Grocery Coupons: Worth it or not worth it?

I just did my grocery shopping with my boxes (yes, you read that right, boxes) of coupons. I’m one of those people who hand the cashier a wad of coupons big enough to choke an elephant. It takes me a while to clip and sort the coupons, and sometimes I wonder if it’s really worth all the time and trouble to do that. Since I trade for coupons and get uncut inserts, I often have the additional task of matching like sheets and stapling them before I cut them to make it easier. They have to be filed in my coupon boxes and if not used, discarded when they expire.

I don’t have every coupon ever printed in my coupon boxes, but it looks that way. Often when I shop, if I have extra coupons that will help, I will offer them to people or leave some on the shelf to help those that come behind me.

But is it worth it? Where I live, they will double up to and including $1 coupons with a $50 purchase. However, they will only take 5 alike coupons per shopping trip. Before coupons, my total was $216.19 tonight. After coupons, I paid $84.19, for a savings of $132.00. This is the most I’ve saved. With the exceptions of running in for forgotten things or milk, I usually save at least 40% off my grocery bill each time I shop. I think it’s worth it for me.

I try to match sales and coupon savings to get the best deal. Sometimes that means “stockpiling” items that were good buys, even if I can’t use them right now but will in the future. At one time, I had over 70 pounds of coffee that I got either free or below $1 a pound. I still don’t have to buy coffee. I won’t try to stockpile things with expiration dates though. I’ve paid 9 cents for a pint of coffee creamer, 49c for a bottle of shampoo and gotten things like hot sauce, chips, pretzels, koolaid, cereal, candy, cheese, and a lot of other things free. I donate to food shelters, help families around where I live, and let my daughter “shop” in my basement with my stockpile.

What about you? Do you use coupons? Are you a “power shopper”? Do you hate seeing someone in line with coupons?

If you are shopping in order to feed a family, coupons can represent a significant savings. You seem to be a bit obsessed with the whole sheets of coupons (going for the uncut stuff, huh?), but it is hard to argue with solid savings. I am finally beginning to tap out my Y2k larder that I built in 1999. I just opened my last quart jar of $1.99 Best Foods/Hellman’s Mayonnaise. This week it’s on sale at that price again and I shall buy another three or four jars. That’s almost half price, The same store has decent dried pasta for three pounds for a dollar. Swanson’s broth is two for a dollar and they have a large selection of spices of intermediate quality for only a dollar a bottle. That can be up to one quarter of (not off) the grocery store price.

Shopping carefully can save you enormous sums. If you are careful only to buy quality goods even though they are less frequently on sale, you need not suffer any vast reduction of quality in your purchases in order to save money. Many brand products are enormously over rated, the trick is knowing which ones are worth spending the money on in order to get the real quality item. Irreplaceable ones like Thomas’ English Muffins, Heinz Ketchup and such stalwarts are on the plus side of the column. Others, like single ply toilet paper, are never a bargain at any price or savings.

I routinely save anywhere from 25% to 30% on most things that I need around the house. One of the keys is having the space to stock up on great deals when you find them. It allows you to wait until the same product is on sale at a similar price without ever running out. Light bulbs, toilet paper, shampoo and dishsoap are a few of the items that have an almost indefinite shelf life. Selectively purchasing in quantity can leave a lot of money for more important things.

I never was a coupon cutter until I married the Coupon King. I thought he was a little squirrely for going to all that trouble, but it really does save us a significant amount of money. Now we never go to the store without our box of coupons. It helps if you’re not a fanatic about brand names, though- we are quite flexible on most items and buy whatever we have coupons for.

Being an “outer aisle” shopper, I rarely find any use for coupons. The very fact that they are “manufacturer’s coupons” means that they are only for foods/items that are…well…manufactured. I have yet to see a coupon (other than one of those in-store sales) for chicken breasts or broccoli.

The only things I would possibly use a coupon for are toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc. I generally don’t buy food that has an ingredient list, which eliminates pretty much all food that has coupons issued for it.

I definitely watch the sales flyers for what each store is using as their loss-leaders for the week, and I stock up on whatever meat that I can when the price is right. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for fresh veggies, so I have to keep an eye out for which store is running the best price on stuff I want.

Something I’ve noticed with coupons, btw…most stores know when manufacturers are releasing coupons, and they raise their prices accordingly until the coupon expires. Often, there’s no real savings. Just MHO. :slight_smile:

Are coupons worthwhile? Yes, but…

  1. Make sure that you use coupons for the products you were ALREADY predisposed to buy. That is, if you ALWAYS use Brand X shampoo anyway, and you see a 50 cents off coupon for Brand X shampoo, great! Use it, and save the 50 cents. On the other hand, if you never use Sudzo shampoo, DON’T buy it this time out, just because you have a coupon for it.

  2. Be wary when a supermarket offers “Double Coupon” or “Triple Coupon” days. There’s tremendous variance in prices at different supermarkets, and SOMETIMES it’s cheaper to shop at the supermarket that doesn’t give double or triple coupon value. Example: here in central Texas, the two leading supermarket chains are HEB and Randall’s. Randall’s regularly does “Double Coupon” and “Triple Coupon” specials. But they charge a lot more for most items, which means that even if you use a 25 cents off coupon there for your toothpaste (supposedly a 50 cent savings), you’re likely to find it would have been cheaper to go to HEB!

  3. Bear this in mind: it’s MOSTLY the huge food corporations with famous brand names that offer coupons, and those brands are USUALLY more expensive than the store brands and the generics, even when you have a big coupon. Now, sometimes store brands/generics are lousy. But… IF you really don’t have a favorite brand, IF you think all peanut butter tastes pretty much the same, IF you think all margarine tastes about the same, IF you think all tuna tastes about the same… then buy the store brand or the generic brand. MOST of the time, the store.generic peanut butter is MUCH cheaper than Skippy or Jif, even if you have a coupon.

Hypothetical: suppose you think that Parkay margarine and the store brand margarine taste about the same. And suppose Parkay costs 75 cents more. If you see a 25 cents off coupon for Parkay, DON’T USE IT! You aren’t saving 25 cents, you’re paying 50 cents MORE, because you can still get the store brand for less. (On the other hand, if you LOVE Parkay, and always buy it, by all means use the coupon).

The bottom line is, make sure that YOU decide what you want to buy, and then use coupons to get those products more cheaply. Don’t let the coupons influence what you buy or where you shop.

My wife is big into coupons. We end up saving $15-50 per major buying trips.

I never cut a coupon in my life until I got married. (Actually, I still haven’t cut any, but my wife does now.) We try to save the coupons and either wait until they can be tripled or use them when the products are on sale already. Example: A (normally)$2.99 product recently went on sale for $1.99, and we had a 75 cent coupon. This was tripled, so we ended up paying 74 cents for it.

Add that to the fact that we have one of those supermarket savings cards, and we get some amazing deals: things like buy one, get one free; buy two, get three free; or buy one, get two free. Recently we got a free $23 ham for buying 15 items we would have bought anyway (staples like flour, potatoes, etc.). I’m a convert to coupons after stuff like that.

Now for the more important question (in my house, anyway): do you pronounce it “COO-pon” or “KYEW-pon”?

I love my kyew-pons! :wink: I agree that you should only use them with products you’d buy anyway. I save around $20 per week by using mine, and I get double every day, up to $1 per coupon.

I think the less work it takes to cut a coupon, the more worthwhile it is. Using a ruler (place it along the dotted line, tear quickly) is much easier than using scissors.

Nowadays, most grocery stores will list per unit prices, so you can compare different prices even across size changes. Medium bottles of Heinz are often cheaper per ounce than larger bottles, contrary to the popular belief that larger is cheaper. Buying by unit price is often smarter than relying on the overall price.

Some stores issue their own coupons. Sometimes, other stores will accept these competitor coupons. Going to the cheapest store overall with these coupons can be extra beneficial.

I don’t go out of the way to get coupons, but if I see one for something I’m liable to buy anyway (or interested in trying) I figure what the hey, no point in being stubborn, might as well pay less for it, so I rip it off and stuff it in my pocket and usually lose it before I get to the grocery store anyway.

My real weakness, though, is rebates. Ahhh, sweet rebates! I’m almost guaranteed to buy anything that’s “free after rebate.” What that really means, of course, is free plus a stamp ($0.34), plus my labor in addressing the envelope, filling out the form and stapling on the reciept with purchase price circled and UPC (trivial), plus the hassle of actually getting it out to the mailbox (this is the hardest part, for some stupid reason.)

No, I don’t use coupons. I’d rather not be bothered by having to think about such embuggerances. Upon spying a couponite, I move to the next checkout stand, for without any ill will toward the coupon clippers, my time is worth so much to me that I don’t bother with coupons, let alone wait behind others who are using coupons. But I would not say that I hate seeing someone in line with coupons, or that it in any way annoys me. They’re doing their thing, with good reasons for doing it, and I’m doing my thing with my own reasons. When absoulutely stuck behind a couponite when there is no other wicket open, I just go into sociable mode and start up a conversation. My time may be precious to me, but not so precious as to make me a slave to it.

There are tricks to making coupons worthwhile. Being a little greedy, I won’t share them all. The stores would stop giving me free food if too many people caught on.

Here’s one:
Spring loaded scissors, available in fabric stores for $10-$12. Speeds the clipping and ends “thumb burn.”

I have to disagree that coupons should be used only for items that you would have bought anyway. Many times I have tried a new product simply because I had a coupon and ended up buying it again.

I am a coupon user, but I don’t feel lost in the grocery store witout them. I think the best deal for grocery shopping is Wal-Mart (yeah, I already know I’m going to hell). They will match prices with any grocery store. I take the grocery ads out of the Sunday newspaper and make a list of the good deals all over town, then go to Wal-Mart and get it all in one shot. The next best deal is Kroger (are they national or just around here in the Southeast?) when they do triple coupons a couple of times a year.

I use coupons sparingly but they can carve significant amounts off the final bill, along with the cards for store discounts. It’s frustrating that they rarely (if ever) apply to fresh produce.

The only way I’ll use them for items not on my list are for storable items like laundry detergent, tissues, light bulbs, dish soap, etc. IMO most of that stuff is interchangeable by brand. (I will NOT under any circumstances buy single-ply toilet paper though.) It’s incredibly handy to have modest stockpiles around but I’m blest with storage space, too.

I just don’t buy many packaged foods other than basic canned stuff, pasta, some frozen stuff, etc. As long as the coupons are for decent brands I’ll use 'em to stock up on basics. Other than that I don’t use 'em.

My Depression-era packrat mother would disown me but I’m reluctant to become too invested in couponing. It takes time, for one and it can lure me into buying things I don’t really NEED. Saving a little money on things I didn’t need in the first place just doesn’t make sense to me.


I’m just now getting my wife to buy house brands, I think it’s going to be a bit longer before I can get her on coupons.

Shopping with her is VERY different from shopping with my Mom. It was a rare shopping trip where she spent more than $50, and I don’t remember her ever spending three digits. A trip to the grocery store with my wife is usually more than $150, rarely under $100. True, we don’t shop as often (one big trip every two weeks, with several minor trips for milk and stuff like that in between) but she still spends a lot more than my house-brand-buying, coupon-clipping Mom.

Yes they are worth it, but only if you are efficient about it.

I made a little accordian folder for coupons that’s in the order of my favorite store’s aisle layout.
The first bin is salad, then sodas, then soups, then cereal, etc.
By having the coupons pre-sorted this way I don’t lose time in the store.

I’m analytical, so time wasted on coupon searching is something I count against my coupons, at my hourly pay. I won’t search 10 minutes for a product with a coupon that’s worth less than a dollar- to do so would be to work for $6/hr! I’m not a slave to my coupons.

If something is a stockable item, like toilet paper, I will always buy the 24-roll store brand special, even if I have 8 rolls left at home. That way, I haven’t paid full price for paper products, coffee, cereal, etc. for years.

reminds me of when "extreme couponing " was a thing… Until a lot of the chains here in ca either quit taking them or put a limit on how much you could use at one time … it was between 25 and 50 depending on the store …it was always soo amusing to see someone following the tv shows get stopped dead when they were told there was a limit …they threw some of the most impressive adult tantrums …

I can get a better unit price buying the larger size instead. And store brands are as good as the coupon brand, and comparable price without coupon.

Stores and manufacturers offer coupons because, in the long run, coupon-clippers spend more money than non-clippers.

Coupons can be worth it IF:

  1. The coupon is for the same product, and the same quantity, that you would have bought otherwise.
  2. You do not take your savings, and spend them on stuff you would otherwise not have bought.

From the store/cashier side, I can tell you for the store it’s basically free money so they love it, and as a cashier, scanning one thing is little different than scanning anything else, provided of course they scan correctly.

It can be a pain in the ass if someone hasn’t checked all of their coupons; some people were always trying to use expired coupons or coupons for another store (we did not honor other stores’ coupons), but it was rarely one of the people who had a 2-inch stack of them. Those people tended to know their coupons quite well, and they used so many they rarely have ones that weren’t less than a week old.