That’s what a lot of people think — and it’s a typical excuse for not using coupons. But it’s actually not true.
There is an art to using coupons. I wouldn’t have believed it when I started doing this whole save-money-on-my-food-budget thing two years ago. I thought it was pretty straight-forward: Cut out the coupon. Go to the store. Buy the item. Use the coupon. Save 50¢.
But, then why wasn’t it working for me? I’d cut the coupon, go to the store … only to discover that the store brand of mayonnaise (or whatever) was inevitably cheaper than the brand-name mayo, even with the 50¢ coupon. It was mystifying. Why would people bother clipping coupons when they could save more money just buying the store brand??
Oh, sweet naive coupon newb that I was. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. You don’t save money by using coupons when an item is full-price. You save money by using a coupon when an item is ALREADY ON SALE. Sale price minus coupon minus any additional incentives (like gift cards at Target or the 10% off case-discount at Whole Foods) = BIG SAVINGS. Much bigger than the generic brand. Sometimes even free!
So unless I have some insane brand loyalty going on, using coupons to buy full-priced products just won’t save me money – at least not over the generic brand alternative. If I need the tin foil that badly that I can’t wait for a sale combined with a coupon, I buy the generic.
Make sense? Are you mystified by us fanatical coupon clippers? Wondering how to make it work for you and your kosher-keeping family? I’m going to be running a little series here on debunking coupon misconceptions. So if you have a conception – mis or otherwise – about using coupons, leave me a comment or drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you!