6 Ways Couponing Can Hurt Instead of Help
There are times in a couponer's life when it's best to just put the coupons down and say, 'No!' Not every coupon you can use is a great deal, and sometimes there are times when it's better to not use a coupon. How do you know when to use coupons and when to close your coupon book? Once you know what to look for, it will come second nature to you. Just keep these helpful tips in mind:
- Don't use a coupon just because you have it or because it's about to expire. If you have a coupon for an item that you would never buy normally, don't use that coupon (unless you end up getting the item for free). If it's a product you'd like to try, then pause and think twice before using it. If you decide that you really do want to try the product, then use the coupon, so you aren't paying full price on an experiment. But if it's something you would never use, something that your family doesn't need, and something you don't have a desire to try, don't buy it just because you have a $5 off coupon. Sure, it's a great deal, and with your coupon you'd be getting it 1/2 off, but if you would have never spent that money in the first place, it's just money you can save in your wallet to use on things you do need.
- Be wary of coupons you have to pay for. There are some great deals sites out there, one in particular that rhymes with 'coupon'. Many of these deals that they say is worth $100 and you are only paying $50 for it, aren't deals at all. Research the company where that deal is, and I'm sure you'll find an everyday sale at that exact price. I used to work at a photography studio in the mall, and a customer brought me one of these offers once. She had paid $50 online for what the site was telling her was $150 worth of pictures. We had no coupon code for it to ring her up, so as an associate of mine took her grandkids' pictures, I did research and found out that the offer she spent $50 on was an everyday offer we gave people. Unfortunately, because her 'coupon' said we couldn't combine it with anything else, I couldn't even give her the free collage that we had as a deal then, either. So, not only did she falsely think she was getting a deal at 67% off, she missed out on being able to get more free stuff in store. If these sites have things like $50 gift cards on sale for $25, then that's a deal. But if it's one of those bundled packages for a low cost, do a little research before you drop $50 or more on it.
- Don't drive around to 5 different stores to get the best deals. Unless you live in an area like I do where all of the stores you have coupons for are located in a one mile radius, it's a waste of gas and time to drive to multiple stores to save an extra $0.50. When you plan your shopping trips for the week, compare sales at different stores, and if you can eliminate a store or two because their deals are similar to another store, you are saving yourself time, money and headaches. I have a personal rule that if I'm not saving more than $1.00 per item on 5 different items, I'm not heading to that store. It's not worth it to me to add another stop to my day to get milk at $1.57 a gallon and pasta at $0.75 a pack when one of the stores that has more deals that week, that I'm already going to, has milk at $1.77 a gallon and the same pasta at $0.99 a pack. So, weigh your options while planning out your list.
- Check your expiration dates. Nothing is worse than planning out your shopping trip, gathering your coupons, planning your meals around the sales for that week, getting everything you need at the store, and when you go to check out, finding that your coupons have expired. I've been there, done that, and more than once, I might add. What I thought was gong to be free soft drinks took $3.00 out of my pocket because my coupons had expired and I didn't want to tell the woman nevermind on getting them. Before you go shopping, double check your sales and the expiration dates on your coupons.
- Check prices on the generic. If your ultimate goal in couponing is to save the most money on your shopping trip, then even with coupons and sales, many times the generic brand of an item is cheaper. Do the math quickly when you go to pick a brand name product off the shelf that you have a coupon for. If you are still paying more than the generic, then ask yourself if you want to save more money by buying the generic, or spend a little more to get the name brand at a discount. For me, it depends on the product and the price difference. We've found that generic dishwashing detergent, for example, doesn't work as well for us as the name brand. So even when I wait for the sales, and use my coupons, the generic dishwashing detergent is still cheaper. I willingly spend up to $1.00 more for the name brand than the generic, but that's what I've decided is best for us. If having the lowest grocery bill possible is your end goal, make sure to check generic prices before using a coupon on the name brand.
- Read the fine print. Know your coupons before you use them. How many of an item can you buy with that coupon? Can the coupon be used on clearance items? Can you combine that coupon with other coupons or in-store sales? Does the coupon apply to trial sizes? How many of that coupon can you use in one transaction? The only thing that can be worse than not knowing your expiration date, is not knowing what you can and can't buy with that coupon. I am famous for printing out percentage or dollar off coupons for clothing stores. Many of them you can use on clearance items, and that's where I get my biggest savings. Sometimes it clearly says on the bottom 'Can not be used on clearance items', and it's a good thing to know that before you start racking up the clearance items and are then told at check out you can't use your coupon. So always read the fine print, especially on non-grocery coupons.