That's why I was shocked to see Amy Fontinelle's article, "8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Coupons." My first reaction was, "What is this woman drinking? Did she spike her Tropicana juice that she bought with last week's $1 off coupon?"
But then as I read further, I saw that she did make some valid points - well sort of.
Below I've listed her points, then added why I do not agree with most of what she wrote.
- "You have to buy a newspaper."
Ms. Fontinelle compares the cost of a newspaper to the overall value of the coupons that you will actually use along with the time you spend clipping and organizing.
My Sunday newspaper cost $1.25. That is $65 a year. I save roughly $4,000 to $5,000 a year using coupons. I'd say it's a good investment, even for the casual couponer who saves less than $10 a week.
As far as the time spent clipping and organizing, the amount you can save makes it worth it, plus it can be a family project, which results in time spent clipping, organizing, and having good conversations with the kids.
- "Clipping coupons takes time."
This is an old argument about coupon clipping and one reason many people do not do it. Ms. Fontinelle suggests that mopping your floor while watching television is a better way to spend your time or cooking a week's worth of meals. She also suggests just relaxing.
Many coupon clippers will argue that cutting coupons is relaxing. Besides, anything of value usually takes some amount of time. Once you get into the routine of clipping and organizing coupons, you can split your attention and do other things including:
- Watch your favorite programs.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Listen to your child practice their band instrument.
- Talk to your mother on a hands-free phone.
- Wait for your pedicure to dry.
- Sit with your child while they do their homework.
Again, the amount of energy used to cut and organize coupons is a matter of personal choice. The more time spent usually means the more money saved, but even a casual clipper can spend less than 20 minutes cutting coupons and save $20 a week on groceries.
- "Getting a newspaper invites lots of additional advertising into your home."
With this point she is zeroing in on all the additional advertising that is in the paper. Her point is that you might be tempted to go shop at an advertised store that you wouldn't have otherwise ventured into.
Apparently, Ms. Fontinelle's is seeing the glass half empty instead of half full! Those other advertisements could help you save even more money for your family. Besides, newspapers are not just about ads and coupons. I've spent many a Saturday enjoying a free event advertised in my local paper.
I guess she could have a point for those who just look at ads, but that would be something more geared to shopaholics, not coupon clippers.
- "Many of the coupons will be for things you neither need nor want."
Ms. Fontinelle is concerned that bargain hunters may not know how to pass on a good deal and that we could buy something even though we do not need it.
Well, here I'll agree with Ms. Fontinelle to a degree. There have been studies done which indicate that coupon users do spend more at the grocery store than non-coupon users. That is why it is important to make a weekly menu, pull applicable coupons, build the grocery list and then stick to it.
Buying items in bulk that you do not have the room for or that you couldn't possibly use within a reasonable amount of time isn't financially beneficial unless you plan to give the items to charity, which is a practice many hard-core couponers follow when they accumulate free or almost free stockpiles.
- "Coupons can tempt you to spend your grocery dollars on things you shouldn't."
On this point, Ms. Fontinelle's focus is on eating health foods and how many of the coupons found are for sugary or salty products.
There are coupons for foods that fall under the healthy diet category. The longer that you use coupons, the more you realize how many choices there are to save on a large variety of foods.
To someone who does not use coupons, it may appear that the only coupons available are for snacks, cereals and frozen meals, but that is not the case. You can find coupons for milk, eggs, cheese, meat, soups, condiments, sauces, olive oils, health bars, coffee, juice, and more. Coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables are rare, but many couponers know that the local farmer's market is the best place to shop for deals on those types of items.
- "The same coupons tend to be offered over and over again."
Mr. Fontinelle feels that the products advertised with coupons are repetitive and in fact many times the coupons will expire before you find a need to purchase the item again.
This is true if you are only looking for coupons in one place. More grocery stores are accepting coupons printed online either from the grocery stores' websites, grocery coupons services, or directly from the manufacturers' websites.
Wal-Mart and Target accept most printed grocery coupons, which can be used with their store coupons for double savings. There are also the coupons which can be downloaded to cell phones. Her point could have been more viable 10 years ago, but not today. There are so many sources to find coupons for a variety of products we like and use now.
- "You might become a slave to coupons."
With this point, Ms. Fontinelle is concerned that coupon clippers bypass products (like ice cream) that we would enjoy, simply because we do not have a coupon. She also warns that we might end up making additional trips to the grocery store when we decide we want something we passed on earlier because we couldn't get it with a coupon savings.
You can become a slave to anything, if that is your personality, but come on! Using coupons is about saving money on groceries and yes we might pass on ice cream because we can't find a good deal on it that fits in our budget for a particular week, but that does not make us a slave. We'll just enjoy chocolate pudding (that we got for $0.12 after the coupon) for dessert that week.
Non-coupon clippers and anyone budget minded will avoid expensive meats. If a store has steak at regular price, but chicken breasts are a on sale for a dollar a pound cheaper, budget-minded people will buy the chicken, even if they really would enjoy a steak, right? This doesn't make them a slave to meat sales; it just means they are thrifty shoppers.
- "Shopping takes longer."
Here she is worried that coupon clippers spend too much time searching the aisles for products we can use our coupons on and that this activity could cost us more money.
Actually before I used coupons I would either dart into the store to grab food, only to get home and end up with two days worth, or I'd bounce off the walls starring endlessly at rows of products. Couponing has allowed me to become more disciplined. I plan what I want, I find the applicable coupons, I make a list, I shop, and I go home. I believe this is the method most people that organize their grocery shopping use.
Also, most coupon clippers probably know the layout of the grocery stores they shop, better than many of the store's employees. And what about the products we do bend and search for? We'd rather think of it as our 30-minute exercise routine for the day.
She believes that a lot of money can be saved using coupons, but that you have to also consider the negative points when looking at the total picture. Her word of advice to those who do not clip coupons is to not even bother starting.
My Bottom Line:
For many, coupon clipping is a fun hobby that has helped cut the cost of the weekly grocery bill. The longer one does it, the more resources open up which allow for a variety of useful money-saving coupons. It helps develop good organizational methods to shopping and actually helps us cut the time we spend shopping and many of the mistakes made when shopping without a plan. And lastly, the main reason we do it is because it saves us a bundle of money! Trust me, couponing works.