In a recent column, I featured an email from a reader named Brian, who stated that he never used coupons because he “felt cheap” when using them. This column generated a lot of email from coupon fans – and why wouldn’t it? If you’re reading this column, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to infer that you’re interested in saving some money.
While the stigma of using coupons still exists in some circles, the surge in coupon use that arrived in 2008 fueled couponing into the mainstream as a hip, fun and frugal thing to do. But, some people still don’t see it that way. They’re afraid (gasp!) that someone will see them using that little piece of paper and paying less.
You quote Brian in your today’s newspaper column, “I hardly use a coupon. I feel cheap when I do.”
I wonder if Brian haggles over the price of a new car, or if he marches into the dealership and plunks down the sticker price for it – or for a new lawn mower or garden tiller? I’m willing to bet that he looks for sales, and that such deals don’t make him feel “cheap.” I think it is more a case of not wanting to bother finding, organizing and using coupons that individually represent “mere” cents off.
Groceries are small, the prices are small, but added together the amount saved comes to a lot for those on smaller budgets. Couponing takes a little time, commitment to keeping a budget intact and organization, not to mention remembering to plan ahead and take the coupons with you to the store.
All in all, I don’t need to use coupons. We are very fortunate in terms of our financial situation. But, it’s a great hobby, more than pays for itself and satisfies my desire to be frugal. I think it is silly not to use coupons, and really think that everyone should try it.
Reader John tackles the economic angle, echoing one of my longtime mottos: You can spend money to save time or you can spend time to save money.
A shopper’s decision to use coupons is based on the customer’s trade-off between the costs of using coupons (time to collect them, embarrassment to use them for some) and the financial savings obtained. Manufacturers long ago identified that coupons can provide a lower price to a particular segment of consumers – those who value money over their time. Marketers know that the users of coupons are more price-sensitive than non-users of coupons. Coupons allow more price-sensitive people to get a discount without granting that same discount to people who don’t require it. Less price sensitive people will not spend their time with coupons.
I agree! In my Super-Couponing savings workshops, I often say, “Do you want to spend money or do you want to spend time? Time, I’ve got!” It always gets a laugh, but what follows are nods of recognition. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about couponing is that it’s going to take them far too much time. They know they could be saving money – significant money – with coupons, but they feel overwhelmed with the idea of managing “all those coupons.” The time I spend preparing for my weekly shopping trip usually ranges somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes a week. It’s not an enormous amount of time to spend on an activity that translates to a significantly lower grocery bill each week.
Smart Living Tip: Don’t be afraid to invest a little time to save money. We pride ourselves on finding the best airfare, the best hotel rate and the best price for a new vehicle. But many people spend more on groceries each year than they do on travel, entertainment or other categories. Take pride in paying the best prices for your grocery and household purchases too.
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Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.