This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.
People love coupons. According to Nielsen Clearing House, an industry leader in coupon marketing and redemption, 78% of consumers report using coupons on a regular basis.
I'm not one of these people. Though clipping coupons is usually the first thing that comes to mind when folks think of frugality and thrift, I argue that it's time to put down the scissors. Here's why. (See also: "Extreme couponing? 5 reasons why I'll pass.")
1. You usually have to buy something to get a coupon
Though some coupons are free or accessible online at no charge, most of them are still found tucked in that old standby, the Sunday newspaper. I don't read the paper, and I don't want to have to buy something in order to be offered the chance to save money. It seems contradictory and is a bit too complicated for my taste.
2. Coupons attempt to modify behavior
Manufacturers want me to save 50 cents on that pint of ice cream for one reason only -- to get me in the habit of eating it. It's simple. And it's a claim that the manufacturers and the coupon industry would be the first to admit. Coupons exist to suggest new products and to habituate shoppers to particular products and brands. Then later, at 3 in the morning when I need that pint of Rocky Road in the very worst way -- poof! No more coupons. No thanks. (Post continues below video.)
3. Coupons encourage overbuying
Often, the money we save with a coupon applies only when buying multiple items. Even though each item may be cheaper in the long run with the coupons, why should I have to buy multiples? What if I don't end up liking that new brand of coffee? What if that brand of cheese has a bad aftertaste? Who should be the lucky recipient of all my surplus java and Colby Jack?
4. The savings vs. time investment is low with coupons
Couponing requires the regular purchase of a newspaper at best. At worst, it requires joining some coupon exchange club and buying a handy organizer. Then I have to clip, file and wait for double-coupon day. And while I'm at it, I should also join my grocery store's loyalty program to boost my savings even more. With this much effort, are the savings really worth it? Wouldn't buying generic save me just as much without all the hassle?
5. Coupons typically push prepackaged, processed foods
I seldom see coupons for apples or broccoli. Maybe they exist, and I've just blinded myself to an entire category of things that require clipping. But it seems to me that coupons generally push convenient, prepackaged and processed food. I'm not a health nut, but the last thing I need is another excuse to buy a frozen pizza and Pop-Tarts.
Perhaps I've overstated my case, and I certainly don't mean to disparage diehard couponers out there. It's just that I can't quite see what all the fuss is about. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for saving money. I'm just not sure that couponing achieves that goal in the long run. Looking for sales on things I'd buy anyway, stocking up when I find a smoking deal on something I really love, gravitating toward generics and store brands whenever possible -- these are my tried-and-true tactics.
Still, Nielsen Clearing House says I'm firmly in the minority of shoppers with my coupon-free wallet. Heck, 1.75 billion coupons were redeemed in the first six months of 2011 alone. That's a whole lot of clipping, and I must be missing something. If you're serious about couponing, please fill me in -- I'm free most Sundays.
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