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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)

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

  1. Marilyn says:

    I’ve tried using coupons a few times. I inevitably spend more when I use coupons.

    Many coupons are for brand new products, which are typically more expensive than older products.

    I cook from scratch as much as possible. It’s cheaper and coupons rarely cover raw staples.

    Coupons seem like they require consumers to buy greater and greater quanitities to get the same discount. I used to see Pringles coupons that gave a $1 off three tubes. Now it’s a $1 off five tubes. Sorry, but Pringles already cost more more than other chips. They’ve lost me as a customer (sorry, hubby).

    I frankly suspect that the shows like Extreme Couponing feature behinds the scenes consultations and information from marketing and PR folks at the grocery chains and the food producers. How many people have been enticed to try the same thing after watching those shows?

  2. Holly says:

    YES! Coupons push trendy, processed, unhealthy foodish items instead of REAL FOOD. I used to be a couponer…until I changed my diet to whole, organic and as local as possible. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. I feel SO MUCH BETTER. We rarely get sick. Only think I use coupons for now is paper products, HABA and cleaning supplies (but even some of these things are being replaced with CHEAPER and more natural things like baking soda, vinegar, etc. I never would have known any of this until I lost my mom to brain cancer and began looking into things like aspartame, HFCS, etc…it’s poison…and coupons ensure people on tight budgets will consume it. Whole foods are cheaper in the long run. “Pay the farmer now, or pay the doctor later”.

    • Mme Yeni says:

      Amen Holly! I’m an RN and often have to teach folks how to make smart food choices… amazing that I get paid to do the obvious! ;-)

    • Yipeekieyay says:

      I agree with Holly. I used to use coupons but now that my kids are grown, I try and live on a small cash grocery budget. I can shop and get what’s on sale without using them. Hot pockets are terrible, let alone 33 of them. Lol.

  3. Walter says:

    I think your thesis is wrong on at least one account: coupons aren’t just for food. Laundry detergent, soap, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies, etc. are all things that can be bought at discount with coupons. And you can maximize the savings they offer if you are not “brand myopic” (i.e., not fixated on specific brand names of items).


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