Coupons: Worth It or Not?

You may have come across a few blog posts or articles that talk about the case for or against coupons. Some articles in favor of clipping coupons include:

And then there are articles that deem it an unproductive use of our already limited time:

One key point I’ve gleaned out of reading different opinions on the case for/against coupons is this:

Clipping coupons may help you save a little bit of money off of purchases you’re going to buy anyway but will not help you make any money.

That is the key differentiator. If your goal is to make more money so you can take an awesome vacation, quit your day job to start your own business, or just have enough for retirement, my suggestion is that spending time clipping coupons will not be a wise use of time.

As Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, puts it, every time she feels the urge to clip coupons, she pitches an article instead. The article may or may not go through, but the dividends in return are much, much greater than the $0.75 you’ll save on a jar of peanuts.

That makes a lot of sense to me. Which is why I have not clipped coupons for about a year now. I don’t get newspaper subscriptions, so I don’t get the Sunday section with their massive coupon books in it. Nor do I particularly seek it out.

Just some of the reasons why I choose not to clip coupons:

  • I don’t find it a particularly productive use of my time.
  • I don’t carry coupons with me since I hardly ever use them.
  • I don’t subscribe to the Sunday newspaper coupon section.
  • I find myself spending more because of a coupon (e.g., buy 1 get one 1/2 off “deals”) and prefer to spend less altogether by buying only what I need and not just because it was on sale and I have a coupon for it.

Others may have a different take on this, and that’s totally cool! I have a really good friend who is a master coupon queen. She gets things for under a dollar when she times everything right, like the sale/clearance, in-store deals, manufacturer’s coupons, and employee discounts. Or she’s gotten things for free because of this. It’s amazing how much she was able to get for so little. Kudos to her because she has saved some serious cash over the years!

What I do notice, though, is that it does take her a good chunk of time to find the coupons/deals, organize it by category, and plan her shopping activities around the sales/clearances. A lot of effort put in, but it’s because she wants to and it works for her!

What I find works best for me is to use my time that I would have expended in finding and clipping coupons out, in order to read, write, draw, or think of ways to build my minimalist business while trying to break out of the 9-to-5. I have a lot more fun this way and I’m also taking steps towards realizing my dreams to pursue work that actually fulfills me, brings me joy and happiness, and that is of actual value to myself and to others.

Find what works for you at this time in your life. Like I’ve always said, you know yourself best. It’s true! Listen to yourself.


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  • Witty Smitty

    I agree, to a point, on your coupon philosophy. I am not a regular user of coupons, but I will peruse them occasionally for something very useful. If I can get $2-3 off of a more expensive item, like razor blades for example, then I will consider that worth my time. Unfortunately, more and more coupon offers are becoming $1-2 off of the purchase of TWO items, and I rarely need two of anything.

    What has become more useful to me is being a smarter shopper in general. I have made substantial use of big box stores like Costco and Sam’s. While you may or may not pay more for something there than a grocery store, you typically get more for the money, so the cost per unit is lower. The advantage in these places is not having to purchase something as often as you might have to at a grocery store or pharmacy.

    The other place I’ve grown to love is the local produce market. Some of these stores have obscenely low prices on produce compared to standard grocery stores, due to lower overhead, specialization and higher product turnover. You can literally buy a refrigerator full of food at some of these stores for less than $20.

    So to sum up, while coupons have their place, being a smarter shopper, to me anyway, is the best way to save money at the store.

  • agirlsecretjournal

    I say, worth it, especially for dog coupons. For the few seconds it takes me to clip out a coupon for the food I always buy, I can go the store and see that $1 coming right off my total. $1 = few seconds. That’s good money, in my opinion. And for some reason, dog treat coupons are plentiful. I wouldn’t typically buy her treats, but with all the coupons in high dollar amounts, she can have her treats and I can pick them up for half price.

    Now when I think coupons are not worth it is when people buy things they would typically never buy. That seems like giving into marketing and temptation.

  • Castles in the Air

    Absolutely agree on your point of being a smarter shopper overall. Whatever works for you and your grocery/shopping needs, you should just stick with it then. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Castles in the Air

    When I owned a dog, I used to use all the coupons for dog treats/food also, many of which were for a free can of dog food! Hey, why not? If it’s just a few seconds, and like you said, $1 off = few seconds, it does seem like a good investment. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Rex

    Although I do rarely use coupons, I too try to take advantage of Sam’s and purchasing in bulk on items I actually use, especially shampoo, which tends to become expensive quickly. With that said, I do tend to take advantage of the “Buy one, get one free” coupons, or even the “Buy one, get one half-off,” if it’s an item that will be used; having a second pair of usable shoes – or even a pair of shoes that are half-off retail price isn’t bad when you do research to get the most out of your dollar.

    With that having been said, I really try not to spend too much money; still living with my parents (I’m in college) means I can piggyback off of them and reduce – or eliminate – the amount of food that would otherwise go to waste when groceries are purchased, while also influencing them to both cook more frequently and to eat healthier.

    I will look into finding some local produce markets, however; the local flea market/”produce market” really pales in comparison to true farmers markets; the selection available is rather lackluster, cantaloupes aside.

  • Castles in the Air

    Good point, Rex! If it’s something you’re going to use anyway, you’re better off saving some money while you’re at it. That’s being smart about one’s money. Paying full price for something you could’ve gotten for half the price is not being a smart shopper. Personally, I’d like my hard earned money to work its hardest for me. :)

  • tokyin

    And Online Coupon!!!

    No more clipping and cutting =P Great way to safe money. (Just like Whole Food coupons.)

    And at the end of it – it’s all about mentality; and how to spend/allocate our time. If mentally a person is well-prepared to save money – he/she won’t be affected by any advertisement or buying more than he/she needs.

    If a person has a “consumer” mentality…. then… coupon will only make things worse =P
    It’s all about self control.

  • Castles in the Air

    Definitely. Self control is needed in varying aspects of our lives, not just in spending, but also how we feed our bodies, how we think, what we do, how we interact with others.

    At times, control is necessary or prudent for the situation at hand, other times, it’s absolutely liberating to not be in control and to just be free. Key is knowing when is the appropriate situation! Like, I wouldn’t start doing roundhouse kicks in my boss’ office just because I felt like it (I mean, I could … it’ll just expedite my time of escape from the 9-to-5!). Ha!

  • tokyin

    To show that I am in control, someday I will take off my pants in my boss office just because I felt like it. (I mean, I could… it’ll just expedite the time to capture of Jonathan into a prison!) Ha!

  • Lesley

    Well Nina- u know I disagree just because I love playing the coupon game.
    I enjoy buying 100 dollars worth of products for 2 bucks- Its fun!
    My theory is if you know how to play the game why not save? Yes time is money but if I just spent say a 1/2 hour planning my trip to buy 100 dollars worth of stuff for 2 bucks I saved 98 bucks- kinda worth the 1/2 I spent!
    But this coupon game really takes some knowledge about the system and where to find things at what time….difficult for newbies.
    And knowing that some coupons are out there to get you to buy more is important….I never fall into those traps haha they are dangerous!

  • Castles in the Air

    And that is why I deem you the master coupon queen, Les! You know how to play the game to your advantage and that’s all that matters. Keep it up girl because you are indeed saving tons of cash! :)

  • Witty Smitty

    YOUR boss probably wouldn’t mind. In fact, she’ll probably join in!

  • Annie

    I don’t fool with coupons unless I stumble upon something I know I will absolutely need and use. That said, occasionally I use a coupon when we go out to eat, but I rarely actively go looking for them. Most coupons in the paper are for things that I don’t use anyway…

  • Nina Yau

    Ain’t that the truth?! How often am I going to need Dr. Scholl’s Wart Remover Extra Strength Formula the next time I’m out and about? (No offense to those that do have warts …..)

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