Welcome to the 3rd Smart Money Debate at ReadyForZero! To see the other side of this debate, read Paula’s post: Why You Should NOT Use Coupons for Grocery Shopping. And then let us know which argument was more convincing!
This post was written by Sean Bryant, author of OneSmartDollar.com, a personal finance blog where you can learn about investing, real estate, and career growth. You can also find him on Twitter @OneSmartDollar.
It’s no secret that prices for nearly everything in stores have increased by an extraordinary amount over the past few years. After the drought that affected most of the United States this summer, we can expect more of the same for 2013. Because of the increase in prices, it has become as important as ever to save money on everything from food to personal items.
The most effective way for you to save money on your shopping trips is by using coupons. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about how using coupons is a waste of time, or that there are no coupons actually available for the products your family uses. I can tell you for a fact that everyone can and should use coupons. To prove this I am going to disprove a few of the common myths about coupon usage.
Myth #1: “There are No Coupons for the Items I Purchase”
Unless you don’t shower or brush your teeth, this statement is false. I do some of my best couponing at drug stores like Walgreens. Frequently, I am able to walk out of the store with free items. Below I have a Walgreens deal scenario for toothpaste that is currently going on:
- Crest Pro-Health Clinical Toothpaste for $3.49
- You will receive a $2.50 Register Reward (See below to learn about Register Rewards)
- Use $0.75 off Crest coupon from the 7/29 Proctor & Gable insert
- Or use $0.50 off Crest coupon from the 8/26 Proctor & Gamble insert
- Final Price = $0.24 after coupon and Register Reward
To explain the above scenario, you need to know what a Register Reward is at Walgreens. A Register Reward is a coupon that will print out at the register when you make your purchase. This can be used on ANY future purchase at Walgreens. The price above is a net total since the $2.50 register reward is essentially free money.
Now I don’t know about you, but I love to be able to purchase my toothpaste for $0.24 and not $3.49. Another great thing about this deal is that toothpaste has a shelf life of around 18 to 24 months, which means you can stock up on a few tubes at this low price and know that they won’t expire before they are used.
Another great example that’s currently in effect right now is at Safeway grocery stores on General Mills cereal. My wife and I like having a few boxes of Cheerios on hand because they are a quick, healthy breakfast.
- Buy Cheerios for $1.49 when you buy four boxes ($2.49 normally)
- Use $0.50 off Cheerios coupon from Coupons.com (Safeway Doubles the value of coupons up to $0.50, so it will deduct $1.00)
- Final Price = $0.49 after sale and doubled coupon
Once again I would much rather spend $0.49 over $2.49 on a box of Cheerios.
Myth #2: “There are No Coupons for Non-Processed Foods”
If you are anything like me then you try and cut as many processed foods out of your diet as possible. Stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Sunflower Farmers Market are great for buying all-natural, organic items. Did you know that all of these stores accept coupons? Whole Foods even has their own store coupons that can be used together with a manufacturer’s coupon for even better savings. Below you will find a deal scenario right now at Whole Foods where you can get nice deal on Rudi’s Gluten free tortillas.
- Rudi’s Gluten Free Tortillas for $3.49
- Use $2.00 off Rudi’s printable coupon
- Final Price = $1.99
Myth #3: “Using Coupons Take Way Too Much Time”
In a way this is a true statement. It does take time to get your coupons clipped and ready to use on your next shopping trip. I usually do my coupon clipping while I am sitting around watching TV. Visiting couponing websites like FreeSnatcher.com can help save a lot of time, because a lot of the deals are already put together for you. You can easily find out what coupons you need without needing to dig through the grocery store ads yourself.
In my opinion, most of us work 40+ hours each week in order to make money. Taking an extra hour or two each week to save money is worth the time spent.
While not everyone is going to become an expert at extreme couponing, it can be very easy to save money on the items your family regularly uses. Spending just an hour each week, I save my wife and I over $1,000 each year at grocery and drug stores.
Keep in mind that to effectively use coupons you should combine them with items that are on sale. Make sure they are items you will use; you might be able to save $3.00 on a block of cheese, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it if you are lactose intolerant. Also, there is no need to have 100 boxes of cereal stacked in your basement if you are a family of two. These items do expire.
So… do you agree or disagree?
Update: We’re going to link to blog posts responding to this debate (if you post one, let us know).