Confessions of a coupon contrarian
September is National Coupon Month. But don't believe the hype -- not all advice about coupons is worth your time.
When I heard this was National Coupon Month, I wondered: "Says who?" Apparently, the Promotion Marketing Association decided 13 years ago to declare September "a monthlong celebration of savings."
Except I'm not buying it, with a coupon or not.
I use coupons, but I purposefully flout a lot of the advice I've read this month about what I should be doing. For example:
"Don't buy an item you don't need just because you have a coupon for it." Well, I do. And on purpose. I hate frugality experts telling me I need to save money by forgoing fun. I intentionally use coupons for stuff I've never tried before. Last week, I had a buy-one-get-one-free offer for Special K. I've eaten Special K before, but never in strawberry or chocolate flavors. So for the price of one box, I got to try two boxes. Post continues after video.
But what if I like strawberry Special K? And chocolate Special K? Warns this killjoy expert: "Once you've tasted it, you might be tempted again next week, and suddenly it's a regular item on your shopping list -- at the regular price."
Oh no! I'm enjoying a meal I never had before! Turns out, I dig the strawberry Special K, but the chocolate was terrible -- I'd rather just eat real chocolate. Still, I consider this a coupon success, not a coupon disaster.
"Organize your coupons." If I spend $35 on this coupon organizer, I can save hundreds later, the website says. Sorry, but I'm not going to spend money and hours clipping coupons. If a coupon is valued at less than 50 cents, it's beneath me. If it requires me to buy more than three of the product -- why do yogurt coupons always want me to buy six or eight? -- then forget it, I'm not that hungry.
So, all the coupons I do clip are worth my time, and I don't have so many that I can't keep track. Also, I usually use coupons within a few days of clipping them, further cutting down the coupon clutter. Maybe I miss some deals here and there, but I never have that angst of uncovering a big coupon I could've used, but now it's expired.
"Internet printable coupons have expanded our resources for saving on our weekly grocery bills." Maybe, but I spend too much time online already. I work on a computer, and I'm not too proud to admit I play computer games. The last thing I want to do is scour the World Wide Web for coupons, although there are plenty of meta-search sites (like this one).
Where do I get my coupons? From the newspaper. I subscribe, which is cheap and convenient. And if I find some good, pricey coupons -- especially the holy grail of coupons, those for $1 off or more -- I buy more newspapers. This may sound odd, but here's what I do: On Sunday morning on my way to the grocery store, I drive one intersection farther and buy a couple more copies of my local paper from the homeless person who works that corner. It's convenient and cost-effective for me, and I know at least a few cents are trickling down to someone who needs it.
"Is it cheap to use coupons on a date? This has been a gray area in discussions with my friends." Do your friends date much? And are they guys? Because I'm reminded of a study I wrote about last month that claimed, "Only 44% of women say frugal dates are smart and sexy."
Recession or not, it's never a good idea to whip out a two-for-one coupon at a restaurant with your new sweetie -- or even your old spouse. I'd never take my wife of 12 years on a date and use a coupon. Now, we eat plenty of meals at restaurants and have used coupons before, but never on our "date nights." Those are supposed to be special, and no coupon is special enough. So here's my parting advice: Don't let your coupon mania get in the way of your love life.
This is just one man's opinion. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson disagrees with most of it. He's done lots of stories promoting coupon use, including this one: "X-treme coupon clipping." But the writers here at Money Talks News are encouraged to provide our own opinions -- and now you have mine. What's yours?
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