To Coupon or Not To Coupon – Are You Really Saving Money?

“Extreme Couponing” has been a fairly popular craze over the past few years, but I can’t say I’ve ever bought into it. It just seemed so time-consuming and tedious. It made me wonder if it was worth it, if there was some trick to it that I didn’t know about that would magically result in tons of savings on every trip to the store. 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. Consider the following before you jump on the coupon-clipping bandwagon:

Time is money. Many extreme couponers use coupons to shop for the sale as opposed to shopping for what they really need. If you have a very specific grocery list, standard coupon-clipping won’t get you far. You can always take a shot at searching online for coupons for the products you need or buy frequently, but it can often be a challenge, especially if you tend to shop for off-brands. With a busy schedule, it can be hard to fit in extra time to scour the internet for deals.

Where you use them. Some coupons are only accepted at certain stores, and some stores will only accept their own coupons. Chances are, if you have a coupon for $1.00 off of a package of paper towels, you could probably find them somewhere else for even cheaper WITHOUT needing to use anything if you’re a smart shopper (see here for more info about saving money on groceries). If you’re going out of your way to go to a particular place to use a particular coupon, you’re spending more money on gas than you’d save, so it’s not really worth it.

Do you even need that? I think everyone gets that booklet of coupons that seems to turn up in my mailbox at least twice per week. I always leaf through it to see if there’s anything I could possibly use, but very rarely do I find anything I need. Every once in a while, I find ones for the toothpaste I like or for some sort of cosmetic, but the majority of coupons included aren’t for anything I buy on a regular basis (or at all, for that matter). Yes, the ones I use can come in handy if I need to replenish my supply, but a lot of people feel like they need to “stock up” when they have their coupon in-hand. By all means, pick up a few while you’re getting it at a discount, but creating a huge stock pile is depleting your funds that you have to work with right now on something you may not need again for weeks or months. Spend the money when you need to!

All things considered, couponing might not be something to rule out completely, but you should weigh the benefits for yourself. If it makes sense for you and your family, and you have the time to set aside for planning, then by all means, forge ahead! We’d love to hear if couponing works for you. Feel free to share your tips and tricks with us!