There's no denying that times are tough. Families across the country are trimming back their spending in order to combat rising food prices and reduce their household debt. As such, it's not surprising that Canadians are turning to deals, discounts, and coupons in order to save money at the checkout. But at what cost?Cutting a few coupons here and there in order to save on essential items isn't just smart, it's a proven way to reduce your weekly grocery bill. But what happens when your desire to save becomes more of an obsession than a cost-cutting measure? As counterintuitive as it may sound, extreme couponing can, depending on the circumstances, come with a hefty price tag. The three types of coupon clippersA lot has changed in the world of couponing. It used to be that people would sit down at the kitchen table every Sunday and casually clip offers from the local weekly. Over time, coupons started showing up on the back of store receipts and inside cereal boxes. Today, there are entire websites and mailing lists dedicated to the sport of coupon collection. This proliferation of discounts and deals has given rise to three distinct types of savings-oriented shoppers:1) The casual couponer: Like the coupon clippers of old, this type of shopper doesn't go out of their way to locate the latest savings. If a coupon expires before they have had a chance to use it, they aren't overly worried. This type of couponer only clips discounts for items that they know they will need to buy in the near future. 2) The intermediate bargain hunter: Bargain hunters take couponing far more seriously, purchasing multiple copies of the newspaper if they warrant it a "good" coupon week. Intermediate bargain hunters also frequent printable coupon websites and are apt to make their shopping list based on what coupons they have available. They may even combine coupons with in-store specials in order to get the most bang for their buck.3) The extreme couponer: The easiest way to spot an extreme couponer is to simply take a peek in their pantry. If you see 15 boxes of the same cereal, 20 bottles of shampoo, and 10 containers of mustard, chances are you're dealing with a discount addict with behaviour that borders on obsessive. These shoppers have price books for all the items they use regularly and a sophisticated filing system for their myriad of coupons. Some even keep receipts from their purchases as trophies of their successful shopping trips. The real cost of "free" foodWomen who take the time to carefully clip and plan their couponing can easily save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on their annual grocery bills. However, when was the last time you saw a coupon for a head of lettuce or a bunch of bananas? As extreme couponers cut the cost of food, they also sacrifice the quality of their diet (and their overall health), replacing nutritious options with highly processed packaged foods. You know you're headed down a dark road when your primary focus is on the deal you're getting rather than the food you're bringing home to your family.Additional costs can also start accumulating if your couponing begins to spiral out of control. These include:• Fuel costs: Many extreme couponers will go out of their way to visit multiple stores in order to secure the best possible discount. However, if these individuals were to add up the additional fuel expense of driving across town, the cost could very well trump their savings.• Ink and printing: Printing colour coupons off the web isn't cheap. Many extreme couponers forget to factor in the cost of ink cartridges when calculating their coupon savings.• Wasted time: Just imagine all of the things you could be doing instead of clipping coupons and surfing discount websites? Rather than spending time fuelling your addiction, consider putting that effort towards building a side business or even picking up a part-time position. Instead of focusing on lowering your grocery bill, put your energy towards increasing your income. • Clutter: While there's no harm in stocking up on a few items every now and then, there's definitely something wrong when you need to convert your spare room into a walk-in pantry. Many extreme couponers have basements or back rooms with floor to ceiling shelves stocked full of crackers, condiments, cookies and soda pop. Keep your coupon clipping under controlSaving money is good, but not if it costs you more in the long run. If you're putting an excessive amount of time into your couponing – stop! Your time is likely better spent elsewhere. Saving a few bucks here and there is to be commended, but only if it's not at the expense of your happiness and your health.