Your Coupons May Not Be Saving You Any Money

Say What!? 10

CouponI hate it when I get to the store -- like the Carter's outlet near me -- and find that I had to have signed up for their email updates to get a discount. Of course, being a frugal consumer (read: cheap bee-yotch), I am happy to take 10 minutes to step away from the register, sign up for the emails using my smartphone, and present my coupon like I'd planned to do that all along.

Never mind the irony of being a cheapo with a smartphone. I'd sooner give up my dishwasher.

There's just one problem with the money-saving emails: Sometimes the time you spend unraveling the exact deal, and how much you can actually save, costs more than the savings. And sometimes, if you really look, you aren't saving anything. When did my money-saving email deals turn into spam-scams?

It was galling enough when The New York Times did a little comparison shopping and found that flash sites were often more expensive than regular online retailers. Actually, that was a great thing, because it enabled me to finally unsubscribe from all those emails without guilt, secure in the knowledge that if something really good came along, one of my more eagle-eyed friends (with a desk job and email-perusing time to spare) will probably post it on Facebook.

But this guy took a closer look at a grocery-store email and abracadabra! With a few clicks of the asterisks, free home delivery had bloated into a $100 purchase with $30 from one brand. Now, do I tend to spend more than $100 at the grocery store? Well, yes. Do I sometimes spend $30 on one brand? Rarely. I mean, unless that brand is Ben and Jerry's and I'm going through a breakup. Or I'm pregnant. Which I'm not.

(Checking. Yep, really I'm not. Thank goodness I bought that bulk-sized box of pregnancy tests at Costco!)

Which reminds me: Oh, Costco. Every year I let my subscription to you run out because I'm just not sure if I save money at you. My mom says she's done the math and she just doesn't think the car-sized flat of fancy yogurt really saves her anything, especially when you factor in the time you spend trying to get someone to take the mango-flavored ones. I say I do save money on individual items -- the acre of recycled toilet paper, the cargo-container of unscented baby wipes. The trouble is, I also walk out of there with an extra $100 worth of too-tempting items like organic pajamas, pignoli nuts, and that biography of Ted Kennedy, all of which were a bargain but none of which I actually needed.

Of course, my lack of self-control isn't really Costco's fault. I prefer to blame my mom for that, especially now that she's ruined all the fun of shopping at Costco.

The bottom line is this: Sometimes I'd rather have a bigger bottom line than wade through all the fine print. Then again, I do have a glove compartment stuffed with 20% off Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons just in case I'm inspired to shop there.

Where do you draw the line between bargain hunting and coupon-hoarding?

Image via kyz/Flickr

budget finds, home finances, thrifty solutions


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corri... corrinacs

Those weirdos with coupons.  Coupons for this and that LOL.  The way I see it is if you weren't going to buy it, don't take the coupon.  Only bring coupons for what you are actually going to buy!  That's where many people make the mistake (and what the stores are hoping you'd do).

I rarely use coupons, but if I know i am going ot make a large purchase....say school clothes, I look for coupons specifically for that store.  For exmape, I got a 20% off coupon at Carter's, which I used ot stock up my kids with summer clothes :) :)

nonmember avatar Em

Coupons can save you a lot of money if you use them wisely. They can also be gimmicky. The solution is o be a smart consumer.

I'm a coupon "weirdo". I only buy cerea

@ less than $1 a box (name brand),

nonmember avatar Bridgett

Wow, that was weird rambling that really didn't have much to do with the title. Of course those "deals" like spend $100 get free shipping aren't always good. That's why you have to pay attention to stuff and not get hooked by the hype.

starl... starlight1968

Plain and simple USE YOUR HEAD!!.. Don't buy something you don't need just cause you have a coupon.  compare $$ if the coupon makes the item less or the store brand/another brand is STILL LESS don't use the coupon!! DUH...

sally... sallyjaeger

I recommend shoppers focus their efforts on searching for on Printapons website and using the offers that are most relevant to them, and on things they use and save most

nonmember avatar Matthew Pont

Coupons can be great, but some are not as good as they seem (thinly veiled marketing attempts to get your personal information on a database). Pick and choose, shop smart and save big!

nonmember avatar Homer

Costco has the best icecream in the world - definitely worth the membership fee just for that icecream

Mrs.P... Mrs.Pool2Be

I very rarely use coupons and instead I just bargain shop.  If we don't need it, I don't buy it.

Christopher Spata

My advice is to save money using time travel. Seriously though, that is kind of what I did when I lost my debit card, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Here's my Yahoo! finance story about it:

Amand... AmandaSnyder

Honestly coupons and bargin sopping have saved me tons and I mean tons.... I love sams club too because I can get the stuff that is needed to be bulk like diapers and wipes and tp and other thingsand it is actually fairly cheap and lasts forever!


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