Are Coupons Making A Comeback or Just A Major Waste of Time?

As much as I’d like to say I’m an avid couponer saving tons of money every month with my extremely organized coupon binder and extreme couponing skills, I just haven’t been able to get motivated to clip coupons and actually use them.

I can get myself to get very excited about the idea of saving money with coupons, but when it comes to the reality of it- nah, it ain’t happenin’.

And why is that?! I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t think I have enough time to dedicate to all that I think is involved with couponing. You know, the: learning, clipping, sorting, strategizing, and planning that comes along with the idea of starting to REALLY make couponing worthwhile. And, I guess (probably more than anything) with everything else going on, I don’t know that I want to make it a priority in my life.

Couponing is one of those “should” things. Like, “I should sweep more”, “I should walk to work more”, “I shouldn’t eat this third spoonful of Nutella”.

I want to want to coupon because there’s money there to be saved but, when it really comes down to it I don’t really want to do it. Ah. You know what I mean?

So the question remains, is clipping coupons worth it, or not? And what about mobile coupons? Have you given those a try?

I really want to hear what you think about this!


Is couponing worth your time or is it a time-suck? Would you rather focus on techniques that yield higher pay-outs for less time invested? 

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!


19 thoughts on “Are Coupons Making A Comeback or Just A Major Waste of Time?

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  1. Allison

    My grocery store (Dominicks, a Safeway store) offers an incredible online savings program where you basically "clip" coupons digitally. There are 3 different ways to save, and you just click away on what deals you want and it adds them all to your Dominick's card. No paper, no keeping up with overflowing envelopes. It takes about 30 minutes before I go to the store to plan and cross check deals, and we save 30-50% on every single grocery bill! How awesome is that? So even if you're not a coupon clipper, check into your grocer's online program options! I've been doing it for almost a year, and it has cut our grocery budget nearly in half!

  2. Margaret

    I find that planning a weekly menu and shopping with a list saves me way more money than coupons. I set a monthly grocery budget and stick to it. Sometimes that means I carry a calculator through the grocery store and keep a running tally (on my trusty grocery list) of what I am spending. If I get to the end and I have overspent, I put something back. If I have underspent, sometimes I get us a treat.

    One really important thing to remember about coupons: They are not designed to save us money. Coupons are a marketing tool for companies to manipulate us into buying more products. I think it takes incredible will power to "only buy things you will use." That's why I put them out of my mind and stick to my own plan.

    Also, if you learn to make things from scratch, you will save WAY more than buying the same products with coupons. And the food will probably be healthier. Two great foods to start making at home are granola and hummus. Both have short ingredient lists and require very little cooking skills. And HUGE margins on the pre-packaged versions. Once you've nailed those, try popping popcorn on the stove, making pancakes from scratch (it takes almost the same amount of time – HONESTLY!) and making your own soups.

  3. Shauna

    It can be worth it IF, IF, IF you can buddy with a coupon friend and take turns buying the papers and trading off coupons you do not use. I have cats, she has dogs, they both eat. SOOOO when the papers have food coupons for our respective pets, we both win. Coupons come in our sunday papers and for 4 papers it costs 5 dollars. She buys the same amount. You only have to make 4 purchases of items that are included (cause I buy one to read anyway) and then you start to save money and if she has the same coupons that is 7 coupons for me and vice versa for her. BUT THE ABSOLUTE KEY IS… only buy stuff you normally would use anyway. And STOP when you have enough to last 6 months. We couponed for 4 months and I will NEVER FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE need razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes or shampoo. I mean they are just piled in my stock room waiting to be used FOREVER cause they do not go bad and they all were bought with major savings or in some cases free (especially the tooth brushes). Deoderant is also much cheaper with coupons and does not spoil either. Be selective, patient and know when to foldem. You can also be a "coupon angel" by leaving your unwanted coupons on store shelves next to items you don't need but someone else might. I never got over 50% savings but I'm stocked up in many items that I no longer add to my shopping list. If you want to try it out, save $10 or $20 dollars and put that away for "couponing" for 4 months then start couponing and do it for another 4 months usingly only money you have put in there for that purpose. I too cook from scratch and DO save lots of money but i can't make shampoo or razors, etc.

  4. Ashleigh

    I very rarely use coupons because they aren't normally for very healthy products. I also agree with Margaret that making things from scratch (including cleaning and beauty products) can be way more affordable and a healthier choice! I much rather spend the extra time to create something healthy from scratch than spend that time couponing. :)

  5. AIM

    You can go "couponing" without going to the extremes of the Extreme Couponers. We get coupons with our daily and weekly papers and 90% of them are of no interest to us. But it is worth our while to get the 10% that save us money on items that we normally buy. We buy what we need and rarely chase "deals" to end up with stockpiles. We've never reached the 90% off that you see on the TV shows, But we can easily shave up to 30 – 40% by using coupons and bundling those with store sales. Unless they are giving stuff away for free, I can't ever see the value of buying things to end up with months and months of stuff stashed away.

  6. Kale Blossom (@kaleblossom)

    I don't normally coupon, those printable ones from, it's a spyware or something like that(my antivirus FREAKED OUT).

    I do have a nice coupon app for my android(GeoQpons) and if I go to a place like Barnes and Noble that routinely has coupons, I will be sure to check those and whatnot before I check out. That aside as a vegan trying to eat healthfully, I don't really use them for foods. :/ Unless I get a manufacturer's coupon for like Amy's organics or something like that- but then there's the spyware thing to look out for. :<

  7. Meghan

    I don't coupon because I don't buy things that there are coupons for. I do shop for good deals though. A couple months ago, a store had Toms of main toothpaste for 60% off. I bought all they had left – 5 tubes. If I want snack food that's prepackaged, I look at the Whole Foods leaflet that's available in the store. I also use the Target Debit for 5% off, and that store has a decent supply of recycled or organic options. Target will also give you coupons with your receipt, and sometimes those work out.

  8. Rich

    Are coupons making a comeback? – I have no idea.

    Are coupons a major waste of time? – Very subjective. The real question becomse,"What do y ou want to spend more of, money or time?".

    As I have written here before, after seeing the Extreme Coupn show on TLC, I delved into this world pretty deeply. Clipped, sorted, filed, tracked sales, shopped, etc. I did this for about 4-6 months. Here are my take away lessons:

    1. The energy investment/yield curve is pretty much S shaped.
    -If you don't use coupons at all, you will not save anything and will spend the most money.
    – if you expend a little bit of energy, you can save a modest amount of money; 35%. This evel is basically buying things when they are on sale, or simply perusing the weekend coupons and saving them, perhaps in an envelope.
    – with some more effort, you will save a little more; 50%. At this level, maybe you have seriously organized your coupons and use them whenever you shop.
    – approaching extreme couponing; saving 60-70%. At this leverl, you are constantly scanning the sales at differenet stores, and matching (or finding) coupons that match up with the weeks sales.

    At my peak of couponing, I was easily saving 50%, usually more in the 60-70% range. I think the best I ever did was around 74%. To do any better would have meant scanning numerous papers, swapping coupons, and trying to match sales with rebate programs. Too much work. In fact, to save at the 60-70% level became too much work. My shopping trips turned into 2-3 hour ordeals, sometimes just in a single store. It was a lot of work to match coupons with sales, and make sure you bought the right size, amount, etc. While we saved a lot of money, it was consuming our precious free time.

    We still use coupons but have scaled back tremendously. If I had the time, I would do it but my time is very valuble to me. Now we are lucky to be saving 40%.

    I agree with Margaret, weekly planning helps us save; eliminating those little trips to the store, which always end up being bigger than planned. Our recent switch to trying to use cash only has been a major help as well. It realy limits those impulse purchases when you are staring at your last few dollars for the week.


  9. Asia

    I think it depends on your life and the life style you have. I have use dcoupons for over 20 years but in the last 5 months I put a little more effort into it. I only buy things we consume and any extras I donate to my sister and her family or the shelter where I volunteer. I don't spend any more than 1 hour cutting coupons weekly and ALWAYS menu plan and shop based on my list.
    I find my best bargins for household goods(toliet paper, papertowels, toothpaste, deordant, soap, lotions, meds-over the counter-laundry detergent and tons of baby stuff-all for little money or FREE). I have a small stockpile of these items I limit it to no more than 15.

    I have walked out stores only spending .16 and having over $40.00 in products.
    I will continue to use coupons and save tons of money which goes to take care of our debt. Today we have paid off 8500.00 since Jan 2012.

  10. Anna Newell Jones

    That's so awesome to hear about the success you've had with couponing & how much debt you've been able to pay off Asia!

  11. meg

    I save coupons if they are for things I buy anyway–I think it becomes a waste of time when people search for coupons and then try to validate the purchases they are for. You don't really see coupons for produce or fresh food, so I don't use them a lot–just mostly for cleaning products and stuff like that.

  12. Cheri

    At this point I buy very little packaged food, so coupons aren't available for much that I buy. Additionally, I don't want piles and piles of toiletries, so I don't often use them for toiletries.

    I did find a way that coupons work for me, though.

    I do buy Cheerios for my kids–almost the only "box" I buy at the store. A few weeks ago my favorite store (WinCo) had Cheerios for $1.98/box. I purchased 20 coupons for $0.50 off of a box online and used them to buy 20 boxes for $1.48 each. They'll last us for about 8 months.

  13. Beth

    I eliminated prepared foods from my diet. I eat meat, fish, and poultry; vegetables, fruits, and very limited eggs and dairy. No grains and no baked anything. Frozen vegetables augment fresh. Coupons simply don't cover these things. This back-to-basics approach and focus on using up what I have by buying, preparing, and sometimes freezing single-portion servings has steadily reduced my food budget. And I eat the best: organic produce (for high-risk items), free-range, organic chicken, and top-quality, organic/hormone-free meat. But the amounts at each meal are small because the focus is on vegetables and fruits. Coupons are a trap and the savings are false ones.

  14. starjaynas

    Almost a year later, but: I’m a casual coupon-cutter. Like Beth who posted above, I don’t buy processed foods (at least not often) so coupons for food don’t really exist for me. But when I get those free, unsolicited books o’coupons from Red Plum and such, I’ll flip through them and look for the shampoo & conditioner brands I use, as well as feminine products, soaps and razors and the like. They don’t always have coupons for products that I use, but when they do, I cut them out and try to remember to use them. It’s modest savings; fifty cents here, a dollar there, but it works for me.

    That is as much interest as I have in them, though.

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      i hear ya. i can only seem to muster up a mild interest in them as well. unless i’m seeing massive savings i can’t seem to get motivated to spend the time on them that seems to be needed to get the real benefit out of them.


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