Pitfalls And Advantages Of Coupons

Coupons are like horses, in that depending on how you handle them, they can either take you on enjoyable, smooth rides or buck you off and leave you trampled and broken.

A post Coupon Sense submitted to us helps you bridle and train coupons.

Among the gems in the post is the suggestion not to rush out and use coupons as soon as you can:

A big mistake consumers make is not waiting for the good sale.
Instead, people feel rushed to use the coupon soon after it’s been published. Be patient, and wait for the good sale so you save the most.

Another big mistake is when people don’t buy in multiples.

When Ragu is 30 cents a jar, you’ll want to get 3 or 4 to last you until the next great sale like that.

So, getting multiple papers on Sunday or getting extra coupons from your relatives or neighbors really helps.

Do you find coupons worth the hassle? How do you get the most out of them?
8 things every shopper should know to save big on groceries [Coupon Sense]

Thanks to Michelle!


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If you get the Sunday paper every week and save enough money from the coupons to cover the cost of the paper and maybe save more money after that, it’s worth it. I don’t spend a lot of time clipping coupons; maybe a half hour? I only clip the ones I know I’ll use.

    One instance of combining deals and coupons: We stock canned soup during the winter because if I get sick, I stop cooking (because cooking while germy is bad). The local store was doing a Buy 2/Get 2 Free deal at $2.50 a can. For $5 you get four cans. I had a coupon for $1 off four cans and because of the way the register rings up canned goods, I got four cans of soup at $1 each. This was a pretty great deal to me because without a coupon I wouldn’t have saved that dollar. I got 12 cans of soup and saved $3 because I had three coupons (Progresso coupons are a dime a dozen).

    • fatediesel says:

      I only subscribe to the Sunday edition of my local paper but the subscription pays for itself many times over. For the entire year it costs me $104. Most weeks the store were I buy nearly all my clothing has 20% or 25% off coupons. Last week alone I saved over $50 thanks to those coupons on items I was purchasing no matter what, and I bet I save close to $400 total each year. Proctor and Gamble also has good coupons once a month that saves me a lot of money on things like body wash and shampoo.

      • Kate says:

        Argh, out here in California the sunday coupons are pretty much doo doo. Nothing much that you want to buy.

        I do however get good email coupons once a week from Raleys, a local chain for nice deals like free products if you spend 20, or just this week I got 15 dollars off 100 spent. Safeway email coupons on the other hand are useless.

    • Alvis says:

      Is that a deal, though? Wegmans canned soup is $1/can withOUT coupons.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Yep. It is a deal because I don’t like store brand soup. I don’t live near Wegmans anymore, but even when I did, I didn’t like store brand soup. I mean, if we’re talking about money as being the only criteria to what is a “deal,” the Campbells condensed soups are 50 cents a can, but that stuff is pretty disgusting, IMO. Way much sodium and barely any nutrition.

    • lifeat24fps says:

      I think I know where you shop, I got the same deal on the soup this week. Good job!

  2. Skellbasher says:

    If someone needs a product, and they decide to use a couple to buy that product, I fail to see how it’s some sort of pitfall.

    The consumer received some value from the coupon. Maybe it wasn’t the maximum possible mathematical value, but they received values regardless.

    Unless a coupon makes you pay more for a product, I don’t see any pitfalls at all.

    • Skellbasher says:

      Make that ‘decide to use a coupon’.

      I should finish my coffee before commenting. :)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I skipped over a coupon for Philadelphia brand cream cheese because even with the coupon (it was like 50 cents off for two packs) the store brand was still cheaper because it was on sale for 99 cents each. Sometimes the coupon makes the name brand cheaper, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve had the most luck with laundry detergent, but I only buy one brand and stock up when it is on sale. We haven’t run out of laundry detergent in a year.

  3. Jevia says:

    Coupon worth has been going downward over the last several years, depending on where you shop. It used to be the grocery stores would double the coupon, no matter the value. Then it was double, but only if the coupon was under $1. Then it became double, but only up to $1, thereby making the $.75 coupon only worth $1 and not $1.50.

    Coupons also went down in value when it changed from $.50 off one item to $.50 off two.

    I still carry mine with me and try to wait until the item is on sale to use the coupon. There’s a lot less I buy with coupon now than I used to. It also seems that most of the time, even with the coupon and a sale, the store brand is cheaper. If its a product I’m good with the store brand on, no need for the coupon on the pricier name brand.

  4. MaliBoo Radley says:

    Coupon codes for websites can be pretty great. Sometimes they even sway where I buy an item. Print coupons aren’t usually of interest to me. I don’t buy the local paper, as the coupons aren’t enough to make it worthwhile. Other types of prints coupons just tend to remind me how cheaply I can get that same item online. The coupons I get directly from the grocery store never seem quite right. I know they’re supposed to reflect the things you buy, buy it’s always a little bit of a Twilight Zone version of what I’ve bought. Harumph.

  5. Saydur says:

    The biggest trouble I see with coupons is that many of them are for products which are overpriced or unnecessary in the first place. When I see a coupon for something I already know I am going to buy, then it’s a convenient discount. Coupons for a certain amount or percentage off with a purchase of at least a certain amount at a store are also very nice if I shop at that store anyway.

    I can’t keep up with the super-coupon types who spend half a day researching and printing coupons and a few more hours with shopping. Makes plenty of sense if you’re unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise have the means to spend the time needed. For me, I’ll stick to standard frugal choices and using coupons that coincide with what I use.

    • veritybrown says:

      This is why I’ve given up on coupons for the most part. Twenty years ago, our Safeway would double coupons, and I used them on a regular basis. Now I find that name-brand products STILL cost more than the store or generic brands, even with the (now none-doubled) coupon. The only way a coupon saves me money these days is if I was going to buy the product (including that particular brand of the product) anyway. And that isn’t very often.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        My Safeway sends circulars with coupons for a lot of its store brand items and for name brand items. And on most weekends, any coupons you bring double.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I agree. I rarely see coupons for things I buy, which are mostly the basics.
      More importantly, since I’m one person and live in an apt with limited storage I find it difficult to buy in bulk.
      I try to shop sales and grocery discount stores (where the prices are always good!) instead.

  6. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Don’t waste money with a coupon for something you would never have bought in the first place. The inserts in the paper are full of processed crap food that is overpriced in the first place. I don’t get that stuff and it saves me nothing to add it to my grocery list just because there’s a coupon. I try to only use the ones for things I already buy, like toothpaste, cleaning supplies and toiletries.

    That said, if there’s something I’d like to try and there’s a coupon, that helps a little.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Indeed there are a lot of coupons I don’t use. I think the majority of coupons I get in the paper get tossed out, but I love the coupons for canned goods and pasta. And there are always coupons for toothpaste and other staples. I bought a tube of toothpaste for 77 cents thanks to a store sale and a coupon.

  7. buzz86us says:

    Coupons are great except when you have a crappy printer then not sogood. The main issue I have with coupons is that you basically have to case the supermarket to find prices on non-sale items with decent enough coupons. I really wish they’d make it standard-practice for any given grocery store to list the prices of all their items online with inventory synched to the stores internal system.
    Theres also the chance you get an incompetent cashier which makes some coupons a pain in the posterior. It’d be cool if you had the option to shop online for the groceries and pick them up in the store.

  8. saifrc says:

    I’m definitely a fan of coupons, but I agree with some of the other posters here: don’t use a coupon if you weren’t planning on purchasing the item anyway.

    Over time, I’ve gotten less enthusiastic about spending time clipping coupons for household items, and I instead spend more time looking for larger deals on bigger ticket items and services that I plan to purchase. It’s a far better use of time to save 50 dollars than to save 50 cents on something you’d definitely purchase.

    I’m really not trying to sound pretentious here, but I don’t generally think it’s worth my time to flip through those big coupon circulars (think P&G), when I think of what else I could be doing with that time and effort. Moreover, when you ignore those big coupon packs, you also ignore the advertising that is the true purpose of the coupon in the first place. (Well, advertising and first-degree price discrimination.)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Those little savings really add up, though. On the bottom of my receipt it shows how much we’ve saved throughout the year from store deals (this is just one store), and the number from yesterday’s receipt was somewhere around $570. Then again, we rent so our maintenance is taken care of, and we don’t buy big ticket items. The coupons for food items and household goods are the best way of saving money off staple items.

      • veritybrown says:

        A better way of saving money is to buy store-brand and generic items or shop at discount stores like ALDI. I stopped using coupons because the name-brand item was STILL more expensive (even after the coupon) than other alternatives. Of course, for some people, non-name-brand products aren’t “good enough” (despite the fact that I’ve found that most ALDI products are actually BETTER than the name-brand of the same item). These nose-in-the-air types pay a price (willingly, apparently) for their snobbery. I’d rather have the money to spend on other things.

        • kalaratri says:

          Are you really trying to say that people who have different taste preferences are pretentious? God forbid we have different opinions. (Not to mention that sales+coupons mean that most of the time I’m buying brand-names for cheaper than store brand).

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I’m pretty sure you’re the one who is being pretentious. I wasn’t saying that using coupons was the best way, but that I had saved $570 through coupons and store deals. I pretty much only buy generic store brand items so if you’re trying to make anyone think that buying store brand (or liking different things) is pretentious, you need to revisit your line of thought because your attitude toward people liking different things makes YOU the snob.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            “so if you’re trying to make anyone think that buying *name brand (or liking different things) is pretentious, ” is what I meant.

        • lemur says:

          I’d like to know who exactly suggested that using coupons always provides the best deal. I recently got a coupon for Quaker oatmeal. I kept it in my wallet but did not use it because the store brand was lower in price. However, one week there was a special on Quaker oatmeal which made it cheaper than the store brand before coupon. So I used the coupon then.

          Also, all products are not equal. Sometimes you can pay less and get the same quality but not always. There’s been times I thought I’d be able to save money by buying store brand but I ended up disappointed. Sometimes I even found that the store brand tasted nasty. Is this what you are advocating? Save money by eating nasty stuff? Or are you trying to convince us that if it tastes okay to you, then it should taste okay to everyone else because you are some sort of connoisseur?

          Get over yourself, will ya?

  9. backinpgh says:

    I work in a hotel, so we have stacks of Sunday papers sitting around every week. I get to take all the circulars inside. Shabang!

  10. bdgbill says:

    I gave up and walked out of a CVS the other day after waiting in line behind a single customer for over 5 minutes. This woman was trying to work a complex transaction involving three identical bottles of contact lens solution, three CVS cards, three coupons as well as the store manager and two cashiers studying the flyer.

    I put my $12.00 package of razor blades on the counter, went to Walmart and got the same package for $9.00.

    • MaliBoo Radley says:

      I cannot stand that. I appreciate people trying to get a deal .. but when it starts to interfere with my purchase, it becomes my problem. I’ve done exactly what you’ve said .. walked right out.

      • RandomHookup says:

        That’s where it becomes the store’s fault, not the consumer (at least in most cases).

        • MaliBoo Radley says:

          I’ll place fault on both, evenly.

          • RandomHookup says:

            If she’s using multiple cards, then yes…she bears more of the blame. Most of the time, however, it’s the store not having enough cashiers (or poorly trained cashiers) or having confusing rules for their promotions.

            • MaliBoo Radley says:

              It’s worth mentioning that I’m not just speaking of the situation laid out here, but of any situation where the use of coupons gets in the way of a quick store purchase.

              • RandomHookup says:

                That’s harsh. It’s the coupon person’s fault that the line is held up? Glad your time is so much more valuable than the person who got in line in front of you.

    • redskull says:

      And you then burned $3 in gas driving to Walmart.

  11. internetsguy says:

    The biggest problem with coupons is that some people feel obligated to use them. Companies offer them so they can get people to buy things that they normally would not. Some people need to remember that just because they have a coupon doesn’t mean they HAVE to use it.

  12. JulesNoctambule says:

    For all the people who think it’s pointless to cut out a coupon for something you don’t usually buy/need, let me offer a suggestion: If it’s a basic household or food item, cut it out anyway, check the local store circulars and see if you can get the item for pennies/free. Then take what you get down to your local shelter or rescue mission — they’ll appreciate it, and if you’re up for the paperwork you can deduct the purchases from your taxes.

    We donate several bags of food and personal hygiene items a year this way, all at little to no cost to us and hardly any extra effort above shopping for ourselves alone.

    • zekebullseye says:

      That’s my hobby. I’m a huge coupon geek which enables me to feed my own family and provide hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, toiletries and household supplies to our local “free store” for the needy. Let me give you an example: My grocery store was running a sale on chili for $.75 a can. My coupon was $.50 which doubled to a dollar. I bought 40 cans of chili for the food pantry and “earned” $10 for my own groceries. I love doing it and it helps others; what could be better?

  13. Coupon says:

    Not waiting for a sale and then using the coupon is only a mistake if your goal is get the most value out of your coupon. A penny saved is a penny saved! I love coupons and get the most out of them when I combine them with sales, which is what most aggressive couponers do. The only thing annoying about couponing is competing with the stay-at-home-mom psychos that clear the shelves.

    However, I will note I lost 40lbs in the past 1.5 years adhering to the guideline of NOT eating anything I had a coupon for, with logical exceptions. Seriously. So for the most part now I just hit drugstores w/ coupons for cheap hygiene stuff and whatnot.

  14. mbz32190 says:

    I don’t find couponing that time consuming at all. Today for instance, I flipped through the ShopRite online flyer, saw some items I wanted, and made a list. Then I googled around (slickdeals and hotcouponworld are great sites as people provide matchups to coupons that are out there), and printed some coupons, and will save $6 or so when I go this week.
    The thing is, newspaper coupons pretty much suck except for new or specialty items. Printable coupons are where it’s at, as they are usually lower value (eg. 50 cents off 1 instead of $1 off two), but since my grocery stores all double them, it works out well. I spend 30 minutes tops, on doing the above.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      Our newspaper’s coupons are 50/50 new things and staples, and this time of year especially there are a lot of coupons for baking basics. Got a free bag of flour last week thanks to the coupon/store promo combo!

  15. outlulz says:

    My problems with coupons:
    1. I probably can’t find coupons for stuff I already buy.
    2. If I do find a coupon it’s lame, like 30 cents off when you buy two of something
    3. The generic brand is still cheaper than the item with the coupon.

    Usually generic brands combined with supermarket club discounts are enough for me to not bother with coupon clipping.

  16. I-man says:

    As much as I can appreciate saving money, coupons are in most cases, not worth my while. I generally buy specific brands and items when I shop so I won’t load up on cheap groceries that I would not normally have bought just because I can save a few bucks. Another point is that my time is way more valuable than I’ll ever save using coupons unless they’re those instant coupons that are dispensed right above the item on the shelf.

  17. weestrom says:

    I don’t bother with coupons because I mostly don’t eat the process chemical crap that is usually discounted. Most of our grocery purchases are for whole ingredients, which we then cook to make healthy meals (ok, well sometimes we go overboard on the cream and sugar, but its not filled with preservatives). When I tried couponing earlier this year, we were buying things we didn’t want to be eating, and not really saving much money.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You should re-examine your attitude. I cook all of our meals from scratch, and we definitely try to eat healthful foods. I am an avid coupon user. In the past few weeks I’ve collected coupons for these things: pasta, clementines, grapes, milk, meat, and juice. I would hardly call any of these “processed,” with the exception of dry pasta, which is minimally processed. In fact, I very rarely buy orange juice at full price because I’ve always got a coupon, even when the store hasn’t put it on sale.

      • kewpie says:

        Ummm…pasta and juice are both processed foods. And, I’ve never seen a coupon for meat that wasn’t for some kind of processed meat.

  18. almightytora says:

    I take advantage of all the online coupon sites that put coupons onto your shopping card, such as shortcuts.com, cellfire.com, and even the supermarket sites themselves.

    Sometimes when the same coupon is added to your card (e.g. Shortcuts likes to “renew” coupons with newer expiration dates, but the older ones haven’t expired), the checkout machine will honor both coupons automatically, and sometimes you don’t have to buy multiples of the item.

    For example, Vons was having a sale on certain Progresso soups for $1.11 each. I had two separate Shortcuts coupons for 50 cents off of two Progresso soups. I bought two soups, and both coupons activated (inadvertently, as I only bought two soups, not four). So, I got two soups for $1.22 ($1.11 + $1.11 – $0.50 – $0.50).

    If I had an actual paper coupon, I would have saved even more, as the checker wouldn’t know what coupon kicked in, as it only says “Mfr. coupon” on the screen.

  19. SugarMag says:

    I actually enjoy couponing, which is the main reason I do it. If I save occassional cash because of it, all the better.

    When you pay careful attention you will notice the trends and you can utilize your savings. I do enjoy getting things free or almost free. That is worth the effort. New ideas being heavily marketed usually have the most “bang for the buck” when it comes to the sale + coupon combo. I got two Bailey’s flavored creamers for free this past week.

    But realize I went to the effort because it is fun for me. If it is an item you definitely use, full price or not, then yes, it is worth it. Luxury items get a bit cheaper, like Tide. I cant afford it full price. Sale + coupon means it is $5 not $8.99. (plus tax)

  20. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Outside of cleaning supplies, I’ve never had much luck with coupons. Store brands are typically cheaper than name brands, even with coupons. Coupons are also disproportionately for processed foods and not meat or produce.

  21. kewpie says:

    I have occasionally used coupons for toiletries, but never for food. I don’t eat processed faux foods and I never see coupons for real whole foods.

  22. gman863 says:

    Items with hot coupons will often have bare spots on the shelves for a few days after the coupon appears in the paper. This is my strategy:

    * Only clip coupons for things or brands you like. This cuts down impulse buying.

    * Buy a cheap 5-8 pocket folder at the dollar store. Mine is storted as “Fast Food”, “Cleaning”, “Health and Beauty”, “Frozen” and “Other”.

    * Most coupons expire at the end of the month (or the following month) after being published. Be sure to remove expired coupons each month.

    * For stores that double or triple-coupon, watch sales. Near the end of the month, I pull all the ready to expire coupons and see if it’s worth redeeming them while shopping.

    * Compare and be sure the coupon is actually a good deal. If the coupon is $1 off and the store brand is just as good at $3 less, the store brand is still the better deal.

  23. Smultronstallet says:

    On my last grocery trip, I bought the following with coupons:

    8th Continent soy milk with $1/1 coupon = $2
    Silk nog with $0.55/1 = $1.93
    Simply Apple with $1/1 = $1
    Best Life spread with $1/1 = Free
    Reach floss with $1/1 = Free
    Biore cleanser with $2/1 = $2.99
    Dole lettuce with $0.75/1 = $0.25
    Driscoll’s blackberries with $0.50/1 = $0.50
    16 oz. Pompeian olive oil (50% off sale) with $2/1 store and $1/1 manufacturer’s = Free
    Multigrain Wheat Thins with $1/1 = $0.88
    32 oz. Coffeemate creamer with $1.50/1 = $1
    32 oz. Dannon All Natural yogurt with $0.75/1 = $1.24
    Package of 4 baking potatoes with $1/1 = Free

    I also bought some celery, bananas, broccoli, zucchini and a green pepper without coupons, and made it out of the store for about 20 bucks. Not bad. I see no disadvantage to couponing. All it took was some searching on the internet, a few sheets of printer paper and black ink.

  24. Smultronstallet says:

    On my last grocery trip, I bought the following with coupons:

    8th Continent soy milk with $1/1 coupon = $2
    Silk nog with $0.55/1 = $1.93
    Simply Apple with $1/1 = $1
    Best Life spread with $1/1 = Free
    Reach floss with $1/1 = Free
    Biore cleanser with $2/1 = $2.99
    Dole lettuce with $0.75/1 = $0.25
    Driscoll’s blackberries with $0.50/1 = $0.50
    16 oz. Pompeian olive oil (50% off sale) with $2/1 store and $1/1 manufacturer’s = Free
    Multigrain Wheat Thins with $1/1 = $0.88
    32 oz. Coffeemate creamer with $1.50/1 = $1
    32 oz. Dannon All Natural yogurt with $0.75/1 = $1.24
    Package of 4 baking potatoes with $1/1 = Free

    I also bought some celery, bananas, broccoli, zucchini and a green pepper without coupons, and made it out of the store for about 20 bucks. Not bad. I see no disadvantage to couponing. All it took was some searching on the internet, a few sheets of printer paper and black ink.