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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:

Apr 18, 2012 7:07PM

Do you use toothpaste? toothbrushes? Deorderant? Shampoo? Conditioner? Razors? Body Wash? Dish Soap? Laundry detergant?

Then maybe you might want to think about couponing. I'm 26 years old and I agree with you about the food items, however when it comes to items like those mentioned, I haven't paid a penny towards those items within the past 6 years of couponing. Which saves me more money then I could imagine, allowing me to enjoy a very good life.

Apr 28, 2012 3:24AM

WOW !!! The person who wrote this is way off base..I use coupons for what I like and need..Nothing else..If you feel like you are forced to purchase something because of coupons. I say --HMMM..Shop wisely...

                                                    P.S. Don't buy what you don't need


                                                                      Randys Wife


Apr 28, 2012 1:38PM
For those of you who whine "couponing is too time consuming; it doesn't work for me; etc." I would like to THANK YOU for your ignorance!!

By paying full price, you provide the large, national manufacturers (i.e. Johnson & Johnsons; Procter & Gamble) their profit margins.  Keep up the good work!!  I on the other hand, use coupons to get their products at least 50% off (if not free!!).  

I then turn around and use that saved $$ as cash at our LOCAL farmers market to purchase organic, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.  SO, I save money on the national level to spend & keep at the local level.

Seems like a no brainer to me!?!?!?  My family eats healthy; I'm supporting my neighbors/farmers by keeping cash locally and I still get to use the national brands that I have grown to trust and know.  

Thanks, Whiners!!  Keep up the good work! :-)
Apr 28, 2012 12:10PM
I have never responsded to an article, blog, etc before but I just have to respond to this...

You couldn't be more wrong!!!!

I provide counter arguments to your 5 points:
1.  Coupons are free.  And, if you are resourceful, your Sunday paper subscription can be nearly free (I pay 1 cent, yes, $0.01, for my yearly, Sunday-only subscription).  Believe it or not, I get this Sunday paper deal from a COUPON.....gasp!  It's a program provided through the school district in conjunction with the local paper to raise awareness and enrollment in their paper subscriptions.  Which leads me to item #2...
2.  So, the newspaper deal was for Sunday only delivery.  But, the printer wanted people to purchase a larger, more expensive daily subscription.  But here's the deal.... as long as you practice restraint, and not get or sign-up for more, then the original coupon is a very good deal.  This is just a prime example of how advertisers & SOME coupons do TRY to get the consumer to purchase more.  However, please remember, the consumer has the right (and hopefully the intellect) to show some restraint and NOT BUY MORE.  
3., you've seen &/or heard of extreme couponing, huh? Yes, some individuals do abuse coupons and stock up/buy out items.  These individuals probably have issues with hoarding and/or lack of restraint that cause this over-abuse of coupons to over-purchase.  For the rest of us, it isn't an issue.  At the very most, I will purchase a quantity of 4 of any item.  For my household, 4 is the magic gets us through about 6 months worth of time.  And, I have found that most of the tried-and-true products that we use (i.e. toliet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) are usually on a 6-month coupon rotation any way so just as my supply runs out, guess what, ANOTHER coupon comes out.  Yay!
4.  I will admit that initially, there is a learning curve to couponing.  But isn't there a learning curve to most things?  After you learn the basics, it takes no more time than perusing through the Sunday paper.  I can guarantee you that I spend LESS time couponing (i.e. Sunday paper and on the internet) than you do watching tv or playing video games!  ;-)
5.  A significant percentage of coupons are for pre-packeaged food, I'll give you that.  HOWEVER, another significant percentage are for household items (i.e. dish soap, laundrt detergent, dusting spray, etc).  IF I can save over 50% on these items, then I do have more money available for the fresh, organic fruits & vegetables.  
I would also like to add this:  In the past 2.5 years that I have been regularly couponing, I have seen a HUGE increase in the availability of coupons for organic, gluten-free, healthy foods.

We are a family of 5, living off of one income.  We live in an affluent area of Southern California and couponing allows us to: stay within our budget; maintain healthy eating; and provides us 'extra' cash to do activities with our young family.  I am going to venture to guess that you are either:  1) single; 2) possibly married but without kids; or 3) live in New York City.  Either way, for some reason, the current economic crisis that is plaguing this country isn't bothering you currently?!?

I sincerely hope that the author of this article, for their own benefit, follows up on this topic and reads some of these blogs.  You will learn a great deal.  Also, you MUST check out my FAVORITE website for  It is the best & the owner, Collin, she rocks!  


Apr 20, 2012 9:19AM

As in most things, there is a middle ground between always and never. I only use coupons for things I use. I'm a journalist, so I always read the Sunday paper --  kind of surprised you don't -- and it takes a few minutes to flip through the coupon section to see if there are coupons for any products I use. If there are, I clip. If not, I don't. It doesn't have to be extreme. 

Apr 19, 2012 8:05AM

someone...obviously you don't know much about coupons.  There are coupons for things other than food (household cleaners, toilet paper, paper towels, magazines, just to name a few), but also for healthy food such as kashi products, oranges, orange juice and yogurt.  When I'm not sure on a topic, I don't respond because I don't believe that I know everything, and I don't want to seem ignorant.


This is a very ignorant article to suggest that all coupons are for food.  Maybe some more experience and research would help.

Apr 28, 2012 11:06AM
I totally disagree because I am a couponer.  I don't buy frozen pizzas, pop tarts, or whatever junk food I have a coupon for.  I print out coupons for organic milk, eggs, string cheese, cottage cheese, greek yogurts, etc.  Is there a lot of coupons fo junk out there, yes, but it doesn't mean that you need to buy it just because you have a coupon for it.  I spend maybe two hours a week couponing, I have it down.  It's a way of life, the only way I shop.  I never pay for tooth paste, tooth brushes, shave cream, the good razors, mouth wash, tampons, pads, good body washes, deodorant, adult vitamins, and kids vitamins.  I will never pay more than a dollar for cleaning products, and laudry detergents like Tide and All.  To me that is way worth me clipping my coupons, I would cringe to pay full price for those everyday items!
Apr 28, 2012 12:32PM

OK people let me clarify - YES people like the one lady on extreme couponing who bought 100 boxes of cereal that no-one in her family would eat are yes STUPID! unless she were to turn around and donate it to a local food shelf! BUT for the rest of us SAVVY shoppers we ONLY buy things we would normally buy!!!  DUH!!! so get off the rant about buying things you don't need!!

I havn't been couponing for a while but have not needed to buy TP for about 6 months! And got ALL of them for less than 15 cents a roll!!! That's not dumb that's very SMART!! Maybe you all are rich and can afford to buy things without coupons but for the rest of us average Joes WE WILL USE COUPONS and have enough items in store for at least a year!! How about you??? if we had a war TODAY how long could you survive on the few items you have in your house???

 It makes me sick to go to the store and have to buy something without a coupon and without it being on sale!! Hamburger is over $4.00 a pound!!! Holy cow!!! Butter too. I'll get it when its $2.25 a pound and I will have a coupon for at least 25 cents off!! How much will you pay???

and as far as standing in line while someone uses all their coupons...1. I always let people go before me and warn anyone who comes behind me that I am using coupons....PICK A DIFFERENT LINE!! 2.You had all the time in the world to shop so be patient with people who are broke and NEED to use coupons!! PICK A DIFFERENT LINE!!

Also the one guy on Exteme Couponing was EXTREMELY SMART!!  He got over $22,000 worth of stuff for $275.00 (like toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo and conditioner, soap etc.) and said "I know I can't use all this stuff in my lifetime so I'm going to get my friends and neighbors together and make care packages for our military service members." NOW NOT ONLY DID HE DONATE $22,000 WORTH OF STUFF BUT HE ALSO CAN GET A TAX BREAK FOR THE DONATION!! WHAT A SMART MAN!!!!

If your not into coupons that's fine but don't bash the people who HAVE to use coupons to survive!!!

Apr 28, 2012 12:15PM
Stop writing articles that assume everyone is a moron.
Apr 28, 2012 10:57AM

Ok Kentin Waits.. want some cold hard facts since you will have sunday morning free to read them? Lets address some of the points you make and debunk them with reality. First off, as a disclaimer, I am not an extreme couponer. I have been couponing for less than a year, and as of January 1st I began tracking my sales to see how I am doing. So the data below represents 1/1/12 to 4/25/12


1) Spent on papers $98

2) Saved with coupons from those papers: $1027.64

3) Overall savings: $929.64


Not bad for an investment of $98 right? So lets get some more numbers rolling. BTW this is for a family of 3, with a small child, and I used to spend anywhere from $200-$250 a week with diapers, wipes ect included. I had no stockpile, and no plan. We eat healthy, though we also have treats. I now have a small stockpile to last until the next great sale as well.


1) Total retail value of products purchased: $3954.85

2) Actual price paid for products OOP (out of pocket): $1418.06  ($83.41 average per week)

3) Total saved by price matching, couponing, buying whats fresh and seasonal, buying what is on sale at a rock bottom price, and using my stockpile to menu plan: $2536.59 (64%)


This takes me about 2-4 hours a week. So Kentin, I have to ask.. is 2-4 hours of your time too much to ask to save that much money?

Apr 28, 2012 8:50AM

I use coupons regularly. I turned my $200+ a week grocery budget to $50 a week or LESS. That includes toiletries, diapers, cat food, cat litter, treats, and food for a family of 3 + baby sitters 5 days a week so they are here for lunch.  Stores like Target and Publix CONSTANTLY put out store coupons for vegetables, organic food, healthy food. We eat healthier now than we ever did

Also, there are more coupons than food coupons. I get name brand deoderants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, conditioner for free regularly, if the store isnt "paying" me to take it out of the store for them. I also get name brand cleaners, laundry detergents for pennies on the dollar. All stuff I use regularly.  And you do NOT have to buy 1 million of them either. You can get 2 or 3 or how many your family needs. How much do you non-coupon clippers pay to stay clean and fresh? Too much, I guarantee it. Walmart and Dollar General are now the MOST EXPENSIVE stores around and I refuse to step foot in them. When you stack coupons on top of sale items and pay $1.00 for a $6.00+ item originally, you are beating even Walmarts price of $4.

And the absolute BEST coupons in the whole world? a $5/$25 order coupon. it means you will get $5 off of a $25 order for anything in the store. doesnt matter. so you want to pick up $25 worth of fresh vegetables? you will get them for $20. And they stack, meaning you can use other manufacturer or store coupons along with that coupon.

Last, you all need to know I do not live in a state where coupons are doubled, tripled or anything like that. The value of the coupon in my hand is exactly what it says it is. I can only imagine how much more I would save if I did have a store that doubled the coupon value.

Huge Savings with coupons is real. If you want to stretch your paycheck, pay off bills faster, have extra money for vacations with your family, have food in the cupboards at the end of the month, you will learn how to coupon. For those of you that dont need extra money, please by all means keep shopping the way you are. If anyone is interrested in learning how to coupon to really save money for your family, go to krazycouponlady dot com or southernsavers dot com

Apr 28, 2012 11:40AM
Ppl who say your family is too "picky" or you want to eat healthier obviously don't understand coupons. You don't have to only use coupons for food. I save hundreds of dollars on non-food items. Toilet paper, feminine products, diapers and wipes, deodorant, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, styling products, tin foil, etc. When can buy each of these items from $0-$1 each then you have a whole lot of "extra" cash to buy those fresh fruits and vegetables and meat. Not everyone who refuses to use coupons are lazy and or dumb. They could be just too busy and have so much money they don't need to save any. Or they may be just too embarrassed to use coupons. To each his own. If they don't want to save money, they don't have to but it goes both ways. If we want to continue to save money so that our family can eat healthier than they should not "dis" us either. Just saying.......
Apr 28, 2012 2:03PM
Im a single mother raising a beautiful little daughter! I have saved myself a ton of money using coupons. You can use coupons to get healthy items as well! This person obviously has no idea what they are talking about. With this economy you have to save money anyway you can! Couponing is a great way to do that! The key to saving is to "stockpile" enough until the next sale comes around! Ugh, just because you dont understand something, dont trash it!
Apr 28, 2012 12:11PM
Just like anything else in life, do what you feel is right for you and your family AND have some discipline!!! I have always liked the idea of using coupons to save money, but didn't get into it "seriously" until last May. At first I did a little too much...which means I still have a few tubes of toothpaste that I can give away (oh yeah, charity items...because that's a terrible reason to use coupons). Then I started realizing that like everything else in life, do things in moderation! I only clip items that I buy all the time. And to save time, I use the couponing websites that tell you what's on sale and where to find the coupons...which means organizing the coupons doesn't take as much time. If I don't have a coupon for something and I need it, I buy it at Target or Walmart and/or I buy generic. Believe it or not, saving money can be fun...if you have the right ATTITUDE!!!
Apr 28, 2012 8:45AM
These are the most ridiculous reasons not to want to save money.  I spend pennies on just the Sunday paper.  I spend maybe half an hour cutting the coupons I really want and can use.  I do not get sucked into buying something I don't want just because I have a coupon.  Sometimes I have tried something new because I wanted to.  I have switched OJ brands because of a "new try."  The new brand taste much better and is cheaper AND the oranges used are grown in the US and not Brazil like the old brand.  The best part about spending pennies a week and a half hour clipping:  I typically save $20.00 or more a week on my grocery bill....Booyah!!
Apr 28, 2012 4:54AM
Bad article. Way off base. Do research next time.
Apr 20, 2012 2:33AM

I get the sunday newspaper only just for the coupons and i love them. They pay for the paper ($1 per week) and save us some extra money. However, I don't fall for items that we don't use or processed food. My faves are regular personal care items (yes, they are mostly new products coming to the market but my family and I get to try the best out there for less, like toothpaste) and necessary household items (cleaning, zip lock bags, detergents, etc.)  I only like a coupon if it's close to $1 OFF or more and I buy the smallest size package allowed at Wallmart to get the most bang for my buck.   Sometimes we get great coupons for coffee and tea and we get to try new flavors which we wouldn't have bought otherwise. Being flexible about the products we use is key. OH, before I forget, the newspaper is also good for high end restaurant savings - we treat ourselves to a nice dinner at Black Angus once every few months for a special occasion using their coupon and save $15 off the bill. :)  

Apr 28, 2012 11:11AM

I treat coupons like found money.  I never count on them.  First, I only use coupons for items that I am already going to buy.  This keeps the clutter down and saves on the temptation to buy something that I normally wouldn't.   And, to make the time issue pay a little better, I only use coupons that are for 75 cents per item (not 75 cents when you buy 3).  Granted, this system really limits the coupons available to me, but then, the couple of bucks a week that I save is like finding cash on the sidewalk.  It's never very much, but is still fun to get.

Apr 28, 2012 11:18AM
Us old folks on a fixed income look long and hard for coupons, most of the Sunday newspaper ones are on line, check manufacturer's websites too, print them in B&W to save the expensive color ink. For 2 of us we budget $8 a day for groceries which includes food, paper goods, laundry & cleaning products, soft drinks, dog biscuits and all, and we eat well!! Always carry a calculator  and use coupons to figure out unit prices or cost per serving,. If you find a really good coupon on line you can print several of them to use before they expire especially for non-perishables. I agree that coupons for fresh produce are not easy to find. Buy a few packs of seeds at the dollar store even if you live in an apartment you can grow them in a pot and have fresh things like peas or string beans 3 or 4 months for $1, and freeze what you can't use up. Teach the next generation how to coupon, makes soups and casseroles and re-run the leftovers, the cost of food won't go down.
Apr 28, 2012 1:37PM
I like to use coupons, but again, only for things that already buy.  I am no extreme coupon-er, there is no need for me to buy 5000 of something, but i usually save $15-20 off my grocery bill.  Not too bad.  
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