There is such a hype about couponing in the frugal world, but is couponing really worth it?
How much time will you spend to save a buck?
Being a frugal minimalist, there is always this pull between saving money and trying to simplify my life and routines. In my experience, coupons are one of those things that can take a lot of time to save a little money.
We always hear about the extreme couponers in the USA where the stores match coupons and allow you to stack coupons. Is extreme couponing worth it!? Being Canadian, I’ve often wondered: is couponing worth it in Canada? The stores here don’t allow that.
I usually come to the same conclusion:
Couponing is not really worth the time and effort for me.
Below I’ve listed the reasons why couponing isn’t usually worth it for me, plus some examples of when I do still use coupons. Hopefully you will find my points useful in determining if couponing is worth it for you.
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13 reasons why couponing isn’t worth it:
Couponing isn’t really worth it to me, but it may be for you. Read through my points to see if they resonate with you. Hopefully you’ll be able to reflect and gain some insight as to whether couponing is worth it to you or not.
1. Couponing takes more time than it’s worth
I try to work out how much a task pays per hour to determine if it’s worth doing.
Now obviously you may not spend an entire hour couponing. But say you spend 20 minutes and end up saving $2. Multiply that by 3 to get the approximate hourly rate of $6. For me, $6 per hour spent couponing is not really worth it.
Use this calculation to figure out how much you earn on a per hour basis while couponing and decide whether or not that amount of savings is worth it to you. Could you earn more working an extra hour at your regular job or doing a different side hustle?
2. No coupon stacking in Canada
There are no stores near me that offer coupon stacking or will match coupons.
A lot of extreme couponers rely on these deals in order to get double or more of the coupon’s value. Without doubling the value of the coupon, they wouldn’t save enough to make it worth it. At least not worth it to do it at the extreme coupon level!
3. Not often high enough value to make it worth it
Most paper coupons I see are for $0.50-$1.50. Sure, it’s nice to save that money, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it. Bringing back the $/hr example, a $1 coupon would be worth it if it took a few minutes or less to use.
$1 per min=$60/hr
$0.50 per min=$30/hr
$0.25 per min=$15/hr
$0.10 per min=$7.50/hr
I’d say an average paper coupon takes at least 5 minutes to use after you flip through the coupon flyer, cut it out (or print it and cut it), look at store flyers to see which has the product at the best price, search for the exact product at the store, then wait as the cashier checks and scans the coupon.
If the coupon was worth $1 and it took you 5 minutes to use it, it would work out to about $12/hr (60min/$5=$12/hr). A $0.50 coupon works out to $6/hr.
You have to determine what the coupon value is worth to you based on how much time you have and how much you normally make.
4. Paper coupons feel like clutter
I don’t know about you but I feel easily overwhelmed by paper clutter. To me, paper coupons just add to that feeling. I’m already easily overwhelmed so I try to minimize that wherever possible.
They take up time, mental energy, and space that I just don’t have.
5. Most coupons are for items I don’t really use
Coupons tend to be for brand names, packaged foods, cleaning products, & highly processed foods. We tend to purchase as much fresh and unpackaged food as we can, so coupons don’t really help us save money.
When we do purchase packaged foods, we tend to purchase the store brands as much as possible because it’s often still less expensive than the brand name with a coupon.
One of the biggest challenges with coupons is that they’re most often for highly processed packaged foods. I most often see coupons for ready meals, granola bars, sugary breakfast cereal, artificially sweetened yogurt, etc.
I’d love to see more coupons for single ingredient foods like vegetables, fruit, high quality bread, oils, meat and dairy (and diary-free alternatives).
The few coupons I do see for those products are usually for super expensive versions, like pre-made frozen smoothie packs. Even with the coupon they’re still too expensive.
6. I mostly shop at the local produce market
Our local produce market sells produce (obviously lol) plus some Asian staples like rice, noodles and tofu. We shop there a lot, but they don’t sell products that have coupons, and even if they did, I doubt they would even accept coupons!
7. It’s tedious to remember to bring the coupons
Sometimes I just stop into the store while I’m out without planning to go there.
If I relied on coupons to be a significant cost saving strategy, I would either have to carry them with me wherever I go, or plan every grocery shopping trip.
Neither of those is easy or sustainable for me. Even if I have the best of intentions, I often forget to bring things.
8. I don’t do all of the shopping
G often stops at the store on his way home from work. He also is a bit forgetful so won’t remember to bring or use coupons. Also he doesn’t feel that comfortable using paper coupons and holding up the line. We find other ways to spend less on groceries that work for both of us.
9. I don’t have a car to go to multiple stores to find the exact product listed on the coupon
Often coupons list a very specific product, whether it’s a certain package type, flavor, or size.
Since we don’t have a car to stop at multiple stores to find the exact match product, we don’t bother carrying the coupon around “just in case” the store near us has it.
We might do it if we KNOW our store has the exact product because it’s the same one we usually buy. But as a rule, it’s not something we really do.
10. We don’t have a printer to print coupons
This prevents us from using a lot of digital coupons.
I COULD go to the library to print them off, but that would take a lot of extra time, plus costs me about $0.15 a page which cuts into the savings from the coupon.
Even if you print it at home, the price of the ink and paper take away from the bottom line of your savings. Make sure to set the printer to draft mode and use the blank side of scrap paper to reduce that cost as much as possible!
11. I don’t pay for or read papers
Another common way to get a bunch of coupons is to get the paper.
TBH I don’t know if that’s even a thing here in Canada, but if it were, I still wouldn’t do it. We definitely get sales flyers from the store, but there are rarely (if ever) coupons in them. I don’t really look at the flyers anyways as it seems like a waste of time (and paper!).
Instead, I use the Flipp app to search the sales if there is something specific I’m looking for.
12. I tend to choose store brands and sales over coupons
I often find that the brand name price minus the coupon is STILL more expensive than the store brands or the sale items.
I always look for sale or discounted items and/or store brands over coupons because of the lower price AND lower effort.
I find store brands to be just as good (and sometimes even better) than name brands. I wouldn’t sacrifice quality just to get the lowest price
13. We don’t have a lot of space to stock up on extra food
Even if I enjoyed couponing and it saved a lot of money for the amount of time, I wouldn’t be able to do it too much.
We live in a small rental without a lot of storage space so it wouldn’t be worth stockpiling non-perishables from couponing.
While sometimes I wish we had just one more closet (a coat closet especially), not having a ton of storage space helps prevent accumulating too much stuff and appeases my minimalist side!
4 times I find that, yes, couponing is worth it to me:
I have nothing against coupons themselves, I just don’t like all the prep and planning that normally goes along with using them. If you take away the effort, I’m all for using them! I’ve listed some examples of times I still use coupons or similar cash back discounts for buying specific products.
Cash back coupon apps
I use cash back coupon apps to earn cash back on certain products.
I feel like the use of these apps is much different than using physical coupons so I categorize them differently.
They are SO easy to use!
It probably takes me only a couple minutes each week to look at the new offers. If I buy something on the list, it’s super quick to just take a photo of the receipt and get my cash back!
I use Checkout 51 and Caddle the most.
You can get $5 just for trying out Checkout 51 HERE. Or read my Checkout 51 review to find out more about it.
You can get $1 just for trying out Caddle using the promo code 56532 when you sign up HERE (Canadians only). Or read my review of Caddle to learn more about it.
Ibotta is great for Americans! Read more about Ibotta HERE or get $10 when you sign up now using code stiuvja.
Read about other cash back coupon apps:
In store bonuses/discounts
We tend to shop at Loblaws because of their in-store loyalty program.
We’ve earned literally hundreds of dollars worth of free groceries over the past year which makes it worth it for us. It’s also a good location for us so it’s convenient. I wouldn’t go way out of my way for it, but it does help!
We combine their in-store promos, points reward credit card and bonus redemption days in order to maximize the savings.
Loblaws stores are available across Canada so take their rewards program into consideration if you live near one!
If you live elsewhere, shop around to see if any stores near you have rewards programs that are worth participating in. If you’re going to shop anyway, you may as well get rewarded!
I will use a coupon if I see one in store for an item I’m already going to buy.
You know the ones that are tagged to the shelf in front of a product? If I see one of those for something I’m going to buy anyway, you bet I’ll use it! This eliminates the time spent finding and planning to use the coupon so it’s easy money.
High Value Manufacturer Coupons
Occasionally I have contracted manufacturers and gotten high value coupons for products I already use and love.
For example, one time I emailed Jamieson vitamins and got 2 coupons for $7 off a bottle of vitamins! That is great value and definitely was worth the couple minutes I spent emailing them.
Whether you use coupons or not is totally up to you! You need to decide if couponing is really worth it FOR YOU.
This will be based on what you normally buy, where you live, where you shop, how much time you have to spend on couponing, and whether or not you like doing it. There is no right or wrong.