Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Coffee Talk: Why I Both Love and Hate Couponing

I consider myself a fairly frugal shopper. I love finding bargains, I rarely buy anything full price, and for the most part, I discipline my purchases to only buy what we truly need. So when it comes to using coupons, I find I can often do better by either not buying the item to begin with--finding, instead, a more frugal alternative or doing without altogether.  However, I still like to peruse the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper and on Internet sites like Usually, I'll find at least a few that I can use, and I'll save a bit more money at the store by pairing these coupons with good sales.

So what I love about coupons is the extra savings they can provide.

But here's what I don't like about couponing.

First, our Sunday paper does not receive the same coupons found in a larger city paper. This can be discouraging and frustrating when I read about the deals certain bloggers advertise, and I can't take advantage of those deals because I don't have the right coupons.  Right from the start, I'm at a disadvantage there.

Second, when I really try to give couponing a good effort and get really into it, I find myself becoming a little too obsessive about it. I don't like what it does to my psyche. :) It starts to feel like a game, and, as a perfectionist, I want to excel at it. So when I can't score the same deals as the big coupon blogs describe, I get frustrated.

But let's say I push past all that. Trying to score the deal can also be frustrating. With the rise in popularity of extreme couponing there is a lot of competition among shoppers to get the deals that are out there. For example, Target has a coupon for $1 off a Nivea lotion. There is a coupon from the insert for $3 off this lotion, making it only $1. But everytime I've looked for it, it's been out of stock. Target is on the other side of town for me, and I'm not going to make a special trip to save a few dollars on a lotion. (Again, that goes back to: 1) do I really need that lotion? Is there a more inexpensive one to begin with, and 2) Do I need lotion at all?).

Another example--Walgreens is running a register rewards deal on men's Gillette products (shaving cream, deodorants, body wash, etc.). I have buy one, get one free coupons for all of those items, and $2 off coupons that I can use with the buy one, get one free. Altogether, I would spend $10 out of pocket for $30-worth of stuff for my husband, and I would get $10 in a register reward. So essentially all of that would be free.

The other day, I dropped off a roll of film at Walgreens and checked the price of these items, to see how much they were to begin with. The product shelves were fully stocked. An hour later, when I returned to get my film, the shelves were completely wiped out. An extreme couponer, I'm assuming, came by and cleaned everything out. That's the part that makes me grouchy. If I still wanted to try to get the register reward, I'd have to time it just right to be at the store when the shelves were restocked so another extreme couponer with bad manners doesn't come and wipe everything out again. It can start to feel too frantic.

But if I just back away, I realize my husband does not need all that stuff. Sure, he wants antiperspirant. But I can use my buy one, get one free coupon to buy him two on sale somewhere, and he'll be a happy camper. I'll spend a few dollars out of pocket, and I'll be a happy camper, too, because I'm not getting caught up in the fact that Walgreens continues to not have the products for the register reward, and I can't get the deals, and wah-wah...

All that to say, I decided it's in my best interest to be a moderate couponer. I'll watch the sales and see if there are any coupons that match up real well. But I'm not going to go tons out of my way to score those deals. I've tried it, and like I said, I don't like what it does to my personality. I get much too caught up in it. It's much better for me if I can back away and realize that getting three salad dressings at Albertson's for .60 cents each (versus almost $2 each) is really not worth the hassle of making a special trip out on a Tuesday night before the sale ends to pick those up. Besides, making homemade dressing is usually less than .60 cents anyway. But, I love saving $3 off any size pack of Huggies diapers. That makes them the same price as the generic brand, and I think they're better quality. Diapers, we need. Store-bought dressing, not so much. It all comes down to perspective.

I'd love to hear what you think about couponing. Does it work well for you? If you coupon, how do you keep from getting too wrapped up in it? On the other hand, maybe you are ok with devoting a lot of time and thought to it, and it pays off in the savings you get. That's great! We're all different, and we're all going to reach different conclusions on it. What works best for your family and budget? Let's talk!


  1. Hi there! I'm a newcomer here! I had to chime in...with all of these ultra couponing shows on I find myself getting frustrated that I can't figure the whole coupon game out...that said, I'm in your camp...I am a moderate couponer who has NO desire to make trips to several different stories to save a few cents on salad's not worth my time! I read the ads, cut some coupons and save where I can...I'd like to be better at it, but don't have the time to commit at this stage of life and I guess I'm ok with that!

    I has to do with perspective and your's is good!!! My husband caught a glimpse of one of those shows the other night and said "Lis, if you spent your life like that I'd tell you that you needed to see a therapist!!!" Thanks honey!

  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I was just feeling guilty tonight that I should coupon more, but last time I did, I got all frantic and stressed out like you mention. AND I always ALWAYS went to the cashier who made me feel like I was ripping the entire store and every single employee off. I just can't do it for ALL of the reasons you've listed... and haven't even become a moderate couponer. Maybe I need to look into that more. After I completely detox!

  3. My opinion or philosophy on coupons and sales is simple...It only actually saves me money if it is an item I would by normally or had intended to by anyway...Any time an item is purchased simply (and only) because of a sale or coupon it is money wasted.

    If I happen upon a sale of a product we use, I might grab 1 or 2 extra (refuse to live in a storage facility)and yes I will use a coupon the same way...

    Last week I got ballpark beef franks on sale for $2.99, then the bread guy saw me picking them up and told me he had coupons for 50c off the hotdogs...It was a nice treat to get our fave brand beef dogs on sale...since I was buying hotdogs anyway...score.

    Due to our rural location we rarely shop hop for savings during a single trip..But I do have a method for choosing which store to go to...

    For anything non-food (includes all cleaning products ) I shop at Walmart because we get a 10% staff discount...We also get our milk here since I know it is always fresh from the high turn over...I hate throwing away milk on day 2 because it is on the verge of turning and it makes me sick.

    If I only need to stock the food pantry I hit fancy brands but good deals and great veggie department...

    If I am stocking up on meat for the month, I hit Winn-Dixie because I *heart* the butcher Wayne and the special deals he gives me on his lamb... $1.99 for fresh cut lamb chops...can't beat that with a stick...

    I used to shop Dollar general for cleaning stuff but now it is a scam, with less product per package for the price..same as their pet 2005 after a corporate buy out things got dodgy fast there, and I was just grateful I was leaving the company anyway.

  4. Thank you for your thoughts and honesty. I have friends who are trying to get me into couponing and, I just feel like there are better uses of my time. I'm especially with you on the homemade stuff. I make so much from scratch now (because I want to, not necessarily have to), that it's silly to buy stuff pre-made.

  5. I refuse to use coupons, simply because I want to have a good testimony among people, and not have people think that I'm stealing or being unethical because I use them. I actually know several Christian people that admit to unethical coupon use and use them to steal things, and then hoard the stuff that they aren't probably ever going to use just because they "played the system" (which I supposed that sounds nicer than "stealing" and got 10 razors for "free". But oh they all have justifications for it.

    I don't have the space, time, energy or the guts to do couponing lol.

    I hope the moderate couponing goes well for you though! :)

  6. I would say to Katy-Anne that there is nothing wrong with getting items for free, as long as you are following the store's coupon policy. It is not stealing. The product's company reimburses the stores for the value of the coupon. In fact, CVS advertises using a coupon with their sale to get items for free.

    Extreme couponing, as shown on the show, is just wrong. It is breaking all the rules. And its been my experience that most stores don't put up with it. I love the posts about it on Southern Savers, check out this link:

    I have found that lots of deals aren't worth it if I lose my sanity. I don't want to spend hours clipping coupons and I don't want to travel all over creation to get the deals. I have set limits for myself. After several trips across town to Target for a deal that I couldn't find, I don't do deals at Target. After trouble at Walgreens using register reward, I don't do deals at Walgreens. I go to Kroger maybe once a month when they have mega deals, but they are still not very helpful with coupon-ers. I mostly do deals at Publix & CVS. They both make it easy to use coupons and they are pretty up front about their policies. I have been able to find most deals there and the folks are friendly. I refuse to deal with the stores who act like using coupons is an inconvenience for them. And by sticking to 2 stores, I save my sanity and actually focus better on deals without spending lots of time.

  7. Joy, none of the ones I know get ten of the same items for free if they follow the rules on the coupon and the store policy. They only get it by stealing.

    If it says "one per family" and you send all your kids through a different register with the same coupon and stuff, that's stealing, because you were only entitled to one per family.

  8. That is true, Katy-Anne. But there are plenty of ways to get free stuff and use coupons well without breaking the rules. And those folks who break the rules are hurting THEIR witness, not mine or yours. I am always kind and helpful to the cashiers when using my coupons. I don't try to break the rules or sneak or steal.

  9. Just found this. It's like you've lived my life over the past year. I totally got into it and was saving 50-60% per trip, but was buying stuff I didn't necessarily need. I don't like the drugstores, so I never started that game, but I did get a bit compulsive. I hate to spend money I don't have to, but I'm still not sure I saved any money after buying things JUST because they were on sale. I'm probably disciplined enough to only use coupons on things we need. But it was SO FUN to buy stuff for $.50 that I had never tried before.
    In reading some of these other posts, I will say that I used to work for a food manufacturer. We never worried about actual coupon users, we had to worry about stores cutting coupons that were never used by customers in order to get (unearned) money back from us.
    That being said, there are always people out there who try to abuse the system.
    Thanks for your blog!