About 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons

Recently I had an article published called 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons. Judging by the emails I received and the blog and message board posts that my article prompted, my article apparently touched a nerve with a lot of folks.

First of all, let me say that my article was in no way meant to insult people who use coupons. My goal was simply to present an opposing view and consider a few points that maybe some people don’t consider when using coupons. Coupons are always presented as good, so I thought it would be interesting to look at reasons why they might not be good for some people.

Some of you have done your research and noted that I have previously written in favor of coupons, and are wondering if something caused me to change my mind. Here’s that story: I saw Coupon Mom on Oprah about a year and a half ago. I had never used coupons on groceries before watching her show. For the most part, I shopped at grocery stores that did not accept coupons. I also did not have a newspaper subscription. So grocery coupons were really not a part of my life.

I became intrigued by the concept of combining sales with coupons and store loyalty cards to get discounts of as much as 75% on my groceries. I love a good bargain. I had to try it. I bought a Sunday newspaper and it had a flyer for a year’s subscription at a discounted rate. So I signed up to have the newspaper delivered to my house so I could get the coupons every Sunday.

For a year, I avidly followed the Coupon Mom method, and I wrote a few blog posts about my successful shopping trips using her method. I absolutely agree that there are a lot of good things about using coupons and that many people can save a lot of money using them. I also absolutely do NOT believe in paying full price at the grocery store. The regular prices just seem too high to me.

But for me, overall, I felt that using coupons was causing me to buy foods that weren’t what I really wanted to be eating. I felt like I was spending a lot of time clipping and organizing my coupons, that my grocery shopping trips were taking longer than usual, that I wasn’t ending up buying the foods I really wanted to eat, and that my monthly grocery expenditures weren’t improving. Yes, I was saving money, but overall I didn’t feel like I was coming out ahead—the time I spent and the dissatisfaction with the food I was getting seemed to outweigh the dollars I was saving.

That’s what sparked my article on reasons why you shouldn’t use coupons. I stand by that article—I feel that for some people it may be better to pursue other methods of getting discounts on groceries. Coupons might not fit their shopping preferences, or the limited amount of free time they have (for me, as a small business owner, free time is very scarce and valuable) might be a deterrent. So for the most part, I am returning to my old methods of saving money on groceries.

There are lots of ways to save money on groceries without using coupons. These include shopping at international markets, shopping at farmers markets, shopping at discount grocers, and more. I’ve written about these methods in the past.

I think there is an aspect of saving money on groceries by using coupons that goes beyond simply saving money—there is an element of pride in beating the system, in getting a great deal on something, in providing for your family for as little money as possible and being able to put the money you saved toward something else. I don’t deny any of these things. I’m as excited as anyone to get six tubes of toothpaste for 75 cents because I used coupons. And, despite what my article might have lead you to believe, I DO still use coupons—but I have been mostly using the coupons that come in the store ads, because it takes less time.

I’m flattered that so many people read and responded to my article, and I thank you for all of your comments. Many of you pointed out things like internet coupons and other tips that have worked for you, and that might work for others as well. There was an overwhelming amount of response, much of it constructive, and I hope that you didn’t take my article as an insult to your couponing and shopping habits, because I didn’t mean it that way. I simply wanted to point out that for some people (mainly people who are pressed for time and people whose time is directly linked to their income, like self-employed entrepreneurs), the extra time and effort might not be worth the savings you can achieve with coupons.

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1 comment:

konnie said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I watched a show on tv about people addicted to coupons and was amazed at what they could buy but when they showed you their houses packed with stuff and no room to live or that their groceries had to have a home owners insurance policy that cost more to insure than their house I was appalled. Not to mention the stuff they were buying were things we would not eat or possibly use in a lifetime, what is the point. For example buying 150 candy bars? Or having 10,000 boxes of wheat pasta, or 5000 bags of flour that stuff gets meal worms when they sit or if not refrigerated. I'm all for saving money but only on what I know we will eat or what can be safely stored without pushing me out of my house. It seems to be a form of hoarding, but instead of junk it's items that they may never use but can't stop themselves from buying because they can get it cheap or they feel that they are sticking it to the store.