articles / Frugal living

Is couponing worth it?

A lot of people, including myself, have asked this question. With shows like “Extreme couponing” and with people trying to save money, couponing seems to be the way to go.

So is couponing worth it?

It depends.

couponsHere are a few problems with couponing:

  • Many stores are starting to crack down and limit the amount of coupons you use so it is not as easy to do the “extreme couponing”. Even Walmart’s policy says one coupon per item. Several stores have eliminated coupon doubling or they have a limit — for example a store may double up to 75 cents.
  • Many times the coupon is for a name brand item and the off brand version is normally cheaper even when the coupon is used. For example, I printed off a coupon that gave me $1 off of two cans of name brand pasta sauce which after the coupon would have been about $5. However, right next to it was an off brand version that would have allowed me to get three cans of pasta sauce for $4.50. In that case I’m not saving any money because I’m buying the more expensive brand. For those that are thinking that there’s a taste difference in name brand and off brand, that’s not really true in most cases. My husband works for a food factory where the name brand and the off brand are IDENTICAL except for the fact that when they start producing off brand they change the label.
  • Food coupons are typically for processed foods. If you’re trying to eat healthy or gluten free, there really aren’t any coupons for you to use — with the exception of Kroger. Kroger has an entire gluten-free/organic section so they have coupons for those items. Most of the coupons you find are for pizza rolls, Spaghettio’s, Hamburger Helper and things like that. If that’s what you eat then that’s great, but if you’re trying to eat healthy, food coupons printed off the internet and in the Sunday paper are pretty much useless. I’ve looked at the P&G saver every time it’s come out for almost three months and have yet to find anything in there that I can use.
  • Some of the coupons are for things that you wouldn’t normally buy, but think, “Oh since I get a $1 off I’ll try it.” Well, that’s not saving you money. You’re now spending money you wouldn’t normally spend on a product you wouldn’t normally buy all because you have a coupon for it. Of course if you’ve been wanting to try the product, but haven’t wanted to spend the money on it, then by all means, do it.

Don’t get me wrong, coupons can save money. I do use coupons, but only when they will be of use to me. Every week before I go to the grocery store I go to Kroger’s website and download coupons that pertain to what I’m getting. That’s how I’m going to save money.

This week my list shows that I need pepperoni (something processed that I won’t give up), gluten-free pasta noodles, and gluten-free chips (obviously there’s more on my list, but these are the examples). Kroger’s website has a coupon for $1 off two packages of pepperoni, $1 off a particular brand of gluten-free noodles, and 50 cents off of two bags of gluten-free tortilla chips that I normally buy. In this case, I’m saving $2.50 because I’m using coupons on something I was already going to buy. If I get to Kroger and find that it’s cheaper to buy a different brand of gluten-free noodles instead of using the coupon, then that’s what I’ll do. That’s why I pay attention to prices even when I have coupons. There have been a few times that I’ve left the store with coupons because it was cheaper to buy a different brand without the coupon.

That’s also why I make sure to check the weekly ads at different stores. If I need dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent or toilet paper I got to The Dollar General Store. Why? Because I’ve tried their off-brand, it works, and it’s cheaper than any other store. Instead of paying $6 for the name brand detergent at Kroger or Walmart, I get an off-brand at the dollar store for $3 that works just as good and it has the same quantity. I only buy dog/cat food at Walmart because the brand we get is cheaper there than anywhere else, same with cat litter. Also, when something I normally buy is on sale, I buy a few instead of just one. For example, Velveeta (another processed item I won’t give up) is normally $5.99. Here recently, one of the grocery stores had it on sale for $4.99 with a $1 off coupon attached. So instead of buying one, I bought two. Normally two would have cost me $12, but with the sale and the coupon two only cost me $8. So I saved $4 when I bought Velveeta. I did that for about three weeks in a row and had a stockpile for when they went off sale.

Yes, sometimes it is a pain to go to several different stores depending on what you need, but if you’re really wanting to save money, then sometimes you have to sacrifice convenience for the sake of saving money. And as long as you do the legwork at home first, it’s not so bad. I have a notebook that has the coupons in it that I’ve printed or clipped. In the notebook I have a list of what I have coupons for on my Kroger card and what I have printed so that way when I get ready to shop I see what I need that I have a coupon for.

I also go to the Kroger, Walmart, Walgreens, and Dollar General Store websites to see what they have on sale in the weekly ads. I look at what I need and see if any of the stores is offering a particular item cheaper. I know that Walmart ad matches and that’s great, except for it has to be the identical brand. So if Kroger’s ad has Kroger milk on sale for $3, I have to buy it at Kroger because it won’t work to ad match with Walmart. Now if there are certain name brand items that you buy then it would work, but I’ve not noticed that I’m able to ad match very often just because of the brands I buy, especially with the gluten-free/organic stuff I get at Kroger.

Looking at the coupons and the weekly ads only takes about an hour and doing that and going to different stores will save me between $5-$20 depending on what is on my list. Like I said, a little bit more work, but it saves me money. And that’s what it’s all about.

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