If you’ve ever watched the show Extreme Couponers, it is amazing to see how much money people save by couponing. But, with all of the time it takes to find deals and the extra things you may buy, you may be wondering – is couponing worth it?
At one point in my life, I tested my couponing skills. I would get a ton of household goods for nearly free, and that was the main thing that I couponed for. I would clip coupons out of newspapers, I read coupon blogs, and more. There were many times when I would walk out of the store with $100 worth of items, having maybe spent only around $10 on all of it.
I wasn't the like the people on the TV show, but I definitely loved getting stuff for super cheap and sometimes even free.
I was using so much of my time before I realized what was actually happening.
Today, I am much different – I still look for the occasional coupon, such as when shopping online and looking for a promo code.
Still, couponing can save you a decent amount of money on things you need and regularly buy. Like, if you always buy a certain laundry detergent and you find a coupon for $1 off, then you are saving $1 on something you would normally buy at full price.
So, is there a wrong and a right way when it comes to coupons? Can coupons actually hurt you? And, is couponing worth it?
Here are some couponing statistics that might surprise you:
- It is projected that there will be 1.05 billion digital coupon users in 2019.
- There will be approximately $91 billion coupon redemptions by 2022 (same study as above).
- In 2017, consumers saved $3.1 billion dollars with print coupons, which is less than it had been in previous years.
- It’s expected that 31 billion digital coupons will be redeemed in 2019.
- More than 25 million Americans use couponing apps.
That’s a lot of coupons!
But, what led me to today’s post was an email I recently received from a reader.
She told me that her partner had a couponing problem, and this led to him becoming a hoarder. She told me that whenever he received a coupon, he felt the need to go out and buy the item, whether or not he needed it. This had led to insane amounts of stress in their relationship, even though she had explained to him multiple times that he had a couponing problem.
While couponing can help you save money, it can also cause you to spend more money as well. It’s also incredibly time consuming, can cause you to waste things you aren’t using, and add unnecessary stress to your life.
But, when you are trying to save money, coupons can help.
And, coupons are everywhere! We've all encountered sales and coupons in our life. Coupons come in the mail, they are in the newspaper, and sometimes they are sitting in the store. In addition to physical coupons, you can easily find them on websites, in emails, and even promo codes on TV or the radio.
But as I’ve already said, for many people, coupons can actually be hurting you more than they help.
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How can coupons hurt you?
I would say that most people think of coupons as a way to save a little money.
It might be $0.50 off a loaf of bread, $20 off a purchase of $100 or more, 10% off your total purchase, etc. If you looked at those savings and were asked “is couponing worth it?” You naturally might say, “Yes, they’re saving me money. They’re COUPONS!”
But, here's how coupons may be hurting you.
- Couponing can hurt you in that you spend money that you may not have spent otherwise. You may go to the store or shop online simply because you have a coupon when you didn’t need or want the item in the first place.
- You may be buying items that you don't even need because you are addicted to saving money and using coupons – yes, this is a real thing!
- You feel that you are saving money because you are buying something that is on sale. And if you don’t buy it, then you are giving up or losing money. One reader once told me that she felt that she was turning away free money by not using a coupon. This is an odd mindset to think that you are losing out on money by not using a coupon. Coupons are not income!
- You are buying items that have coupons, even if the item is unhealthy. This could be unhealthy foods, and there are even coupons for cigarettes. Just because there is a coupon, doesn't mean that the product is actually good for you.
- You treat your couponing “savings” as free money, and then spend even more money than you normally would at the store. For example, if you saved $50 with coupons, you may then spend that $50 on other things at the store. You would probably be much better off just sticking to saving money and not spending your savings.
As you can see, there are many ways in which couponing may actually be hurting you.
Now, I'm not saying that all coupons are bad. I’m all for finding ways to save money, and seeking out sales and discounts can be a great way to save money, of course. But, it's all about knowing when to use coupons to your advantage, and knowing when it may actually just be a sales tactic that may hurt you.
Why do stores have coupons?
The truth is that stores don't create coupons to help you save money. Coupons exist to get you to SPEND your money. And, because many of us have connected our phones and email addresses to the stores we shop at, stores can track when it’s been a while since you’ve been in. To get you to come back in, a store might send you a coupon or discount code to visit them again.
Companies want you to visit their stores, whether in person or online, so that you will spend more money.
Even if the item is free, it might be because the store is hoping that you'll help them get rid of some excess inventory, and/or purchase other items while you are shopping with a coupon.
Some of the other tricks retailers use include:
- Increasing the price before they release the discount/coupon/sale. Stores do this all the time – they will increase the price and then offer a coupon. They do this because it makes you feel like you are getting a deal, but you are actually not.
- Everything is always on sale. Do you remember the commercials where a store says they are going out of business, but then those commercials seem to last for years, and sometimes even decades? These retailers know that people love a good deal, so they act like you are about to get a deal of a lifetime. But, this is all just their retail strategy to get you to come in and spend money.
- Setting a spending threshold before you can save money. We've all seen it, especially with online stores. They will give you “free shipping if you spend over $50” or “save $10 if you spend $50 on your overall purchase.” This can be a great deal if you were going to spend this money in the first place, but most of the time retailers know that this will persuade you to add a few more items to your cart so that you can reach the threshold.
Those are just a few tactics stores use to get you to spend more money.
It may sound like I’m talking about couponing and sales conspiracies, but these are proven tactics that stores use to increase their sales, reduce out of season inventory, and more.
Retailers know how to get you to spend your hard-earned money.
Why do people feel they need to use a coupon or discount?
It's been proven that sales and discounts cause consumers, like you and me, to spend money, even when we don’t actually need the item.
When an item is on sale, you may find a way to work the item into your life, in fear of missing out, thinking that you may need the item later, and due to a sense of urgency.
I even find myself almost falling for that with some of my favorite stores. They send a coupon for something like “$10 off your entire purchase,” and they also say they are running a store wide sale. There are times when I think, “I need to get in right now!”
I have to ask myself, “is couponing worth it right now?” I need to think about whether or not I needed something from that store in the first place. The majority of the time I don’t.
Others like the thrill of using a coupon. They enjoy finding ways to save money and are addicted to getting things for super cheap or even free. This sounds crazy to non-couponers, but there is very much an addiction-like quality that some couponers experience.
What can you do to change your couponing ways?
To stop wasting money and buying items that you don't need, there are many things you should do. I recommend first asking yourself a set of questions, such as:
- Would you purchase the item if there was no coupon?
- Do you need the item?
- Where will you keep the item?
- How will you use it?
- Do you get a thrill out of using coupons?
For some people, it can be very hard to stop and ask yourself those questions, especially if you have a real problem and are addicted to the thrill of shopping with coupons. When you are able to stop and ask yourself those things, you will eventually realize that you’ve been wasting a lot of money on things you don’t really need.
If you like the thrill of couponing, there are other ways to turn saving money into a game. One of my favorite ways is to do no-spend challenges with family and friends. You give yourself a timeframe, like a week or month, and try not to purchase anything during that time. Other people can help you stay accountable, and it can be really exciting to “beat” other people with saving money in healthier ways.
Saving money really is great and can change your life in so many positive ways, but if the way you are saving money is actually causing you to purchase things you don’t need, then is it really saving?
In the end, couponing can sometimes be good for you, and other times it may be financially hurting you.
Do you use coupons? Why or why not? What do you think, is couponing worth it?
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