Sunday, June 5, 2011

Couponing Has a Dark Side

Does couponing have a dark side? I say, yes, it can. I almost titled this post 'How to Save Hundreds of Dollars by Gaining Pounds!' Until last year, I lived in the normal coupon world. I used coupons for products I would have normally purchased anyway and sometimes for a new product I wanted to try. I usually saved around $10 on each grocery trip. I had heard of 'extreme couponers' and knew there was a 'secret' to getting free stuff or hundreds of dollars in groceries for pennies. I finally did a little research online and figured out how it all works by combining sales, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, etc. On my first try, I saved tons of money.

Other than the free products I snagged, my best deals were name brand sanitary napkins that I purchased for less than fifty cents a box! And, the sales kept coming. As I shoved more and more boxes into the closet, I slowly began to realize I probably had more than a year's supply on hand. But that couldn't mean I had a problem. I mean, it's not like they were going to 'expire'. Well, at least not until menopause.

From that, I moved on to dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent. Same thing...I have enough on hand to last a year, maybe even longer. Toothpaste? I'll be reaching that goal pretty soon. Deodorant? problems there. Pain killers? Allergy? Vitamins? I could stock a small pharmacy. Granted, this is all stuff that I will use, but how much does one family really need? The upside is that these were really good deals and I saved a lot of money. Of course, I had to spend it a lot sooner than I normally would have due to buying a year's worth of products in a few short months. But, over a yearly budget, most of what I purchased was at least 50% off or more based on the normal cost. That is a savings that is hard to argue with when considering couponing's dark side. There is a fine line between being well stocked and hoarding. So, just be cautious if you have hoarding tendencies.

Chocolate. I love the word almost as much as the candy. I try not to allow it in the house because I'll eat it. But, who can resist practically free chocolate? With coupons, it's possible. First, I thought I'd stock up for the holiday's. Like Valentine's Day or Easter. Funny how none of the candy lasted that long in the pantry, but it's still on my hips. So, okay, I told myself I could still buy it, but for other people. My friends love chocolate and it was costing me practically nothing. Strange thing happened; it cost money to give away chocolate to my friends. While they were quite happy, it really defeated the purpose of 'saving' money with coupons. Free or cheap is not necessarily good for you if it causes you to gain weight or become some sort of 'chocolate pusher' among your friends.

Saving on groceries is a necessity. By combining sales and coupons, you can really save a lot of money. But, this takes time. Nothing is more frustrating than making a list only to find the store out of the products you want because other 'couponers' have scooped up the sales. And, like chocolate, just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's good for you. Since organizing my spending and coupons over the last few months, I've consistently saved over 50% on staples like soup, mustards, sauces, etc. There are free or almost free items too. Most local stores will double fifty cent coupons, so each one is like a dollar off a product. It's easy to combine those with sales and find items for pennies on the dollar. On most other grocery items, I save at least 20% on each trip. I'm happy with that considering I buy a lot of fresh produce and meats that don't usually have coupons.

Even with all my planning, I still end up with tons of coupons that I'll never use. There was a time when each one was merely paper, but now I see dollars slipping away. Surely someone wants that unused coupon. I've tried all different kinds of outlets for the ones I won't use and the best one is trading with friends. It's free and easy. And, the expired coupons or ones that no one I know will use? I send those overseas for use on our military bases. Check out the Overseas Adoption Program. They can use expired coupons for a few months after the expiration date. So, in the end, everyone saves a little. The trick is not to become too obsessed and to stay away from the dark side.


~JarieLyn~ said...

Great article. I have been watching "Extreme Couponers" on TV and decided I want to try couponing also. It's been frustrating for me though because the first two weeks I bought the Sunday paper and there were no coupons in there. I thought I was getting ripped off. The third week when I went to buy a paper I looked through every paper before spending my money and discovered that none of those paper had coupons in them either. The clerk informed me that the coupons no longer come in the Sunday paper but rather in your mailbox during the week. So, I finally gathered some coupons, compared the store sales and went shopping. I didn't save much money but I am determined to keep trying. None of the grocery stores in Las Vegas double coupons so that is a disadvantage already but I'll keep trying.

Thanks for the link to the overseas adoption program. Like you, I now look at coupons as money rather than just paper. I hate to see it all go to waste.

Marge said...

Thanks JarieLyn! You might want to check out this website:
It has lots of great couponing tips along with a free couponing ebook you can download. I'm sorry to hear about the lack of coupons in your local paper. I'd try calling them directly to see if and when they publish the coupons. I did that with our local paper and found that if I subscribed, the coupons would be in the delivered paper. Apparently there are only so many batches printed and they go in the subscriber papers first and then the high traffic areas next where the papers usually sell out. So, some of the out of the way stores may not have papers that include the coupons or all the advertisments. Before I talked to our local paper, I had no idea that they had this policy. I thought the paper was the same every where it was sold!

Sunflower Sue said...

Loved the article!! I see a new group in the future for us who have gone over the deep end with couponing. CA coupon anonymous.