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July 13, 2007


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Coupons only will save you money if:
1) Already wanted to buy that product
2) Have multiple coupons for different products at the same store (save gass for driving)
3) Shop is around the corner (save gass for driving)


I think Coupons are definitely worth it (I especially agree with MRA); you just have to be smart about it. We typically save 10% of our grocery bill with coupons.

In the web world, whenever we shop online we search for online coupon codes when we want something (easy enough to) and can usually save a few bucks there too.

We use coupons, but we actually don't have access to that many either. Typically we get them if they are in the stores, but then we take a large number of them. In one instance we took 20 coupons for a fruit juice we buy, and then used them when they were on sale 2 for 1! Great deal!


IMHO, coupons, just like any other "money saving" activity should be evaluated by opportunity cost. I recall reading an article awhile ago that said clipping coupons worked out to about minimum wage. Let's use that as a starting point. I do part time contracting work on the side at a set rate per hour. If I have work that could be done for a client, I usually should do that first before sitting down with some scissors and a stack of flyers. Is clipping time eating into the amount of time I spend with my family? If it's after the kids are in bed, and my wife and I are just sitting around reading or watching TV, then, yes, that's probably a valuable use of my time. I'll also echo MRA's point that you should only ever use a coupon for something you would have bought anyway. Enticing you to spend on what you don't need seems counterproductive to saving money.

Coupons are a classic tool for price segmentation--getting more people to buy your product, at the maximum price they're willing to pay. How much is your time worth? The answer is different for everyone. If you're scraping by on a low income, the savings from coupon clipping are worth more to you than someone with a six figure salary and lots of disposable income. The fact that it's somewhat inconvenient and time consuming to use coupons is intentional--they could have just made the product cheaper if they wanted to give everyone the discount. They only want the people who wouldn't otherwise buy the product to use the coupons.

That said, among those with disposable income, I think it comes down to values and lifestyle. There are high income, wealthy people that spend lots of money, and there are those that are "cheap" in comparison. Some became wealthy more because of their income than because of their frugality, and vice versa. Some might be able to use every spare minute to generate income or save more money doing something else, while others might have more "disposable time" that might as well be used clipping coupons. Some might be embarrassed to pull out coupons at the grocery store, and others might think it's irresponsible not to use them. There's no wrong answer here.

In my experience, there's usually a version of the product that's cheaper without the coupon. It's not worth it to me.

It can be a time waster, but I use the grocery game and buy what I need & match the coupons with what is on sale. I usually save at least the very least 30% with the combination of them both for about 30 minutes worth of work.

Instead of using coupons I generally only buy things that are on sale. There are rarely coupons on things on the outer rings of the store (vegetables, milk, fresh meat) which is where 75% of our store budget goes. So when we do go into the inner aisles of the store, we often don't buy things unless it is on a really good sale (I refuse to pay more then $2.50 for a box of cereal, and in our area, most boxes of cereal are around $5 not on sale.)

I think that coupons are indeed a money saver. If you combine them with a sale or a double coupon day and other promotional offers, it is often possible to get free or even negative money items. These oppurtunities do not come along very often, but I find it worthwhile because its a hobby of mine. Besides a penny saved is $1.33 earned for most of us if not far more (due to income tax, FICA/Medicare witholding, and sales tax)

I use the grocery game and save on average about 65% of my food bill each time. That's not bad at all. As long as you are matching coupons with sales you are going cash in big time.

The grocery store I shop at, Trader Joe's, doesn't accept coupons (they don't carry name brand foods), but they have pretty reasonable prices IMHO. Even when I do shop at coupon accepting stores, I don't bother with coupons because the cost savings is negligible.
When I shop online, however, I do a quick search in google for "coupon code" along with the store name, which usually returns me with a coupon for a % savings or free shipping. I saved $150 on a TV this way. I just like to be sure that I'm buying something I would have bought anyway without the coupon to avoid spending more money than I would have otherwise.

I find there are fewer coupons to actually "clip" from the ads these days. Most of the discounts are automatic but only if you have registered for the store's discount card. Is this a better deal for the consumer (saving time) or better for the store (more customer loyalty, perhaps)? Maybe it is both.

I would change 2 and 3 to
2) Already going to the store to buy it anyway

A buck is enough to notice, but not enough to go out of the way for. Anything less is too much bother.

My wife and I clip coupons and we love it. Every Sunday we sit on the couch, going through the paper. We clip out coupons for items that we buy. We also cut out a few of the high dollar ones for products we might try. it may sound dorky, but we get excited looking at our grocery bill and seeing the percentage saved. We've saved upwards of 50% on our shopping, and I'm not talking $10 trips.

Yeah, you aren't going to become a millionaire, but I always think about Warren Buffett's license plate - "Thrifty"

Yeah, coupons never really worked out for me. They never have coupons for the stuff that's already cheap. lol
Baz L
Day In The Life of Baz

I rarely see coupons for much we normally buy. The coupons I see are usually for new, highly-processed foods that are overpriced to begin with.

I play the Grocerygame. It is definitely worth it. I save at least 65-70% each time I go to the grocery store or drug store. MANY items I get for free. Sometimes I even MAKE money!

$2.50 for a box of cereal? Yikes....

Because of coupons (and the fact that I have access to as many Sunday papers as I want at my work), I recently stockpiled cereal for $0.50 a box. Considering that it keeps a loooong time (as long as you don't open it), and I saved heaps. It all really depends on your access to coupons, and your ability to spot deals for the things you would normally buy anyway. Many websites like fatwallet or slickdeals (not to mention coupon mom and the like) can really cut down the opportunity cost for most people, and maximize savings. For me, it's a matter of creativity and having a good memory. The coupons from three weeks ago might make a good deal smoking hot, but not if you can't remember them... or, if you have trouble linking those coupons to the current deal. All said imho, of course.

Hey, don't knock that $260 a year. $260 a year @ 7% for 10 years will get you $4,294.56 . . . in 15 years $7,648.30 and in 20 years $12,402.66.

Don't knock the pennies, they can make you a millionaire just like the dollars.

I always use coupons and discounts. It helps my family economize near 10% of our budget! Last week my husband found the place, where all resources were assembled with coupons, discounts and special offers from more than 500 brands and stores!

Small-value coupons are a waste of paper and increase the cost of products. Factor in your time, the time of the clerk, the "making/distribution" of the coupons, redeeming effort by the store, management by the manufacturer... and on and on. If folks would stop using them then the manufacturers would stop making them and, instead, price their products more fairly to begin with. (I'll give credit to using big-ticket coupons, like 10% off at Home Depot when you're buying a big-ticket item there anyways. That's an obvious effort/return "no-brainer".)

Recognizing that my opinion is a minority one and also that small coupons will likely continue, just look at it from your own perspective. We have a finite amount of time on this earth and too many things to complicate our time. If you save $300 per year clipping/organizing/using coupons but spend 2 hours/wk doing it then you have effectively worked for less than $3/hr. Figure your own time/return ratio. What else could you do with that time for a better effective return? Just about any productive task.

An extreme example: I stood in line about two years ago at Walmart behind a lady who pulled out coupons for almost everything in her two (full) buggies. The poor cashier had to process/verify all of them. It took (I'm not kidding) 30 minutes. Maybe she saved some money, but the five folks behind her wasted 30 minutes in line for "her benefit". An aggregate person-time cost of (7 people x 20 min = 140 minutes) in that line alone. (I'm giving a 10-min credit for a two-buggy checkout sans coupons.) I became jaded on coupons right then and there.

A better plan: read the price/unit labels at the grocer. Buy the lower unit price for what you want (even by brand if it matters). I'll bet that you fair about the same overall.

p.s. My wife mostly ignores me and continues to use coupons and ignore the unit pricing on the shelves, but to a lesser degree than she used to :)

i agree that it depends on the situation. i do not use coupons as i prefer using my time for work or play, but part of my family who is retired and has more time and less money does and it works for them.

Coupons can be good or bad. If you were already planning on buying the product already, that's fine. Other things to consider is most products that have coupons are brand name products. I would consider if there is a generic version available. Is the branded product less than generic with coupon? Then obviously use it.

It depends on a number of factors - extra time required, your income i.e. how much this time is worth to you, and as KMull said whether or not you were aready planning on buying the product.

Assuming you were already planning on buying the product, if you got a coupon in the mail or from someone and the time required is small, then it may be worth it. If you actually need to spend time looking it depends on how much you save relative to your income. I always think of time in terms of money because I work hard and I need time to relax to better do my job. So to me, it's not worth spending a lot of time to save a dollar or two. To my retired parents, it makes a lot more sense as not only do they have a lot more free time, they also have a considerably smaller income. It also depends on one's financial situation - if one's budget is tight, a few dollars may make a difference; if you already have a couple thousand left after expenses every month, it may not be that big a deal.

Another consideration is driving. If you need to drive farther to save a couple of dollars, you might end up spending more on gas.

Finally as KMull said, you should've already been planning to buy an item. Otherwise, you might just end up spending more. Say you buy your clothes in a particular store 20 minutes away, but don't need any at present. Then you get a coupon from the store in the mail. So you drive there and spend money on clothes you don't really need. This is from personal experience by the way.

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