Wife Swap: The Couponing Edition

A frugal couple models good -- and not so good -- behavior.

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Last Friday's episode of ABC's Wife Swap featured women at opposite extremes of budgeting: One believed that a husband should get a second job in order to fund her own spending (and tanning) habits. The other spent an hour using coupons at the grocery store in order to save money.

As usual, the program participants were portrayed as extremist weirdos, but the couponing couple, George and Denise McIntyre of Gaines Township, Michigan, had some useful habits. Among them:

  • They use the Internet to save money. According to a local newspaper story, they subscribe to the site RefundCents.com to keep track of deals.
    • They take the time to save coupons and use them, which easily saves them over $50 a week.
      • They refuse to prioritize money over time. Instead of working second jobs, which would reduce the amount of time they have to spend with their family, the McIntyres make do with less. 
        • They spend when it counts. George McIntyre splurged on a bowling trip for the whole family on the show.
        • But they also go too far. Among their mistakes:

          • The McIntyres buy so many household products (like toiletries) when they go on sale that their basement is chock full of them. Instead of storing such excess supplies, they could use the extra space in their house for something enjoyable. (After all, research shows that Costco members often don't save money.)
            • They don't let their 10-year-old twin sons do much beyond play videogames in order to save money on gas and other expenses.That can't be helping their future social skills.
              • They seem not to spend any money on their own appearances. While owning a tanning bed, as the other couple did, is extreme, modest investments in clothes, haircuts and make-up can be worth it.