In the meantime, I made the mistake of watching this new TLC show called "Extreme Couponing". Has anyone seen this? After watching for about forty seconds I wanted to climb in a hot bath and open a vein.
Here's my problem. Well, here are my problems, I should say.
Word for the week: parsimony. The quality or state of being stingy. Adj: parsimonious. There will always be people who will do anything to save a dime, and on the flip side there will be people who would rather spend ALL their dimes than sacrifice a pleasure or preference. Of everything in this very opinionated post, this is the most subjective and potentially offensive part, so I'd like to note that this is my personal feeling in response to this particular show - and to assure you that though I disparage the extreme couponers, it doesn't necessarily follow that I can't appreciate the value of thrift and good management.
The cheapskates on this show are unbelievable. The amount of time they'll expend, the sheer number of hours involved in collecting and sorting hundreds of coupons, memorising store policies, dividing their purchases into two or more carts so that everything is grouped to maximise savings, according to double or triple-couponing, the mental energies directed to this whole exercise....and all so that they don't have to PAY FOR THEIR FOOD. It seems so dreary, so miserly, so small-minded. It's all so narrow and pinching - the complete opposite of words like largesse, generosity, good-naturedness, open-handedness.
I don't have any idea what their other expenses are, naturally, but I don't imagine those people are taking public transit, turning off lights, installing solar panels, or disconnecting their cable TV service. I'm willing to bet that most of their money-saving initiatives are directed at their food - the nourishment of their bodies, the fuel that keeps them alive, the single biggest factor in the health of humans. Which brings me to...
90% of what I see bought on this show is packaged food. Aside from the odd trip to Meats or Dairy, these people are spending hours cruising up and down the centre aisles of the grocery store - and doesn't everyone know by now, hasn't everyone heard this truism: that the FOOD is found on the outside four walls? Bread, dairy products, meat, fruit and vegetables. You can live your entire life - longer AND better - on just those, never having seen a Frito Lay or bought a can of Campbell's. How many coupons are published to help you save money on fresh produce? Hardly any. Why? Because those are actually worth your money. They can be difficult and costly to grow, maintain and transport, and their nutritional value is both potent and fragile. So far, I haven't seen a single head of broccoli or bunch of carrots on this show. And people, let me tell you something I'm sure you already know: what prepared packages of food have to offer you, you don't need.
Well. This one's kind of obvious. Reality TV thrives on obsessive behaviour, but there's something extra depressing about a person who spends weeks clipping bits of paper, spends five hours pushing a cart around choosing what the coupon marketers want them to choose, burns holes in the checkout screen with their eyes in case the coupon doesn't get entered properly, and then crows triumphantly when their bill is reduced by 90%. Great job! You've taken home a bunch of crap and preservatives to cram into your family's mouth for the next several years. Every time you eat some of it you can congratulate yourself that you didn't pay for it. The only thing better than butylated hydroxytoluene is FREE butylated hydroxytoluene.
What draws these people to extreme couponing is not need (I don't imagine TLC is going to be featuring truly poverty-stricken people on this show - from what I've seen the families are more likely to be covered in bling and loading their free groceries into huge shiny SUVs), it's the gloat-factor - the feeling that they've put one over on the Man, got something for nothing, And THAT'S the obsessive part. "Extreme Couponing" is a shiny, tidied version of two other TLC shows - "My Strange Addiction" and "Hoarding-Buried Alive". For the hoarding bit, read on.
In order to save the most money, you need to be able to buy in quantity. Nobody really needs to have ten boxes of Frosted Flakes at once, so you have to store what you don't use right away. Do I want to have a garage stacked floor to rafters with non-perishable food, which is mostly processed and packaged trash, preservatives, and chemicals? What does it add to my life - the knowledge that if I have the urge for chips and ranch dip, it's right there for me? Or maybe the thought that if World War III breaks out, I won't have to loot the Piggly Wiggly, but will be able to fend off all my neighbours with a shotgun while cramming one of my 250 free packs of Twinkies? I don't need that. Neither, I would argue, does anyone.
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Probably some readers will think I'm crazy and sit there telling their laptops in a loud voice how wrong I am. Straighten me out in the comments - go ahead and give me a blast! I'm sure I'm overlooking something important - like perspective. And on that note, I'd like to point out, through clenched teeth, that there is no such word as "cuepon". Of the many abominations perpetrated against the English language, that mispronunciation is among the most irritating.
Okay, and now just let me check......hang on, give me a second.....Yep, I think I've probably offended everybody. I can click 'Post' now.
By the way, a point of interest - in Canada, we don't have double and triple couponing. Every coupon I've ever seen has, in the fine print, "one coupon per customer per product". So "Extreme Couponing - Canadian Edition" would be an awfully short-lived experiment, wherein we watch Doug Mackenzie save $2.50 on a single package of back bacon and get 50% off select garden hoses when he buys one at regular price. There might be a mail-in rebate, but I wouldn't count on it.