Friendly warning: Extreme Couponing Is Not a Cover for Compulsive Hoarding!

Shoppers obsessed with money-saving coupons stock hundreds of grocery items at home; some items they’ll never use. Is this smart shopping or is it hoarding?

Extreme couponing has taken American shoppers by storm. The popular reality television program “Extreme Couponing” ignited the craze-to-save by giving viewers insight on how the average consumer can save hundreds of dollars on grocery bills. Critics offer a different perspective, however, by claiming that the end result of extreme couponing looks an awful lot like hoarding. Another hot topic among American TV viewers, hoarding is associated with undesirable living conditions. How does extreme couponing compare to hoarding and what are the differences between the two?

coupon hoarding

What is Compulsive Hoarding?

Hoarding, also known as pathological hoarding or compulsive hoarding, is the obsessive need to save, collect and keep excessive amounts of items. Hoarded items may or may not have any value; in fact, possessions that do have value (furniture, electronics and appliances for example) are often buried under mountains of rubble, dust and even rodent feces.

As shown on the popular TV shows, “Hoarding” and “Hoarding, Buried Alive”, a hoarder’s collection of items can quickly grow out of control and become dangerous. Hoarders often display strong emotional attachments to their possessions. Persons engaged in hoarding behavior may not recognize, or refuse to acknowledge, the inconvenience to others living under the same roof.

Extreme Couponers on a Mission to Save Big Money

Economic instability is one reason why so many people are clipping, printing and sorting cents-off coupons until all hours of the night. The average coupon-user can easily save $15 to $20 for every $100 spent at the grocery store. Extreme couponers carry couponing to the next level by saving anywhere from 80 to nearly 100% off their entire grocery bill.

Besides the grocery savings, what else motivates men and women (and entire families in some cases) to scavenge through dumpsters in search of coupons – especially the Sunday coupon inserts? Some extreme couponer practices are difficult to understand:

  • Extreme couponers typically spend anywhere from 2 to 8 hours a day searching online, flipping through magazines and calling neighbors for coupons.
  • Extreme couponers often have garage space or even an entire room in the home filled with shelves of paper items, canned and dry foods, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, pet foods and more.
  • Extreme couponing has become an actual job for some people who regularly save enough each month from their grocery bill to offset traditional employment.

Extreme couponers do save money, but why buy products you don’t need? Isn’t this hoarding?

Comparing Extreme Couponing to Compulsive Hoarding

The thrill of the hunt lures some people to use coupons. It doesn’t make sense to pass up a great bargain or free items. Hoarders get a rush too, when they bring home bargains and items discarded by others. Couponers create space in the home to store their grocery items. Hoarders store things as well; given enough time, a hoarder may fill every room in the house. Couponing seems to be an obsession with some individuals. Hoarding is also viewed as an obsession.

Significant differences separate extreme couponers from compulsive hoarders:

Extreme couponers, unlike hoarders, typically keep items organized, neat and clean. Couponers stockpile items for their own needs, but many couponsers also clip coupons to buy items they don’t need or want. They donate items to charities, schools, church and service organizations, and food banks. They might send supplies to military troops or support temporary disaster relief efforts.

In contrast, a hoarder keeps everything brought into his home. He finds satisfaction in belongings that cause anxiety, stress, family disputes and even physical illness. Not only does a hoarder resist parting with anything, but he also feels threatened by anyone – even a family member or best friend – who touches or tries to rearrange his things.

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Extreme Coupon Shopping Is No Cover for Hoarding Behavior

Extreme couponing has no connection to compulsive hoarding. Hoarding can get out of hand and create dangerous living conditions. Couponers routinely put their stockpiled items to good use. Couponing does have a dark side, however: Coupon addicts go too far when they steal Sunday papers from neighbors’ front yards and/or swipe coupon inserts from papers sold in street boxes.

Do you know someone who’s a hoarder and wants to clean up their act? Encourage the person to seek help from a medical expert. With the proper intervention, hoarding behavior can be helped.

Are you an extreme couponer? Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to share with others. Perhaps the rest of us will think twice – won’t grumble quite so much – the next time we encounter those irritating empty places on the grocery store shelves.