Interview with Desirae from Extreme Savings With Diva Desirae

If you watch TLC’s Extreme Couponing then you may have seen Desirae’s episode.   Desirae and I met a few years ago playing bunco, and now look at her!  She’s a tv star!  I just got into couponing a few months ago so after Desirae’s episode aired I knew I wanted to ask her a few questions about extreme couponing.  Some of my readers also had some questions.  Here are her answers:

First I want to say is that everyone needs to take this show like a grain of salt. A lot of this show was staged! None of us shop like this, we did it for the show. They wanted us to go extreme so we went extreme. All of those items you see in our carts are not something we buy every day on our normal shopping days. We had to get our totals high and bring them down to basically nothing. So we had to buy multiples of free and cheap items. 80% of my trip was donated, and most of all others on the show donated too. Just because you didnt see it doesnt mean it doesnt happen. Ohh and I do not spend 60hrs+ a week, and I never get into the dumpster. They have to bump of the ratings somehow right? I always say you wouldn’t watch the jersey shore without drama right? If they turned this into joe went to the grocery store and saved 15% that show would be boring!

From Ani: How do you get started? Do you have a system for each store? Is it (couponing) cheaper than buying store brand?
I got started almost 5yrs ago when my husband was working 2 jobs, just graduated college & we were welcoming the birth of our son. We were living paycheck to paycheck and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Thats when I started looking online & found coupons, and after that it was history!
I wouldn’t say I have a system for each store. I know mostly all stores policies so that makes it easier to shop at. I have never bought store brand anything. I can always get the name brand for cheap or free!

From Tina: Which charities do you donate to?
I have donated to several-Cabarrus pregnancy center got over 80 bottles of formula, plus feminine products. I have given to the mooresville soup kitchen, cabarrus humane society Plus i have given to families that I know need items the most. Recently there was a family who’s husband got laid off and they were struggling so i packed my trunk full and delivered it. They were grateful!

From Yvett: I’d like to know how to save on food I use. I see a lot of coupons for processed foods like mac & cheese and sugary cereal, but never for products that are good for you. I try to feed my family well,
but it’s really expensive. How can I start to save?
I would recommend calling the companies and requesting coupons. Organic/whole food companies are really great about sending out coupons! I actually have a whole blog list full of coupons to request and to print for organic/healthy items. Also there are several great coupons that come in the sunday paper for organic/gluten free/healthy items. Of course the other ones are included too!

From Jacquie: Ok, just watched the episode with Desirae. #1: I notice with all these extreme couponers their stores double the coupons. Our stores here don’t do that. So that means I can’t have these huge retail
values that end up only costing me a little bit, right? #2 What does one do with 45 boxes of cake mix? 😉
You can save by not having doubles. There are a couple of people on there that didnt have stores that didnt double either and they still saved thousands. Of course when you get started out you will not save that much on your first bill. It takes a lot of time and dedication to save like that. I did have a guest poster on my blog recently where he talked about how he survives in the land of no doubles.
Ohh and all those cake mixes were donated! I hardly use them, but they were part of the show. I had to get my totals in the thousands and bring it down to nothing. So basically i just bought all cheap or free items!

From Maureen: How is this different from hoarding? Some of these people have filled up every room of their houses, even the kid’s rooms, with this stuff. One guy donated a pallet of cereal to the food bank, why don’t we see more of these people do this? At least this way the product will be used before it is out of date.
Well the thing about this show is that its not to teach you and its not to talk about donations. Its to show you the extreme part. That is why they are not focusing on this subject. Most of us do all donate-just because it doesnt show it doesnt mean we don’t. Hoarding to me in living in a filthy house with thousand apon thousands of items everywhere to where you cant walk, you dont know what you have, and you wont part with it. Here i have everything secluded to one room, and its nicely organized. Plus i will give away anything in a min. I don’t hoard my items.

From Kristen: and they have thousands of shampoos and toothbrushes, but then go and buy 100 more. is there a way to get the great savings, but only get a reasonable amount of items?
Yes! I never get 100 of the same items except for on the show but I still have great savings. 2-3 of each items is great! You still get them for free and your still stocking up!

From Kristine: Seriously…what do they do with things that eventually will go bad? I saw some woman on the show this past weekend who bought about 100 packages of deli turkey or something.
Who eats that many sandwiches?!?
Like I said above it was all for the show. She never buys over 100 of the same items.

From Shannon G.: I’d like to know if she does all the sale matchups herself, or if she relies on sites like Southern Savers.com, or Hot Coupon World. I’d also like to know if she gets coupons from Ebay or trades for them in coupon circles or what. I mean, how do you GET 55 coupons for toothpaste without spending $55 on the newspaper??
Nooooo!!! Never do the matchups yourself! Save yourself some time. I like to go to weusecoupons.com and use that site. It has everything for every store you would need! It tells you the matchups a week early before the sales hit, it tells you every single thing about coupons and sales you would ever need to know! And yes I do order off ebay sometimes. But I dumpster dive for my coupons Thats how i get 50 of one coupons. Plus I do coupon trades and coupon trains that give me more coupons!

Now for my questions:

1. I’ve only been couponing for a couple of months. I started with the purse sized coupon organizer (accordion file) but I’m tired of shuffling through coupons at the store. How do you organize your coupons? I’ve seen the binder method and the filing then clip method on TLC’s Extreme Couponing but I’m not sure which will work better for me. If you file then clip only when the match ups tell you to what do you do when you’re at the store and you see a product you’d like but your coupons are at home? On the flip side, I’ve heard that the binder method is very time consuming. What are your thoughts?
I use the binder method. I always have and it works best for me. I like that i can flip to a page and my coupons are right there. I have a binder video on my youtube that will help you see how i set it all up. Also never leave the house without your coupons!

2. Do you clip EVERY coupon or just the ones you think you’ll use?
I clip every single one because I do a lot of trades, and trains so that I can giveaway my coupons I wont use for coupons I will use. Plus troops oversea’s can use them now and even after they expire.

3. Do you shop every drug store or pick one and stick with it?
Nope! I love CVS! I usually hit the store once a week to get my weekly deals and thats it. Its easier to stick to one so that you dont get confused and burnt out.

4. On the show you said “I’ll tell my neighbor to come shop” your stockpile. Do you charge them or just let people take things they want?
Nope everyone is allowed to come and shop! I do charge some people but that is because they are still getting a good discount instead of going to the store and paying full price. Its just like shopping at good will. Someone bought those items at full price and now they are selling them to you at half. When you think about it I had to spend the time to search, get the coupons, organize them, use my gas, pay tax and my time. So really it wasnt all free. My mom and family comes and shop for free. I have some friends that will pay me $10 and fill up bags. I don’t sit here and charge everyone full price its like pennies to the dollars 🙂

5. Is your stockpile insured?
Haha No!

6. As for donations, on the show you said you donate only “when I’m pressed for space”, but your stockpile clearly holds more items than you and your family could ever use (480 razors according to the show). Was that edited for tv or do you donate more often than when you’re just “pressed for space”?
That was edited for tv! I actually don’t even remember saying that. But heck we filmed for 24hrs I was exhausted! I donate what I don’t need and what I wont use. Before the show I couldn’t donate anything because they wanted my room to be filled. It doesn’t look like it does on tv. But heck I will keep 50 razors because I will never have to pay for another razor again and we will need them for life!

7. When you donate, since most of the items are items you were able to get for free, are you still eligible for a tax deduction on those donations?
Good question. I have never put them on my tax returns because I never keep up with what I donate.

8. Back to your stockpile, the show’s narrator said you have 45 dish soaps, 105 deodorants, 125 hair and body washes, and 480 razors. How much is enough? When you see a coupon for razors now or any of the other items mentioned above, do you still buy it or just hold off until you’ve used all that you have in your stockpile? Or is there a point where you say “OK I’m down to 15 dish soaps now I’ll start buying again ” (as an example)? Those of us just starting our stockpiles don’t really know how big is big enough.
I never buy anything that I already have in my room unless its free or cheap. I really don’t grocery shop anymore. If it cant fit on the shelf or in the room then i wont buy it. I dont want it to overtake my house.

9. On the show there have been some couponers featured that have tons and tons of coupon inserts. Remember the lady with the coupon room? All those crates full of coupons? I know you don’t store near that many in your home but what is your weekly goal as far as number of inserts to clip from?
I really dont have a goal. Some weeks I get 10 and dive for more and like this week I only got 6 and I am okay with that. It just depends on the week and the coupons that are coming.

10. How has being on the show changed your life?
It has changed a whole lot! I am always recognized in the store so going to the store for 30min is impossible because someone always see’s me and ask a million questions lol! Plus I am filming for fox news every wednesday morning which has been awesome! People freak out when they see me and ask for my autograph, my picture when really I just try and tell them I am a normal person! 🙂

11. How has being on the show changed your couponing style?
A lot! Only because everyone is now doing it so I never really shop anymore because 238420349203 people are doing the same deals.

12. You demonstrated a level of politeness on your episode that seemed lost on some of the other featured couponers in that you didn’t clear shelves, you ordered ahead, etc. What is your stance on shelf clearing?
Well the thing is, is that we all pre-ordered! The store took their stock off the shelf and put our stock on the shelf, we took it and then they restocked it. So no one was taking away from others. Of course it looks like this and that is what I hated. I told them when I started filming to not get that because I dont believe in shelf clearing. Well now that others have seen it they will do the same things. I hate hate hate it!

13. When you were filming, what was “for good tv” and what was real? Do you really climb into dumpsters? Do you really spend 60 hours a week couponing? If not, then how much time do you devote to couponing and how are dumpsters a part of your couponing?
Nope it just made good tv! When they flash money in your face you will do whatever right? LOL!
I don’t coupon for 60hrs and my schedule is never like the one they made me make. I usualy only use 20-30hrs but that includes eveyrthing that has to do with couponing including my blog/facebook. I do dumpster dive but never get into the dumpsters! I just look through recycle bins with my hands.

14. Will you buy something without a coupon?
Only if we absolutely need it and its still on sale with a great price.

15. When you created your coupon binders did you build them yourself or buy them pre-assembled? Do you have a tutorial to show us how to create the perfect binder? It can be overwhelming trying to decide on categories, what type binder to use, what type of insert pages, etc.
Yes check my youtube video

16. Do you still maintain your photography business? Will you continue to operate your photography business if your couponing business continues to grow?
Its still there although been neglected. Its okay because I was so busy last summer that this break is nice. I will still do pictures but wont advertise as much as I do.

17. Where do you see couponing taking you professionally and personally?
Hmm good question! Right now I have a permanet spot on fox charlotte every wednesday morning. And fox & I are starting up a deal site that is goign to be pretty cool! So being branded as the fox extreme saver is good for me!

18. What advice do you have for those of us with small homes and no space for a spare bedroom or garage sized stockpile?
Use your closets! Get rubbermaid bins and store your items in there. Where ever you have room I would use it. Cabinets, closets, and under sink storage work great!

Want to learn more from Desirae?  You can find her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube:

Thank you so much Desirae!  We all appreciate your knowledge and insight into the world of couponing!
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