Devil's Advocate 

Why I Don’t Use Coupons

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This is a Devil's Advocate post.

couponsThere’s been a lot written about how coupons can be used as tools to save money. Indeed, the show Extreme Couponing highlighted how some of the most vigilant of couponers could save hundreds of dollars — or more — on shopping trips.

Even if you aren’t going to extremes with your couponing, it can seem like a good idea to many to clip a few coupons a week. I, however, am not one to use coupons. I’ve tried at various times to get into coupon clipping, including printing out coupons online, but it’s just never caught on with me. Coupons have never been worth the time for me — and here’s why:

It’s Time Consuming

I know that people say that they can clip coupons while watching TV, or that 20 hours a week can yield big savings. It’s important to realize what goes into serious coupon clipping. Even semi-serious coupon clipping can take time. In order to accomplish something substantial, you have to:

  • Make a shopping list
  • Hunt down coupons (whether you get them from the paper, a flyer, or online)
  • Go from store to store with the coupons
  • Try to find the items in the store
  • Take time at check out to organize your items and use your coupons

To be honest, I don’t have the patience for all of that. The time involved in trying to match coupons to a shopping list, and finding exactly what I want, plus the gas money spent driving all over the place to get the most bang for the buck at different stores where the coupons can be used, just doesn’t seem worth it.

The Coupons Aren’t for What I Want Anyway

Many times the coupons available aren’t for what I want anyway. What am I going to do with cases of Gatorade? I don’t even like Gatorade. On top of that, many of the items aren’t things I’m going to use to make a meal. It’s rare to find coupons for fresh produce and unprocessed food ingredients. Instead, you are far more likely to find food coupons for items chock full of sodium and corn syrup. I don’t use these items, so clipping coupons for them is pointless.

Additionally, many of the other items aren’t for brands I like, or things that I use. Instead of saving money, you can be encouraged to buy items you aren’t really interested in. That’s not true value for your dollar.

You Could End Up Spending More

If you buy something just because you have a coupon, you aren’t truly saving money. You’re just spending a little less. But it doesn’t change the fact that you are spending money that you hadn’t intended to spend. On top of that, you could spend more overall. A tube of brand name toothpaste might cost $2.00 more than your regular brand. So, even if you are saving $1.50 on the toothpaste, you are actually spending an extra 50 cents. It’s important to understand the true cost of items you purchase with coupons, since you could be buying something more expensive.

Before you get too excited about using coupons, stop and think about what you could be doing with that time. You could be starting a side business, playing with your children, or spending quality time with your spouse. Be realistic about how much time it takes to go through coupons and plan your shopping, as well as how much you are actually saving.

What do you think of couponing? Does it work for you?
(Photo: Mandy Jansen)

{ 32 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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32 Responses to “Why I Don’t Use Coupons”

  1. The sweetest thing about coupons is when you have a buy-one-get-one-free deal at the local supermarket and you can kick in a coupon for another 50 cents or a dollar off. Doesn’t get any better than that.

  2. David M says:

    Only buy what you will use and only buy if it really saves you money.

    It should not be an all or nothing proposition!

    You can use 2% of the coupons you get in the paper and throw away the other 98%!

  3. Matt says:

    If you shop enough you will get good coupons from stores that require little effort to use. I just got 10$ any grooming service at Petsmart. Coupons like 10$ off and a free drink at Starbucks would be indefensible to not use.

  4. Wilma says:

    If you don’t have time to make a list, check the circulars for the bargains and clip a few coupons than you don’t have any worries about making ends meet.

    I don’t travel to multiple stores for my shopping. I check the Sunday circulars and plan my trip to one of those stores with what I want on sale. I arrive with a list, calculator and my cloth shopping bags.

    For me coupons are for : 1, To try a new product. It better be on sale and I may not buy it again. I just wanted to try it.

    2. Coupons for eggs, cleaning products, personal care products, ice cream, meats, and dairy are my norms. I’m picky about the price. Even with a coupon it might not meet my standards of what I consider a bargain. I take the time to read and compare.

    3. The grocery circular some times has their own coupons or cash register coupons that are more tailored to my shopping. If they apply to my needs I will use them.

    Coupon usage is based upon your needs. Will the name brand product be the one and only no matter what? Will I use that product or will it go to waste? Does it have a storage issue like has to be used by? Like everything else coupons are a tool for saving money if you know how to use it.

  5. Precia C says:

    Finally someone pointed out, fresh produce and unprocessed food ingredients do not get coupons. Coupons push a consumer to unhealthy choices.

    • Tina says:

      Actually if you look around you can get produce coupons. It actually happens. I’ve done it and saved money and made my family a healthy meal that didn’t cost as much as it could have.

    • Mme Yeni says:

      Yes, Precia! Someone pointed out the obvious: Coupons promote processed foods & that is why I’m not a coupon person either. I tried to utilize coupons, but being beyond frugal I found alternatives to buying without coupons.

  6. patricia says:

    I agree with this – I have tried several times to use coupons – but it takes alot of time. I decided to use that time to plant a garden and grow my own fresh veggies. I have stopped buying processed foods so I cook alot from scratch and you do not see alot of coupons for the basic staples. If you have time and enjoy couponing – I see no problem with it but I agree with this post it is not for everyone.

  7. Sarah in Alaska says:

    I’m not a super couponer. Haven’t ever been. But I do focus on one store, clip coupons for products I plan to buy, and check my store’s sales listing for things marked down to my “buy price”. It takes me all of 10 minutes on Monday morning.

    Last Saturday these items were on sale and I didn’t use a coupon for them: tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, jalapinos, broccoli, Soft soap body wash.

    On sale with a coupon: Wheat thins, Kettle chips, dishes for baby shower gift. The wheat thins and Kettle chips I know I will use sometime in the next three months for a bbq or backpacking trip.

  8. We tried the coupon thing for several months & it didn’t work for us because of just about everything you mentioned.

    It’s also why we cancelled our Dallas Morning News subscription…wasn’t worth it.

  9. Lulu says:

    It bothers me when people say coupons are only for ‘junk’ food. I have gotten coupons for MILK, BREAD and EGGS in the past…they are not as common as the coupons for processed foods but they do come every now and then.

    People also seem to forget that many coupons are for household items. I use coupons for things like Toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper and so on. Yes there are a lot of coupons for junk food but you pick what you want…I use the household coupons and ignore the food coupons.

    It is good to point out the bad but also point out the good….coupons can be used for things other than food. Besides the coupons for things like toothbrushes and toothpaste give you more off than the ones for food in most cases.

  10. Dave says:

    The only coupons I use are for Costco. They come in a nice convenient book every month and there’s almost always a coupon in there for something I’m going to buy anyway, like paper towels or TP or diapers…

    Clipping coupons from circulars, going online,or even trying maximize savings, ala extreme couponing? I don’t have the time or the energy…

  11. Martha says:

    I love using coupons. I’ll try to find one whenever I”m out shopping because it’s like getting free money. I can use the extra savings to buy other things 🙂

  12. I tried using coupons, but I spent way too much time for too little of rewards. I found that even after coupons, I could still buy the generic item cheaper. Besides, you can only save so much, but the potential to increase your income is infinite.

  13. Holly says:

    I don’t have to worry about the time to go over the ads & make a list or hunt down coupons. I simply follow the 3 bloggers for my area and they do ALL that for me-list the BEST deals and what inserts had the right coupons or where to go to get the printables.

  14. Shirley says:

    Our local stores email a link to their weekly ads and coupons. You can choose products and coupons to add to a list and either print it or email it to yourself for later printing. I only use coupons for what I would buy and use or try even without them and takes me no more time than looking through and clipping the local newspaper ones.

    We also get a monthly local ‘shopping guide’ booklet in the regular mail and I do clip the three we use every month and the one for a discounted smog check when it is needed. I do enjoy using those coupons but I don’t go looking for them… they come to me. 😉

  15. glenn says:

    I used to think just like you, bur after attending a free couponing class here where I live, and knowing that I can go to a website that tells me what coupons to use and when, I spend maybe 3 hours a week doing the work and will save at least 60 to 70 dollars at the store, and this is stuff I actually use. I am blessed to have in my area. look at it and see if there is something like it around you.

  16. Robert says:

    I’m the same way. I make a list of what I need and use a store that provides a gasoline discount program. Coupons I get just aren’t for what I need or require purchasing more than I have space for.

  17. Bill Stone says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what you say about couponing. If you are hoooked on processed foods and sugar loaded cereals, couponing is for you. I do not buy this stuff. I am a Whole Foods loyalist and their (natural) brands have no coupons other than some that are in-store only.

  18. Johnny says:

    You are right. Too little for so much time spent. We don’t usually buy brand name products and other products are cheaper. I use baking soda and vinager for cleaning and make our bread from scratch. Bread is expensive and with some practice can be made so much cheaper and can put healthy things in it. I can make it quicker than going to the store. For a treat, I melt a few choc chips and let the kids dip bananas and apples in the chc. Peant butter on celery and a little frosting on gram crackers make cookies.

  19. Mark says:

    Conquer your ego and Market Street brainwashing, and

    1) Find a grocery salvage store and shop there.
    2) Buy store brands.
    3) Check out the dollar stores.
    4) Forget about coupons. You’re saving more without them.

  20. Olivia says:

    It depends on the item. Most of our regular shopping is done at a local bump and dent store. But they don’t carry everything. I clip coupons and use them at CVS (the blog “For the Mommas” does all the figuring), an occassional Hardee’s visit, and a small chain grocery that doubles their value. So the time/saving ratio is not bad.

  21. Tina says:

    Anything worth doing takes a bit of time. Yep, there’s coupons out there for things I don’t buy. I don’t use them. I don’t throw them away though. There’s a local community organization that takes them for people who will use them. I keep the coupons I know I’m going to use. I watch the sales If another brand is cheaper than what I intended to buy with the coupon, then I buy it instead. Just because I have a coupon in hand doesn’t mean I absolutely have to use it. It goes into the coupon donate pile. The other day, I used my coupons with sale items. I saved myself nearly $60 doing it. That adds up for a single mom with 3 kids. I have items stocked up, I don’t have to buy these items for several months. By then, they’ll likely be on sale again. It was for things I needed and use all the time. I can’t coupon in Canada like I did in the U.S. but I do the best I can and I’m a firm believer that if you do it right, it’s worth doing.

  22. Tina says:

    Also, you don’t necessarily have to go from store to store. Many stores price match their competitors these days. You just have to show them the price from the other store and they will give you the same price.

  23. z says:

    I use coupons all the time and its for great stuff i use. There are three websites i visit and i just select the coupons i need and they mail them to me. Also, the grocery store i shop at price matches advertised prices from other stores so i dont waste gas going from store to store. I spend only 100.00 per week for a family of four for groceries that i use. I think im doing pretty good.

  24. Keith Connes says:

    I’ll now waste a little more of my time commenting on what a waste of time it was to read this article. There was no useful information or idea in it that would not already have occurred to anyone with an I.Q. above 10. In other words, everything was totally obvious.

  25. Prairie says:

    I do value my time and my money. I plan my shopping around the store’s circular and match sale items with my coupons. There are many coupons for a $1.00 or more and I think they are worth my time and trouble. I rarely buy items that are not on sale. I do not buy over processed foods either. Plus I figure the coupons I use on items already on sale helps pay for the fresh fruit, vegetables, or meat that I need.

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