Coupons: What Not to Do

Coupons are great, and they can save you some real bucks if you use them wisely. If you forget to, well…

It’s obvious that handing the grocery clerk a stack of coupons worth a few dollars off your total purchase means you’re saving money, right?

Well… are you sure about that?

False Economy

Consider this: Would you have bought that family-sized bag of muesli or those doggy diapers if you hadn’t had a coupon that offered Big Savings if you’d just buy the stuff in the first place?

Let’s say you just spent $100 for a year’s supply of jellied eels, because you happened to have a coupon for $5 off. Did you really come out ahead? Unless you represent a co-op of jellied-eel lovers, that kind of “savings” doesn’t add up.

Ultimately, you’ve wasted most of that $95 you spent, just to save $5 on something you probably wouldn’t have bought normally. Not such a good deal now, is it?

Beware Pseudo-Couponing

“Extreme couponing” is all the rage these days. On TV, you might see people buying $500 worth of groceries for roughly $0.17 in real money, and wonder, “Why can’t I do that?”

Never mind the fact that it takes the poor cashier two hours to enter all those coupons. Never mind that those people buy huge amounts of things they could never possibly use. Often, you simply can’t do all the things they do to get those savings.

For example: when was the last time you saw a grocery store that offered triple coupons? In many parts of the country (and I’ve lived in four or five), it never happens. I’ve seen a store offer double coupons once or twice.

So where do they find these people, and why don’t they tell you these savings only happen in a few narrowly prescribed circumstances?

And why they don’t point out that in some cases, the stars of these shows stretch legality nearly to the breaking point to accomplish their feats of fiscal legerdemain?

Counting the Cost

There’s nothing wrong with clipping a few coupons; it’s nice to save on something that you really want and need. Just be sure you do want or need it, and don’t waste time hunting down specific coupons. An hour a week spent clipping and collating coupons is sufficient for most of us.

Let’s be real here. While saving money is always nice, is coupon clipping the most economical use of your limited time? You probably won’t save more than $5 an hour, even after the most vociferous snipping sessions. So is it really worth the effort?

I’ll be the first to admit that coupons are a nice way to help you put away a bit more for your vacation fund…but be careful how you use them, and be sure they’re worth the cost.