Utility is always more important than usefulness. Let that marinate.
I’m not a fan of coupons as a way to save money because I’m a big opportunity cost type guy. Time spent clipping coupons and scouring the aisles of a store for products that may or may not be there just seems like another pastime that produces silver hairs in the curly black crop.
There is also the social stigma, which is mostly self-imposed. You know, the vision of the old lady taking all day, unfurling coupons for cat food as if she has a royal flush — the checker reads them and weeps — placing them down on the counter. Maybe the person will even ignite an argument that usually starts with “well the coupon says…..”
But it’s the archetypal old lady that got me to thinking. Coupons actually do have a purpose, after all. According to NCH “Coupon Facts,” each year on average, coupons that provide savings for consumer packaged goods generate nearly $3 billion in America alone. Self-consciousness aside, there is something to be said for the coupon, especially in this economic climate, but it’s important to understand, well, what the coupon says — to you.
So I came up with five things — five seems like a shopper’s number, either that or I’m lazy, or both. Okay so yeah, five things to look for or at least consider when integrating coupons into your purchasing experience.These are the top five coupon coups.
Not their/there type
Nothing vindicates a cynic by being proven right that coupons can often be used as a marketing tool for the old bait and switch. This became all too clear when I clipped a coupon for free Thomas the Tank Engine toys for my all-things-transportation-addict toddler son (he’s a good kid but he joneses for trains and buses, choppers and planes what’dya gonna do?). So I get to the store before the so-called sale is even scheduled to start and every Toys ‘R Us within 24 miles is conveniently out of the particular trains listed on the coupon. The rationale is that having made the trip, you’ll buy Bertie, Gordon, Mighty Mac or Harold anyway because you’re there. They didn’t get my dough though.
When it comes to coupons, read the fine print carefully, call ahead and/or perhaps hold out for storewide coupons rather than individual items. After all, a store coupon is not the same as a manufacturer's coupon, which is not the same as a brand coupon, which is not the same as special promotions coupon. Also I find that coupons for important services — auto, grooming etc. — actually work better and can be leveraged with more pen-point accuracy than products that could be purposely or coincidentally out of stock.
The first thing to ponder is whether you need four Swiffers for $4 even if it seems like a good deal. If you’re gonna spend time actually clipping coupons, be meticulous. Cross reference them with your needs. Something along the order of a price log with your grocery or essentials list. Plus nothing is more confusing or infuriating than finding out you bought those four swiffers when you could have got eight frozen French Bread Pizzas for the same price. You might be on some: “My kitchen is clean as the dickens but damn I’m hungry.”
Stick to the Code
Coupon discounts themselves come and go and you could get caught doing the old-school thing with scissors when you can simply hunt for discount codes that either correspond with the paper coupons or offer even more savings.
Consider the source
If you’re brand conscious (read baptized by marketing, maniac colors and powers of suggestion — say it with me WySssse-Brrrr-eaaad) consider going directly to the website of the brand you want for a one-stop shop on items you’re looking for.
Wait it out
For the particularly anal retentive coupon craver, keep a record. Whether you like index cards, a binder, laminated compartments in a leather bound book or chaotic coupon wall paper like an obsessed money-saver with a beautiful mind, track your most common purchases.
Coupons have come a long way since C.W. Post tried to slang his cereal with little pieces of paper to draw consumers in but with so many ways to educate ourselves about our wants and needs, you can save time and money as well as develop a system. Once you’ve stacked enough mozzarella on your monetary pizza you can elevate your status from clipper to connoisseur.
So ummm Pizza. Now that you have something to think about, how ‘bout you pick a brotha up some French bread pizza at the store? I’ll hit you back next Tuesday. Come on, you know I’m good for it. It says right here on this blogger’s coupon, matter of fact, read this post again for and get two more for free.
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