Anyone watching the latest trend in reality television probably has drooled a little bit after learning people are saving hundreds of dollars on their grocery/shopping bills by clipping a few (thousand) coupons. Some of us might even be envious and consider taking up the couponing lifestyle themselves. Who wouldn’t want to get cartloads of groceries and household cleaners for a few bucks?
But like much of reality television, there is some lack of actual reality in the programming. The editing room cuts out a lot of things you don’t see to condense the show down to television format.
So let’s take a dose of reality. Here are 6 reasons why extreme couponing may not work for you:
It may not be made as apparent on each television show where extreme couponers are featured but if you listen closely, those who are saving hundreds on their shopping bills also spend more time during the week looking for and organizing coupons than most of us work in a week. We are talking about working 40 to 60 hours every week. If you saved a couple hundred bucks you are still only talking about minimum wage earnings on an hourly basis. (In other words, you would be better off working a high paying part-time job!) Clipping and tracking the volume of coupons needed to reap big savings is a full-time job in itself. With as much time as you spend at the office and as little time available to devote to your family, couponing probably will not be high on the list of relaxing ways to spend a weekend.
Consumers don’t tend to use coupons for things they don’t eat or use. For those indulging in extreme couponing, the use of coupons means the products they buy are limited. Not all manufacturers offer coupons so shoppers are forced to limited their selections to save a buck. While some families may be willing to always try new things and forego their loyalty to certain products, most Americans stick with what they like no matter how much extra it costs. Parents of picky kids will also have a heck of a time convincing young ones to try new gourmet products each week.
Unless a recipe calls for it, you probably don’t always pick up 10 cans of pork and beans at one time. However, most coupons being distributed today have a purchase requirement before the savings can kick in. Sure, you can save a $1.00 but do you really need 8 boxes of powdered sugar at one time? You would save more money by buying only what you need rather than spending triple or more just to save a dollar. Having a grocery category in your weekly budget is the best way to save. If you always shop and stay within your budgetary guidelines you will do alright.
Manufactures who want to gain profits, especially on new products, will often offer pretty decent coupons to gain consumer interest. Unfortunately for most families, the coupons are for products that are not necessary in the best interest of our health. Most coupons are for pre-packaged, processed foods which are generally not healthy or remotely near the four basic food group categories. Instead of shopping strictly by coupon, it makes more sense to shop by a quality diet guidelines to ensure you are eating and spending smart. Some health experts recommend shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store rather than inside the aisles. Why? The perimeter contains your fresh items: fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy. But this is not where you find most coupons. When is the last time you found a “buy 1 get 1 free” coupon for apples? There are other ways to save on groceries without sacrificing quality.
The extreme coupon users featured on the various shows make it look easy to access a billion coupons for each shopping trip but the reality is that you’ll probably have to spend a good amount of money to support your coupon habit. While there are many coupon-related sites online, you’ll have to pay for the toner and paper to print them out. You’ll also likely need to pay for several newspapers and do a lot of begging of your friends and family to score more coupons. You also need to consider your storage capabilities for the products you bring home. Shelving, storage area, and extra appliances all cost a lot of money – probably a lot more than you can actually save using coupons. There are coupon cutting services where for a fee you can order a certain set of coupons, but that digs into your “profits” from couponing, too.
In certain instances, buying in large quantities pays off and is a good thing. But if you buy 10 gallons of baked beans, will you really use all of it before it goes bad? Where do you plan to store three pallets worth of toilet paper? How much of your home is dedicated to housing the items you got at a discounted price? It is easy to mentally justify getting something for free, but if you never use it then you’ve wasted time and energy finding the coupon, buying the item, and throwing the item away.
Additionally some of the tactics mentioned by extreme couponers border on coupon fraud. Things like changing your IP address so you can print multiples of the same coupon are probably legal, but what about ethics? Is it right to fudge the details every time just to get another item at a discounted price? There are other ways to save on groceries without sacrificing your ethics.
We would love to hear from dedicated, hardcore couponers out there. How much time do you dedicate to couponing each week, and how much do you save on average? Leave a comment — we’re dying to know!