Many people are aware of the reality TV shows that follow their stars hunting for matching sales and coupons, shopping, and saving BIG bucks at the register. That seems great, maybe even enviable, but is it realistic or even necessary for living a thrifty life?
I have given much attention to this question. I could write an essay on coupon use, but I will do my best to keep the blog post format. My experiences with coupons and thoughts on them all made sense when I learned their history, so I will start with that information for those who don’t know.
The coupon’s debut was in 1887 after Coca-Cola’s co-owner, Asa Candler, brainstormed the idea in an attempt to get people hooked on the beverage. It was a marketing ploy that put Coca-Cola on the map. Since then, chain stores have used the concept in an effort to win all the business in town. (Read more on the subject here.)
There are two sides to the coupon: the company’s and the consumer’s. Think of coupons as a company’s way of saying, “This is our new creation we want you to start buying for the rest of your life.” The frugal consumer’s reason to use coupons should be to save money on things needed and/or bought regularly. It can be fun to try something new and to save a little money on it with a coupon. However, as far as using coupons to help with the daily budget, only some are truly useful.
I save the most money by buying store brands, but there are a few name brands I prefer. I use coupons for both when available. I find the coupons in my local grocery store’s app, coupons.com, and/or in the free newspaper that is thrown in my yard. I also keep my eyes open for sales on the things I buy regularly. People need to understand the purpose of a coupon, and use it to their advantage by not falling for the gimmicks if they want to save money.
For example, I recently had a conversation with a woman in my local grocery store who had several bottles of cleaner and air freshener in her cart. She told me she was using coupons for the items, she has a friend who shares the same passion, and that she even BUYS coupons from websites and people. Two things here: 1) She buys coupons. That is an oxymoron; a person should not have to buy something that is supposed to save money. And 2) The two types of products she was buying could easily be replaced with the one cleaner I love, OdoBan. (Read my blog post on it here.) No coupon hunting, buying, or clipping is needed. Instead, pay $10 for a gallon of germ and odor killing concentrate that can be used practically anywhere…that’s it. The type of coupon use described above is done more for a hobby than to save money.
The bottom line is coupons can be helpful with the budget, but a person should not romanticize using them.