7 Reasons Couponing Is a Waste of Time (+ 3 Things to Do Instead) – TheStir article!

7 Reasons Couponing Is a Colossal Waste of Time (And 3 Things to Do Instead) from FunCheapOrFree.com

As promised, my next article for TheStir.com is “7 Reasons Couponing Is a Colossal Waste of Time (And 3 Things to Do Instead)“. It went live today, so be sure to check it out! My next article is about things you should be buying second-hand, that you probably aren't. Brace yourself, there are some doozies in there. Here's part of the couponing post…since we're here…and all chit chatty and such. Hope you enjoy!

“As a frugal living blogger, I often get lumped into the same category as coupon bloggers, and am regularly mistaken as a “couponer.” I like it about as much as the U.S. likes being mistaken for Canada.

I am not a couponer. In fact, I am captain of the Anti-Couponing Team.

I've tried couponing. I've attended the classes, read the blogs, and shadowed experts. I am here to say that while it may work for some, just as a lifelong crash diet of lettuce and raw flax might work for some, the rest of us prefer a sustainable life of hearty food and juicy steaks … which we can buy it for a good price without having to surf the recycle bin first.

Many people think that to save money on groceries, or be frugal in general, they must become extreme couponers and dumpster dive for the Sunday paper. While I'm not opposed to the occasional dumpster dive (hey, you can find great treasures in there!), I am here to give you the top 7 reasons why couponing is a waste of time! And since I like you, I'll give you my top 3 tips for saving major moola at the grocery store — without having to clip a single coupon.

1. Time is money

What money you might be saving, you are most likely wasting two-fold in the amount of time it takes you to properly shop with coupons. It's downright complicated. You have to subscribe to the newspapers, clip, sort, and store the coupons, find the store's deals that week, figure out what coupons can work with the deals, go shopping (often times having to visit multiple stores), and then, additionally, plan out and shop for the things your coupons don't work for (but you still need). If you spend part-time hours clipping coupons, go get a part-time job and actually make money. I promise it will work out better for you in the long run.

2. Name-brand, shmame-brand

Coupons are meant to bring down the price of name-brand items. But, have you noticed that name-brand items are typically more expensive to begin with? One of my favorite frugal living secrets is that store-brand items are usually made by the name-brand factories. Those Kirkland batteries? Made by Duracel. In most cases when you buy name-brand items you're paying extra for commercials, advertising, and market testing expenses — not product quality. Stick with store-brand items and you'll save more money in the long run.

3. I hope you like processed food … 

Most coupons are for pantry items. It's next to never that you'll find a coupon for fresh produce, dairy, or meat … which is typically the stuff that we go through the fastest, and costs us the most. But hey, who doesn't like a good cheese puff every once in a while …

4. Raise your hand if you need 44 boxes of tampons!

The purpose of coupons is to get you to purchase a product that you most likely haven't tried before. Translation = IMPULSE BUY. If you wouldn't have put it on your shopping list to begin with, don't waste your time clipping a coupon for it! Additionally, just because something is a good deal — whether you use it regularly or not — doesn't mean you have to buy a three-year supply of it. I believe in stocking up when there is a great deal on something you go through quickly. But 44 boxes of tampons and 18 lemon cake mixes? Good deal or not, I'd bet money you just don't need it.

5. Crash diets are called crash diets for a reason


Anyone else on the anti-couponing team? Why or why not?

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  1. AvatarBobbi Coffey says

    I do agree that couponing is a real waste of time . Most extreme shoppers need to realize that food only has a year shelf life !! And let’s be honest who can eat 100 boxes of anything in a year . Even most of your personal hygiene products like makeup & toothpaste would expire before you could use it !!! I budget 400 every 5 weeks ! I feed my family & 8 day care children with no problems . I also make almost everything HM . My kids call me resourceful & the freezer queen !! Thanks for the post & I’m glad I’m not the only frugal person out there monthly shopping !!

      • AvatarSara says

        I agree Bobbi Coffey! I want to know your secrets! That seems like an impossible number to attain and feed that many people in a healthy way. I’m sure you do it, but I don’t know how lol!

    • AvatarFee says

      I don’t agree about food only having a year expiration date. It depends on what it is. Things like rice ,dried beans , and canned food do often last several years. Depending on how big your family is or how fast they eat things a family could totally eat 100 boxes of something in a year , like cereal. A small family with a couple of teen boys who like cereal could easily eat that amount. Personally I will eat cereal sometimes instead of lunch or as a snack..
      I agree that toothpaste can expire, and deodorant especially the gel based deodorant can actually liquefy if it gets old. But a family can easily just stockpile enough that they would need for a year. I found an old thing of deodorant in the closet that was several years expired and it still worked and smell good , just not exactly as strong as a new one. Old toothpaste can be used to clean the sink or tub so it won’t really go to waste.

  2. AvatarJoan Cavanaugh says

    Jordan, I have been following you for some time, and really enjoy your website. I truly respect that you speak of your faith, and am not ashamed to mention church in your posts. Well done!!!! The world needs more people like you. I was however a little hurt when in your couponing blog you said, “I often get lumped into the same category as coupon bloggers, and am regularly mistaken as a “couponer.” I like it about as much as the U.S. likes being mistaken for Canada” Ouch, double ouch!!!!. Not becoming to such a lovely lady. As a Canadian I never feel that way about your lovely country. Keep up the good work.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Thank you for the comment, and well said! In re-reading it, you’re right! It sounds like a complete dis to Canada. Funny enough, that wasn’t my intent at all! Just careless writing. All I mean is that a mistake is a mistake. It’d be the same as calling a professional ice hockey player a field hockey player. No disregard to either sport, it’s just not what they are! So I sincerely apologize, I should definitely be more sensitive! I’ll email you personally to make sure you get this comment. And for what it’s worth, I’ve been to Canada and loved it. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! Thanks again for taking the time to give your input, much appreciated!! XOXO

  3. AvatarAngie says

    I have always found it so stressful to try to be a couponer. I just don’t have the talent or time to keep up with sales and expiration dates, on top of the fact that I would never use half the stuff I find in the coupon ads. I do, however, keep my eyes open for date ideas and coupons that work in places I often visit. Why not save a few cents if I’m going there anyway? Thank you for your post, I am glad to know that being frugal and stressing out don’t have to go hand in hand. 🙂

  4. AvatarStarla says

    I tried couponing for awhile. And just like you said…loaded up on all those great deals on products I wouldn’t normally buy. Wound up chucking half that stuff later on down the line when I realized the amount of processed junk I was feeding my family for the sake of a good deal. Also, just like those crash diets…you get burnt out. Put me on the anti-coupon train.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      That’s exactly how I was. I’m so glad some people have been able to make it work for their families, it just isn’t my gig though!!

  5. AvatarAlyshia says

    Just so you feel better, I would never lump your site into the “couponer” category. Have you seen the thousands of posts they do a day? Sheesh. I was a loooong time couponer and worked for a coupon website for a while. Talk about some major major coupon burn out!! Ugh, it really opened my eyes to how much a waste of time it is! I spend just as much ($400 a month) frugal shopping / meal planning as I did in my big couponing days and have thousands more hours to myself. But to be fair – couponing now a days is not like it was in the past. The coupon inserts suck and are more low value. Plus, in order to get a high value coupon you have to print it and go through loop holes to get it! Marketing at its finest. I still print out the occasional easy coupon and make an exception for a deal on a treat, but couponing is a fad that’s fading fast. The coupon websites are making some major dough even if you aren’t saving! I can tell you that much, lol!

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Yes, I admire coupon bloggers because BOY do they know what they are doing! It’s just not for me. So glad it’s working for others, though. Thanks for reading! XOXO

  6. AvatarJennifer says

    So, well said. If I had time to coupon for every shopping event I would never get anything else done. Having said that, I do clip when going to BJ’s on paper products that I need. Never, a coupon for mushrooms or fruit, why?
    Just recently found your site and just love all the great information I have been able to share with others.

  7. AvatarInga says

    YES! I have tried couponing, too and while it sounds awesome, it’s also exhausting. I have a small stockpile…of cleaning supplies, but that’s about it. Being a little OCD’ish, I feel overwhelmed to have too much stuff in my house. Get rid of it!

    I do admire couponers, though. Most of them have a great heart that give away to those in need, but I’ve come to accept the fact that I am just not an expert couponer.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      AGREED! Those who do it and do it well are masters. I’ve tried it and could never get the hang of it, but I have many friends who save tons. Thanks for reading!

  8. Avatarerica says

    As a long time reader of your website and a Canadian, I just was compelled to tell you how taken aback I was about your comment about Canada. I have never commented on a site before but I think you should realize that you have readers and subscribers from many countries around the world. I am sure a large chunk of them are Canadian!

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Erica – I’m so sorry!!! Another Canadian commented on this and I wish I could take the comment back! As I explained to them, I (ironically) didn’t mean it as a dis to Canada in any way. It was just the first example that came to mind of people getting something closely related mixed up. It’d be like calling an ice hockey player and field hockey player. Same general direction but still completely different. For what it’s worth I love Canada, you breed some of the nicest people on the planet. I appreciate the reminder to mind my words carefully – and I hope you accept my sincere apology and that I really didn’t meant to offend! Thanks for reading!! XOXO

  9. AvatarDiane Powell says

    Hello Ms Jordan,

    I stumbled upon your website not too long ago and have enjoyed reading your posts. This last one however left a bad taste in my mouth.
    You have a large audience and it concerns me that making such a general statement that couponing is a waste of time will keep those of us watching every penny that leaves our pockets from at the very least giving it an honest try to see if it is a strategy that will work for their household.
    Up until two months ago I would have agreed with you 100% that sitting at the kitchen table on Sunday afternoon clipping 5, .25 cent coupons IS a waste of time however, I’ve done some extensive research and some real world trials with what I call strategic couponing and I’ve changed my mind.
    I have been a store brand only shopper. Because of my somewhat remote location in northern Illinois, my options are limited to the town Walmart or Aldi 16 miles north in to Wisconsin. So I’ve shopped mostly Aldi products and the equate products at Walmart to complete my shopping needs. Even by doing this, I did spend some significant money on household needs.
    Just a few examples of how I’ve done better by adopting couponing:
    Aldi sells Almond Milk here for $2.48 for 64 oz. Walmart sells Blue Diamond Almond Milk for $3.18 (it was $2.98) regulary. If I print a $1 off coupon for the Blue Diamond, that makes it $2.18. Why would I travel16 miles to Aldi to buy it for .30 cents more?
    Does printing cost me? Well maybe a little but I get an additional .10 cents through swagbucks by redeeming the coupon. I can print 3 coupons per page. Between the ink and paper cost, a page does not cost me .30. I print only those coupons I will actually use.
    Another example: I recently went to Walgreens and was able to purchase toothpaste which I made a .29 cents ‘profit’ on after taxes. It is Colgate, optic white which is over $3 a tube regular price. Prior to the coupon strategy I’m currently using, I’d buy Aims for .88 cents at Walmart or make do with the sample size tubes from the dentist. Did I clear the shelves? No, I purchased two tubes which is plenty.
    Finally, one last example. I purchase Equate saline solution twin pack at Walmart for my contacts. It’s the cheapest I can find at $5.48 or $2.74 a bottle. I was at my local Walmart again and found the last bottle of Bausch & Lomb renu sensitive on clearance for $2. Well that alone was a deal compared to my store brand ‘cheap’ solution but had I not recently adopted my couponing strategy, my savings would have ended there. It just so happened I had a $2 off coupon for that item which I applied to my purchase. I walked out of the store paying only .14 cents tax for the bottle.
    Did I clip the coupon ahead of time and have it in a 4 inch binder? No, I didn’t, it was saved by date the way it came out of the Sunday paper in an according file. I went to one of my handy coupon databases that told me in exactly which coupon insert I would find it in. It took all of 30 seconds to cut out the coupon. (On my next trip back to Walmart I had them adjust my receipt.)
    My point is, please don’t tell me I’m wasting my time by couponing and tell me to go get a part-time job instead. That too comes with costs.
    Besides, I don’t want to work outside the home and this is one method (among many) for keeping me right where I want to be – at home with my kids. I have not only a BS but a Masters and I could go get a full time job making 6 figures. But I don’t want what comes with it – 60-80 hour work weeks, never home with my kids, eating on the run, etc. etc.
    So, here is one reader, happily couponing and it is not a waste of my time. I would challenge you to give it one more try and your readers to give it another try, you just might find that it isn’t so crazy a strategy after all.
    Oh, and by the way, did you know there are over 1 trillion dollars worth of coupons available every year and over 1 billion dollars are actually redeemed every year with the average coupon face value of $1.44? I didn’t know this. We can’t all by wasting our time with those numbers!
    Keep up your great posts – this one just wasn’t my favorite.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Thank you SO MUCH with your comment!! I’m so glad you left it to prove my personal philosophy that you MUST find what works best for you! The Stir wanted me to write this post from the perspective of those that feel guilt for not couponing, and to prove that some people take it too far and that there are alternative ways to save money that don’t include coupons. I didn’t mean to offend, I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity to get a semi controversial conversation started. Thanks for joining in and offering some great insight!! Much love!

  10. AvatarCamille says

    I stumbled on your blog a few weeks ago and I love it! Thank you for this post! I have had a few people making me feel guilty that I don’t coupon (because I have always thought it is a waste of time- it’s all junk food and I go for the store brand anyway- and honestly, it’s so boring!! :D), but I thought maybe I should give it a shot because I’m trying to save more money with another little one on the way. It’s nice to hear from people who have actually tried couponing that freezing, limiting shopping trips, and planning meals based on what’s on sale is more effective than couponing- so I am going to just keep on doing what I’m doing:). Thanks for helping me feel reassured! And thanks for all the awesome tips on your blog- I’m excited for more:).

  11. AvatarCharlene says

    Hi Jordan I immensely like your blog! I follow you on Instagram and Facebook. I read your blog all the time and read old posts just because I like your blog that much! However I 100% disagree with this post! . I am a couponer . I am not an extreme couponer nor do not have 44 boxes of tampons. I do however know how to match a coupon to a sale item from a flyer and get it for almost nothing. The over $3000 I save in coupons a year is worth it to me. It isn’t that time-consuming and if you do it right it really is worth the time. I am sure You will agree that it is ok to agree to disagree.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Absolutely!! That’s part of why they wanted me to write this post, to get a semi-controversial conversation started. I’m all about the debate of finding what works for you and why! So I’m so happy that you’ve found a happy medium and are saving so much – *high five*!

      • AvatarCharlene says

        Oh good! I was hoping you weren’t mad at me!! Love, love your blog! Wish they would do a reality show on you!

  12. AvatarRachel says

    I coupon but not to the extreme. It’s more of a game to me. It’s a way for me to go be overly analytical numbers personality to use. I use coupons with sales, if it’s a product I need and it’s not cheaper with a coupon I get the store brand. But I use my store card and then end up with coupons for products I use as well as the store brand. Those are usually worthwhile for me. So I coupon but it’s all a numbers game for me and it’s a stress relief for now. (Just my personality) and I don’t always coupon sometimes I go months without. Just works for me personally.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Love that! I’m so glad it works for you and you’ve found balance. That’s really the key with anything! Thanks for sharing!

  13. AvatarKara says

    Totally agree. If you’re buying most of your food via couponing, then you’re not getting a lot of healthy food. I try to make as much as I can from scratch, so that I know what is in our food. Great post!
    Kara recently posted…The Minimalist KitchenMy Profile

  14. AvatarJennifer says

    Hi Jordan,
    You’ve received some criticism on this post, but I just wanted to say how sweet you’ve been for accepting it with such grace! I hope no one really thinks anything you post is actually meant to be rude or offensive. You’re quite a girl!

    Jennifer in Mississippi

  15. AvatarSarah says

    Hi Jordan. I’m an extreme couponer. Couponing (like any new strategy) takes a lot of time initially, but saves time and peace of mind in the long run. By the way, I usually get Tide for free. In my world, store brands are too rich for my blood. And, I like having about a years worth of nonperishables. Couponing opens doors. For Christmas, I gave family members a year’s worth of toilet paper. I’m sure it seems kind of weird, but it was well received. I love your blog and videos and I love that you price match. Thank you for your hard work and insights.

  16. AvatarIsobial says

    We have never had coupons in Nz or Australia so its a no brained for us I do admit to loving watching some of the shows but feeling sad seeing peoples stockpiles and wondering who else may have actually needed some of those items, it seems a very “self” focused activity except those who do it to assist charities 🙂
    I write my list first, check a local catalog app and fb pages of our meat and produce wholesalers then write my meal plan! We’re doing great on the $10O per person per month envelope budget which has completely shocked both myself and Hubby. It been a total game changer! Plus we’re eating healthy seasonal foods less packets etc

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