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5 reasons I don't clip coupons

I'm not a health nut, but the last thing I need is another excuse to buy a frozen pizza and Pop-Tarts.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 18, 2012 5:39PM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.


Wise Bread on MSN MoneyPeople love coupons. According to Nielsen Clearing House, an industry leader in coupon marketing and redemption, 78% of consumers report using coupons on a regular basis.


Image: Full Shopping Cart in Grocery Store © Fuse/Getty ImagesI'm not one of these people. Though clipping coupons is usually the first thing that comes to mind when folks think of frugality and thrift, I argue that it's time to put down the scissors. Here's why. (See also: "Extreme couponing? 5 reasons why I'll pass.")


1. You usually have to buy something to get a coupon

Though some coupons are free or accessible online at no charge, most of them are still found tucked in that old standby, the Sunday newspaper. I don't read the paper, and I don't want to have to buy something in order to be offered the chance to save money. It seems contradictory and is a bit too complicated for my taste.


2. Coupons attempt to modify behavior

Manufacturers want me to save 50 cents on that pint of ice cream for one reason only -- to get me in the habit of eating it. It's simple. And it's a claim that the manufacturers and the coupon industry would be the first to admit. Coupons exist to suggest new products and to habituate shoppers to particular products and brands. Then later, at 3 in the morning when I need that pint of Rocky Road in the very worst way -- poof! No more coupons. No thanks. (Post continues below video.)

3. Coupons encourage overbuying

Often, the money we save with a coupon applies only when buying multiple items. Even though each item may be cheaper in the long run with the coupons, why should I have to buy multiples? What if I don't end up liking that new brand of coffee? What if that brand of cheese has a bad aftertaste? Who should be the lucky recipient of all my surplus java and Colby Jack?


4. The savings vs. time investment is low with coupons

Couponing requires the regular purchase of a newspaper at best. At worst, it requires joining some coupon exchange club and buying a handy organizer. Then I have to clip, file and wait for double-coupon day. And while I'm at it, I should also join my grocery store's loyalty program to boost my savings even more. With this much effort, are the savings really worth it? Wouldn't buying generic save me just as much without all the hassle?


5. Coupons typically push prepackaged, processed foods

I seldom see coupons for apples or broccoli. Maybe they exist, and I've just blinded myself to an entire category of things that require clipping. But it seems to me that coupons generally push convenient, prepackaged and processed food. I'm not a health nut, but the last thing I need is another excuse to buy a frozen pizza and Pop-Tarts.

Perhaps I've overstated my case, and I certainly don't mean to disparage diehard couponers out there. It's just that I can't quite see what all the fuss is about. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for saving money. I'm just not sure that couponing achieves that goal in the long run. Looking for sales on things I'd buy anyway, stocking up when I find a smoking deal on something I really love, gravitating toward generics and store brands whenever possible -- these are my tried-and-true tactics.


Still, Nielsen Clearing House says I'm firmly in the minority of shoppers with my coupon-free wallet. Heck, 1.75 billion coupons were redeemed in the first six months of 2011 alone. That's a whole lot of clipping, and I must be missing something. If you're serious about couponing, please fill me in -- I'm free most Sundays.


More from Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Sep 5, 2013 8:50AM
I use coupons for fresh produce and healthy food all the time. I shop mainly at Meijer's, which offers electronic store coupons for produce frequently. I use coupons for things like $1 off a bag of lemons, $1 off a bag of avocados, etc.

I also use coupons from Earthbound Farms and Driscoll's berries. I use coupons for tofu, orange juice, soymilk, soy yogurt, etc.
Jan 18, 2013 5:49PM
I buy  100 coupons on ebay for a couple of dollars, to me it saves me time and money.
May 5, 2012 12:39PM

Coupon clipping is only part of the deal. If you buy a product you don't need, you may find a rebate on it where you actually make money or get a free gift. I use refund world magazine and save a lot of money. In addition I get to try many products with satisfaction guarantees, by not only using coupons, but getting my full purchase price back as well. In fact, there is a deal on a P&G shampoo where you get twice your money if you don't like it on refund world's site.

I just enjoy getting free gifts and great deals.

Apr 29, 2012 6:52PM
Here is some of my responses to his excuses. One this article seems to be written by someone that is lazy and has no self control. Some of his comments and "reasons" are just that, let me explain.

 1. Yes, you have to buy a paper to get the coupons (although I know quite a few people that go to the recycling centers and get the coupons that others have paid for and thrown out). But, has anyone ever invested in a business opportunity to make or create more money? Plus, I pay $1 for a paper, but save that using only 1 of the coupons that are in that paper. I have already made my "investment" back 100% and usually within the week I have done that. No business out there that I know of that you can do that! 

2.Of course that is the reason that manufactures create the coupons, but that has been around for years just like any other marketing strategy, like those VERY EXPENSIVE Super Bowl commercials. They want you to purchase their product, but YOU don't have to do what they are wanting. It's something called self-control. Which it doesn't seem he has much of. Has he ever heard of "a penny saved is a penny earned" save 50 cents on 10 things you just saved $5.00! 

3. This one is totally ridiculous and maybe why there are so many people out there in need. You don't have to buy in multiplies, not all of the coupons are that way, but if it would be cheaper to buy two instead of one, why on earth would anyone only buy one? How is that money smart at all? If you don't want to have 2 of that item (even if you could just put it in your pantry for the next time you are needing the item) why not give it to a local charity or a family that you might know that is in need. But, it seems that this is a "me" society anymore. :(  
Apr 29, 2012 6:52PM
4.This one just shows how lazy this person is. How difficult is it to purchase a paper or sign up for a store card? Really???? The store card is a one time thing, easier than any credit card applications.  It doesn't require you to sign up for any club, and it is in your best interest to watch the sales, and coupon matchups. There are so many sites out there that take most of that extra work out of it for you. Yes, it does take time. But, what doesn't take time if it is of value! Relationships take time, Family takes time, Saving for your family takes time. 

5. Yes, there are many coupons out there for these processed and packaged foods, but there are many coupons out there also for fruits, vegetables, and meat. Also, the money that you can save in the health and beauty and cleaning section can purchase the fruits and vegs that you might not have a coupon for. So instead of buying everything say at sale price and pay for everything, you can buy those items at sale price with a coupon and save alot more (often getting the item for free or pennies) and use the savings for your items with no coupons. Less out of pocket! 

As most of the comments below his article state, he is completely uneducated in this area and in my opinion shouldn't be writing an article before there is some research done. That is one thing that bugs me, when people will write or talk about something that they are not even educated about. I started using coupons before the TV series started, yes after that show started there were alot of people using coupons. I just waited it out, because I figured most people will quit doing it because it takes effort and it seemed to be the "thing to do" at the time. Just like the resolutions in the beginning of the year, most do not keep them at all. I used to always purchase generic (or whatever was the cheapest) and would buy in bulk. (I have a big family) I always look for the price per ounce and watch for what is less expensive. But, after using coupons and getting the name brand stuff for free or cents most of the time why pay more for generic? I am not and have never been a name brand person. Just can't afford that most of the time, but if using coupons is a way that I can save more while I stay at home. That is worth it. The other day I went on a shopping trip and saved $250 and it cost me $100. For that day I made $250, that is a good paying job. :) In the last 2 months we have filled up (30 gallons each filling) 6 times free, all from purchasing food that we would purchase anyway. That is a savings of $675 just in gas!!!!!!! Plus, I have food and most of what was purchased was a double my money item.
 So, yes couponing is NOT for everyone, it DOES take time and diligence but it is a HUGE way to save.
(I received an email from this writer and was quite taken back about the rudeness and his sarcastic remarks. Guess I should have expected it, per his article)      (continued above)

Apr 29, 2012 4:31PM
I consistently save at least 50% off my grocery bill each week using coupons, and we eat healthily. The beauty of it is, the planning allows me to actually skip shopping on busy weeks. We are well-stocked without going overboard. I am also able to donate quality food to our local food shelter, a cause near and dear to my heart. I am able to make sure children don't go hungry, for pennies on the dollar. I work and have two small children and coupon, so the reasoning above is weak in my book!
Apr 28, 2012 7:28PM
I have an idea.... you give me your grocery list and the money everything costs at full price. I will shop for you and keep the difference i save. Your jaw would drop. Your ignorance is my bliss!Smile
Apr 28, 2012 3:56PM

I cannot believe the lack of education this writer is showing in his article. I'm shocked and appalled that this is being written and published in a section on saving money!


I have been using coupons off and on my entire life. As an educated wife and mother of 5, I found our grocery budget had gotten out of hand, and decided to get serious about saving my family money on groceries. Over the past 5 years I have cut my grocery budget in half, and we eat better now than ever before. I no longer buy processed foods or junk foods, either, and I still manage to save an average of 50% on my grocery bill.


I am not an "extreme couponer" but I do stockpile when a great sale comes along with which I can combine a coupon. Those times can save me up to 90% or even more, depending on the situation. When something isn't on sale, I can usually "shop" right from my pantry until the next time that item is on sale. To see this writer claim that using coupons means buying ice cream and frozen pizza is misleading at best. Yes, one can buy ice cream and frozen pizza using coupons. However, milk, meat, eggs, cheese, bread, produce, toiletries, and cleaning products can all be purchased by combining coupons with sales. I have saved almost $650.00 so far this year by using coupons combined with sales on my groceries alone. I have spent less than twice that on groceries for my family of 5. (I have three kids living at home now.) It takes me an hour or so each week to gather my coupons and make my shopping list, but it is worth it to me so that we have more money in our budget to spend on fun things rather than food.

Apr 28, 2012 3:52PM

There are so many negative comments on both couponing and the author of the article.  This is the authors opinion on couponing.  She sites reasons why she does not think couponing will work for her.


The great thing about opinions are that they are just that, what someone thinks based on their own perception.  If she does not think couponing is worth it or takes up too  much time for her, that's ok.  There are other people who enjoy couponing as a hobby that saves them money.  That's ok, too.


I think the problem is when extremes come into play.  Everyone has seen extremes in hoarding, eating, exercising, collecting, tv watching, etc.  It's extreme!  There is a problem when people do things to extreme to the detriment of other things in their lives or when they are "missing out" on important aspects of their lives.


I coupon but not in an extreme.  I like the game of getting my grocery bill down to the lowest point without sacrificing much time or the health of my family.  Case in point, I found coupons for FREE Gaterade.  My kids love it especially when they are playing sports.  Well, their dentist said not to buy it anymore because it causes cavities.  I discontinued buying it because no matter what the deal is, if it is not good for my kids, I should not be buying it.


I spend about 1 hour per week while I watch a favority tv show, planning my shopping trip.  I only cut about 1% of the coupons in the Sunday newspaper.  Only the ones that I think I may want to use at sometime.  I don't think that is alot of time, for me, to spend to save an average of $20-$40 per week.  I also shop at two stores, one is a fruit market with unbelievable deals ($10/week on all the fresh fruits and veggies for my entire family) and a store that typically has the lowest prices on most food items.


Not a big deal.  Not extreme.  I have members of my family who will not clip coupons, will not shop sales and spend over $200/week on groceries.  Their families are not healthier than mine and I spend $40-$60/week on groceries.  Am I right and they wrong?  No, it's right for me at this time and for them, what they are doing is right for them at this time. 


Bottom line, people should not be so negative when someone else has a diferring opinion.

Apr 28, 2012 3:35PM

I love coupons! I got into couponing after watching Extreme Couponing when I had a lot of free time during my commute to and from work. I buy multiple copies of the local paper on fridays for $.50 each and clip coupons while I'm watching tv. I only clip coupons for the items I'm going to buy anyway, and I easily make up the cost of the papers with the coupons. And yes, I do stock up on items, but I also have a plan for it when I'm buying it. I bought as many of the Belvita Breakfast Biscuits as I could for $.24 each (normally $2.99) they're delicious, pretty good for me, and I share them with my brothers in college. The money I saved on breakfast can easily go towards fruits and vegetables. My couponing is also responsible for keeping 5 college boys (my brothers and some of their friends) in soap and deodorant. 


I know that not everybody will enjoy couponing as much as I do, and frankly, their loss is my gain. there will be less competition for coupons and products.


I would appreciate it if people could change their perception of couponers. My (very young) cousin thinks that couponing is only for poor fat people. Other people look at me like I'm crazy. Its a hobby, we don't look down on gardeners, scrapbookers, or people who play video games so don't look down on couponers. This article was written by someone who knows what he likes and does not want to change so he found reasons not to, we've all done that. Preaching those reasons to others as fact is incredibly rude and ignorant. All he's done is give the people who already look down on couponers more reasons to do the same.

Apr 28, 2012 3:33PM

I guess if you don't know the ins and outs of couponing it wouldn't seems worth it to you, but I've been at it for several years now and have enough of a stockpile that I sit back and wait to buy only when I can get it for free or make money on it when I buy it. With very few exceptions, I pay nothing but tax for most household products and health and beauty items and average savings of 70- 80% on my grocery purchases over what the average shopper pays. I don't buy products I don't use unless it is free and I know someone that I can give it to. You're right produce coupons are not common, though they are out there, but I save enough on everything else to make a car payment, so it's worth it to me.


If your time is more valuable to you than your money, then couponing would be a waste of time for you. Personally, I'm willing to set aside a few hours a week to get most of my necessites for free. Would have been nice if the author had bothered to find out how people who coupon successfully manage to do it.

Apr 28, 2012 3:10PM
I belive a lot of people use coupons incorrectly - they see that they can save 40 cents on something, but it was not something they knew they already wanted to buy. But, why shouldn't use use a coupon to sve money on something you were going to buy anyway? My family buys the newspaper for the newspaper itself; the coupons are a bonus. At my grocery store, any cupon under $1, will be brought up to a $1 savings.Without much effort on  my part (clipping a few coupons while watching tv, and buying items while they are on sale) I have saved a couple 100 dollars. Even if you only save $5 from a few coupns - isn't it worth the 5 minutes yo uspent cutting them out?
Apr 28, 2012 3:03PM
I have coupons right now for eggs,veggies and fruit. Generally I would agree that the coupons are for processed food, but if you shop at Whole Foods, their coupons are not.  But even other supermarkets have coupons for healthy items too.

Just keep your eyes open and you will find worthwhile coupons. Whether you use them for good
stuff is up to you. Coupons have definitely saved me money!

Apr 28, 2012 2:56PM
I read through the comments and I have to agree with the majority-- couponing takes a little work but it is worth it in the money you save. I just retired and decided to explore couponing and found that there are many food and household products I purchase that offer coupons. A few of the stores I frequent will even double the value. I don't buy processed or many prepared foods because they are usually high in sodium and/or fat so I just stick to the coupons that are offered for items I would normally purchase. I try to knock at least 30% off my grocery bill with each shopping trip-- I wish I had done this years ago!
Apr 28, 2012 2:56PM
One would hope that the author did some valid research before hitting the publish button.  I've managed to save hundreds of dollars in food cost over the past few years by couponing.  I could kick myself in the pants for all the money that I've wasted over the years, especially with toiletries and personal care products.  I've used coupons for Clementines, whole wheat bread, organic eggs, poultry,  meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, cereal.  On a typical shopping trip, for a family of 6, I save between 80 and 100 bucks a pop.  Now I won't buy a product if it's not on sale and I don't have a coupon for it.  It's that simple. 
Apr 28, 2012 2:44PM

I have given this "couponing" a great deal of thought because it would benefit the poor or the needy families. Aside from regular tithing at my home church, this would be a great way to give back to the community. I believe most couponers do just that! They give the excess away to the homeless shelters. I am gain for this hobby for that reason only!!

Apr 28, 2012 2:44PM
Many people live in different areas....  I live in a large city.... I don't waste my time cuz ALL the places I coupon at is within 5-10 min. away  & there are several of each.
I get FREE ads only newspaper every Sunday & my neighbors & friends give me theirs.  So I don't pay a dime for papers.
No coupons for Apples & broccoli?  I just got one from Krogers for $5 off $15 in produce.  I also get them for the meat department as well.
Overbuying?  why not get 2 items (that you always buy anyway) for $1.50 each rather than $2 ea. buying them separately?
Modify my buying behavior?  Couponers are "non-brand specific"...  I buy generic if the brand WITH a coupon still costs more.  I may get "hooked" on a new product but I won't buy until I see a sale AND a coupon.
When I see our paper on my lawn - I see $100 bills.  Couponing is not for everyone.  It does take work.  BUT...  IF Walmart said "Free bodywash for everyone"....  you would be there in a minute.  But "free body wash" & you have to clip a coupon takes up your time....  I don't get it.  BUT I hope many think like you cuz then there will be more free stuff for me!  Hot

Apr 28, 2012 2:43PM
I thought I was the only one who avoids couponing.  I prefer fresh foods, not processed, overly sugary/salty. I don't need 7 different cleaning products when one is fine.  OK, maybe I'd save a few cents on TP and dish soap but it isn't worth the effort for foods I don't want or need.  Why spend money to save a few cents?
Apr 28, 2012 2:41PM

WOW! Why would you ignore money that companies want to give you? I used to think like you, I would find a coupon but the store brand was cheaper even with the coupon. I learned that I was doing it wrong. Use the coupon when the product is on sale and get enough to last a while. If you chose not the spend your free time making money and instead spending it that's your choice.


I swear I read this article a couple months ago or at least one just like it, is this a repost?

Apr 28, 2012 2:39PM

If you don't want to spend your time clipping coupons then that's your choice, but i was a cashier and I've seen the occasional shopper with seventy something coupons and save hundreds!  Time consuming? perhaps but effective at lowering your bill.


People need to learn self-control, you really shouldn't live beyond your means and just causes credit card debt, whatever happened to the noion of working, saving up your money and THEN buying it!

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