What You Really Get From Extreme Couponing

It seems reasonable, on its surface: The more coupons you use, the more money you'll save. More coupons equal greater savings. That's not really what happens, though — and if you're looking for ways to trim your budget, it's worth looking into why coupons don't entirely work.

This week, Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post shared a story about losing her designated coupon wallet. For a moment, it was devastating and infuriating. After all, she'd worked hard tracking down all those discounts. But ultimately, she realized that coupons don't actually lead to savings at all. They lead to waste.

"When you stockpile items, you may have a tendency to use more of them," she writes. Consider how your usage of, say, laundry detergent changes when you know you've got three more big bottles stashed away in the basement. It's very likely that you wouldn't use your detergent efficiently. Consider also that most savings in extreme couponing come from buying in bulk. While it may be a score when you nab a crate of ramen noodles for an absurdly low price, you are now stuck with a massive crate of ramen noodles. If what you're buying bulk is perishable, it's even less worthwhile, in the long run.

Finally, it's important to remember that coupons incentivize spending, including spending you weren't planning on doing. Maybe you saved a dollar on that wheel of cheese, but you might not have spent $20 on cheese without seeing that coupon. Most young adults are in a tight spot financially; that's real. Coupons, unfortunately, are not enough to dig most of us out.