Are Coupons Worth It?

I’m sure most of you have seen the TV show where shoppers use coupons to get huge discounts and often end up paying $10.00 for $200.00 worth of groceries.  And they’ve managed to accumulate massive stockpiles of shampoo, toothpaste, energy drinks, etc.  No doubt this has inspired many of us to start clipping coupons frantically in order to reduce our weekly grocery bills.  Hey, if they can do it, why can’t I?

Well, I’ll tell you why.

First, if you pay attention, you’ll see that these people have created a list of items for which they have coupons – not a list of items they actually need.  They’re buying 30 energy drinks, 50 bottles of pop, or 15 tubes of toothpaste.

huge amount of groceries in cans and boxes on display in a store

 I have rarely seen anyone on that show actually buy real food – items like meat, bread, milk, fruit, eggs, etc – and come out with a grocery bill of less than $10.00.  

Second, these are American shows.  There are a lot more grocery stores in the United States than there are in Canada.  Therefore there is more selection for everyone, which means more competition for the consumer’s dollar.  Many of these stores also have some type of discount card, which Canadian stores don’t have.  Discount cards issued by a particular store are one way to get customers to keep coming back.

Finally, and most importantly, these people devote their entire day to clipping and sorting coupons.  It’s their full-time job.  And they’ve said as much on the show – they can spend up to 30-40 hours a week clipping coupons, even with other people helping them collect coupons and organizing them.  Do you really want to devote that much time to couponing?

The big question is: Do you actually save any money with a coupon? 
The answer: It depends on both the coupon and the product.

For example, if you find a coupon for something that saves you $0.50 or $1.00 on something you always buy, then it’s worth it.  However, before you use the coupon, ask yourself:

  • Is this item is something I actually will use?; and
  • What is the price of the generic version? Usually the generic item is cheaper, even after you deduct the coupon amount from the brand name.

I think this is the biggest mistake that people make.  They think, “Oh, I have a coupon – I’ll save money!”  But it’s a coupon for something they never buy.  So be sure to ask yourself those two questions first before you use any coupon. You’re actually wasting money if you purchase something you don’t need or could have gotten for a lower price just because you had a coupon.

There are also a number of coupon apps available which eliminate the need to “clip” coupons.  I haven’t tried all of them, but I do recommend Checkout 51.  The app is free and it’s very easy to use.  The list of items you can save money on is quite varied – anything from diapers to alcohol to dog food – and they regularly add new items.  And if you claim certain coupons regularly, they will send you more of those coupons – for example, I use Pantene shampoo, so I get those coupons often.  It’s quick and easy.  However, the offers on the list are only valid for one week, and there are only so many offers to go around, so you have to claim them quickly!

So in answer to the question – is couponing worth it?  Well, if you’re happy enough to save $5.00 or $10.00 a week on your grocery bill, and you can then use that money for something else, then I would say yes, it’s worth it.  But if you’re hoping to save hundreds of dollars a month, you’re probably not going to do it by clipping coupons.  So the final choice is up to you.

Meena’s note: The only “coupons” I use regularly are the bonus points on certain products that I get from my PC Financial credit card. I like that these are on produce and other items I actually buy frequently. I don’t pay any special attention to them though. If I happen to buy the item that week then I’ll get the money back, but I don’t have a system in place. I am curious about Checkout 51. So if you have used it, or have other experience with apps or coupons, please leave your comments.

Author: Sharon Skwarchuk

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