Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The obligatory coupon post

Coupons?  That's the question lots of non-frugal people ask me when they hear that I'm a bit of a penny pincher.  And the answer is really "nope".

Not that I'm against other people using them, mind you.  I'm not about to start up a coupon-bashing rant.  It's just that they don't seem to apply to my own personal situation much.

For one thing, many of the places I shop don't take coupons.  Yard sales don't take coupons.  (Hmm . . . how much is 50% off on a matchbox car that ordinarily goes for 25¢?)  The Amish organic store where I buy my flour and nuts doesn't take coupons (or credit cards, either, for that matter).  Ditto for Habitat Re-Store and most thrift shops, at least as far as I know.  And ditto for Craigslist.

By the time we whittle down my shopping to what most people would call "real" stores that sell new, commercially produced things, it's a pretty small part of my purchasing budget.  There's our local hardware store.  There's the drugstore where I get my boys' prescription meds.  There's . . . actually, I guess that's about it.  And there are not a lot of coupons on jigsaw blades or ADHD meds in my Sunday paper.

But even considering coupons for things I might actually buy (like lunch at a local restaurant), I have this odd sort of squeamishness.  An idiosyncrasy, if you will.  It's this twitchy feeling that the coupon doesn't actually save money, even if it saves me money.  That is, the coupon just means someone else is paying for what I buy.  And I have this odd aversion against feeling like I'm passing the costs of my life onto the shoulders of someone else.  I feel like, in the interests of true frugality, I ought to bear the financial brunt of the decisions I make, so that I'll think about making those decisions wisely.

Again, I'm not offering this rationale as Truth with a capital T.    I just explain this because so many people have asked me about coupons, and I so figured I ought to provide some kind of a peek into the Miser Mom pocket.


  1. I don't usually use coupons either, I don't normally like all the processed garbage they are for, very few I have found were for healthy foods. Also since I keep to a very basic shopping list of "ingredients" coupons tend to have me spend far above what our food budget allows.

    The RARE occasion we get to go out to eat, my family NEVER wants what the coupons are for LOL so yeah in the name of frugality, I don't use them either!

    1. Many people try to convince me that there are coupons I could actually use, and some of those people are right (see the comment below, for example). But as you point out, the vast majority of coupons are for things I don't want, and that makes wading through them a chore I haven't wanted to take on. (In contrast, I'm very happy wading through yard sale junk to find the yard sale treasure!) -MM

  2. If a coupon gets you into a restaurant that you normally wouldn't afford, then it is a win-win situation for both you and the restaurant. (That's why they offer them-- to get more consumer surplus. It's called price discrimination and makes them more money so long as what you pay is greater than their cost of production.)

    We really don't use coupons much either, though occasionally the grocery store or Target will send us coupons targeted directly at us based on our previous purchases and we'll use them. (On the last day they were good, someone had left one of their unused direct targeted coupons on a pint of Ben and Jerry's, so I used that and thought the idea was wonderful and went around putting the coupons we weren't going to use on their respective items as well-- a little surplus for anyone buying canned pineapple or sandwich meat).

    1. These are both nifty reasons why -- even though I don't use coupons myself -- I don't go on rants against them. (Well, that and acting all self-righteousness is an ugly trait that I constantly battle).

      I've also heard of people who use coupons to buy a boat-load of stuff from drugstores and then donate these to shelters/relief organizations. Cool. -MM

  3. About the argument that some another one is paying when you use a coupon, I disagree. I think that when companies emit coupons is because:

    a) they want to increase their sales, even if they have to reduce their margin a bit.
    b) they assume that if you go to their stores (attracted for some coupons) you finally will buy something else that will increase their benefit.

    For the (a), the main 'losers' can be the shareholders of the company, as the company is making a lesser benefit in some articles. On the other hand, the company is always making money, even if you pay with a coupon. And that is better than no sale at all. So, the shareholders also win money when you pay with coupons. As nicoleandmaggie said, is a win-win. (Not to mention that I'm not worried about shareholders when their only interest is money).

    Other 'losers" are the competence stores, that will be indirectly forced to reduce their prices). Again, some shareholders somewhere are going to have lesser benefits, which I think is not so bad if the most of us have a bit more money in the pocket.

    For the (b), the best behaviour is to stick to what you really need, not buying those things that you can find cheaper or prefer to buy in other places (i.e. yard sales).

    As you said up there, most of the coupons are for items I'm not interested in: I get rid of them inmediately (most of coupons I get are connected to a fidelity card, so I can not pass them on to someone else). I only keep those that can be useful to me, and not always use them.