It takes a special kind of person to be able to live entirely on coupons for a year, or even to attempt it. Most of us would either scoff at the idea or contemplate it very briefly before inching back to saner endeavors, but Josh Stevens has long been destined for this kind of absurd challenge.
“I’ve always been a deal-seeker,” the 27-year-old told MainStreet. When he was still in his teens, Stevens forced each member of his family onto a group phone plan rather than paying for individual phone lines, long before family plans were popular. He has spent long nights camped outside Best Buy to buy a Wii and a PlayStation 3 the day they came out just so he could resell them online for a heavy profit. “When the Xbox 360 came out, I waited outside the store for at least a whole night and then sold one of them online for $5,000,” he said. And why? “I just find it really fun, like a game.”
So when Groupon, a popular Web site for coupons, announced their “Live Off Groupon” challenge in February, Stevens jumped at the chance. But really, to call it a challenge is putting it mildly; this is a mission designed to make contestants sweat. Groupon requires the “lucky” winner to give up all worldly possessions for a year (including his home, job and family) and find a way to make due on nothing but coupons and ingenuity. If Stevens succeeds, he will be rewarded with a fat $100,000 check at the end of the year.
Nearly 400 people applied for this opportunity, by creating YouTube videos explaining why they were the best candidate. The winner was supposed to be announced at the beginning of this month, but that date was pushed back. “The reason for the delay is that we have absolutely no idea what we are doing,” Andrew Mason, the CEO and founder of Groupon, told MainStreet. “We thought of this on such a whim and now we are grappling with the enormity of the task.”
Nonetheless, Groupon narrowed the field down to six finalists including an unemployed woman with no boyfriend or home and a butcher who had dreams of becoming a photojournalist. Ultimately though, Stevens beat them all. “I was definitely surprised and very excited,” Stevens said about being selected. At the time, he was waiting tables at a “fine dining restaurant” in the suburbs of Chicago, and busy applying for MBA programs.