First let me say that I do believe coupons are useful ways to save money. Between stocking up on sales and using coupons, we regularly save about 30% or so on our grocery shopping.
That said, coupons sometimes are not the savers that we think they are. You need to be wise about how you use them. If you aren’t careful you might actually end up spending more. Here are 6 reasons that coupons might not be a good use of your shopping dollars.
Buy something you wouldn’t otherwise buy
One of the biggest dangers of coupons is they tempt you to buy things you wouldn’t otherwise buy. Now there is nothing wrong with trying something new once in a while and if you have a coupon you can use to save some money then so much the better. But generally speaking if it is an item that you don’t really want or wouldn’t be likely to buy otherwise, no matter how good the coupon is, it isn’t a good deal.
Buy a quantity you won’t use
Sometimes coupons or sales require you to buy a certain quantity of items or they may be restricted to certain sizes. If the item is something I don’t use that often there is no point in buying it. This is particularly true of items with a shelf life. If I end up having to throw away half of what I bought because I couldn’t use it in time, then I didn’t really get a good deal.
Store brand cheaper
This is a really big one. Often times the quality of the store brand is not that different from the quality of the name brand, but the cost may be significantly less. I have often found that even with a coupon on the name brand item, the store brand is still cheaper. The key here is knowing the quality of the store brands. I have had some store brands that simply tasted awful, and other store brands where I honestly could not tell the difference in quality with the name brand. When the quality of the store brand is acceptable though, in many cases it will still be cheaper than the name brand even with a coupon.
There tend to be more coupons available for prepackaged prepared foods. Not that these foods are bad necessarily, but many times they are more expensive than making the same thing from scratch. You are paying for convenience. If you like to cook though and are trying to be frugal, buying prepackaged foods even with the coupon, may not be the best deal. Plus you get the side benefit that what you prepare from scratch is likely to be healthier than the prepackaged alternatives since they may be higher in sodium and other preservatives.
Bigger isn’t always better
Be careful about package sizing. The larger package is not always the best deal. In fact when using coupons, ratio wise sometimes you might actually save a higher percentage by buying a smaller package. The key here is a little simple math. If you aren’t quick with doing math in your head take a small, inexpensive calculator with you. Simply take the final price and divide by the number of ounces, or items, or whatever the appropriate unit size is for the item. That will give you a price per unit that you can use to compare different size packages to determine where you are getting the best price.
Be respectful of others
Lastly, this is a personal pet peeve, but in this age of “extreme couponing” be respectful of others. Don’t clean out the store just because it’s a great deal. You probably don’t really need to buy a 10 year supply of paper towels just because it was a deal. Buy what you need. Get deals. Take the last one if that’s what is there. But have some consideration for your fellow shoppers who are trying to save a little money too.
Be a smart shopper
You really can save a good deal of money using coupons, but you have to be a smart shopper. Make sure you aren’t buying things you don’t need or won’t use. Don’t even bother to cut coupons for items that you would not otherwise buy and then you won’t be tempted when you get to the store. Real frugality means buying what you need at the best possible price. Coupons are a part of that strategy, but only a part.
What is the best coupon tip that you use to save on a regular basis?