Friday, November 18, 2016

Are coupons worth it?

My mom was a great coupon clipper. When she sat down with the scissors, the Sunday paper never knew what hit it.

Things have changed since I was a kid. Like many people, I don't get a print newspaper anymore. I sometimes get store coupons in the mail, but most of the time, as the primary supermarket person in the house, I will print coupons for things we want from a site like

That too has its drawbacks. For one thing, it means that instead of the coupon being printed by the newspaper for the manufacturer, that paper and toner has to be paid for by your truly. Which makes me pretty annoyed when an outfit like Perdue decides I need to see an ad for the stupid product I've already decided to buy and so I have to use a whole sheet for one coupon. 

It's for a buck and a quarter, which barely covers the freaking toner.

But there's another rub. Even assuming the coupons will save you money on particular items, do they actually save money?

Some people say no. One guy found that "what we primarily ended up with were shelves of items we normally would not have purchased, for any price." This woman said that "I’ve given it a shot, and while I may have saved a buck or two, I felt my time was worth more than I was saving."

The tips one often see toward making couponing worth the trouble include:

1) Don't go running all over the place with store-specific coupons. You'll waste more in gas than you'll save.

2) Don't buy stuff you wouldn't ordinarily buy.

3) Don't be suckered into the ratchet effect of diminishing return coupons ($1 off 1, $1 off 2, $1 off 3) unless you really would buy it in these quantities anyway.

4) Resist the temptation to use coupons to stockpile enough crap for the zombie apocalypse. The zombies will get it all in the end.

So let's say that my time is worthless. Hey, not a stretch, right? Just factor in the cost of printing. Does couponing make sense for me? Do I wind up spending more money than I would have instead of spending less?

Because I have a weakness for trying new products, I sometimes print coupons I won't be able to use because the products don't arrive in local stores before the coupon expires. But when I can get something new with a coupon, I feel like I won something, especially if it has a discounted introductory price. Even if we don't like it, we've had an experience. And that's what life is all about, n'est pas?

Yesterday I slipped out to do the shopping for Thanksgiving and the week around it.It's the single largest trip to the supermarket we make all year. I spent $286.01 and saved $7.75 on coupons, buying only stuff we know we will use. (I also saved another $43.06 on store discounts, including a heavily discounted turkey through the loyalty program.) My feeling is these discounts are baked into the prices of things, so you ought to take advantage of them when you can. Just follow the four guidelines above.

And please, don't feed the zombies.

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