harm? Everyone loves to get a good deal. I mean, how many deal a day sites are there now (read about the harms of deal a day sites here…I’m cracking skulls everywhere today!)? Obviously, people love deals.
At what point do you go from fabulous sale shopper to crazy loon territory though? I don’t think that one can say…when you have 40 boxes of pasta in your house…you are a crazy hoarder, without taking into account the individual circumstances of the pasta owner. Maybe they have 15 kids and 40 boxes of pasta isn’t enough to take them through a month of meals (we’re not discussing how fanatic someone must be to have 15 kids here…that’s another breed of crazy).
Where’s the line?
So if there is a line, where is it and how can we be sure to never cross it? Are all frugal people just doomed? No, I don’t think so. I do think that this misconception is not as black and white as the first one “All Frugal People Are Poor” (which was pretty obviously NO, and you can read how people feel about that misconception over here on BlogHer). I do think there is some truth in this misconception, because getting great deals can be a very slippery slope.
When you realize that your mailbox is filled with more free samples and coupons then actual mail…you might have a problem.
When you start sneaking shampoo bottles into the house in your purse, you probably have a problem.
When you wait for your spouse to leave to smuggle in packages from your car and hope he doesn’t notice the growth of your stockpile, you definitely have a problem.
Can this misconception be debunked?
I still think that this is a misconception though. I still think that, as a whole, people who live frugally are not fanatics. I think they are passionate and I think that it’s easy to get excited when you realize how much little things can add up. I think it’s a slippery slope, and I think the lines between passion and crazy are not clearly defined. Finally I think that just like anything else thrilling, addictions are possible and it helps to have a supportive and objective person in your life who can tell you when you are going overboard.
What do you think though? I want to hear your thoughts. Do you think this is a misconception? Do you think there is a black and white line to be drawn? What’s your take on this misconception?
Are you interested in being on the show Extreme Couponing? I received this email from Nathan Engels yesterday:
Are you interested in participating in an upcoming episode of TLC’s Extreme Couponing? If you have the expertise to get amazing deals and accumulate fantastic stockpiles of goodies, we’d love to hear from you! E-mail us at email@example.com.
If you sign up, be sure to let me know!