Money Moment: Using Coupons

We’ve heard a lot over the past couple months. Congress people have been talking about debt management as though they know something about it. Which got me to thinking about the most visible form of money saving in our culture at this moment: using coupons. Specifically, that form known as “extreme couponing”. In a time where Americans everywhere are being bent over financially, getting hundreds of dollars of groceries for nearly nothing feels really good, even if we’re only watching it happen on TV. Reactions to this vary. I myself see it as another “yes, and” moment. A “yes, and” moment is one where there a lot of benefits AND some things that should give a person pause to think.

I have always been big on saving money whenever possible. For example, as long as my hygiene products do their job properly, it doesn’t matter if I buy them at the dollar store instead of a mainstream location. If I spend $8 instead of $20, then the $12 I save can be shifted to something else. It could be bills, or just buying a treat for some friends and myself.

But back to coupons. The yes part of my “yes, and” comes from the savings of it. Being able to feed your family (and friends) for less usually means more regular access to food. This can lead to better health, depending on what you buy. And according to Maslow’s Hierarchy, when anyone has one of their basic needs met, they’re better able to focus on getting others met.

Now to the and part. The and part has a few things to it.

A lot of coupons I’ve seen are for standard american foods that can be high in fat, salts, and sugars. You’re saving money buying them, but how good for you are they in the long run?

Coupons for foods that are vegan/vegetarian, or are more expensive because they’re made with better quality ingredients, are harder to find. They are treated like gold by the manufacturers, and seem to be released only when all the planets are in proper alignment. For example:

Most veggie burgers cost on average $4.99 for a box of six. Every now and then, a coupon for a dollar off will be released. Then the cost comes down to $3.99 a box. But unlike regular coupons which are widely released, and can be doubled up on, that dollar off one will be all you get. So even though healthy food should be made accessible to as many people as possible, even bringing the price down by a dollar can still put it out of reach for a lot of families.

Cleaning products are treated in a similar fashion. We’re starting to learn about some of the health hazards that can come with the chemicals mainstream cleaners are made out of. But once again, coupons for cleaners made from nontoxic materials have to be hunted down much harder.

My take on the matter is that extreme couponing is easy to do if your family eats and uses products that are common in mainstream stores. Those coupons can be found far and wide. Some of the advice of the major coupon folks falls a little flat if you need specialty coupons though. There’s no point in buying three or four Sunday papers if you know that coupons for what you use aren’t in there.

What I’ve found in looking for savings on things that my family uses is that printed coupons are more helpful to me. With printed coupons I can go after the exact products we need. But in a way, that’s another bit of the and. Folks have to have access to a printer to get those.

I know coupons are put out in the world for profit for the companies, not as a social service for us. But it seems like, along with so much in the world, even savings are not evenly distributed.

Having had my say, here are some coupon links: