Your Coupons Are Making You Poor

The following guest post is from Neal Frankle of Wealth Pilgrim. Wealth Pilgrim is a fantastic resource, and on my list of daily reads. After reading the post, head over to Neal’s site and sign up to receive his posts.

If you love clipping coupons, you may not enjoy this post or agree with my premise. But I am convinced that coupons are a huge contributor to overspending.

Coupons by Matt McGee on Flickr

In fact, let me ask you a question: When you spend time thumbing through the paper or surfing the net for great coupons…aren’t you really just thinking about spending money?

Of course you are.

Coupons are directly tied to spending.. You don’t collect them for those amazing graphics. Right?

In fact, for many people, browsing for coupons is part of an overspending ritual. This may not describe you, but I’ll guarantee that people who spend lots of time looking for coupons spend much more time thinking about spending than they spend time thinking about saving and investing.

Ever heard someone tell you they bought something just because it was on sale?
That’s almost as bad as someone saying they spend a ton of dough and tried to justify it because “it’s deductible”.

Coupons weren’t developed by Debtors Anonymous. Coupons were created by the Retailers Association of America probably. They did it to give you a reason to get into their store and spend money. That’s it. They know that once you’re there, you’ll keep spending. You might get a deal on toilet paper, but they’ll get you on the breakfast cereal.

Coupons were not created to save you money or help you save for your retirement.

And you know what… works.

If it didn’t, you wouldn’t find any coupons in the mailbox, newspaper or on the internet.

Of course, some people use coupons to stop spending money they don’t have — and I hope that describes you. But most people get sucked in. Coupons get you to buy stuff you really don’t need.

Don’t believe me?

Look at your trash can.

It’s full…right?

That means you are buying more than you need.

That’s why I don’t spend any time looking for coupons. I don’t want a “spending” mindset.

I want an investor mindset.

When I need something I go out and get it. I don’t clip coupons and then find a reason to need something. Maybe I pay more for the stuff I need than you do. But I don’t buy anything I don’t really need. At the end of the day, I spend less money as a result of not collecting coupons.

So if you’re looking for a good personal finance or a great small business idea, just say no to coupons from today on.

Am I wrong? Do you only buy stuff that you absolutely need or do coupons get you to bring home more than you intended to?

Note from Frugal Dad: When I read Neal’s title my immediate reaction was, “Are you nuts? You want me to run this post on Frugal Dad?” But after reading the guest post, I must say Neal makes a good point.

Looking back on my own experience with coupons, I remember making some impractical decisions in the name of “saving money” because I had a coupon. Honestly, how many squeezable mayonnaise bottles does one family really need? With the exception of stockpiling a few essentials using coupons, our family has found that we generally come out ahead by skipping the coupon and simply buying the store brand.


  1. I completely agree.

    I work full time and tried to play the “grocery game” and couponing game for about six months.

    Hubby and I have always tracked our spending and during those six months, my grocery bill went up by a couple of hundred dollars.

    I also ended up with a pantry full of stuff that it took me forever to use up (because they weren’t my normal items).

    I decided to go back to my normal way of shopping (buy everything possible at Aldi, get the rest at meijer. If I happen to have a coupon that wil work at Meijer when I am ready to go, extra bonus!)

    I also occasionally hit Kroger on my way in to work if I need something to get me through the week. Before i go, I will check online to see if there are any good deals at Kroger for the week. If it is something I would use anyway I go ahead and get it. But I don’t make a special trip to buy deals.

    I work full time.I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to the couponing game. More importantly, I’m ok with that 🙂

  2. We use coupons that are for products we normally buy or were interested in trying anyway. And there are many times that with a sale price combined with the coupon (and the doubling when applicable) that the name brand is cheaper than store brand. If I am going to buy PopTarts anyway, and they are on sale and I have coupons, doesn’t it make sense to keep that dollar in my pocket?

  3. This may be true for the average user, but for couponers who are dedicated to the “grocery game” or the “drugstore game”, coupons are stacked with sales, catalinas, rebates and other offers to save ridiculous amounts of money.

    Sites like Deal Seeking and Money Saving teach their readers how to do this, and it’s how Crystal (from MSM) is able to feed her family of 5 on $40/wk.

    I’m not there, and so my rule is to only print coupons for products I buy anyway when I come across them. But there are definitely some families who profit from couponing!

    • You bring up a good point, Mandi. It seems that the casual couponer is the one Neal refers to in his post – the type that buys junk they don’t need just because they have a coupon.

      For those trained in the art of couponing, there are some significant savings to be had. I second your recommendations for the sites listed as a good place to start that training.

      • love reading the comments. I use coupons like they are going out of style. If people don’t want to use them because they think they are a waste of time that’s fine. More for me 🙂 I haven’t paid for toilet paper, toothpaste or deodorant in over a year, just to name a few things.

  4. Neal, I agree and disagree. In terms of grocery store coupons I only see them saving me money. I use them in combination with sale prices on items I would buy anyway. We throw many away each month because there wasn’t a good sale or we didn’t need it at this time.

    I am guilty of using restaurant coupons that I wouldn’t have gone to without the discount. So, in this category they do encourage me to spend more than I would have on my own.

  5. I’m thinking you’ll get a lot of feedback on this one 🙂 I can see the point but disagree if you use them wisely.

    I am a couponer. I can feed our family of 5 for under $50 a week. I don’t use coupons on things I normally wouldn’t buy (except if it’s crazy cheap and I can donate it to someone that can use it). I can get cereal for less than 40 cents per box. Pasta for less than 25 cents. These make for some very inexpensive meals. I never pay ANYTHING for toothpaste, toothbrushes, contact solution, and other various toiletries due to coupons.

    It depends on how you use them! It works for me.

    • Sarah,

      That’s an amazing feat! Sounds like you are really aware of your spending and I would agree that it would be crazy NOT to coupon in your case.

      I do hope that the post brings up a point or two that may help (if not you…somebody else) people be super aware of how they use coupons…or how coupons use them.

  6. I work full-time, have a son who is very active in many different out-of-school activities and prefer to spend the very little ‘free’ time I have being outside with him. I truly don’t have the time to dedicate to the couponing game. And since I do not I don’t even LOOK at them because of what is written in this blog post. However those in my circle of family and friends who swear by coupons and won’t listen to a thing I say constantly try and convince me by giving me coupons for things they know we use. And you know what else I’ve found? The coupons come around for those items MUCH faster than we use them up. I won’t be pushed into buying more just because the coupon is about to expire either. I tend to gravitate towards brands (or non-brands if you prefer) that don’t offer coupons but are rather the lower price option CONSISTENTLY. Its just much easier to budget, track costs, etc.

  7. I think “how” you approach coupons & their use, determines if you are bringing more into your home than you would normally buy.

    Initially, I got caught up in the “coupon craze”; using coupons, I bought several items which gave me “overage” (money) to defray the cost of other food items. But “some” these items were never used, took up space on my pantry shelf & were ultimately pitched. I now clip coupons for only the items/food I will use. I have found the best use of coupons for our family is for “non food” items (sundries, detergent, cleaning products, personal items) which can drive up your grocery store bills. I now only clip Q’ for those items we are going to use. I know there are numerous women who have perfected this art & I commend them. Because I work outside of the home & I do not have the time to run to 5 different stores to save a few dollars. Being a good steward also involves choosing how to spend your time; I just don’t have the time to devote to this area of saving…..

  8. So glad to see this post! I have said this over and over again to friends and on coupon boards. Coupons are great, in theory. I use 2-3 every time I go shopping, but the catalina kind that were picked based on how I shop. Those people playing the coupon game don’t seem to calculate the hidden costs from coupons. They drive to several different stores trying to get the best deal possible wasting precious time and energy they could be spending with their families or making money, in addition to the transportation costs (gas, car maintenence, etc). Plus, coupons seem to target the unhealthiest foods. You couldn’t even pay me to put something with these preservatives, sugars, fats, and toxins like high fructose corn syrup that are on the market in my cart. That $50 a week is making or will make your family sick and fat, and you will have to spend that much more fighting these disease. My husband and I spend very little money each week buying the same simple, natural and wholesome ingredients that I mindfully put together to make delicious meals. Sometimes I will get a coupon through the catalina machine or in a blinky (“yay! a bonus!”), but I most certainly will not be a slave to the coupon craze.

  9. I’m a total foodie, so groceries are my achilles heel. I’ve been burned too many times with crappy store brands, that now I use mainly name brands, For name brands, many products are indeed cheaper if you combine a coupon with a sale.

    I agree with you that most of the stuff is for things I wouldn’t normally buy (packaged foods, etc). I use them most on paper and toiletry products like toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.

    The biggest thing I’ve changed is to stop stockpiling things I don’t go through very fast. I don’t like the pressure of looking at a 2 year old jar of something that I still have to figure out a way to use.

  10. Coupons seem to be a double-edged sword.

    They are designed to bring in more customers and to make profit, obviously. If they weren’t effective, the businesses wouldn’t send them to us. Most people do spend more money because of the coupons and sales. For a trained and disciplined buyer, however, they can be a great way to save money.

    Personally I am not a coupon person as I am not responsible for grocery and overall shopping in my family, but I definitely spend more money in restaurants I wouldn’t have gone to in the first place if I didn’t have a coupon.

  11. I actually really like this post. I’ve never seen a coupon for fresh produce or fresh meat (other then mark down due to sell by date). The other coupons I see are for products I would never use. For me, they aren’t a major concern.

    Also, I can’t see SPENDING money to SAVE money (grocery game, etc). Esp. because of the fresh produce comment above. Seems ironic!

    • On meat – S.O. found that during bbq season, meat tends to be marked down the most on Mondays – i.e. the meat that wasn’t sold for the weekend barbecues. And produce – I think we can only follow the seasons, meaning I had to learn to cook squash!

  12. Time my wife spent weekly going thru the paper, clipping coupons, and organizing them by expiration date and then later matching them up with the items you’ll buy. Let’s say 1 hour a week, average savings of $10.

    Time I researching and modifying our investment portfolio to include stocks/funds that are responding well to the current market, let’s say 1 hour a week, average 1% overall improvement on a portfolio balance of $100,000…you do the math.

    Being frugal is fine, but if you financial success is your goal spend your time on the activity that produces the highest net return. Some dedicated couponers I know could just work a few extra hours a month overtime or mow some yards for pocket change and earn a lot more money than they ever save from coupons.

  13. Knowing how to use coupons wisely is the key. If you use couponing as an excuse to shop or eat out, then it doesn’t save you money. But if you know what you are doing, couponing can be a lucrative part-time income. There are many staple items that are practically free if you combine a coupon with a sale or a rebate. But you have to be committed to make this work. Many people do not want to be bothered with clipping/sorting coupons and keeping up with the sale ads. But I do not agree that couponing is making everyone poor. For some families, couponing is how they afford to raise a family on one income, pay off their mortgage early, and/or afford incredible hands-on learning vacations like the six-month cross country camping trip that our family of five was able to take when our kids were teens. So my advice is not to make such broad generalizations. Even for the casual couponer, it can be a way to try a product risk-free, saving a few bucks by not having to throw away hard-earned cash for something that your family may not like anyway. Restaurant coupons can provide a fairly low-cost way to afford an occasional date-night and try out new eating establishments in your locale. My suggestion is to remember to tip on the “before-coupon” total. However, some restaurants will tack on the gratuity themselves, so always check to avoid inadvertently double-tipping.

  14. We don’t use coupons very much for groceries.We do receive weekly coupons for local eateries and when we eat out it is only at places we have coupons for.Many of these are for half price or even free entrees.My wife usually only eats half and takes the leftover for lunch the following day so she gets 2 meals out of these reduced or free entrees.We don’t feel too bad about splurging when the “overall” cost is near zero!

  15. Coupons are a tool and like any tool they can help if used properly or hurt if used imporoperly. And some people may just not have the need for that tool. As long as you keep that in mind you can better evaluate your situation and see if coupons are worth your time.

    Personally I find coupons to be a big help for our family. I don’t have the time to do serious couponing because I have full time job, but I do clip coupons for the items we use regularly and keep them organized and with me when I shop. That way if I see an item we use on sale or clearance I can combine it with coupon to maximize our savings. That said, just because I have a coupon and it’s an item we use doesn’t mean that I will use the coupon or even buy the item that month. If we don’t need the item at that time and if I don’t see the item for a rock bottom price then the coupon can expire and I’ll just recycle it.

    Coupons are kindof like credit cards. Just because you have it doesn’t mean you should run around using it.

  16. No question coupons are an inducement to buy things you may not need. Why else would they exist in the first place. But if you are a disciplined shopper and don’t buy an item simply because you have coupon in hand, you can save money.

  17. Thank you so much for this post!! I plan to write soon about my method for shopping without coupons and I will link to this post as an excellent reference.

    Mrs. White

  18. My wife clips coupons for items we need (or comps). However, we have often found that even with the coupon, the store brand is still cheaper. In those cases, we buy the store brand. We simply don’t print coupons for things we don’t need. She spends maybe 20 minutes per week searching on coupon sites.

    However, we have a friend who recently got into the coupon game, and she has quickly become a “coupon queen”. But there’s just one problem: she recently found a $50-off coupon for a $500 item… and went out and bought it. She was so proud that she had “saved” $50, and she added it to her tabulated savings for the year. I tried to explain that rather than saving $50, she had just spent $450 that she would have held onto otherwise. Not a pretty conversation.

    There are definitely two sides to this game, and for people like our friend, I completely agree with your post.

  19. It takes me about 3 minutes to go thru the weekly coupons in the flyers from Safeway and Freddies – all we have in our rural area.
    I pull the ones I will use, like eggs, milk, cheese, staples…. and if it’s a good enough deal I will go get them. BUT… When I walk into the store with my coupons, that’s ALL I come out with. Period.

    My menus are made from what’s on hand at home that was bought with great coupons. I can go for months without shopping if need be, and regularly go weeks at a time if the coupons are not worth the trip. (I do have a garden for fresh veggies)

  20. Not sure I agree. I only use them for stuff I would buy anyhow. And that’s almost never food items, as coupons tend to be for processed food items that I do not eat or ever buy. And I never use it to “try something new.” I use it for key staple items that I’d be buying with or without a coupon, for which I already have a brand preference. And I only use them maybe once every two months or so (otherwise I end up with 5 jugs of detergent). Useful, if you manage them and don’t let them manage you.

  21. Some people are “into” investing and keeping track of trends in the stock market. Others would rather pay someone to do that for them or pursue “risk-free” ways of accumulating wealth but with smaller profits. Some enjoy working outside the home and the extra money they may spend on transportation, daycare, clothes, lunches, etc…is well worth it for their situation. Just because someone chooses to save money by couponing wisely does not mean that they don’t invest, or work outside the home in any capacity. Even volunteer work can reap rewards that are not measured in dollar signs. Because someone is a disciplined coupon shopper, It doesn’t necessarily follow that their families are eating unhealthy food. One can use coupons for certain items AND purchase fresh produce at the local farmers’ market, plant a garden, and cook from scratch. Consolidating errands to save fuel is another method of saving money if someone chooses to work outside the home and/or shop sales at several stores. The bottom line is…what works best for you and your family? Suggestions are one thing, but financial success means different things to different people, and there are many different ways to achieve it.

  22. I agree in part with this article, i have skipped the whole coupon clipping ritual for one it takes up far too much time, and I can save just as much or more money buying the store brand or shopping at discount super markets like Aldi.

  23. I can see your point. My girlfriend loves to use coupons and she’s pretty good at using them. Every now and then i’ll have to stop her from buying something just because she has a coupon when we could get it someplace cheaper without a coupon.
    But coupons are a tool for saving money and just like a tool it can be misused. It just takes practice and self control and coupons can become a great tool in the fight to save money.

  24. It all comes down to being an educated consumer and being fiscally sound. For those that use coupons wisely, they only use them on items they would normally spend on. For example, my wife is very good at checking the ads to find the best deals (on stuff we already buy) and then we shop at the stores that either match ads or give double coupon value.

  25. It’s really easy to overspend with coupons, and yes, it does focus on purchasing. But I think a lot of people who use coupons regularly are very careful about what they buy.

    In our family, we use them only for things we would normally buy and even then, only if the price is “right.” We watch prices carefully on the items we buy regularly and use coupons to really lower costs.

    Frankly, we don’t find all that many coupons for food (we buy mostly fresh veggies, etc.), so that limits their usage in our budget. However, we do use coupons quite a bit for toiletries and household cleaning and paper goods. When you can use them and get a name brand that you like (that lasts longer and performs better than any generic) and it is far less than a store brand, that’s when we buy and use the coupons.

    With coupons, it’s all about how you use them and not letting them use you just to buy something because you have a coupon. And it can be tempting. There is the temptation to try something new when you get a good deal via a coupon.

    Coupons also save us money in other ways. We no longer will pay full price for any product when we know there will probably be a coupon available for it –or if we don’t have a coupon with us when we’re shopping (doesn’t happen all that often). We wait.

    One thing we’ve always questioned is just what are all those “experts” buying when they go on TV and come away with over $100 worth of stuff for like $5. I mean, I haven’t ever seen coupons for most of the stuff we eat each week (food). Ever.

  26. I agree with others, it is how you use coupons that affect if they save you money or cause you to spend more money. I use coupons on things we would already buy and watch sales to combine with them. Honestly I save more watching the sales but I won’t turn down an extra $1-$5 a week on top of my normal deals. That dollar or five adds up and lets us save and splurge on things we could not do otherwise.

  27. In response to Sarah, I think some of those couponers are stockpiling items that they donate to their local food pantry, use them for stocking stuffers, or to make baskets for holiday gift giving. I think it is safe to say that most households use toothpaste, shampoo, deodorants, shaving cream, etc..Those in nursing homes, homeless or battered women shelters, and even college kids living in dorms or their first apartments appreciate receiving practical gifts they can actually use rather than have to worry about storing. It is true that many coupons for food items are for processed products, but for someone who has essentially nothing, or is trying to feed a family during a financial setback, almost anything is better than nothing for the short term. There are church groups that collect coupons for hot/cold cereal, coffee/herbal tea, frozen/canned veggies, nuts, whole grain bread/crackers, tuna, eggs, yogurt, low fat/sodium soup, 100% juice, baby food, formula, diapers, OTC meds, laundry detergent, and use them to stock their food pantries. There really is no reason to let surplus bargains take up space in your cupboard when someone else can make use of them, so if you find a great deal…why not share it with those who will use it and appreciate it.

  28. Like the others, I think that coupons can be used unwisely, but they can also be used for amazing savings — so long as you’d buy the things anyway.

    A lot of my coupons expire without being used. Because I won’t be pushed into a purchase. But, since I am lucky enough to live in an area with double coupons (Fry’s) and all coupons worth at least $1 (Safeway), I’d be crazy not to take advantage of some of those deals. I’ve gotten 20 boxes of Quaker bars for free — well, $1.50 for the batch if you count the cost of buying some extra copies.

    My husband is absolutely addicted to the sugary kids cereals, so whenever there’s a sale, I combine coupons and get boxes for around $1.

    Besides, the same thing could be said about sales in general. Because they’re cheap, people finally try something. Then they’re hooked. So it’s about exercising self-control.

    My husband knows that I’ll stock up on a treat for him but once it’s gone, he has to wait for the next time it’s crazily cheap. Does that stop him from guzzling the item instantly? No. (Those Quaker bars were gone in under two weeks!) But he also knows I’m not willing to buy more until that sale comes around again.

  29. I was this way with coupons when I first started clipping, but now I use them to my advantage.

    1. I only cut coupons for things we may buy anyway and stick them in my wallet. 2. When I grocery shop at Sam’s, I don’t even bother looking.
    3. When I grocery shop at Kroger’s or Walmart, I shop off our list and then pull the cart over for 2 minutes before heading to the checkout counter.
    4. I use those 2 minutes to quickly flip through my 20-30 coupons.
    5. If a coupon item is in the basket, the coupon goes into my other hand.
    6. Then I checkout, hand my coupons over, and save about $5 every couple of weeks without ever buying anything we don’t need.
    7. Whenever I have to wait for something – like an oil change or appointment or my husband to get ready – I go through the coupons in my wallet and throw all the expired ones away.

    This works for us and takes a total of 10 minutes a week of coupon clipping and 2 minutes a shopping trip of looking through them.

  30. I use coupons to get free or near-free items at CVS and Walgreens. In the past 4 months, I have spent probably $50 (fifty dollars), but got $500 (five hundred dollars) worth of items.

    Coupons are not making me poor at all!

    (Otherwise, I would generally agree with the post. Only use coupons when they are advantageous. Don’t use them just because you have them.)

  31. I wrote a similar post recently:

    I know when my mom started “couponing,” she’d come back from the grocery store with scads of @#$%, crowing about how much money she “saved.” Most of the money she spent, however, was on stuff we ordinarily didn’t use.

    Often I will seek out coupons when I know I’m going to use them for something I was going to spend money on anyway: to get a few bucks off at the dry cleaners, etc. But there are many retail “schemes” that definitely encourage us to spend money under the guise of saving us money (free shipping for minimum purchase, get X dollars off if you spend this much, buy two, get one free, etc.).

    • This was on the show Modern Family this week – one of the spouses got a job at a greeting card shop. He kept talking about how he saved all this money on cards because of his 40% employee discount. His partner asks why they needed greeting cards in the first place – he grabs the STACK of cards and starts reading the prices – $2.94, $4.50, and the 1st spouse is yelling “40% off! 40% off!” It was hilarious (of course not hilarious when it happens to you)!

  32. I agree… coupons make you spend more… cause you’ll just shop more. I actually give my Sunday paper coupons to a co-worker. Most coupons are just processed crap.

    • I agree. Most coupons are for highly processed food or personal and household products full of chemicals harmful o human and the environment. Unless I find coupons for green products, I don’t use them at all.

  33. I really never used coupons but after the last 18 months I needed to look for a way to save some money. I decided to pull out the Post every Sunday and clip coupons for the things that I normally buy – rice, shampoo, paper towels, canned soup, etc… Then I found out that my local grocery store every 6-8 weeks or so does triple coupons so I have become a full on competitive couponer. The last time I went to the grocery I got aluminum foil for free thanks to a $0.85 coupon that was tripled and Yoplait for $0.15 per – they were on sale + triple coupon. Out of a $120 grocery bill I only spent $45 thanks to sales and aggressive coupon use. What I don’t do is “try things out” just because I have a coupon – if I know I am going to need it and there is a way I can store it up (i.e. soup) then I’m all over it.

    • And another thing I do is if I do clip a coupon to try something and I get to it in the store and I don’t really want it – I won’t throw the coupon away, I’ll just put it on the shelf. Someone will be able to use it. I think a trend is starting because everytime I go to my local grocery on triple coupon days there are coupons everywhere – a real community effort to save money!

  34. Well what can I say our family does use an save coupons. While we have never been able to match those people who say they use coupons and get everything almost for free it does save us lots of money. How:
    1) We buy only things we need and try to combine those with a sale.
    2) We might try a new product once again for something we need, if it has a coupon.
    The argument from people who use the how much is your time worth argument is amusing at best. Wow if you stop watching Tv your gonna be even wealthier, NOT!
    The bottom line is people who have lots of money and are lazy don’t need to use coupons because they don’t care how much an item costs! So if they overspend a bit who cares, their kids are not going to go without….

  35. Pretty much all the different pros and cons have been discussed by the other readers already. I agree that it’s about using coupons as a tool. I do use coupons with promotions and sale but I only do it for the exact items that I use.

    Yes, I am a brand user. I do use store brand but in some cases I can’t compromise such as Pepto Bismo or Coke. You waste just as much money if you buy generic that you end up throwing away because it doesn’t work or you dislike.

    I think the more insidious risk is grocery shopping while you’re hungry. That has been more expensive than any other bad habits for me. I still have a can of sardines, spicy hummus and a container of chocolate pudding from last week that I bought at the same time. The last time I ate sardines was about 9 years ago. I don’t buy chocolate pudding at all because it takes me months to go through a container.

    I knew it was wrong but overriding the animal part of my brain was more effort than I had at the time.

  36. This is probably true for the person who just clips coupons for the sake of doing it and does no real planning. I guess you could say I do what others here are calling the “grocery game”, but I don’t use that website because anyone can do the same thing for free. I started using coupons in January of this year and I assure you they are not making me poor. For the first time in years, I actually have money in my savings account. We went from spending over $600 a month on groceries and other household items to spending less than $100 a month. My average savings each week is 94%. It does take planning and some work but no more than any other hobby or usual time spent on the computer. I do not run all over town to different stores. Publix has a wonderful coupon policy and it’s the only store I go to for groceries, household items, and health & beauty. I buy items that we would buy anyway and occasionally take the opportunity to try other products since they will cost only pennies or will be free. I do stock up on some items like cereal when I can get it for less than a $1 a box. I usually pay around .49 cents for paper products when they are on sale so I stock up. Real couponers know that you should never ever have to pay for toothpaste,antacids, toothbrushes, to name a few.Free toothpaste will not break me. When combining coupons with sales, the national brands are always cheaper than house brands. There is more to it than just walking in with your 25 cent off coupon. Most couponers who save like I do, know you stack coupons with sales, meaning you are allowed to stack a manufacture coupon with either a store or competitor coupon with a sale. Those who know how to use coupons and plan properly are not becoming poor because of it. Those who say they shop the perimeter of the store and there are no coupons etc. There are coupons for those items, they aren’t as common but they do exist, but more importantly is knowing your stores sale cycles which is usually 6 weeks. At some point during that cycle items drop down to their lowest price and that’s when you buy and stock up to get your through to the next sale. Of course with produce you can only purchase what you can use before it starts going bad.

    As for the people who thinking they have to run out and buy a $500 item so they can use that $50 off coupon those are the ones going broke. Using coupons has changed the way I look at money and there is no way, I will go spend money on something I don’t need just so I can use a coupon. If I spend more than $25 at the grocery store for the week, I’m upset. I agree with the above article to an extent but in my opinion that article is only talking about one particular group of coupon users, a group who use them just for the sake of using them and not those of us who put a lot of effort into making coupons really work in our favor. There are several bloggers who post the weekly sales ads and match the coupons with the sales. is one of the best.

  37. As long as you are disciplined, coupons can save you big money. Only buy something you would have bought anyway, whether you have a coupon or not. And be sure you do your research to know whether something is really a good deal. We save 50% on our grocery bill by using coupons and almost never buy something unless we have a coupon or discount code.


  38. I’m an extreme couponer and have saved ton’s of money over the last few months. However, I went into it realizing I would probably overbuy and overconsume in the beginning…..but I was betting on the fact that I’d learn my lesson and be a bit more savvy once I learn what I’m doing.

    And that is what has happened….I learned through making mistakes to only buy what we need and not to buy it just because it’s free….I still have an impulse buy here and there but largely I stick to what is healthy and a good deal. Yes, once in a while I’ll buy “junk food” with coupons but most of us are guilty of having a few “not so healthy” food choices laying around…I just get mine for free. And I find lot’s of coupons and deals on healthy foods such as produce and dairy…..just gotta keep and eye out for them

  39. I also agree and disagree. Once upon a time i was the casual consumer you refer to – spending more because i had a coupon, always proud of how much i “saved”, it applies to outlet shopping too.

    Now though, being flat *** broke, we barely manage to buy what we need, and sale prices and coupons help us stretch the budget so we can actually eat all seven days of the week.

    A fool and his money are easily parted, and eventually you part with enough of it that you stop being foolish! (well, some of us anyway!)

  40. I’m with @Mandi here. One of the best contributions I can make on the “spend” side of our household budget is to control our spending on grocery, health and beauty items. I use the Grocery Game. So if it’s not a great deal, I generally don’t buy it.

    Thanks to coupons, I can use the “investment” or “stockpiling” strategy of grocery/drug store shopping. When cereal is a buck, I buy it. If it’s more than a buck, I don’t. Toothpaste is too expensive if it’s more than a quarter – and this is for the good stuff. You get the idea.

    I guess coupons could be a doorway to wasteful spending. But they can also be an opportunity to dramatically gut your budget. For my family of four, I pay just $350 a month for all grocery, health and beauty, including diapers. Plus, we actually have more variety in our diets and eat better than when I buy the same-old, same-old for retail.

    I could never do that without coupons.

  41. You who are too lazy to do your homework as frugal buyers can pooh-pooh all you want. My husband and I shop 3 times a month! We watch the sales cycles of PriceChopper and BJs carefully, as well as a few other stores we KNOW put as much effort into keeping their customers as bilking (milking) them with good buys when they have themselves made a good buy and pass some of the savings on to us. You all know the manufacturers who put dollars into rebates to the store buyers, and coupons to the customers rather than in expensive advertising because it pays off. And it pays off for me, the consumer if I use it like any other tool. I only buy what I need, when I need it, and when the manufacturer and the store are offering me major incentives to buy it. I keep track of my savings, never counting savings on things I bought because they were a good deal, but only savings on things I HAVE TO BUY to keep my family brushing their teeth, eating healthy meals and brushing their teeth! In January I saved $145.87 with BOGO and 1+ 1 (if you need to ask, you don’t deserve to know); in February only $81.58; in March $93.43; but in April, by the 15th, I have already saved $106.25. I post these figures to make a point — something I really needed, i.e., vitamins and glucosamine, which are expensive, are also on sale cyclically, hence the jump in couponing savings. Actually, I am just repeating what the wise couponers who have commented already have said a dozen times over, if you are smart you save, if you are dumb, you lose in life anyway, and couponing will just add to your losses. So coupon smart and save with me, I’ve been doing it for 67 years; now 81 years old, and still smart and still saving. Truth!

  42. I must say- I do agree that in many cases sales and coupons lead people to buy things they don’t need. However, like some people above, I have to completely disagree when it comes to the grocery store. Our family of 4 (with one still in diapers) used to spend $600-700 a month on food (and then we were only a family of 3). We now have our grocery bill down to $150-200 per month, diapers and toiletries included. A friend and I even work on stockpiling toiletries and sell them twice a year at a yard sale. We spend $0-$.25 per item and then sell them for $1 a piece. At the last yard sale we each made close to $200. So, for our famiy, coupons have meant good food on the table and more money in the bank!

  43. Try this.. Ask for a coupon only when you are purchasing something that you need. This way, you don’t end up over spending and at the same time you can save time by not worrying about collecting the coupons. gets you all the relevant coupons you need when you need. check it out.

  44. I have a bargain site and I coupon and I save lots of money, but I still agree with you 95%. Coupons are designed to make you buy things you don’t want. Most things we get for little or FREE, but why the heck is it in my house now?
    I go back and forth with couponing. I make sure it’s what I want and I make sure it’s a product I am willing to bring in my house for my family to eat, so no processed foods here.
    I went to Trader Joe’s today and got a whole lot of great food and no coupons.

  45. I subscribe to The Grocery Game, which provides a weekly list of the best items to stockpile on, combining coupons and store discounts. I’m picky about what I actually buy off the list. I’ll only buy items that I would normally buy and use. I save around 25% on an average grocery bill. Others have better results, but I’ll take it.

  46. If you were really a frugal dad and really good with money, you would discipline yourself to clip coupons for only the items you need and then buy them only when they are on sale and combine the sale price with the coupon to get the item free or close to it. A truly disciplined person doesn’t get sucked into buying anything other than what they went to the store for. Go in, buy the sale items that match a coupon and leave. How hard is that ? Then you can spend the rest of the day thinking about your investments and saving. Coupons have saved me thousands and I am far better off for using them, because I use them to MY advantage, not the stores.

  47. Common sense is needed, obviously. You can use coupons wisely and save a bunch of money or end up paying to play.
    But the same is true for credit cards: I get rewards but I never, ever buy anything I can’t pay for when the bill comes due. Or for exercise: Some people spend a ton of money on a piece of equipment that becomes an expensive clothes valet.
    A little discipline is key.
    For years I’ve been using coupons to get free or *very* deeply discounted toiletries, laundry soap and food items. What I can’t use gets donated to an emergency pantry or a youth shelter. I wrote an article for MSN Money about this, “Free toothpaste for life!”
    I’d never buy something with a coupon just because it’s on sale. It has to be free or nearly free. Coupons shored up my budget when I was really broke, and now they stretch my giving dollars — I can donate a lot of needed items without breaking the bank.

  48. I agree in part. I did however find a really cool app yesterday that allows for savings but doesn’t lead to overspending. It’s called Qponomics. I live in Scottsdale and a lot of my local merchants are on the service. go to It’s really cool. It just launched.