Armed with a black sharpie marker, 15-year-old Broderick Topil and his mother Becky scan through pages of newspaper inserts looking for coupons at their Eudora residence Monday evening. The pair, who spend about 10 hours per week cutting coupons, will be featured on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” show Tuesday evening. (Photo by John Young, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World)
(Editors Note: To see a promo of the TLC episode, you can use the following link to the TLC Channel )
Story by Peter Hancock, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
Members of the Topil family of Eudora aren’t your typical shoppers.
When they go to the store, they go armed with envelopes full of coupons. They can fill a grocery cart, or two, crammed with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. And when the cashier tallies it all up, they may end up owing only a few dollars.
And sometimes, the store actually ends up owing them money.
“I don’t know if I’d consider it a way of life,” says Broderick Topil, a sophomore at Eudora High School and the lead coupon organizer of the family. “But all of our stuff revolves around it, like grocery shopping and everything. If we don’t have a coupon, we probably won’t get it.”
A storeroom in the family’s home gives visitors the impression that they could open their own grocery store. Rows of warehouse-like shelves are stocked with things the family buys in bulk, everything from canned goods and bottled soda to shaving razors and paper towels. There is even an unusually large supply of feminine hygiene products.
Not all of it is meant for themselves, however. The Topil family also uses their coupon-clipping prowess to buy supplies for their school. They also donate some of their haul to charities, and they’re preparing to send a shipment of goods to the East Coast to help out victims of Superstorm Sandy.
“Right now, we’re planning on sending 200 packages of razors to the East Coast,” Broderick said.
Other times, Broderick said, the family stocks up on things they think other people in the community might need.
“Sometimes we’ll get things we don’t really need, and when that’s the case, we’ll give them away,” he said.
Broderick said he started becoming an aggressive clipper by watching the reality television show “Extreme Couponing.”
Tuesday night, the family will be featured in a segment of that show. The program airs at 9 p.m. on The Learning Channel (TLC), channel 268 on the Knology cable system.
“About a year ago, we were having trouble financially, so I kind of stepped up and tried to find a way make it work for the family,” he said. “I saw the show and decided to try it for myself.”
In the storeroom behind the shelves, the Topils have receipts taped to the wall like trophies to commemorate some of their more memorable shopping trips.
One in particular is a receipt for the purchase of 109 different items. After redeeming all of his coupons, and accounting for sales tax, the receipt shows the store paid them $99.23.
Gathering up all those coupons can be an extreme task in itself, requiring measures like “Dumpster diving” to find advertising inserts from newspapers that other people have thrown away.
The family also receives six Sunday newspapers at home, and it’s a regular family event where he and his sisters, Danelle and Michelle, sift through them all, cutting out all the usable coupons they can find.
More typically, though, Broderick says he goes online to various coupon clipping services where he can order large quantities of coupons and have them delivered for just the cost of shipping.
Admittedly, couponing isn’t a typical hobby for a high school boy. But Broderick says his friends at school have come to respect it, especially after seeing him followed around by a network camera crew for three days.
“They all thought it was really cool,” he said. “They all thought it was awesome that someone from small-town Eudora, Kansas, is going to be on national television.”