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The Hidden Cost of Clipping Coupons

Are We Over Rewarding Ourselves for Being So Smart?


Clipping coupons is a great way to save on the things we buy, but a study co-sponsored by Washington University in St. Louis found that coupon clippers often spend more money than the average shopper. According to the study, shoppers spent and extra $8 on impulse and luxury items for every $1 coupon they used.

Why Do Coupon Clippers Spend More?

Many coupon clippers like to reward themselves for being thrifty by cutting and using coupons. In exchange for their efforts, they may splurge on small luxury items that, without the coupon savings, they wouldn't buy. The extra savings justifies this type of guilt-free splurging.

There are also those who feel such purchases are "free" because the savings received in coupons offsets the extra spending. Unfortunately, as the study indicates, what really occurs is that the coupons fail to cover the complete cost and many clippers end up spending more on the small luxuries compared to the amount saved with coupons.

In addition, many times people may use their coupon dollars to upgrade what is in their grocery cart. They could decide to invest in a really good cut of meat instead of a lesser quality meat they would have purchased had they not redeemed their coupons.

Why Is Splurging Wrong?

There is nothing wrong with splurging, but it isn't free. A more rewarding direction might be to put the amount of money saved by using coupons in a jar or bank account and let it grow. Saving the money to purchase something large rather than have it disappear on small nickel-and-dime items will result in more satisfaction in the end. Family vacations, a new barbecue grill, or some large ticket item will be more rewarding than a few bottles of nail polish.


If we think of the coupon dollars as real money and not "free money," it may help insure we spend our savings wisely.

More: Save Money By Avoiding Hidden Costs and Fees

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