Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Combatting the Costs of Couponing

Couponing is a great way to save money - but it can also cost you some money.

We like to mention how much we're "saving" by using coupons, but did you ever think about how much it could be costing you?  Here is a list of some of the ways you might end up spending money when you use coupons, though not everyone will do all of these.

  • Purchasing extra newspapers for coupon inserts
  • Purchasing coupons directly through eBay or a coupon clipping service
  • Postage to trade coupons with others
  • Subscription to magazines that contain coupons
  • Gas/car wear and tear to pick up coupons from others who collect them for you.
  • Costs of a coupon binder or filing system
  • Costs of sports card pages to hold the coupons in the binder
  • Extra computers to use to print multiple online coupons
  • Paper and ink to print coupons from the computer
  • Gas/car wear and tear to drive to stores you might not normally go to
  • Gas/care wear and tear to drive to multiple store locations
  • Buying too many of an item you end up not liking
  • Not planning correctly and spending more than you expected
  • Extra shelving units or other storage bins to hold stockpiled items
  • Stockpiled product loss due to passing expiration dates
  • Stockpiled product loss due to infestations, leakage, or other accidents
I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a few; please leave a comment if you can think of more costs to couponing.  And here I'm not even talking about the cost of your time, or the opportunity costs (what you could be doing instead of couponing).

Here are a few tips to cut down these costs:

Getting coupons:
  • Try to find a free source of coupons - in my area, coupon inserts are included (a week late) in a local free newspaper.  I pick these up from newsstands that I pass on errands that I do each week.
  • Check the list of upcoming Sunday coupons; if you're not too interested in the products, skip buying newspapers that week.  
  • See if you can find a cheaper source of newspapers, like the dollar store, or perhaps receiving more than one Sunday paper directly from your newspaper carrier.
  • If you get a magazine subscription for the coupons, see if you can get a subscription as part of a fundraiser from a child, neighbor, or friend.  You'd probably be buying something anyway to help the fundraiser, so why not get something you can use?
  • Print coupons on the back of previously-used paper.  Print in black and white and on the lightest setting available.  
Gas/wear and tear:
  • Don't make multiple trips to stores (yes, I know I've broken this one).  Instead, get rainchecks for the items you need. 
  • Combine trips as much as possible.
  • Really think about which stores you save the most at, and focus on those stores.  I don't get so many great deals at Target and Walmart, so generally I skip those stores unless there's an amazing bargain there, like the Target frozen food deal in Feburary.
  • Only stockpile as much as you have room to store. (See my not-so-extreme stockpile.)
  • If there's a great deal on an item, but you've never tried it before, don't buy a ton of it!  Just buy one (or two, if it's a BOGO sale) and give it a try.  If everyone likes it, then stock up the next time it's on sale.  If not, you saved yourself some money.
  • Keep track of expiration dates and check your stockpile regularly for signs of damage.
Hope this helps you coupon with less cost!

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Christa May 18, 2011 at 8:26 AM  

Great tips! The only thing I would caution against is printing online coupons on the lightest possible setting.

I'm not sure about where you live, but around here they won't take a printable coupon if it won't scan. (Apparently there's been a lot of abuse.) Maybe it's just my printer, but it doesn't always print very well on the "economy" setting, and the scanners don't like it. So I guess you just need to get to know your printer. :)

Mrs.2010sHousewife May 18, 2011 at 10:55 AM  

Those are great tips! Probably my biggest coupon waste is from printing Target coupons I never use- such a waste of paper & ink. I now have a Google Doc where I copy and paste all the deals for the week from each store. Then, I look at the Target deals and print out the coupons I need ONLY if I plan to go to Target that day. That way I'm not printing a bunch of coupons out even if I end up not being able to go that week.

Rebecca May 18, 2011 at 11:21 AM  

Doctor/Dentist bills and lost wages from consuming large quantities of candy, sugary drinks, and processed foods!

Unknown May 18, 2011 at 11:49 AM  

@Sophia - good point! I guess I should have said, "the lowest setting that will still allow your coupons to be accepted at the register."

@Mrs2010Housewife - great idea! I, too, have printed out Target coupons that I never ended up using. There's a quandary with printable coupons - on the one hand, if you print them out and don't use them, it's a waste of paper and ink. If you don't print them, and then want to, they could be gone when you go back to check. It's a balancing act, I think. Print the ones you know (from experience) you will end up using before the expiration date; leave the others to be printed when you need them.

@Rebecca - nothing about couponing per se forces you buy and consume unhealthy food. But I agree that it is much easier to buy candy and sugary drinks when you coupon, and once they're in the house it is hard to resist the temptation. Thanks for the addition!

Holly May 24, 2011 at 10:36 PM  

Interesting points! I've been guilty of almost driving out of my way to take advantage of a sale, before I realized that the extra gas would negate any savings.

Cheryl March 30, 2012 at 8:24 AM  

I am a miser when it comes to coupons and savings. I plan one trip a week and the stores are close by each other. I save on average $80-$100 dollars a week and spend only $8. on newspapers.

I do print coupons but happily my points from different things give me free ink and my paper I would buy anyways so I wait till the BOGOs go on sale.

My worst habit I think that is kind of a waste of money is over stock my stock pile because of freebies, it takes up space.

John Joseph January 2, 2014 at 12:40 AM  

I have always thought coupons have a down side if you buy things you normally would not just because you have a coupon for it. I have seen people do this then end up with alot of junk food and overage of certain products yet short on other needed things.

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