Lauren and I love coupons.
In fact, we were able to cut down our grocery bill from $1,000 per month down to $200 per month – and we owe a healthy portion of that savings to coupons.
But that doesn't mean that it's always smart to use coupons.
The truth is, there are times to use coupons and instances when you really shouldn't. It's not always easy to distinguish between those times, so I'm going to do my best to outline a couple of the times you should avoid coupons.
So, put away the scissors, set down that coupon catalog, and learn a few instances when coupons aren't such a great idea . . . .
It's no secret that coupons solely exist to sell more product. Companies use the temptation of saving money to get you to buy more – which ironically works.
How do I know it works? Because they wouldn't do it if it didn't work.
If grocery and retail stores discovered that the net effect of coupons causes them to lose money, they'd discontinue coupon catalogs, newspaper coupons, and any other coupons they advertised.
Coupons generally only benefit consumers when they were already planning to buy those particular items anyway. But I said “generally” because there is one small exception to this rule . . . .
That exception is when consumers substitute one item they were planning on buying for another –perhaps similar – item of the same or lower price that has a coupon. In that case, coupons are reasonable.
For example, say you love Fuji apples and plan on buying some at the grocery store during your next trip. A few days later, you discover a coupon for Granny Smith apples. You like them too, and you discover you could save some money switching to the Granny Smith apples. You get to the grocery store, pick up a few Granny Smith apples with your coupon, and save money.
Sometimes, you'll encounter a psychological battle within yourself when you're trying to decide if you were already going to buy a certain item in the coupon catalog. When this happens, it's usually too late to know if you were really already going to buy the item.
Instead, use your shopping list as a way to prevent yourself from spending in a spontaneous manner. Create a shopping list before you actually take a look at a coupon book. That way, you can be objective with yourself and don't have to wonder if you're making a bad purchase.
In summary, make sure you're using coupons for items you normally buy. Be real with yourself, and you'll save money.
There is another instance when you shouldn't use coupons. This one isn't really as well-known as the first instance, but it's probably as important.
Don't use coupons when they slow you down from making money. If you've never really used coupons before on a regular basis, you're probably not too fast at it yet. I recommend giving it a shot, but if you find you're just too slow and using coupons takes you away from what you do best, you might want skip using them.
If you have the freedom to work from home and can work anytime you want, you'll want to make sure that finding coupons is worth your time. Here's how to do it . . . .
Start a stopwatch and focus solely on finding coupons for one hour straight. After the hour is up, go to the store and buy your discounted items. Add up how much you've saved by using coupons. This will tell you how much money you saved when spending an hour looking for coupons.
If you make, say, $15 per hour at your job, and you saved $20 because you spent an hour using coupons, that means you're saving more money finding coupons than you are making money at your job. Now, don't go quitting your job (you need your income), but obviously finding coupons is worth your time. If, on the other hand, you only made $10 finding coupons, that time is probably better spent working.
Remember though, this only applies to jobs where you can work any time you want, and don't have set hours. If you're capped on hours at your day job, and you don't earn money any other way, finding coupons can still be worth your time even if you don't save as much as you make at your day job.
In summary, make sure that finding, snipping, and using coupons is worth your time. If there are better ways you can be saving or making money, you're better served staying away from coupons.
Keep these two instances in mind when you're considering coupons, and you'll save money instead of emptying your wallet. Be frugal, but be smart about it!