Money Saving Tips

9 Reasons Why Couponing Is Not a Waste of Time

9 Reasons Why Couponing Is Not a Waste of Time
Written by Oana Schneider

With the fall of the economy in 2008, many families woke up in the middle of a complete financial disaster. Many people lost their jobs, even more could not find any jobs – and this includes both fresh graduates and people who had already gotten their fair share of experience in the field of work.

Under these circumstances, everyone wanted to save money as much as possible. And this is when coupons really started to catch everyone’s attention. TLC “sensed” the new trend 2 years after the economic crisis emerged and they even came up with a show focused on the idea of “extreme couponing). While in 2007 only 63.6% of the people regularly shopped with coupons, their numbers significantly increased by 2012 when 79.8% of them did it (and there may have been even higher percentages in the years immediately following the Great Recession start point).

Statistics in coupon usage are fascinating if you get to analyze them closer. Sometimes, the numbers are absolutely staggering: for example, in 2011, consumers received no less than $4.6 billion in coupon savings (and they had received $500 million less than that just one year before). More than 90% of the people asked also made a shopping list using coupons before they went out to do their grocery shopping and it was also estimated that ¾ of the consumers regularly search the Internet for coupons.

If you have ever looked at a coupon and never used it, you did it because you probably thought that a 5% off on a $4 product is not a big deal. In truth, it isn’t. But when summed up, all these coupons and savings can really make for really large numbers. Going back to the TLC show, some of the participants there managed to save tremendous sums of money by bringing “couponing” to absolute extremes (and some of them even saved tens of thousands of dollars a year on everything ranging from soap to cheese).

To understand the magnitude of what coupons are all about, think of the fact that no less than $485 billion were distributed 4 years ago, in 2010 – and think of what a small portion of that actually got to be used by consumers. You might think that the 15 minutes of fame of couponing have already faded away (now that the economy is slowly getting back on its own feet) – but you would be wrong. According to the studies made, more and more people these days use smartphone mobile coupons. To be more precise, the number of people who use smart phone mobile coupons has increased by 40 million from 2010 to 2014 – and that’s a BIG number to go by anyway you look at it!

No, couponing is not a complete waste of time – not if you do it the right way, that is. What is the right way and what are the most commonly encountered mistakes people do when trying to use coupons to save money on their shopping expenses? Read on and find out more.

So, How to Use Coupons to Save a Lot of Money?

9 Reasons Why Couponing Is Not a Waste of Time

Believe it or not, there are people who manage to considerably lower the sum of money they pay at checkout when grocery shopping precisely because they know very well how to make good use of their coupons. Some of them even walk out of the store without paying one cent on their shopping, while others “resume” themselves to saving tens and tens of dollars each week they re-stock on grocery supplies.

How do they do it? Is this some kind of “magic” or is it actual “technique”? We have picked up some really great tips that could help you save money with coupons too and they are listed below:

1. Diversify your sources

There are many places where you can get absolutely amazing coupons. You can get them in the newspapers, you can get them off the Internet, off “peelies”  (they are usually valid for a long time and they can be found stuck to products) and so on. You can even get these coupons from the manufacturers if you are patient enough to email them and thank them for the quality of their products.

Remember, though, when getting coupons from the so-called “blinkies”, make sure you leave some for the other people as well. Everyone wants to save money just as much as you do!

2. Collect as many of them as possible

The only coupons that are not worth collecting are those for the products you would never, ever use just because they are that bad. Aside from that, all coupons are great. Don’t limit yourself to one brand, even if you really enjoy it because you can save a lot by using coupons available for other brands instead.

3. Get as many coupons of one kind as you can

Generally speaking, keeping 5 coupons of the same kind will make a deal worth it, but the more you have, the merrier you will save.

For instance, if a product costs $1 and they are on clearance for $0.75, you can add your $0.25 coupon and you’ll get that product for half of the price. If you have 6 coupons of the same kind, you will save $3 and get a nice “stash” of that product to use for a longer period of time too.

4. Organize your coupons

It is very important that you know how to organize your coupons in a binder. Organize them by what they offer discounts for (shampoos in one place, candy in another and so on). Make sure you think of categories as exact as possible so that you can find the coupons when needed – if you want to, you can inspire yourself from the way stores organize their items on their various aisles.

Also, make sure you regularly check and organize your coupons according to their expiration date as well. Keep all of them in a binder and take it with you when you do your grocery shopping. You never know what item may be on sale and what coupon may be suitable for it!

5. Learn when to use your coupons

Never buy an item just because you have a coupon for it. Rather than doing that, stack it with the other similar coupons and use it in the future. Use your coupons when there’s a sale so that you can get even more of a discount or use your coupons for the buy-one-get-one-free sales (you can choose to use two coupons here and basically get a “buy-half-get-one-and-a-half-free” sale instead).

6. Be smart about rebates

If you happen to get your hands on a rebate and on a coupon for the same product, use it smartly because you will not only get a free product, but you may also get paid for that product (you will get paid the value that would have been reduced off the normal price with the help of the coupon)

What Mistakes Should You Avoid When Couponing?

9 Reasons Why Couponing Is Not a Waste of Time

A lot of times, people make mistakes when couponing, thinking that they are saving money when they are actually wasting it away (or when they are wasting the opportunity of saving even more money). Here are some of the most common mistakes consumers make when couponing:

1. Not reading the store policies and the coupon’s rules

These bits of information are usually in fine print and it is extremely important that you read it. Every store has its own policy when it comes to coupon use and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself at the cash register by not conforming to these rules. To make sure you know everything these is to know before getting to the checkout, keep the stores’ coupon policies in the binder you take with you.

2. Not following the very specific size requirements some coupons have

You really need to follow these requirements because otherwise the coupon is not valid and you will end up paying for the full price of a product when you could have paid less for it if you paid a bit of attention.

3. Not stacking and not using coupons on products that are on sale

The secret with using coupons in a way that brings you actual benefits is making sure that you maximize their potential. Stacking them and using more coupons of the same kind on a product or using them on a product that is already on sale can help you save a lot more money than you would save just by buying the product on sale or by using the coupon when that item is not on sale.

Couponing does require a bit of time for searching and understanding how coupons work, but in the end, you will see that it was all worth it. Even 20 minutes a day spent on couponing can bring you important savings by the end of the year! 

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

27 Comments

  • Great tips and information in this post!

    I always look for coupons and discounts on the internet when I want to buy something so this is great.
    I’m kind of broke, so thank god for coupons and discount codes! 😀

    • When you don’t have much money, coupons and promotion codes can prove vital. There’s no doubt about that. If you can save a buck or two on an already cheap product, then you’re going to come out with extra money in your wallet once the transaction has been completed. If you’re clever enough to wind up with cash back from coupons that give a transaction a negative balance, then some merchants will even honor that.

  • Great post, I learned some stuff in here that I did not know of. I find where I live in Canada it is hard to find coupons. Whenever I signup for samples I sometimes get coupons with those. I also have accounts with WebSaver and Save.ca (You can mail or print coupons here). And if I see coupons in a flyer or on a box I cut them out. I always try to use them later when items are on sale, to save even more money.

    • I would definitely say that coupons are far bigger and more readily available in the United States compared to other countries. You can literally find hundreds of valid coupons at any given time in the US, whether you’re looking online or in printed publications. I can only assume that’s because of how much of a consumer society the United States is, even compared to other countries.

  • You can also use apps like Ibotta and Checkout51 which give you cash back for purchasing certain items. If you have coupons for those items, you can really maximize your savings. These apps work with most major retailers. My absolute favorite stores for couponing are CVS and Target. CVS has their Extra Care Bucks and Target has their own store coupons plus the Cartwheel app. You can stack your manufacturer coupons and use the apps I mentioned above to save a lot of money.

  • You definitely shouldn’t collect as many coupons as possible. They tend to expire within 60 days when they come from newspapers or online. Coupons that come with products are often valid for six months to a year or more, though. When you collect far too many coupons, you can’t manage them properly, and you’ll wind up spending far too much time trying to figure out which ones to use. Don’t hoard coupons or you’re just going to hinder your savings rather than increase them.

  • Twenty minutes spent couponing a day?? That’s a huge amount of time when you total it. Assuming you can earn $8/hr, you’d need to save just under $20 a week to make spending that amount of time worthwhile. That’s $80 a month, or just under $1000 a year in savings that you’d need to make up.

    In my opinion, you’re better off using your time to increase your skillset to get a raise, or to find a sidejob where you can earn much more as a payoff.

    • I agree with you here, although I really have not done the math to see what kind of time spent and value gained makes couponing worth it. I watched one of those super-couponer shows, and one woman actually spent a lot more time than 20 minutes a day getting those coupons together. As many coupons as she had, it was a massive undertaking.

    • Exactly! That’s the point I most often try to make to people that want to spend hours upon hours couponing. The reward versus time commitment just doesn’t add up when you consider that you could spend the same amount of time working, ending up with noticeably more money in your pocket rather than savings from purchases.

    • Nonsiccus I used to coupon before it became fashionable and in those days the time was well worth the effort. It might seem silly to buy 10 bottles of shampoo, but they do not spoil and when you get them for 38cents each instead of $4 it makes it well worth the effort.

      This Christmas alone I saved $90 on gifts by using coupons that came in my email, the best was $50 off $100 purchase at the Bon Ton store, you could use the coupon on anything just about in the store, now tell me that is not worth 20 minutes of your time? I got designer labels on very nice clothes, it took me minutes to print, plus I did an extra coupon for my sister and got a second coupon worth $25 off $50 that is good for a month. A few cents off of one product is not a lot, but through a year it so adds up. the article is right- you must check the rules and work within the guidelines. I look for rebates and instant off coupons all year long. just follow the rules, it takes minutes and very little effort.

  • I like the *idea* of couponing, it sounds so good in theory, and looks so cost-effective when I see other people do it, but to me, it seems like the time that one has to put into couponing just wouldn’t pay off, not for me anyway.
    I mean, I do need to save money, and couponing could help, but when I think about the time-cost of hunting, gathering, sorting, organizing and using coupons on a regular basis, enough to make a real difference, it all seems a bit much.

    If I could pull the whole “using coupons” thing off efficiently and effectively, I’d totally do it.

    • If you spend five minutes a day couponing and can save $10 per week, then sure, that could make sense. If you’re spending five hours each week couponing and you’re only saving a few bucks, then you’re doing something wrong. It’s far smarter to look for coupons real quick before you plan on buying items that commonly have coupons available for them.

  • I think couponing is a good way to promote business. Buyers can save money when buy products. For business owners, couponing can bring more customers to them.

  • I myself am a huge couponer. I honestly think that if I did not put so much time and effort into doing this that my family would not be able to maintain the lifestyle that we currently enjoy. We live off of one income right now because I have decided to stay at home for a while with my newborn. Couponing saves my family hundreds of dollars a month that we would spend on necessities otherwise.

  • I wish i was able to get coupons and redeem them when shopping. It is not very common where i am from but i am always hearing friends overseas talking about coupons and some of them i even see online as well. It must be very helpful to have them especially in these times when the price of things is escalating to a point where we have to cut down on so many things.

  • I’ll admit, I’m always so impressed with those super-couponers who can get a week’s worth of groceries for $2, but I’ve never been inspired to go that far. My job and school both keep me super busy and I can spend a bit of time glancing through the Sunday paper for coupons, but I know that’s really not diversifying enough to really make a huge difference.

    Which leads me to my question — anyone have suggestions for getting a broad diversity of coupons in as little time as possible? Any sites people recommend, or coupon books or something?

  • i used to think couponing was just for people who wanted things in bulk but after reading this i see it goes a longggg way! thank you!

  • Couponing is always worth it! I live in the UK and whilst we don’t get the same amount of coupons as our transatlantic friends, I still spend around 20 minutes every day looking for them. The world is in a terrible state financially and every penny you can save matters.

    It’s important to stay sensible though. There is no point in buying something you’ll never use, simply because you have a coupon for it.

    I’ve watched Extreme Couponing and am always amazed by the sheer volume of goods these ladies come home with. It’s good to see that goods are often donated to charity too.

  • I think couponing is a brilliant concept – if it’s used properly. Programs like ‘Extreme Couponing’ definitely distorts the idea. The problem is that people misuse coupons. They buy things they really don’t need with money they really don’t have, simply with the intent of using the coupons.

    The sooner that people learn how to use coupons responsibly, the better. I love them but we all need to understand the economics behind them better.

  • Some of my friends and family stack up coupons and have groups to trade, but the one fatal mistake they make is to use them just because they have them. “Oh, we like those cookies, we could buy some” kind of attitude.

  • I’ve also found that if you buy an item and don’t like it, take the time to write to the company’s customer service department. They are always interested in customers opinions, both good and bad, and they will usually send you high value coupons to compensate for your bad experience.

  • I would never say that couponing is a waste of time – just look at the number of people who are making so much money from it these days! It’s actually astonishing, because people are getting things for very little, for free, or even making money back on them at some points, and there is just no way that they would ever have been able to do this in the past. The world is changing, and as long as we try to keep up with it we should be able to save a lot of money, meaning that we have enough for the more important things in our lives that we enjoy.

  • In my area, there are a lot of restrictions to coupon usage. All that stuff we see on extreme couponing shows can’t be done here because usually we can’t even double at all. I have found some coupons to be great, but I don’t have access to a lot of coupon sources other than ads found in the ad stand at the store. I can’t pay for a newspaper to use maybe a couple coupons a week, and besides, buying bulk items and cooking from scratch is going to save me even more money than coupons will.

  • I hope I don’t sound silly when I say this but I am a first time coupon clipper. With that said, I really appreciate this article. I’m a new mom who has been struggling to generate income so I’ve been trying to establish myself as a coupon clipper. I especially appreciate the section of couponing mistakes because I am definitely guilty of that. I just see the savings and forget to read the fine print. I will make sure to be very thorough from now on.

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