I bet you thought I forgot!

It’s another Thrifty Thursday! I bet you all thought I forgot about this column, but I’ve just been busy the last few weeks and haven’t been writing as much. I’m back now though and we’re having a special article on…

Coupons! That’s right. Coupons are the bane of any thrifty person’s existence, and I’ll tell you why. If you clip conservatively, your coupons probably aren’t saving you the amount you spend on the Sunday paper.

How’s that for depressing. I don’t get the paper delivered anymore, you can get most of your news, even the day’s articles online for free now from many papers, so why bother paying for it. However, in the past I would often go buy a Sunday paper in order to get the coupons. Until the day I did the math and discovered that the coupons I clip were worth less in savings than the amount I spent on the paper for the day.

Why so little? Well, the first rule of coupon clipping is to only clip coupons for things you regularly buy, or for a different brand that you don’t mind getting if it will save you a little money. So if a coupon isn’t for something I would ordinarily buy, or a brand I hate, it doesn’t matter how much money it would save me, it stays in the paper. Too many people clip every coupon in the paper and end up buying things that they hate or never use, leading them to spend extra money, rather than saving anything. Most coupons aren’t saving you that much, maybe $0.10 to $0.25 each, depending on the coupon. You can get coupons with higher savings but they’re rare, and often for specialty brands that are expensive and I don’t buy. That week, all my coupons were low value, probably around $0.10 each. So, 10 coupons at $0.10 each = $1.00 in savings. But wait! The Sunday paper costs $1.50! Instead of saving $1.00 on my groceries, I was actually spending $0.50 more total for the week!

What’s to be done then? Well, all isn’t lost. There are many other ways to get coupons. The easiest is online. If you’re going the online route, I recommend that you use legitimate sites, or even consider finding a reward site that earns you points for each coupon you use. MyPoints, is a site like that, and if you’re trying to save for college or grad school, Upromise gives you money back on coupons you redeem if you click through them to get to the coupon sites. The upside is that Upromise and MyPoints both use legitimate coupon sites like Coupons.com. This NBC article talks about problems with bogus coupons. Using a bogus coupon costs companies to lose revenue, and some stores will even refuse to accept printable coupons because of the problems they have had with receiving fake coupons.

So, what about that? What if you live in an area where local stores won’t accept printable coupons due to problems with bogus coupons costing them money? There are alternatives, although unlike coupons.com and other sites, they won’t be free. The Coupon Clippers sell actual coupons that were clipped from newspapers at a fraction of the face value of the coupon. The actual cost per coupon varies depending on the savings the coupon offers, and there are limits to the number of certain types of coupons that you can purchase, but it saves you the cost of the paper, and since you’re paying them less than the value of the coupon, as long as you buy coupons responsibly, you will still net a savings, even if it will be a little less.

Whether you clip yourself, print coupons from the Internet, or buy coupons from a coupon clipper, remember that you should only get coupons for something you regularly purchase or that you know you will use. Otherwise, those coupons are a waste of time, and a potential waste of money, since having the coupon might tempt you into a purchase you wouldn’t otherwise make.

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