The art of couponing made a resurgence when the Great Recession overturned the budgets of many individuals. Needing to save as much money as possible, families took to clipping coupons and printing them from websites. There was even a cable series about extreme couponers who were able to purchase several hundred dollars worth of items for only a few dollars. Even though the economy is continuing to strengthen, couponing is here to stay.
While many folks swear by the use of their coupons, others say they don’t save any money at all. In a way, both sides are correct. While there are many benefits to clipping coupons, there are also some deficiencies, especially after extreme couponing went public a few years ago. To determine if coupon clipping is right for your budget, here are the good and bad sides to the practice.
The Good Side
Coupons do save money – you just need to learn how to use them. The optimum time to pull them out of their organizer is when the retailer is selling needed items at deep discounts or when the manufacturer coupon can be paired off with one from the store. If the merchant doubles or triples coupons up to one dollar, you can pay little or nothing for products while stocking up on them for future use.
Another good thing about coupons is they’re no longer relegated to Sunday circulars. Websites like coupons.com and redplum.com allow subscribers to send manufacturer coupons to their computer printers. Some coupon sites, as well as numerous supermarket chains, permit users to upload digital coupons to store savings cards, eliminating a good deal of clipping.
The Bad Side
Playing devil’s advocate, there are some downsides to coupons. First, you need to spend money in order to eventually save it. At an average price of $1.50, some people may spend three dollars or more to purchase multiple Sunday papers just for the coupon inserts. The same thing can be said if printing coupons from the computer, because printing in color can quickly drain ink cartridges, raising your technology budget. In addition to this overhead, some coupon websites require a pay subscription in order to download data.
Second, coupon doubling is not in effect at every store. Though some locations, like the supermarkets of the Kroger chain, double coupons, others limit this practice to certain times of the year. In addition, super centers like Wal-Mart and Target don’t double at all. Though these big box stores tend to have lower prices than normal supermarkets, coupon savings is greatly reduced when a 40 cent coupon for two or more products doesn’t double.
Finally, thanks to the publicity given to the extreme couponing craze, supermarkets are now limiting the amount of purchases that can be made with corresponding coupons. For instance, a store having a 99 cent sale for tomato sauce may set a limit of four coupons per purchase. This prevents bulk runs on a product, meaning you need to use extra gas to make multiple trips to the store in order to stock up. In the end, the savings incurred may be less than the amount spent on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.