To Coupon or Not To Coupon

Alright guys, confession time. I don’t coupon. Why? I don’t have time, I always forget, I’m lazy, yadda yadda yadda. I know, I’m a bad PF blogger. Lock me up next to the new car buyer and the person who doesn’t contribute enough to their 401(k) to get the full company match.


While I understand why people coupon, I don’t necessarily think couponing is cost, health, or time efficient for everyone. In fact, I’m generally against couponing for food. Blasphemy, I know. Read on for my justifications for laziness reasons for not couponing.

A Case Against Couponing

  1. 1.      Store Brands: Coupons are primarily used for name brand products. Even with a coupon, these products are often cheaper when purchasing the store brand. Everyone has a bit of brand loyalty, but do you really need brand name pasta, oatmeal, rice, and frozen veggies? Check your local grocery store’s policies – mine offers 200% cash back on any store brand product that you aren’t 100% satisfied with. I’ve never had to return anything.
  2. 2.      Health: How often have you seen coupons for apples or asparagus? I’m going to go with never. Coupons are typically for products found in the aisles of the store, not those around the perimeter. that 50 cents you are saving on Lays is not going to go far in paying for your lap band surgery in 5 or 10 years. Just saying, products that have coupons attached to them are often costing you in other ways – namely health and larger pants.
  3. 3.      Time: So everyone has seen or heard of Extreme Couponing, right? These people are nuts but so entertaining. No one needs 50 bottles of ketchup. No one. Anyway, these extreme couponers are spending ridiculous amounts of time collecting coupons. Like hours and hours a week. I’d rather do…pretty much anything else. If money is an issue, you could use this time to create a second revenue stream.

Of course, couponing has some obvious benefits. While I’m not an advocate for couponing for everything, I do think it’s a great idea for coupon for the following items.

  1. 1.      Household Items: For those items that you don’t purchase generic, couponing is a great idea. I am brand loyal to Tide and Crest. Not using coupons for these items doesn’t make sense because I will buy them regardless of price. Anything you are going to buy despite the price is a good candidate for a coupon search.
  2. 2.      Clothing: As a rule, you should never place an order online without a quick Google search for a coupon or rebate. It takes two minutes of your time and could save you quite a bit of money.
  3. 3.      Beauty Products: If you are a drugstore girl, you will have no problem finding coupons for cosmetics, skincare, and hair products. If Sephora is your Mecca, head over to Ebates for cash back on your online purchase or sign up for emails and wait for regular coupons to come out. Now you are gorgeous and frugal!

Want to hear from others who live the frugal lifestyle? Watch the latest Awkward Money Chat below to find out how Pat leads a car-free lifestyle to save money. 

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    I only use coupons for things that I would have bought anyway, and I’ve made it a part of my Sunday morning newspaper routine. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the savings definitely add up over the course of the year.

  • eemusings

    I would coupon (probably sporadically as opposed to committedly) if we had coupons in NZ. Alas, it’s a moot choice…

  • Leah

    No couponing for me. I tried for a while, but found myself buying random stuff just to fulfill the coupon in time OR forgetting to use the coupon until it was too late.

    I do, however, buy in bulk for the essentials. I buy the biggest, baddest, most cost-effective quantities of toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, hand soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, etc. No one will ever start a TV show about people buying in bulk (heaven forbid you have to PAY for your groceries!), but it works for me.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    “I know, I’m a bad PF blogger. Lock me up next to the new car buyer and the person who doesn’t contribute enough to their 401(k) to get the full company match.” Lol! We really do not coupon much at all. The only ones we use come from the Sunday paper which take us about five minutes max. We don’t generally use them on food but on other products we would be buying anyway.

  • Jen Adams

    I totally agree–food coupons tend to be for the newest processed foods they’re trying to launch, or super-sugary cereals. I don’t buy processed food as a rule–I don’t like the way those things taste. I think you can save more money just by shopping at Trader Joe’s and Aldi.

    But you’re totally right about the cleaning products. Nothing works like Windex, and I can always find room for an extra bottle of it under my sink if I got a deal.

    Coupons only save money if you don’t have to modify your behavior or habits to use them. If you have to go out of your way or invest more money in products you don’t necessarily love, they’re not a good deal at all. In fact, one simple habit I developed is just watching for store loyalty card two for one sales on staples I use, like coffee or bread. The extra one goes in the freezer until I need it.

  • Budget & the Beach

    I’m a very lite couponer. I use them for beauty product/hair stuff, etc. and a few inner aisle items and stuff like milk, OJ…stuff that I would buy anyway. But yeah I’ve seen those extreme shows and they have hundreds of boxes of shit like cheesy puffs. I mean, you eat all that crap and you will end up in a hospital for diabetes and then tell me how much money you saved!

  • Lance @ Money Life and More

    If I run across a coupon for something I would buy anyway I will use but I generally don’t go searching for food coupons. The one thing I do always look for coupons for is allegra d. I can normally find a $5 off coupon for 15 24 hour pills so that is worth it to me.

  • Michelle

    I don’t coupon. I don’t have the time for it right now!

  • Debt Roundup

    I will coupon if I can find one in a reasonable amount of time. I do it online because it is easy, but I don’t deviate my grocery shopping to fit in coupons. I am a produce guy and I rarely see good coupons for these products.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets

    We only coupon on items that are on our list, we don’t make the list based on coupons. And you’re right, the coupons are usually on all the unhealthy crap we aren’t buying anyways. Super annoying. If I’m doing something like getting an oil change or buying a product online, I always just google “coupon for oil change” or whatever it is. Takes 4 seconds, and can save $5 – $10 everytime. Outside of that. not really worth my time :)

  • Emily @ evolvingPF

    LOL I love this line “Lock me up next to the new car buyer and the person who doesn’t contribute enough to their 401(k) to get the full company match.” But failing to coupon, especially when it’s for the reasons you listed above like buying unprocessed food and store brands, is nowhere near the same magnitude of mistake that the other two are!

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

    I don’t coupon for the exact reasons you mentioned. :) We have a Costco membership so I try to buy the household necessities in bulk when feasible. Otherwise I just look for the best bargains when I’m at the store.

  • The Norwegian Girl

    I don`t coupon, not because I don`t want to, but because it`s illegal. yupp. Just said illegal. My country has some weird ideas sometimes. But if I could I guess I would coupon some.. but hard to say, since I`ve only read about it.

  • Newlyweds on a Budget

    i used to coupon when we were broke. we have a little more leeway now, and have switched to eating organically when possible (organic produce and grass-fed or organic meat) and only whole foods, so no pre-packaged stuff.

    we also buy green cleaning supplies and toiletries, so that leaves VERY little to find coupons for.

  • Sara

    Very rarely. Occasionally we’ll find manufacturer coupons for things like yogurt and peanut butter in our favorite brands, but that’s it for food.

    Amazon has beaten coupon shopping for household products in our area, but we’re also virulently anti-Wal-Mart.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor

    I used to be an extreme coupon (not like on the show, but I did buy a lot of crap I didn’t need). Since then I’ve cut back and try to buy things on sale, or with a coupon, but only items we actually need/will use before they expire.

  • Pauline

    I don’t do coupons because they don’t have

    them in Guatemala and before I used to go with

    the store promotions rather than clipping

    them. I always look for vouchers and discount

    codes for bigger items though.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty

    I don’t have time to coupon anymore. Sometimes my mom will give me a few for things she knows I will use and I still forget to use them!!!

  • Catherine

    I don’t really coupon either. We just don’t have the opportunity here in Canada, specifically NS that you Americans do. I could never stockpile on 50 bottles of ketchup, it’s just not possible. I could save like .25 on a few bottles but thats about it. I don’t know for sure but i think there is actaully regulation against it here. Also I find coupons often encourage money to be spent on crap I otherwise wouldn’t so unelss it’s an item I use (bread, cat food etc) and it basically falls into my lap I don’t do it.

  • Brian @ Luke1428

    I tried to coupon for about six months and was really frustrated with it. The coupons I was finding were not for things our family needed or wanted and it took way too much time. Plus, I hate all the hoops you have to go through to get some coupons (like signing up at manufacturer’s websites…that gets annoying after awhile). Now, I look for the 2 for 1 deals and buy store brands when possible.

  • al@coupon

    You can save time and money by using online coupons. There are plenty on small coupon websites that have a great ecoupons and all coupon websites have the same grocery coupons because if’s 1 feed for everyone. The advantage of using smaller website is you don’t have to sign up for something.

  • Jeremy Norton

    I have to admit I am very fond with coupons. But I haven’t really gone to buying 50 bottles of ketchup or worst.

  • kudy

    I don’t go nuts with the coupons, but I’ve been finding them useful! In my blog post today I actually talk about saving money on produce with coupons. I am sure I will never do the crazed couponer thing, but they occasionally facilitate a great deal.

  • MakintheBacon$

    I guess I would classify myself as a casual couponer. If I find one and it’s for something I would buy I hang on to it until it’s expiry date. I have come across several occasions where the brand name product was on sale and I had a coupon for it, so it ended up being cheaper than the generic brand.

    I stockpile on toiletries, but our cold room in the basement isn’t dedicated to stockpiling on the show. They’re just in a drawer in the bathroom.

  • Lauren@Cheap Students

    Great post, and I completely agree with you. I have used coupons in the past, but still at times haven’t cashed in my free product coupons. It’s either been because I’ve forgot to bring them, don’t have time or simply have lost interest in couponing all together. Also I totally agree with you, it’s very difficult to find coupons for products that are actually healthy for you. I have come across a few but it’s been minimal. Also I know my readers are unlikely to use coupons since students really don’t want to be carrying around a folder of coupons when they grocery shop.