Published On: Tue, Feb 11th, 2014

Can Using Coupons Make You Spend More Money?

Over the last few years there has been an intense focus on using coupons to save money by playing the grocery game. In fact, I even have a coupon database on my website that I use constantly – I’m not even sure if anyone else uses it, but it helps my wife and I out tremendously, which is why I keep it there!

However, there is an inherent danger in using coupons. Even though it’s counter-intuitive, one of the things that can happen is that you spend more money.

The Grocery Game: How Using Coupons Can COST You Money!

Deviating From Your Shopping List

We all know that the reason why manufacturers issue coupons is to get you to buy their products. They know that if they offer a discount, we will be more likely to try out a new product, or switch from our usual brand. They are hoping that through these little $0.50, $1.00, etc. discounts, they will gain tens of thousands of new loyal customers!

But what about us – the shoppers? We really aren’t concerned with the manufacturer’s reason for issuing the coupons, we just see them as a way to save money. Usually, we will already have plans to buy a particular item, and the coupon is just a way to lower our grocery bill.

coupons

The problem comes because many times when we use coupons, we end up adding to our shopping list items which we never intended to buy. We may plan to go to the supermarket with 15 items in mind to buy, but once we look at our pile of coupons, we can easily add 10-12 items to our list. So, even though we may be paying less for some of the individual items, our grocery bill is, in fact, larger than it was before the coupons got involved!

Sometimes this can be a good thing. Over the years, my wife and I have been able to take advantage of CVS prices and deals (playing the grocery game at a drugstore), in conjunction with coupons, in order to try out many “high end” products, while paying less (or sometimes getting paid) than the store brand!

The problem comes when we are not disciplined when playing the grocery game. If you choose to buy a product that you don’t need simply because you have a coupon, then you are not saving money! Yes, there is a way to create your grocery list based on coupons and store deals, but if that is not the foundation of your system, and meal plan, then stick to only finding coupons for the items on your list.

Using the database linked above is a great way to discover if any exist for the items which you plan to purchase.

Buying Multiple Items Or Bundles

You have to be more careful in watching for this, because it involves buying items which you already planned to purchase. However, instead of buying one or two packages, you buy four or five in order to be able to use a coupon.

For instance, let’s say that you want to buy 6 boxes of Hot Pockets and they cost $3 each, for a total of $18. However, you find a $4/10 coupon in the Sunday paper. If you purchase 10 boxes, you will end up paying $26 rather than the $18 you originally budgeted. Extrapolate that across 6 or 7 coupons, and you could end up adding $30 or $40 to your shopping trip each time.

Now, since Hot Pockets are frozen, this may end up being a good deal in the long run, but if you do this on products which are perishable, ones you will not completely use, or ones which you are unsure if you will like, then you could be wasting a lot of money.

Another type of “deal” which you have to be careful of, is bundled purchases. A bundled purchase is where you are given a list of items – usually from the same manufacturer – and you get a discount for buying the entire group. The items in the bundle are usually things that go well together, such as chips and candy, or cereal and milk, but it’s not a deal if you have to spend extra money in order to save – especially when you don’t need the additional items!

Buying Name Brand

Sometimes, in the euphoria of “saving money” by using coupons, we will actually buy a higher priced item. I’m not talking about overlooking some aspect of the grocery game, or buying items that we don’t need, but I mean simply putting a higher priced item in our cart!

Many times the name brand product will cost more than the store (or “no frills”) brand of the same item, even when you take the coupon/discount into consideration. However, we can be so conditioned to think that coupons automatically give us the best deal, that we don’t even make the simple comparison.

My Thoughts On Coupons

I love coupons! My wife and I have been able to shop at CVS and buy a couple of hundred dollars worth of items, and walk out with the store owing us money! However, on each of these shopping trips we had to battle the temptation to buy something that we really didn’t need.

There are times where it pays off, but there can also be times where you end up wasting money! If this wasn’t the case, there would be a lot less coupons floating around!

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Khaleef Crumbley

Khaleef Crumbley is the founder of KNS Financial, LLC, a company that is focused on improving financial literacy among low-income families. He has a special desire to teach Christians to have a biblical view of finances. He currently has a Master's degree in Economics and plans to return to school for a Ph.D. in Theology.
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About the Author

- Khaleef Crumbley is the founder of KNS Financial, LLC, a company that is focused on improving financial literacy among low-income families. He has a special desire to teach Christians to have a biblical view of finances. He currently has a Master's degree in Economics and plans to return to school for a Ph.D. in Theology.

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Did you know?

African Americans are significantly more likely to have some type of debt (94%) compared with the general population (82%). Credit card debt, student loan debt, and personal loans are all significantly higher in the African American community.

Source: Prudential’s 2013 "African American Financial Experience" study