5 Reasons Why I Don’t Clip Coupons

by Kentin Waits on 20 March 2012 38 comments
Photo: Lee J Haywood

People love coupons. According to the Nielsen Clearing House (NCH), an industry leader in coupon marketing and redemption, 78% of consumers report using coupons on a regular basis. I’m not one of these people. Though clipping coupons is usually the first thing that comes to mind when folks think of frugality and thrift, I argue that it’s time to put down the scissors. Here’s why. (See also: Extreme Couponing? 5 Reasons Why I'll Pass)

1. You Usually Have to Buy Something to Get a Coupon

Though some coupons are free or accessible online at no charge, most of them are still found tucked in that old standby, the Sunday paper. I don’t read the paper, and I don’t want to have to buy something in order to be offered the chance to save money. It seems contradictory and is a bit too complicated for my taste.

2. Coupons Attempt to Modify Behavior

Manufacturers want me to save 50 cents on that pint of ice cream for one reason only — to get me in the habit of it. It’s simple. And it’s a claim that the manufacturers and the coupon industry would be the first to admit. Coupons exist to suggest new products and to habituate shoppers to particular products and brands. Then later, at 3:00 in the morning when I need that pint of rocky road in the very worst way — poof! No more coupons. No thanks.

3. Coupons Encourage Over-Buying

Often, the savings that we get from a coupon only applies when buying multiple items. Even though each item may be cheaper in the long run with the coupons, why should I have to buy multiples? What if I don’t end up liking that new brand of coffee? What if that brand of cheese has a bad aftertaste? Who should be the lucky recipient of all my surplus java and Colby Jack?

4. The Savings vs. Time Investment Is Low With Coupons

Couponing requires the regular purchase of a newspaper at best. At worst, it requires joining some coupon exchange club and buying a handy organizer. Then I have to clip, file, and wait for double coupon day. And while I’m at it, I should also join my grocery store’s loyalty program to boost my savings even more. With this much effort, are the savings really worth it? Wouldn’t buying generic save me just as much without all the hassle?

5. Coupons Typically Push Pre-Packaged, Processed Foods

I seldom see coupons for apples or broccoli. Maybe they exist, and I’ve just blinded myself to the entire category of things that require clipping. But it seems to me that coupons generally push convenient, pre-packaged, and processed food. I’m not a health nut, but the last thing I need is another excuse to buy a frozen pizza and Pop Tarts.

Perhaps I’ve overstated my case, and I certainly don’t mean to disparage diehard couponers out there. It’s just that I can’t quite see what all the fuss is about. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for saving money. I’m just not sure that couponing achieves that goal in the long run. Looking for sales on things I’d buy anyway, stocking up when I find a smoking deal on something I really love, gravitating toward generics and store brands whenever possible — these are my tried-and-true tactics.

Still, NCH says I’m firmly in the minority of shoppers with my coupon-free wallet. Heck, 1.75 billion coupons were redeemed in the first six months of 2011 alone. That’s a whole lot of clipping, and I must be missing something. If you’re serious about couponing, please fill me in — I’m free most Sundays. 

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Guest's picture
jenn

I am very happy to hear that someone else feels the same way about coupons. My husband and I looked into some of the free online coupons, because we don't buy the paper either, and there was not a single coupon for something we would have bought anyway. This does not mean we have not used coupons, we shop at H-E-B and they are really great about providing coupons for just about everything, including produce! It is great to walk down the aisle to pick up something already on the list and see the yellow coupons hanging there.

Thanks for a great article!

Guest's picture
Cindy

So lucky to have HEB. We moved to NC from TX and one of the things we miss is HEB!!

Guest's picture
darcie

hmmm - good points, but I am an avid coupon clipper. I got a deal on the Sunday newspaper for 2 years for $2. No, I'm not kidding. I literally put 2, one dollar bills in the envelope and returned my invoice. It takes about 2 minutes to flip through the coupons and pull out what I need - Sure, sometimes the savings are nil, sometimes they are better.
We buy dog food for our dog - I for one, love the coupons for $2.50 off one bag that often shows up in my weekly coupon fliers. I especially love when my coworkers bring in their coupons they aren't using and I can get extras.
No, they don't come for everything...but saving $2.50 on a bag of dog food we were buying anyway certainly brings the total bill down and helps to offset those apples and that broccoli no?
;)

Guest's picture
Emily

I got a years subscription to my sunday paper for free also. And my company has several copies in the breakroom with inserts that I am allowed to take. I hate the "but you have to spend money on the sunday paper" excuse.

Guest's picture
Suzanne Favreau

Good article that reflects my feelings on couponing, but I'd like to add one thing. You can find coupons online for products you use all the time by visiting the company website, and this doesn't take much time. Stonyfield Yogurt, Olivia's Organics, and Lundberg Rice usually have coupons available. I also regularly get coupons for Finish dishwasher detergent and Biore contact lens solution through the company websites.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

Many times I've clipped coupons out of the free ads we get sometimes. I'm very picky and only clip for items I already use. I don't use much in the way of prepackaged meals, so that eliminates a lot of coupons right there, but I do use things like ketchup and various other condiments. Then I go to the store and discover that I can usually get that same item (different brand) cheaper without the coupon. I always think using coupons sounds like it should be a great thing, but like you, I found it not worth my time.

Guest's picture

1. Ask friends and relatives for their inserts if they do buy the Sunday paper. Also, some public libraries have free will coupon exchanges where you take what you need and drop off what you don't. Plus, more and more coupons are online now. Many times there is an option to have them mailed to you so you don't even have to waste ink printing them yourself.
2. Don't be brand loyal. I don't care how good of an ice cream was to me if I discovered it with the aid of a coupon, I won't buy it again if it's regular price is too high for my budget. I see this a lot with Tide detergent. It is NOT 100 times better than all the other brands, yet there are Tide loyalists who spend a ridiculous amount on it because of good marketing (and the coupons Procter and Gamble usually offer are only for $.25 cents off a $10 bottle. No wonder people get discouraged about couponing)
3. If you've never tried a product before, there's no reason to buy multiples of a product. So don't clip the coupon. If, however, it's a product you use, why not? Buy enough to last until the next sales cycle. Which can be anywhere from 8-12 weeks (generally speaking).
4. Buy an organizer from the dollar aisle at Target. As for the time it takes, I clip and organize my coupons when I catch up on the one show a week that I watch on television. One hour a week to save my family at least 40% off my grocery bill. Very little effort goes into it. If I tried harder, I could save 60%. And I don't buy a lot of pre-processed foods.
5. I do not like generalizations and this is the one that drives me up the wall the most. But as the author mentioned, he's blinded himself to it. So how does he know for sure? He doesn't. While there are many processed food coupons out there, there are TONS of organic and healthy food coupons out there, too. Eggs, produce, milk you name it. Check out MamboSprouts.com for organic coupons (of course, there are organic junk food coupons out there, too) There are coupons for almost everything out there now.

Guest's picture
Ralph

Jennifer, You wrote my reply to this blog. I agree! Really, if we are "wise" and living on a "budget" forget these objections. One more item on number five relating to the prepackaged stuff, most of us use items which come prepackaged - detergent, deodorant, yogurt, granola, paper towels, and a lot more. As my mother informed me after 35 years working in a grocery store, the manufactures coordinate the coupons with sales so take advantage of them. This often makes the product a half price or less. Plus learn the product "sales cycle" to coordinate your coupons with the sales.

Guest's picture
JustAGuy

I have similar habits. No papers. Hardly any time spent searching. Never buy foods I wouldn't normally eat (even if they're just about free). Particularly the processed stuff.

But I do use coupons. I have a great local resource who lists great local deals and includes urls to links for online coupons. I look at her deals and most weeks / months don't print any coupons. But sometimes the basics can be had for great deals: berries, pasta, yogurt, butter, cheese, milk, chicken breasts, etc. Also if I find good coupons deals from the store's ads (she also summarizes these) then watch out... I have at times stopped at stores 4 times a day (there's a chain that has a store a block away from home and near my office so I stop at both on the way out and on the way home) for a week to stock up on nearly free food. So in-store coupons would be my main coupon use.

I save a lot on groceries, but its from watching for deals and stocking up, not usually from coupons.

Guest's picture
scoutmaster

Oh how we agree on this!!!! i spent less than $45. in the store last night & saved over $85!!! (confirmed by reout) NO COUPONS WERE USED...only special buys & on sale items that my family really uses...we eat real food not bogo poptarts or sodas. the kids are happy as what i have "saved" in food $$$ this month alone, has "paid" for the weekend @ the beach at the end of this month!!!

Guest's picture
Emily

I'm not trying to make assumptions because I don't know you're particular situation, but generally when your receipt tells you you saved money, it's only according to retail pricing or regular pricing, and that's just a gimmick. It's like when you shop at Kohls and at the bottom of the receipt it tells you "you saved $100 today!" It's just a gimmick to make you feel good. Kohls would never ever actually charge $40 for a shirt, but because the sign says "retail $40 - today 50% off"... people think they're saving and get all excited when in all reality, they're paying the most Kohls would ever charge! (I am an ex kohls employee in case you hadn't realised :P and they are a perfect example of this making people feel warm and fuzzy about savings when they're not saving anything).

If usually you buy something full price and when you saw a sale you stocked up, that's great, but you could maximize savings by using coupons with sales and walk out of the store paying nothing or just a few bucks. E.g. I have never paid more than 50 cents for a bottle of shampoo, I have never paid for toothpaste or toothbrushes, and thanks to sales AND coupons, i never spend more than $15 a week at the grocery store. It's just a thought, and coupon blogs like the Krazy Coupon Lady do all the work for you matching sales with coupons and telling you what you can get for free each week.

Guest's picture

I'm with you on this one. The savings isn't worth the hassle for me. I rarely ever buy brand names. And rarely do see coupons for the things I buy. I make a lot of things from scratch, which is also cheaper than packaged food (even ones on sale) that include a lot of very unhealthy ingredients. I am also not a multi-store shopper. I hit Brookshires one trip and Wal-mart the next. I don't go to 5 stores in one day so I can maximize my cheap and free stuff. I have 3 kids and I homeschool, so my time and sanity are more valuable than getting several of the same item that I will probably not even use for next to nothing. Don't get me wrong, I'm intensly frugal, I even run a frugal blog website. I've been there and tried it, it was too stressful and time consuming, and usually when I got to the store, the brand item was still more expensive with the coupon than the store brand that I had been buying. When I stumble across a coupon on something I do use, such as razors or cereal, I use it. A dollar is a dollar and is better in my pocket than theirs. But I'm not going out of my way for things I don't normally use.

Guest's picture
Emily

I can understand how it didn't work for your family, but not all couponers run to 4 stores in a day. I go to 1 or 2 stores a week depending on deals and needs- Rite Aid for my freebie personal care products and household cleaning supplies, and Winco for my cheap groceries.

Wal Mart is extremely overpriced on groceries. They're food is not only low quality but they're pricing on food is generally really bad. You should check out other stores like Costco if you're not willing to coupon.

And at first glance the name brand might be 50 cents more expensive than the store brand so if you're not going to coupon then yes store brand is your best option, but couponing can get you the name brand stuff for free. Again I understand that it may not work for your family but I hate seeing the misconceptions poeple have built in their minds about couponing. I love getting free laundry detergant, free toothpaste, free gum, 25 cent deodreants, free makeup etc. and couponing has been great for my family. I don't go out of my way I just plan my trips well using useful blogs like the krazy coupon lady.

Guest's picture

Emily, Yes, It can be good for some who use those products regularly (or those who like to donate these items) but you mentioned things like laundry detergent, toothpaste, gum, deodorants, makeup etc. Like I said, I make a lot of things from scratch, such as soap bars, laundry detergent, deodorant and household cleaners (as well as a lot of food products like 'hamburger helper mix', 'chocolate milk syrup', 'taco and fajita spice mixes', 'pancake syrup', other mixes, graham crackers, cheese crackers, marshmallows, cookies, etc.) in order to avoid chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. So in the end we may not get them free but we pay a fraction of what we would if we were buying the processed food and chemical cleaners etc. And it allows us to spend a little more on other things such as toothpaste and other items that aren't laden with harmful chemicals. I have also started going to Aldi (basics) and Sprouts (fresh produce) rather than Brookshires and Walmart and save even more money and eat even healthier. I'm not trying to discourage anyone that does the coupon shopping if that's their thing, but I don't usually use those (store bought) things at all (and save a ton that way) plus I don't have room to store a bunch of stuff that will take a long time to use (that requires a bigger house and therefore a bigger house payment ;)). And the few things I do buy that I could use coupons for, usually isn't worth buying the Sunday paper for. So, we must consider that there are other ways to live cheap and get what you want besides couponing, and we each live the best way we know how. For me, my family's health is more important than saving money, so I avoid chemicals and processed foods as much as possible. Sadly, I don't see many coupons for things in the produce, meat, and dairy sections, or the baking aisle. And my post was just trying to show the other side, that there are some, like me, who save as much (or more) living healthy and frugal, without --what I feel is a hassle, of -- couponing.

Guest's picture
brista

Yep, I agree. I try to glance through the free coupons that come in the mail but 99% of the time, it's for things I don't want and things that are definitely unhealthy! Once in a while I'll find something useful, but...yeah, a lot of coupons are just prepackaged convenience food that I would never buy in the first place or name brands of something I can get cheaper as a generic.

Guest's picture
Sassy

I am glad to know I am not the only one who doesn't use coupons

Lazy Man and Money's picture

While a lot of these are true for most people, there are ways to eliminate just about each of these concerns. I recommend you pickup a copy of The Lazy Couponer by Jamie Chase. She doesn't spend a lot of time... doesn't over-buy... gets lots of organic foods... and saves a lot of money.

It's a good book. I asked her for a guest post and here are some of her tips to whet your appetite:

http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/top-10-couponing-tips-from-the-lazy-coupo...

Guest's picture
Jennifer

I actually think that Lazy Couponer is a good book, but her method is anything BUT lazy! If anything, it teaches the opposite and scares people away from using coupons. Try Be Centsable by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee.

Guest's picture
Silence

I use some that I get for free, and store issued coupons (free eggs and bananas). I would never pay for an online service. Like you said, coupons are usually for junk food items that are really not needed....and pricey anyways even with a coupon.

Guest's picture
PK

We don't HAVE coupons here. Our supermarkets do have catalogues with weekly price reductions - but mostly on pre-packaged rubbish I can't or won't buy anyway (they use them as "loss-leaders" - to get people in the store), and fresh produce (vegetables, fruit, dairy, delicatessen and meats/poultry/fish) is the single most expensive section of our stores. I detest the way they reward unhealthy eating or non-allergy sufferers so much :(

(Oh, and I'm in Australia, BTW)

Guest's picture
Catherine

At last - some common sense on this subject! You are absolutely right about everything.... Maybe that's not something you hear every day ; )

Guest's picture
Emily

It's not common sense, it's a lack of understanding on how couponing works. A lot of people don't pay for the sunday papers, they don't spend hours clipping coupons, they don't overbuy, and they don't waste their time. I coupon and save hundreds. My paper is free, I clip for about 30 mins in front of a tv show once a week, and I score free stuff all the time. The savings are phenomenal.

Guest's picture
Marianne

Most of my coupons are printed online and are for over the counter drugs. These I find have the biggest savings and are something that we always need. Recently, I've gotten several boxes of Advil Cold & Sinus (reg. 4.99) for 99 cents each and childrens Tylenol (ranging from $7-10 depending where you shop) for $2 each. For food I mostly just pricematch to get all the sales at my favourite store and limit my couponing to the meds we buy.

Lazy Man and Money's picture

Thanks Jennifer. I half agree with you on the Lazy Couponer. I don't think her method is anything but lazy. I think it just a lot of information to process and that scares people away.

Guest's picture
Johnny

I see your point; however, my wife uses coupons for only items that we would normally use or that are free(or almost free).
Does it matter if we use Brand Y cleaner instead of our usual Brand X? Not to us.
It works well for us!

Guest's picture

I found this piece as entertaining as it was insightful. The impoverished Irish side of my family has made something of a religion of coupon-snipping over the years and were deeply dissapointed that I never took to the practice. I especially disagree that coupons are misleading in that they profess great savings but overtime tend to dictate what you buy and encourage you to stock up on unnecessaries. I can only shake my head every time my mother raves about the two for one deal she found on toenail clippers or the half-off bargain on banana flavored toothpaste.

Guest's picture

I am not a fan of coupons for all reasons you stated. That said searching online for discount codes or coupons before making a large purchase, that you were going to make anyway can be worthwhile.

Guest's picture

Great post, I do agree that copoouns can sametimes make you buy more item you don't not need.

Guest's picture

I especially can relate to point #4. The time it takes to deal with the coupon (cut it, carry it, remember to take it, check-out with it) just isn't worth it. Look at how much you make per hour, and then consider the time spent dealing with the coupon,. Chances are it's not worth it.

Guest's picture
Emily

At my job I make $15 an hour.

Couponing, I "make"/save (and it varies week to week) $50+ an hour.

It takes 30 minutes to clip and organize per week to save an absolute minimum of $25 a week for a household of 2.

$1200 a year savings = our vacation.

WORTH IT.

Guest's picture
Joann

Your list demonstrates your ignorance regarding coupons. Maybe 20 years ago using coupons was time consuming. Nowadays, using coupons is easy with the internet. There are several FREE websites that offer coupon matchups. I am sorry that saving money is not a priority for you.

Guest's picture
Amanda

I feel the same! I will occasionally look through coupon books if they come with our paper or if I see them laying around. Then, I'll only cut them out if I know I'll use them. I have a couple coupons in my bag for things I'll need to buy: toothpaste, deodorant, other hygiene products, etc. Not much else.

Guest's picture
laconian

Here in Australia we simply dont have coupons like you do in USA and Canada. I wish we did. I too buy organic food and cook fresh (never use frozen or pre-packaged, however I do use soap, shampoo, conditioner, washing powder, lunch wrap, plastic bags, dish cloths etc, I could go on and on with this list. I do buy sauces for the kids, biscuits if we have visitors, coffee, tea, milk and such. I would dearly love it if I could save regularly on my grocery shop. Even $5 a week adds up to $300 a year. That is enough to pay a bill, buy Christmas or birthday gifts or many other things. So while I understand the not buying a newspaper for the coupons (that would reduce a $5 saving to only $3 a week), I do look online for coupons all the time. Since I have the internet anyway it costs me nothing extra. I only ever print out coupons for things I am going to use and would be paying for anyway, and the location of the store/service needs to be convenient for me. In this way I save a little here and there, but nothing like the regular savings I could make if we had grocery coupons in Australia.

Guest's picture
Guest

There are obviously some benefits to using coupons, but you need to figure out what you're really saving based on your level of involvement, and then figure out whether that savings is worth the time investment.

A lot of people who clip coupons will say, "I saved $X with coupons," but that's $X off full retail price, not off what they would've spent otherwise. If you're buying extra stuff because it's cheaper than full retail, but you don't really need that stuff or wouldn't find it worth buying otherwise, then you're not saving as much money as you think. And if the real savings only comes out to, say, $6/hour, then clipping coupons needs to be enough fun for you to get paid less than minimum wage to do it. Otherwise, spend your free time doing something else.

Guest's picture
Kristin

1. You Usually Have to Buy Something to Get a Coupon

Hmmm....by this logic, stocks, bonds and insurance don't make sense, either.

I spend around $3-$4 a week to typically save $20-$30 a week in doubled coupons. That seems to be a pretty good return on investment. If you feel wasteful buying the papers, order from a clipping service online, instead.

2. Coupons Attempt to Modify Behavior

True, that is why you need to be smart.

Number ONE: smart couponers won't buy the coupon item unless they are going to use (or donate) it.

Number TWO: the coupon must bring the price down to the same cost or less than a comparable generic or "off" brand we already planned to buy.

Number THREE: The primary rule for all serious couponers don't buy ANYTHING without a coupon/sale combo - that especially means rocky road at 3 AM! If you have that little self control, then you have larger issues, lol! ;) Impulse buying is just something you get over pretty quickly. My kids get to try new treats all of the time because of coupons - the favorite in the summer is ice cream, of course. But any given week, it could be Nestle Drumsticks, Magnum bars, Fat Boy sandwiches, yogurt Yosicle pops or the store brand bucket, depending upon what is on sale with a coupon that week. In the winter, it ends up being coupons for cookie and brownie mixes, instead. But they know they won't be able to get it unless it's on sale, with a coupon and there isn't a cheaper generic available.

So, coupons HAVE modified my behavior, by ending my former impulse buying and now trying new things, rather than being brainwashed into buying a specific brand without coupons!

3. Coupons Encourage Over-Buying

This is just silly. If you've never tried an item before, of course you aren't going to buy a bunch of them! Just don't try it until a single item purchase coupon comes out - buy whatever you would normally buy until then.

Besides, multiple item coupons are usually offered for established brands. Coupons for new or newer items on the market are usually for just one of the item and are usually very high valued to encourage you to at least try it.

If someone already knows they like the item, these multiple-item coupons can be nice to have, because so many stores restrict how many coupons can be doubled per transaction. My store will only double 5 coupons per transaction, so I'd rather have one coupon for $1/2 rather than 50¢/1, so I can get more of the items I want per transaction.

4. The Savings vs. Time Investment Is Low With Coupons

Holy cow! Too lazy to even sign up for the store discount card?? Yeah - couponing is not for you. It takes 10 minutes or less to get that card and instantly saves you a LOT of money WITHOUT coupons!

I do NOT belong to a coupon exchange club; I only buy 2 newspapers (occasionally getting really good coupons for something I really want to stock up on from an online clipping service, which takes 2 minutes) and I still save 50% - 70% every week. (This is savings from my previous spending - when I was buying only sale items, generic or off brands from Walmart or bulk from Sam's - not savings based on retail cost for brand names.)

The first mistake is thinking you need to clip all of the coupons and use some complicated organizing system. I have an accorion pocket file carrier with the pockets labeled by month. I get the paper inserts, write the exact date on the front by the folded edge and pop them in the appropriate month pocket, with the dates at the top. Each week, before I make my shopping list, I check out the local coupon match up blog for my store, which tells me where to find the coupon I want by its date. Then I go to that month and pull out the insert and clip ONLY the coupon I need and pop the rest of the insert back into the pocket. Every six months, I toss the now-expired inserts from the earliest 3 months. So, it takes about 30 seconds to file my inserts every Sunday and another 30 seconds to find the coupon I need later on. I spend about 15 minutes a week printing out online coupons I may use.

All-in-all, I spend about 2 hours a week to save $100 - $150 per week for my efforts. That's like being paid up to $75 an hour! I was able to quit a minimum wage second job, working away from my family 18-24 hours a week, because of the savings. I'd say that is a pretty darn good time investment!

5. Coupons Typically Push Pre-Packaged, Processed Foods

Such a newb. LOL!

A LOT of people buy non-food items at the grocery store for convenience - cleaning supplies, personal items, etc. Or they think they are getting it cheaper buying in bulk at warehouse clubs or Walmart (which is what I was doing.) This is a HUGE part of weekly "grocery" bills.

I will only buy a brand name if I can get it for the same price or cheaper than the cheapest generic found in town. For example, for toilet paper, I won't spend more than 16¢ a roll, because that's what the lowest quality, cheapest "off" brand I can find is. So that is what I was buying from Walmart or I'd buy from Sam's Club (which was actually more than 16¢ a roll, but I justified it because it was cheap for brand name.) Now, I have several packages of brand name, high quality toilet paper stocked up that I bought for LESS than 16¢ per roll using coupons combined with sales at the grocery store!

Not to mention the brand name dish washing detergent, dish soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets, pet food, cat litter, deodorant, adult and kids shampoo, bath soap, paper towels, vitamins, hair dye, tampons & pads, pain medication, toothpaste, baby wipes, sanitizing cleaning wipes, kitchen sponges, air fresheners, garbage bags, bleach, cleanser, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, dried pasta, frozen veggies & potatoes, canola & olive oil, soups (mostly for recipes, but some for my husband's convenience), tomato sauce, fruit cups, cereal, oat meal, coffee, powdered diet drink mix, salad dressing, ketchup, various mustards, peanut butter, jelly, mayo, energy drinks (which my husband would otherwise be paying full price for at the gas station on his way to work), lunch & deli meat, block and shredded cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, coffee creamer...the list goes on. All for either the same price or less (sometimes absolutely free) as the cheapest, lower quality generic version available or for 50% - 70% off a brand name we would have bought anyhow (like my favorite Dove deodorant, which I could just buy in bulk at Sam's for $3 each - if they carry it - or double a coupon at the grocery store and get for just $1.)

Notice how little "processed junk food" is on my list above? Saving money on all of those non-food and basic items allows me to get more fresh fruit and vegetables and splurge on more expensive things like avocados, artichokes, baby carrots, melons, cherries, fresh asparagus, nuts, gourmet cheeses, fresh bakery bread, etc. I don't eat beef or pork, so I end up buying more expensive things like turkey bacon and my camping/hunting husband also needs special food for his trips, which couponing allows me to afford. It also allows me to be able to afford some extra "treats" (yes, and the occasional frozen pizzas, mac & cheese, higher-end granola bars or natural fruit snacks for the kids, frozen egg rolls for Chinese night and other convenience foods that helps us reduce our eating out expenses, as well.)

I used to use the exact same "tried-and-true tactics" and thought I was doing pretty well. But using coupons, I still save an additional $100 or more a week, while getting higher-quality items and being able to afford better produce and meats. It's a nice feeling to be able to spend less than you did before and still not ever feel like you are settling for inferior product or giving up something you really wanted because you canot afford it. It's also nice being home instead of working that part-time job. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

I rarely use coupons for my family's shopping. I do look for products that I think are reasonable and or on sale. These past couple of years I am concentrating on not wasting food. I used to work with coupons and buy in bulk and we either ate more or threw out a lot of food.

Guest's picture
Emily

I can see how people that don't coupon think it's a waste but it has been amazing for my fiance and I.

#1. I have never paid for a paper. I am currently enjoying 1 free year subscription to my local sunday paper full of coupons. I then get a second paper full of coupons from my company break room. And lastly, if I ever need MORE coupons, I swap with a friend. Nothing comes out of my pocket for coupons. Even if I did spend $1.50 a week, saving hundreds of dollars a month would be well worth the purchase.

#2. Yes many coupons are printed to suggest new products, but if those coupons paired with a sale are going to score me free shampoo I could care less what the brand is. And when that particular brand's freebie scenario stops coming around there's another brand doing the same thing. So I find quite the opposite, you have to shirk shopping habits and brand loyalties. You get what's free or super cheap rather than habitually buying the same brands.

#3. If getting a great deal on laundry detergent requires buying 10 bottles, so what? You buy it and then don't have to buy it again for months and it will get used up no problem, especially if you have a larger family. Yes, buying multiples of a product you've never tried before may not be a great idea, but in most cases buying multiples of canned goods, freezer products, personal care items and household cleaning supplies is great. Most savvy couponers can get these items for free or less than a buck at the stores, if you're idea of savings is saving 50 cents then I can see how you wouldn't think it's worth it. When I'm walking out of the store with 10 FREE bottles of laundry detergent, it's worth the shelf space.

#4. Coupon exchange clubs exist, but you certainly don't need to be involved in one to score big savings if you don't have the time to do so. I have one friend that coupons who I occasionally trade with but other than that, it's all on my time, my schedule, and in my household. Secondly, who doesn't have a binder or pocket folder laying around? Even if you don't, you buy one once for a dollar at the dollar store and never have to again. Then as someone else said, clip your coupons (and only the coupons you might/will use) in front of your television show. It takes hardly any time if you are smart enough to skip clipping coupons you will not use. And lastly, joining your store loyalty program is a hassle? Before I got into couponing I was already a member of a few store loyalty programs. I have only joined 1 since I started couponing and it took a whole 30 seconds to give a phone number and receive the store card. And again, if you spend an hour a week to save $100 a week, you're paying yourself $100 an hour. i certainly don't make that at my job and am happy to do it.

#5. Lots of coupons come up for pre processed foods, but an equal amount surface for non-food items that you use every day, and food items like milk, bread, cheese, yoghurt, oranges, meat, spices, sauces, nuts and seeds, etc. The list goes on. You can skip clipping the processed/freezer/packaged food coupons and still end up with a binder full of useful savings.

I only have a household of 2 people but we alone have saved hundreds of dollars over the past 6 months I have gotten into couponing. Thanks to these savings we get to enjoy ourselves on a cruise next month. It's so worth it.

So my advice to people wanting to start couponing, it's NOT A WASTE OF TIME. watch out for a deal on the sunday paper, snag one from your breakroom, look at a great coupon blog like hip2save or the krazy coupon lady, spend no more than an hour a week clipping and organizing, bring your binder to the grocery store/drug store and enjoy hundreds of dollars in savings.

Guest's picture
Kristin

I last commented on this article in August 2012. Now I have been couponing for over 2 years and I still say it definitely is NOT a waste of time. Trying all of the tricks on that TV show to get those results IS a waste of time and unrealistic. But simply by shopping smart and using coupons + sales, you can cut your monthly shopping bills in HALF.

For the past 3 months, my income dropped significantly and we had no way to reduce our monthly bills other than with the grocery/household supply costs. Because of couponing, I had stocked up over the past 12 months, so I was able to cut my shopping costs in half again (from $100 a week down to $50 a week for a family of 4 + a cat and dog.) One week I was able to skip shopping altogether! (And I only buy 2 newspapers ($5) a week and the rest of them I print from online sites.)
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I've also stopped paying for school lunches. Today my girls brought juice boxes, carrot sticks, green grapes, celery sticks with peanut butter for one and a PB & J sandwich for the other to school. They always have healthy lunches I know they will enjoy now, instead of the tasteless food served by schools (with the new government mandates) that they just pick at and throw away. It also saves us about $800 a year in hot lunch fees!
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I can afford a lot more healthy food (fresh produce & better meats) now that I'm paying 50% - 90% less than most people pay for toilet paper, paper napkins, cat litter & food, shampoo, bath soap, dish soap, laundry soap & dryer sheets, garbage & storage bags, household cleaners, feminine products, hair products, make up, cold & other OTC medicines, baby wipes, bandages, toothpaste, shaving supplies, peanut butter, jelly, mayo, ketchup, dry pasta, tuna, cereal, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, canned tomatoes and vegetables, salad dressing, frozen vegetables, butter, flour, sugar, coffee & creamer...the list goes on and on. And I very, very RARELY buy the processed, frozen, boxed or canned meals people associate with "couponing." :)