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The Cost of Couponing: Is it really worth it?

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The Cost of Couponing: Is it really worth it?


Back in 2009, I wrote Why coupons could cost you more money. Today, I bring you an awesome post from the female perspective.

CouponingMost of you, I am sure, have probably cut coupons at some point. Coupons were first used in America in 1909 when Post made an innovative effort to increase sales of breakfast cereals and other products. Many view couponing as a great way to save a few extra bucks.

Then there are those who have become masters of this sport and participate in what has become known as Extreme Couponing. This term applies to those individuals who order the maximum number of newspapers available for collecting coupons, clip multiple copies of specific coupons, organize them in large 3 ring binders, hunt local stores for best sales and deals, and hit the store at 12:01 am on the first valid coupon day to ensure first dibs on the coupon goods. Many of these extreme couponers, some friends and neighbors of mine, would gather in groups to barter and hunt together.

I have couponed before. I would order 4 copies of the paper, spend hours clipping and organizing any coupons that looked appealing, head to the store at my own convenience only to find that most of the coupon items were sold out, and then stand in line forever while the annoyed cashier checked me out and the line of customers behind me rolled their eyes and stared at their watches.

I was not an extreme couponer and I found that on average I saved between $50-$75 per shopping trip. Meaning, that for me, I would spend 4-5 hours per week, ignoring my family and doing something that I hated to save some cash.

My friends who lived by this method of shopping literally had rooms full of food, which sounds appealing to many I am sure but let me enlighten you on the types of food that these people had stores of: insane amounts of sugary breakfast cereals, brownie and cake mixes, soda, PowerAde, Yoplait yogurt, canned fruit soaked in syrup, etc.

My somewhat obvious point being that their store of food included nothing that was nutritional or useful in creating meals.

My couponing endeavors did not last long because the cost was just too much…allow me to explain.  These extreme couponers dedicate much of their time, health and happiness to this lifestyle and what are they truly getting in return?

As a personal trainer and health and wellness coach, I do what I LOVE for a living and I make decent money doing it! I found that I could sacrifice hours of my life each week to the couponing gods and receive a relatively small return for my sacrifice or I could allow myself to work one extra hour doing something I loved to bring in that same amount that I could have saved couponing. Furthermore, because of my chosen profession and personal belief in wholesome food there were minimal coupons that qualified for a healthy diet but in my efforts to save money I was trying new products that were just flat out bad for my health.

The natural conclusion that I came to was that my time was worth more that what the couponing industry would have me believe, my health and diet are up to me and will not be determined by the couponing industry, and my happiness, i.e. my relationship with my husband and children, will not be sacrificed to financially benefit large uninvolved corporations.

There may be some of you out there who have found a happy medium, who eat well, save money, and enjoy your couponing endeavors. If so I applaud you, wish you well and invite your feedback!

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Why coupons could cost you more money

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Why coupons could cost you more money


If you are trying to lead a frugal life, then you probably cut coupons. I know that my wife and I are always on the lookout for good coupons ourselves. In fact, each year we are mailed a calendar that has coupons bordering each calendar month. The coupons are for places like Nicolitalia (our favorite pizza place), Sensuous Sandwiches (our favorite sub place), Coldstone Creamery, massage parlors, etc. We look forward to it arriving each Fall.

There is a problem though with coupons that easily leads to spending more money – coupons are a marketing tool or sales gimmick! Meaning, stores don’t send out coupons because they love us. They send coupons because they know that we are more likely to spend money. For example, I love Kohl’s. We receive a 20% off coupon about once a month. As soon as it arrives, I start thinking, “Oh, we could go buy some new towels for the kitchen. Or I want some new socks or let’s just browse and see what we come across.” That response is exactly what the marketing department at Kohl’s wants. I know people in Kohl’s marketing department and I really like them. But don’t be fooled – they want your money.

Marketers not only are aware of this phenomenon but spend time researching how coupons affect your buying habits and then share that information with each other. Don’t believe me? Here’s a research report just published on MediaPost, which is a news portal for marketing and media professionals.

OverspendingReceiving a discount is NOT saving money. You save money by putting money in the bank. However, corporations have spent millions and millions of dollars over decades teaching us that buying something on sale is the same thing as “saving money.” Spent money is never money saved. So let’s be clear that coupons help you spend less but don’t cause you to save money. Each time that my grandmother told my grandfather that she had just saved him “tons of money” by purchasing $100s in clothes on sale, he always responded, “I’d like to see that savings account one day.”

Now, you might completely disagree with me right now. But here’s the point that I’m driving at – coupons are great when you intend to make the purchase anyways. If you cut and collect coupons to use on purchases that you would not have otherwise made, then the marketing departments have won and you have spent money, not saved money.

Let me give you an example. Within 48 hours of receiving our coupon calendar, we decided to use a coupon for a 12″ one topping pizza at Nicolitalia for only $3.99. My wife grabbed a table while I ordered. I know how much she loves the cookies ‘n cream cannolis. So I of course ordered two. The total came to about $10. Now $10 isn’t exactly breaking the bank, but we are on a budget and we had food at home that would have cost less. Had we not received that coupon in the mail, then we wouldn’t have made the purchase.

All I’m saying is, beware when cutting coupons. Don’t forget that the reason you received it in the mail or your inbox is because some marketer knows that you now feel enticed to spend money in order to “save money.” So don’t stop collecting coupons, just judiciously cut the ones for your regularly scheduled purchases that you were going to make anyways.

Do you agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments.

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