Many years ago in college, I was intrigued by the concept of "extreme couponing." Like most, I learned about it from the reality show of the same name.
If you've never heard of it, extreme couponing works something like this.
You collect coupons for things that you want to stock up on. Then, you figure out how to combine them with other coupons that are "stackable" (meaning you can use them together). And then, you time your shopping trip with sales and specials.
When done right, you pay practically nothing at the checkout counter.
It was an awe-inspiring thing to watch. On TV, anyway. Once in a while, I would see someone do it live. Usually at a Walmart.
I was so intrigued at the time (as any broke college student would be), I decided to do some research and try it myself.
I gave up quickly.
I discovered three things.
The first is that, if you want to do extreme couponing, you can give up on most big brand names. Shopping at places like Whole Foods? Not in the cards.
Second, you can't use extreme couponing to save on produce. Six months' supply of off-brand paper towels and toilet paper, maybe. But spinach, bell peppers, and onions? Not so much.
Third and most important, in the end you don't really save anything.
Sure, you save money. But, time is a factor left out of the equation.
When in fact, time is the most precious commodity of all.
A successful extreme couponing trip requires a ridiculous amount of planning. Researching coupons. Clipping them. Storing them. Staying organized. Planning your ultimate shopping trip weeks in advance.
That adds up to a lot of time. Like...entire days worth of time.
And so the question is, is the amount of time to make an extreme couponing trip...actually worth the money saved?
Or, if half that time were spent working, would it all come out to the same?
Or, is the money saved worth sacrificing the time that could be spent with friends or family?
Changes the whole dynamic, doesn't it.
In the end, everything costs. Either time or money. We all need to decide what we're willing to trade our time for.
And whether that aligns with the people we really want to be.