Seven Times NOT to Use Coupons

Seven Times NOT to Use Coupons

Coupons always seem like such a great deal. Who can resist 50 cents off that box of mac and cheese? But is using coupons always a good idea? No. Here are seven times you might want to holster those scissors and shop without coupons:

1) When the coupon isn’t the best deal. Sometimes the store you’re shopping at knows a coupon is available for a particular brand name product, and they want people to buy their store-brand item in that category instead. So they’ll set up a better deal on that product to lure shoppers.

For example, a quarter off a can of Del Monte green beans is not bad, but a buy-one-get-one-free deal on the store brand green beans is probably a much better deal. And sometimes the product with the coupon is simply much more expensive than other brands, and the coupon doesn’t make enough difference. So don’t let that coupon you’re clutching blind you to the other options!

2) When you end up buying something you didn’t really want/need. Obviously, manufacturers create coupons so that you’ll try their product. But do you really want (or need) that product? You’re not saving any money if you buy Smucker’s Apple Jelly if you hate apples, even if you got the jar for $2 instead of $2.50!

Remember, too, that if you use that $1-off coupon to buy those Co-Co Crispies and your kids get hooked on the stuff, they’ll be nagging you to buy that brand from there on out (even long after the coupons expire).

3) If the coupon compels you to buy much more than you need. For example, buying 50 rolls of toilet paper at 50 cents a roll may seem like a great deal, but you’re not really saving much money if you only use one roll per week! Remember, time is money, so if you tie up a chunk of money on something you’re not going to consume in the near future — or spend a bunch of time chasing after the deal — you’re losing the opportunity to spend that money (or time) on something else.

4) When the fine print requires some purchase you don’t really want. Restaurant coupons are classic examples of this. You get a free pop if you buy a foot-long sub… But you really only wanted a six-inch sub! Or you get a double cheeseburger for only 50 cents more than a single burger… But you only wanted a single burger! You’re not saving money if you buy food that you’re not going to eat, no matter how inexpensive it was.

A variation on this theme is the minimum purchase coupon — that coupon from Macy’s that offers $5 off a $50 purchase seems like a great deal, but not if you would otherwise only spend $20 there. These coupons get especially tricky when they restrict what you can buy. For example, if you need to spend $25 at a restaurant to get the special offer, but drinks don’t count towards the minimum, are you going to buy two desserts just to meet the requirements?

5) When the coupon is going to overwhelm the business. Coupons from places such as Groupon, for example, can be a great deal. But sometimes the companies that contract with those places sell too many “deals” and can’t handle the response. That’s a serious drag for both the establishment and the customers.

If you’re going to buy a Groupon, consider waiting a month or so before you visit the establishment, so that the initial crowds die down and the company is over the rush. Groupons and their counterparts aren’t the only coupons that can overwhelm a business — remember when KFC offered a free chicken sandwich and the crowds overran the restaurants?

6) When you’re going to be embarrassed to use the coupon. If saving money is extremely important to you, you might never be embarrassed to use a coupon. But for some people using a coupon implies they’re cheap, so they eschew them on dates or other outings when they want to impress their companions.

7) If you already patronize the establishment and want to help them out. As with item 6, this may never bother you, but some people choose not to use coupons when they’re in their favorite restaurant, dry cleaner, butcher shop, or whatever, because they’re already regular customers and would rather help out the proprietor than save a buck. Only the newbies use coupons, they figure.

Coupons might seem like a spendthrift’s best friend, and in many cases they are. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you’re better off leaving the coupons at home.

4 Responses to “Seven Times NOT to Use Coupons”

  1. Anonymous

    About 8 months ago, I started coupon clipping. With all the great savings sites out there, they really make it easy to match up sales and save A LOT. I agree with the article above. There are a lot of times when using a coupon is not the best deal. I also think getting the best deal with coupons is intelligent. The “reality shows” bite my _____ LOL. They encourage people to be gluttons and not leave any for others who may be struggling financially. While it’s good to donate, I believe in all things in moderation. Cleaning out a store shelf, because something is free or almost free, is just wrong. Someone who is living on next to nothing, might have their pride saved if they were able to get one or two of the things that were cleaned out. Instead they may have to borrow or worse, go to the food pantry where that “well meaning person” donated all the items the cleaned the store out of.

  2. Anonymous

    I love coupons, but those “reality shows” really give people false expectations. There is no possible way that those people are saving that much money every week. I strongly agree with #3 and #4, unless you are going to donate the items to a food bank.

  3. Anonymous

    I love coupons, but this is really good advice. Perhaps I am a little cheap but I disagree with #6. It just hurts me to think that people are too good to save money. Why be embarrassed, it is intelligent?

    I think I understand the situation, but if I am on a date and the waiter says would you like to pay $30 or $40?

    ……hmmm…. I’ll take $30!

    I typically disagree with #7 also, but I have a couple of buddies who run a small business. I would feel bad about using a coupon when buying a service from those guys.

  4. Anonymous

    Yes coupons are not always the best option. There is often some catch that makes it more worthwhile for the company. Personally I usually get suckered in by the ones with a minimum purchase total. I have all these grocery store coupons, but you need to spend at least $50 to redeem it. To reach that minimum I’m sure I’ll end up buying a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise. By doing so my perishables may even go bad as I get distracted by the other food I ended up buying.

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