The Case Against Coupons - Sort Of

Lately there have been a few stories on the news and online about women who have figured out how to use coupons so efficiently that they can obtain a cart full of groceries for just a few dollars. There are websites that tell you how to be a master coupon -clipper/sorter/spender. I love a good coupon as much as the next person - don't get me wrong, the feeling of getting a good deal thrills me to no end! However, when it comes to using coupons for food, the definition of "a good deal" is the problem. Here's my list of reasons why.

  • The lady featured on the news for her coupon-fu opened up her pantry to show off her loot... and there were rows and stacks of boxes. What a letdown! I was hoping she'd figured out a way to obtain coupons for something we eat, but... Ninety percent of coupons are for processed, packaged pseudo-foods. Rarely do you find coupons for the foods in the store that are unprocessed, whole and wholesome. Just because you get a box of processed junk for practically free doesn't make it a good or even ok food.
  • The real cost of processed foods has nothing to do with their price. The cost of eating food that doesn't support health is the risk of loss of your quality of life through disease and expensive health care bills later on. Of course, since this may come years down the road, it's easy to discount this as a true cost in favor of the illusion of saving a few dollars today. I'm not saying never indulge or treat yourself to a night off in the kitchen - just be honest with yourself about what it is you are (and aren't) getting for your hard-earned money.
  • The time you spent finding, clipping, printing, organizing and otherwise managing your coupons could have been spent preparing ingredients bought in bulk, to create foods that are far cheaper and infinitely healthier per serving than the foods you would have purchased with the coupons. It's common to believe one does not have time to eat whole foods since they do require some preparation, but here is one instance where a non-productive activity can be replaced by one that saves time, money and health.

On The Other Hand...

Coupons can save considerable money in certain specific areas - household non-food items and organic products.

For non-food items, especially in cases where you prefer one product over another, i.e. a brand name over a store brand, coupons can make a big difference. If you have the opportunity, combine coupons with store offers and save twice on the same item! CVS has a program that offers rewards as well, so while purchasing an item with a coupon and a store discount, you might also get "bucks" back that you can use to make a future purchase. If you use the same method for the future purchase - coupon + store offer+ bucks back + pay with previously earned bucks - you might even end up with a negative balance! If you have a CVS in your area and aren't already taking advantage of this system, check out this thread about How to Be a CVS'er.

The other situation where coupons can be helpful is in buying certain organic products. Of course there is as much junk food in the organic aisle as the rest of the store so don't be fooled, stick with the whole foods rule so as not to waste your money on even higher-priced organic junk! One category I like to stay organic in is fats - since the fat of animals especially can accumulate toxins - so when I can, I use coupons to help with the cost. Organic Valley is one company that is very good about providing coupons to customers. I've gotten their coupons three ways - from the website, from our store having an OV rep come and be part of a "food fair", and from coupon booklets given out at the local natural foods store. If you sign up for the OV newsletter, each time you get one from them you should be able to go to the site and print out coupons.

If you have a certain brand you like, go to their site and see if they offer coupons or an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter that will notify you of sales and special offers.

The other place I do use coupons for non-food items is at Costco. I have never seen them offer a coupon for a food that is actually healthy, so I don't bother with their food coupons. Costco will not accept any manufacturer's coupons, only their own. However, for bigger ticket items, there are definitely deals to be had. To make Costco even more worthwhile, you might want to think about upgrading your membership to the Executive level. That means you would earn 2% back on purchases yearly, so if you spend as much as we do there, the rebate you earn will be enough to pay for the membership fee and possibly more.

So when considering coupons, be critical and consider the real price - a good deal on something that is going to cost you later another way isn't a good deal at all. Real foods rarely ever have coupons, so don't spend time finding, collecting and organizing them when you could spend that time buying real food and preparing it instead.

No comments:

Post a Comment