Using Coupons: 3 Ways Stores Trick You To Spend Money, Not Save

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They come in a variety of forms and sizes.

Like the big cardboard mailers that Bed Bath & Beyond sends out.

Or the credit card-like design used by Office Depot.

The standard old thin-stock magazines that come in the weekend paper.

I’m talking about using coupons.

They’re seen as a way to save money on a wide array of items.

  • Grocery items
  • Restaurants
  • Office supplies
  • Clothing
  • Personal services

Some people have even made a side hustle of collecting and selling coupons on the web.

A few have even developed methods of using coupons to get stores to actually pay them.

Still, others have made small fortunes teaching people how to be an “extreme coupon” clipper.

You do, however, need to be careful, as sometimes coupons can cost you both time and money rather than saving you.

Using coupons and/or promo codes can be a tremendous help in reducing household expenses if used properly.

Unfortunately, they can also trap you into a false sense of saving.

You can make coupons work for you and maximize the benefits received by incorporating them into your shopping routines and paying close attention to the drawbacks:

Using Coupons Makes You Buy Extra Quantity

Hundreds of manufacturer coupons piled on top of one another
Manufacturers give you deals all the time, but using coupons like these can lead to buying more quantity than you need which can mean spending extra money as well.

There are plenty of coupons for grocery items online and in print; they’ve never been really difficult to find.

Now, however, there seems to be a new method of issuing coupons by the manufacturers as opposed to the old-time standard of requiring only one item to be purchased.

Multiples of the same or group of items on a singular coupon.

What that means is that instead of purchasing only the amount of an item you actually need, you will now be forced to spend extra money on these extra quantities in order to use the coupon.

It’s fine, so long as you normally need more than one of a particular item, but in many cases, the result will be wasting money and possibly having the additional products going to waste.

On the other hand, if you don’t need them, the cost of purchasing and wasting those items may very well void any savings achieved by using the coupon.

Using Coupons Makes You Spend More

Promo code from Staples website for $15 off a minimum of $60
When using coupons for a dollar discount, you have to hit a minimum spend–and the savings may be less than the extra you need to hit that minimum!

It’s kind of a marketing trick to get people to spend money just to “save” money.

That is why when you receive a coupon for “dollars off” of a purchase, it is generally accompanied by a minimum spending amount.

They know that many people will spend whatever it takes to be able to use a coupon, not wanting to let it go to waste, and still feel good about the purchase because they “saved money”.

In cases like this, the idea of saving money supplants the idea of spending more than they would normally have.

In some instances, you can spend even more than just the minimum purchase price to use the coupon.

Quite often, the additional money spent will exceed the coupon savings which would make the store very happy indeed.

Think about it:

You go to do some shopping through Rakuten and notice there’s a coupon for $10 off–but you need to spend $50 and your purchase only totals $30.

You’d have to spend an additional $20 to get that $10 in savings.

Promo Codes Negate Other Offers/Discounts

Packages that were purchased using coupons on the front porch of a home during the holiday season.
You can usually get free shipping with a minimum purchase, but using coupons can actually negate that free shipping offer making you pay for it instead.

Lots of online stores offer free shipping once you reach a specified limit.

Many of the office supply stores will give you free delivery when you spend $50.

Every store has its own limit.

But, what happens if you have a coupon code that would bring your purchase below the free-shipping cut-off?

If you said that you have to pay for shipping you are absolutely correct.

What ends up happening is you may have added just enough to your card to receive your order with this free shipping offer, figuring that your actual order is enough and then the coupon/discount will be applied as a form of payment.

Unfortunately, what the stores do is adjust the prices of what you purchased when applying the code entered, and subsequently, it takes you below the free shipping limit.

So, in order to avoid having to pay to have your order shipped, you either remove the coupon or in the more likely scenario, shop for more items that may cost more than the actual shipping charges.

Time Is Money*

I actually loathe this saying but you can read all about why I think time and money aren’t the same

Sometimes people get so obsessed with saving money that they will disregard to time factor when it comes to searching for ways to save even the smallest amount of money.

Searching the internet for any coupon to use in your grocery shopping for the week may only yield a savings of $.25 or less.

Granted, if you shop at Aldi stores or some of the membership clubs, those coupons won’t help at all.

If it will take you an hour to complete your search, you need to decide whether or not that one hour of your time is worth the total saving you may find.

Sometimes it’s not easy to predict, or something that is even considered beforehand.

What is your time worth to you?

That is the trade-off you need to think about in these situations.

And, if you happen to be one of those extreme people, let’s not forget what happens when you actually get to the cashier at the grocery store: the time it takes for them to scan and verify each and every coupon.

That causes frustration not only for the cashier but for the people behind you who just want to pay for their stuff and be on their way.

Some people can handle it, others are very thin-skinned and probably can’t take the looks and the harsh words in this situation, so don’t forget to consider this as well.

Wrapping Up

What it all comes down to is your preferences when using coupons or promo codes.

You can’t allow an advertiser’s claims to lull you into a false sense of saving.

Just like you can’t think that one person’s successes can be duplicated just because they make it seem easy.

You need to look at the big picture and take into account the time that will be involved in this undertaking as well as the costs of printing tons of coupons off of the web as well.

Can you save money by using coupons?


Can you also end up with a whole bunch of worthless pieces of paper as well as hours of lost time?


Your Turn

What are your thoughts on using coupons? Are you the type to look for coupons or promo codes before making a purchase? Do you think it’s all a waste of time?


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