Years ago, Oprah did a show in which there was a barrel of shoes in the studio with a “FREE” sign on it. Hundreds of people scurried off with their treasure after pawing through the Free shoes. There was only one oddity about this behavior: none of the shoes were a pair. It was just a barrel of left shoes. A bargain, I suppose, only for those with two left feet.
The point of the experiment was to illustrate the strong pull of “Free”. Now – some of the people had good (in their minds) reasons for wanting only one shoe. One lady said you throw a single shoe in the dryer and it confers some benefit to the drying clothes. (Anti-static? De-wrinkle? I don’t recall.) Several people though, couldn’t really articulate what benefit they expected to gain from a single shoe, but it was free, so why not? I find this thought process at the heart of the Extreme Couponing movement.
Now, let me just say, I do use coupons some. If I’m buying deodorant anyway, might as well get it at a dollar off if I can. I will also confess that I wanted Extreme Couponing to work like it’s supposed to, as long as certain parameters were not violated. But that was the problem. There were always drawbacks that I couldn’t avoid.
The first problem to come into play is that Extreme Couponing is highly dependent on stockpiling. If you know Colgate toothpaste can be had for free at CVS by layering a coupon with a sale, Extreme Couponers say, “By Ten! Or Twenty!”
Why is this a problem? It’s a problem for me because it is a form of hoarding. If you aren’t sure stockpiling is a form of hoarding, just google, “Extreme Coupon+Stockpile+Images.” It may be more organized than someone who hoards trash or knick-knacks, but it’s still based on filling all available space with excess. Unless you’re one of the Duggars, 20 tubes of toothpaste will be around for a long while. It’s better psychologically to have fewer things in your home than to hoard a pile of them just because they were cheap or free.
In Feng Shui, there is a component that says shelving units should have at least one shelf empty. This represents being open to new things. If every shelf in a closet or pantry is crammed with products, you signal to the universe, “I’m stuffed – I can’t accept more abundance!”
Another reason I object to stockpiling 20 toothpastes is that it drives the machine of consumerism. Every time you buy an item, it is like a tally-mark that signals manufacturers to produce more. In EC, part of the theory is to buy any item that is cheap or free, with no concern about whether you want, need or even understand what the product is supposed to do. This thinking drives consumerism and product greed.
Some EC’ers object to this point by saying they have items to donate to food pantries or Helping Up or Samaritan’s Purse. To that, I would say, if that is truly what is happening to 18 or 19 of the 20 toothpastes and lotions and razors and shampoos, then great. Still, it doesn’t appear to be the case, or else there would be no advice on how to stockpile.
Another problem I see with EC is that the majority of the coupons are for products that I don’t need or want to buy. The whole reason manufacturers create coupons to begin with it to try to induce you to buy products you haven’t tried or aren’t buying regularly. If the product is one you aren’t buying regularly or haven’t tried, it may be that it’s unnecessary anyway.
For example: Air fresheners. There’s nearly always a coupon for air freshener. I never buy them. You know the best way to remove bad smells? Get rid of the bad-smelling source. If the bathroom stinks, clean it. If the trashcan stinks, throw out the trash. If the cat box stinks, scoop it. You don’t need a perfumed block of gel emitting chemicals into the air you breathe.
Laundry and cleaning products can be unnecessary, too. I make my own laundry soap. It costs pennies per load, is as easy to make as mashed potatoes and creates very little trash. Bottled laundry soap lasts only a short while and then there is a piece of trash to recycle or throw away. I make my laundry soap in the same 5-gallon bucket again and again. Simple, cheap and eco-smart.
For these reasons, I don’t find Extreme Couponing to be in line with my values. Use a few coupons for something you need anyway? Yes. Stockpile 97 bottles of mustard? It bothers my Chi just thinking about it.
Have a thought on this? Am I wrong? Do you EC without stockpiling? Feel free to comment.