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Does Couponing Really Save You Money? Is it Worth it?

Coupons seem like a great way to save money on a lot of products. After all, they have a clear value that shows exactly what you can save when you use them, right? Actually, as we’ve discussed in a previous article, extreme couponing can end up costing more than it saves and lead to immense waste.

Does couponing really save you money? Is it worth it? When you’re smart with your couponing strategy, you may be able to decrease your budget and save a little on the costs you face every day.

How can you really save money with coupons?

Can you really save money with coupons? Of course! Coupons are designed to offer a discount on specific products. However, there are some rules that you’ll need to follow in order to use an effective couponing strategy.

1. Set a budget, create a list, and stick to them.

Before you head out for your shopping trip, know how much you have to spend, and don’t go over it–even if you have coupons that are about to expire or coupons on tempting products that you really want to add to your shopping cart. Then, make a shopping list. Know what you’re going to buy before you head out on that shopping trip. Simply knowing what you intend to buy can help you cut your impulse purchasing and decrease your overall budget.

2. Match coupons to products you already intend to buy. 

A coupon doesn’t save you money if it convinces you to buy a product that you would not ordinarily have purchased. In many cases, that’s the goal of manufacturers who put out those coupons: to convince you to buy their brands and their products when they wouldn’t normally have been on your shopping list. Instead, match those coupons to products that you already intend to buy. For example, if you typically buy a package of cookies each week to put in the kids’ lunches for school, and you have a coupon for fifty cents off a brand of cookies that your family enjoys, go for it! On the other hand, if your family usually only goes through one package of cookies per week, and the coupon requires you to buy two, three, or more, you might not end up with cost savings by making that larger purchase.

3. Be flexible on the brands you choose.

While you shouldn’t add products to your shopping list just because you have a coupon, you may find that it’s highly effective to show some flexibility in the brands you choose. Consider those cookies, for example. If you were headed to the store, you might typically grab a bag of chocolate chip cookies from your kids’ favorite brand (possibly one with bright packaging and tempting commercials). On the other hand, if you have a coupon for a different brand of chocolate chip cookies–or perhaps sandwich cookies–that you know your family will enjoy, you can save a little money by being flexible about the brand you choose.

4. Compare prices. 

Sometimes, store brands will be cheaper than name brands even when you have a coupon for the name brand product. Go back to our chocolate chip cookies. The name brand, shiny-packaged chocolate chip cookies might come in a family size package, with around 66 cookies per package, for around $4. On the other hand, the store brand might come in the same size package–or even potentially offer more cookies–for around $3. If you have a fifty cent coupon on the name brand cookies, the store brand ones are still cheaper. Now, if your family doesn’t care for the store brand, it’s fine to buy the name brand–but if you like either one just as well (and chances are, the kids can’t tell the difference once they come out of the package), you’ll save more money by buying the store brand.

5. Choose the (one) store that works best for your needs. 

Extreme couponers recommend that you go to multiple stores in order to get the best deals on your products. You might buy $100 of groceries at Store A, head out to Store B to spend another $50, and finish off your trip at Store C, where you might spend just $25. However, keep in mind that your gas and your time count for something, too. Unless there’s a good reason to do your shopping at more than one location–say, Store A has the best deals on most of the things that you use on a regular basis, but there are a few things you can only get at Store B–it’s usually most cost-effective to just choose one store.

How much do people really save when shopping with coupons?

The typical family saves between $5 and $10 each week when shopping with coupons. Some couponers can save a little more, especially if they put the right tactics into play, but ultimately, it’s unlikely that you’re going to make a huge dent in your grocery budget by simply adding coupons. Store coupons, store discount cards, and checking out store brands can all make a more substantial impact.

Do coupons really work?

Coupons serve two key purposes. For buyers, they’re a way to save money on items you already intended to purchase. For sellers, on the other hand, coupons are usually a way to bring people into the store or to buy specific products who might not otherwise have chosen those products. Consider craft stores, for example. Many popular stores will offer percentage-off coupons on one item each week. Once you’re in the craft store, however, if you routinely buy more than the single item discounted by the coupon, the store is making a lot more money than it loses on those coupons–and you might not be saving your budget at all.

If you want to coupons to work, you have to make them work for you–and you have to be smart about your coupon plans. By using the right strategies, however, you can often slim down your budget, save a little money, and increase the number of things you’re able to buy for your family.

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