Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coupon Disappointment

A few weeks ago, on Facebook, a friend posted a picture of a shopping trip where she had saved a bunch of money (about $80-$90) with coupons. I was excited for her and to check out the loot. I was also hopeful for tips and such.

I clicked on the picture with anticipation, and promptly sighed. Pictured were pads that I don't use (frequently, that could be another post) because I use a Diva Cup; shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel that I don't buy because the don't work for us and/or contain a bunch of stuff I avoid; dish detergent that I don't buy because of ingredients and it looks like the anti-bacterial stuff (again, could be another post); antiperspirant (we use deodorant only); and a few things that we might be able to use: allergy medicine and band aids. I was very happy for her, but the picture helped to crystallize something about coupons, sales and shopping for me.

A while back, I posted about a successful shopping trip I made with coupons. But since that trip, every time I've looked in the paper or the ads that are mailed to us, I get a vague sense of disappointment. There are very few, if any, coupons for products that I buy. Or even the types of products I buy. The majority of coupons I see have been for harsh cleaning agents, pre-packaged food (which we do rely on at times, but it is something we are trying to move away from, not run towards), and not-really-good-for-you food.

There are websites out there where you can look for coupons for products that you actually want, instead of simply scanning to see what was sent to you. These can be great. We did this for the successful coupon trip mentioned above. What was frustrating about that, though, was the fact that many of the coupons printed one to a page, in color ink, wasting paper and ink. (with fewer stores taking printed coupons due to counterfeiting coupons, color ink seems to be the way to go)

Plus, try as I might, I'm not that organized. Coupons were beginning to become more of a hindrance to me than a help.

I know that the idea of coupons is a good one. I know that they can be used to reduce shopping budgets, help stock a pantry and also create a cache of healthy food. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places or spending enough time searching...

All this leads me to think that couponing just isn't for me, and that a lot of the commercials and sales aren't geared towards me or my shopping habits. "They" probably love the fact that I'm still erratic, and shop without a list at times. But, what "they" don't love is how obsessive I am about reading labels, and putting back things that in the past I've loved because of the ingredient list. Yes, I know that yogurt is on a ridiculous sale of 10 for $4, but it has HFCS and aspartame (nothing against aspartame, I just don't like the way it tastes)  and this one is more expensive, but the ingredients are milk, cultures, honey and one or two other things I can read and pronounce.

Ok, so this has gotten a bit more negative than I had intended. Basically, this is me giving up on coupons. I'll still look through the ads to see if there is anything useful for me, but don't plan on spending copious amounts of time combing the known universe for them and then cataloging them all. When I see someone in the grocery line with coupons, I'll think "good for them" and move on. I think we do a pretty good job just shopping the store, if I do say so myself.

What are your feelings on coupons? Are they the greatest thing since sliced bread? Or an evil trap to get you to buy something you don't need? Or something in the middle?


loreleimarsh said...

My mom was great at finding coupons on items we would buy in bulk like meat, dairy items, and such, but I have never gotten the hang of it. I've tried and I still try, but mostly I just work within the sales at the grocery stores.

swiggett said...

loreleimarsh - I'm not sure I've ever seen coupons for meat! The occasional dairy, sure... but wow... your mom rocks the coupons!

Margaret said...

It's a great reason to learn to make your oiwn yoghurt. Frugal, independent of both stores and coupons and buying in yet more packaging you don't want. And you control the ingredients.

Cam said...

Coupons are created to entice people to try their product. Advertisers aren't interested in saving you money...they want you to spend it.

I still use them if I'm going to buy the product anyway or wanted to try it (so, I guess they do work), but since I'm like you and try to buy real ingredients, I tend not to shop with coupons.

If you aren't already buying the product, coupons can end up costing you more.

I also agree with you on tastes gross. I'd rather forgo the cola than drink a diet. Blech.

Jim and I recently tried a Coke made in Mexico (real sugar instead of HFCS) and it was quite tasty. It tasted sweeter without being sickeningly sweet and there was no weird after taste.

swiggett said...

Margaret - very true. I have actually made yogurt before, and enjoyed it very much. When I started grad school, though, I stopped. Time to dust off the old yogurt maker!

Cam - you're right; coupons are just another ad. Feels like we are completely surrounded by ads day in, day out! I do think that the real sugar sodas taste better than the ones with HFCS in them. In Waco, TX, you can get Dr. Pepper made from the original formula (real sugar) at the museum. Yum!