What would you do to shave a few dollars off your weekly grocery bill? To many people, spending an hour cutting coupons from the Sunday paper sounds like the perfect way to reduce spending. Unfortunately, coupons aren’t always the money-saving tools they seem to be. Sometimes, they actually encourage you to spend more than you would if you didn’t have them.
How Coupons Can Hurt
Manufacturers don’t offer coupons because they want to be generous—they do it because they want to encourage new consumers to buy their products. That means their goal is not to help you save money, but to encourage you to spend on items you wouldn’t normally buy.
If a coupon encourages you to purchase a product that you don’t need because it’s cheaper than it otherwise would be, then it’s doing more harm than good to your budget. Likewise, if you spend more than you normally would on products you aren’t likely to use, simply because you have a coupon, then these discounts could end up draining your checking account without providing any real value.
Making Coupons Count
For most people, grocery shopping is a pretty routine event. While you may alternate meals and ingredients from week to week, chances are good that you consistently buy certain brands and items each and every month. When you have a coupon for one of these regularly purchased items, using it will save you money. The difference here is that you were going to buy the item before you had the coupon, so its discount represents a true savings.
Another way coupons can help is if they reduce the cost of a more expensive brand than you’d normally buy. But remember, you’ve only got a limited number of coupons, so if you decide to permanently switch to the more expensive brand after trying it, your overall grocery spending will increase.
Seemingly small, unnecessary expenses, such as those incurred when you overspend with coupons, can reduce the amount you’re able to set aside for retirement. They can also impact the longevity of your retirement savings. Careful budgeting and well-planned spending, on the other hand, are two great ways to stay on your WealthPath. Money-saving coupons can also help, but only when you make certain that you aren’t allowing the coupon to dictate your purchasing decisions.