Monday, January 24, 2011

How To Do the Coupon Thing. Part 1: What's the Use of Coupons?

Hi! We here at Mrs. Undomestic (and I say we, I mean the "royal we" since there is only little old me running the place) have come to a weird realization. There are people out there who are interested in coupons and have no idea how or where to start. I kinda knew they existed (and I truly understand that most couponers don't do it at my level and I'm not even that extreme) but until Saturday night, when I sat down and started talking to one of my best friends about coupons, that I truly realized that some people just don't understand the process and this is incredibly sad because it can save you tons of money (and, I have learned, some anxiety). So we're going to run a series on how to coupon.

So, What is the Use of Coupons?

Coupons can save you money, they can bring more food (or different varieties) into your home or they can do both. Right now I don't save a whole lot on groceries than I did before coupons, but I am able to provide a larger selection of food than I used to.

I think of coupons as a form of a gift certificate. I didn't have to pay much (a nominal fee, like my newspaper subscription or the price of ink) and I get free money to spend in return. Just like a gift certificate only works at one store, my coupon only works on one item.

To better explain, for the rest of the post, we're going to talk about 3 different types of cereal. Cereal A, Cereal M and Cereal Z. Cereal A is made by the ABC corporation and usually costs $3.50 per box but this week is on sale for $2.25 per box. Cereal M is make by the LMNOP corporation and usually costs $3 per box and is not on sale this week. Cereal Z is XYZ's store brand. Because it's the store brand, it usually costs $1.75 per box and is not on sale this week. If you get confused, refer back to this!

Don't Coupons End Up Making You Spend More?

They can, if you aren't smart about it. Let's say that we walk into XYZ to shop and have a $0.55 off coupon for Cereal A and a $1 off coupon for Cereal M. Since Cereal Z is a store brand, there are no coupons available. At first, having $1 off of Cereal M looks good, because it takes the price down to $2 from $3. But if you buy Cereal M today simply because you have a $1 off coupon, you will still be spending more money than if you bought Cereal Z, which costs $1.75. This is where coupons cost more. You spend money on stuff you don't need or buy something simply because "you have a coupon", it's a waste of money.

At the same time, you can save a lot of money using coupons wisely. Remember, we have a $0.55 off coupon for Cereal A. While the coupon may not look as valuable as the $1 off coupon for Cereal M, it will actually save you a lot more. Cereal A is on sale this week for $2.25. When you add the coupon, it takes the price down to $1.70 per box. This is actually cheaper than Cereal Z, so if you buy Cereal A, you save $0.05 per box of cereal (and trust me, the $0.05 can add up fast! Combining your coupons with sales is the best way to use them and the best way to save your money. I've walked out of stores with free merchandise thanks to coupons (I actually did it a couple times last week).

So Why Do They Give Out Coupons if It Makes Products Cheaper?

Simple, because the manufacturer and the stores make money off of them. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but here's why. Let's say you buy Cereal A for $1.70 a box. You take it home and your family loves it. Turns out this is the best cereal they ever had and they want it every day. So next week, you find your family begging for Cereal A so you drive out to the store to buy more. It's no longer on sale, so now you're paying $3.50 for it. This is what the manufacturer's are hoping for when they give you coupons. You will try something "because you have a coupon" and it will become something you buy continuously, spending more money in the long run.

Stores like coupons too. The week that Cereal A was on sale, Store XYZ had a double shipment of Cereal A and has to get the boxes sold to make room on their shelves. Since you know that with your coupon, Cereal A costs $1.70 instead of the normal $3.50, you use 3 coupons and buy 3 boxes. This gets 3 boxes off their shelves and they will get an additional $1.89 for the sale. "WHAT?" you say? Yup, the store will get money for you buying Cereal A. The ABC corporation, like all corporations with coupons available, will refund the store the $0.55 cents you saved on the coupon PLUS $0.08 per coupon as a shipping and handling fee. So as long as you aren't trying to cheat the store (and you shouldn't!) the store gets more space on its shelves to stock product AND makes a small amount of money simply because you used a coupon.

So Coupons are Good?

Well, they can be. Coupons, if used correctly, will save your family money. Or, do as I did, and free up more money to buy other groceries, increasing the amount of food you are able to provide. Coupons, if used incorrectly, can cost you more money or decrease the amount of food you can purchase. So use your coupons wisely!

Up Next, Where Do I Get Coupons?

This is the first part of a series. Check out the rest:

Part 2 
Part 3 


Sara Thompson said...

I don't use coupons for food usually. I rarely buy packaged foods so it doesn't help there but I used to use coupons a lot until I learned that my state taxes coupons - they don't tax food but they tax the coupons which is weird but in the end I wasn't saving a lot. I do use coupons for entertainment. There are a ton of free and reduced certificates out there. Coke has points on their products which we turn into free movie nights from Blockbuster (MCD's gives out Coke points during their Monopoly promotion). Right now MCD's is giving out coupons for free oatmeal. These coupons are ones I am more apt to use for special treats.

Monica said...

Great entry explanation to couponing! I probably do the spend more because I use coupons thing! Still working on it...
New blog follower from Tuesday blog hop! Would love a follow back at

♥Yaya's Mommy ♥ said...

Thank you so much for stopping by. I am following you back from FMBT. Have a great week.
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I'm crappy with coupons! I admit

Here returning your FMBT follow. Thanks so much for linking up.

Dreamer13 said...

Awesome informational post! Thank you for all the info! I really would like to get better at couponing.

following you from the FMBT blog hop.

Domestic Goddess Mommy said...

Very well explained. I am a bit of a coupon dummy, so I appreciate the post. New follower from Follow Me Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

I'm a new follower I'd love for you to follow back!

Thankful Heart said...

New follower from the blog hop!

Ellen said...

Following you from the Follow Me Wednesday blog hop. I hope you’ll stop by and following my blogs back.


Little Miss Emmy Lou said...

New follower from Follow Me Wednesday! I look forward to your blog and ways to save money!
Emily from Mama Days

The Loops said...

I'm your newest follower and terrible at the coupon thing. I have a lot to learn from you!

3Lilacs said...

Hi there
I am your newest follower and l would be so delighted if you followed me back
Thank you.

Mika said...

Thanks for all the good info!
I'm following from the blog hop.
I'd love a follow back at

Heather said...

I am a new follower from Follow Me Wed... I hope you can stop by

Lori said...

Thanks for the info on coupons! I'm a new follower from Follow Me Wednesday. Come visit:

Tricia from Return to Disney said...

Thanks for the explanation! I've never really used coupons - although my mother used them religiously! - and I finally figured out why. If you buy a lot of name-brand packaged foods, they're great. But since we started the Feingold program (it's an all-natural diet designed to help eliminate behavioral reactions to food dyes, artificial flavorings, etc.) we buy very little packaged stuff.

I'd love suggestions on saving money on basic ingredients! With a family of 6, a trip to the grocery store can be a major investment LOL!

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