Coupons are one of first things that come to mind as a way to save money. But do they really save you that much money?
My answer is…
In today’s bad economic climate, it’s suddenly cool to be frugal. And couponing is big! There are numerous blogs and websites that will teach you how to save money using coupons. You can even print out coupons from various coupon sites.
But there are some things people should think about before diving in to the coupon craze.
Look at the grocery items that you currently buy. If you buy mostly store-brand items, are particular about which brands you buy, or don’t buy many convenience foods, you might not be a good candidate for couponing.
Be sure to evaluate the costs of coupons. If you don’t already buy a newspaper, you need to consider the added expense of that. Don’t forget the price of ink and paper for printing web-based coupons. What about the cost of gas? If you are not close to several different grocery stores, the extra driving can definitely negate any savings.
Not only are there financial costs for using coupons, there is another big cost to consider. That is your time. Cutting out coupons takes time. Filing them takes time. Then there’s the time spent matching store sales to coupons. And that’s all before you even start shopping! It takes longer to do the shopping because you have find the right items and make sure you’re purchasing the correct size, variety, etc. And you’ll need to shop at multiple stores every week to get all the best deals. There might be other ways that you can spend the same amount of time and actually make more money than you save by using coupons.
Using coupons can also encourage you to buy products you wouldn’t normally buy. After all, it’s a good deal, right? But what if you find out that your child likes Toasty Crunchy cereal more than any other cereal? Then you’re likely to buy it again. You’ll probably wait until you have a coupon again, at least at first… (This is actually a true story, but you need to substitute sweet potato fries for Toasty Crunchy cereal and substitute me for your child!)
OK, I’ve made it sound like coupons are practically evil. I actually don’t think that at all. I do cut out coupons from the paper. (We’re actually one of the dozen or so people left in the world that have a newspaper subscription.) I even get a spare set from my mother-in-law. (They’re another of those dozen people.) But I still do my main grocery shopping once per month. I glance through the weekly grocery ads to check the sales. I use the coupons for products that I would normally buy. (except for the sweet potato fries…)
My point is this. Coupons are not likely to be the miraculous end to your financial struggles. If you’re interested in extreme couponing, be sure to evaluate your costs versus what you’re saving. And don’t let coupons suck you in to spending more money than you used to.