A lot of people have strong feelings about the TLC reality series “Extreme Couponing.” My own impression of the show is secondhand, since I don’t own a television.
Technically I could see the next two episodes because the TLC publicist kindly gave me online access. Ultimately I decided not to watch. Based on what I’ve read and also on what my daughter told me and wrote about the show, I would just wind up depressed.
Abby thought it was to have been “a celebration of couponing.” Instead, she says, the stories are presented with “bemused condescension, with occasional moments of admiration.”
One of the women featured on the program also shows up in my MSN Money column this week, “Shopping pays off big for couponers.” I met Tiffany Ivanovsky when I attended the SaveUp 2010 conference last November.
Tiffany, who blogs at MyLitter.com, spends just under $500 a month on food, toiletries and household products for her nine-person family. That’s why I called her for the coupon column; at the time, I didn’t know she was going to be on the show.
She’s a kickass shopper, so it’s no wonder that TLC wanted her. But as a mutual acquaintance pointed out, the program didn’t mention that Tiffany regularly donates food and toiletries to charity.
Her most recent project was over spring break, when she and a few of her friends went through their stockpiles to fill 350 one-gallon Ziploc bags with personal-care products. The “hygiene kits” went off to quake/tsunami survivors in Japan.
Apparently that wouldn’t have made good television.
Yes, I know you can’t include everything you film. But the fact that she doesn’t hoard is a vital part of the story: Here’s how my strategic shopping not only helps me stay on budget, but lets me help others.
With seven kids it’d be hard to hoard very much anyway. The little stinkers want to be fed every day.
That’s entertainment – not reality
“Extreme” is an adjective that can inspire either admiration or derision. “Extreme” sports figures, for example, are edgy daredevils whose fearlessness is just plain fascinating.
Even when they crash it’s exciting. Especially when they crash it’s exciting. Who knew a bike could go so high? Who knew a dude could bounce so high?
Heck, there’s even TV coverage of “extreme eating,” aka competitive eating. The notion makes me profoundly sad. In a world where so many people are hungry, why do we have an organized league of gluttons? Yet the contests inspire laughter and cheers from audiences (audiences!), to say nothing of corporate sponsorships.
The phrase “extreme couponer,” on the other hand, may well become shorthand for “you people need help.”
Obviously TLC is in the entertainment business. The network wants viewers, and what better way to get some butts in the seats than to show a guy buying 1,100 boxes of cereal at a time?
I’m not saying such people don’t exist. I’m just wishing that (a) TLC didn’t exploit their tics and anxieties for ratings, and (b) we everyday frugalists won’t have to hear “What are you, one of those extreme couponers?” the next time we try to use some Qs.
I fully expect to hear that, and to hear it spoken with a tone of impatience or, yes, derision. Saving money doesn’t have the same cachet as, say, BASE jumping or eating 39 slices of pizza in 10 minutes. And that quake/tsunami thing is so last-week.