Shopping the right way – The Great Coupon Debate

by Nick on July 31, 2010

Yahoo! Finance recently posted an article listing 8 reasons why you shouldn’t use coupons.  Among the reasons were the cost of getting coupons (time and money), inviting advertisers into your home and not finding coupons for items you really want or need.

It was quickly picked up by one of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom, who politely disagreed.  So who do I think is right?  Both. And Neither.  I agree more with Money Saving Mom that coupons can be useful. And the Yahoo! article admits this in the end too. That’s really not the debate.

In my continued endeavor to keep things as simple as possible, my opinion boils down to this:  If not done right (for you) coupons can waste time, money or both.  How you get and use coupons is what’s important.  It’s all about how you shop – and shopping the right way. 

Never buy something because you have a coupon or it is a “good deal.”  Identify something you need (or want…) and then find a good deal.  This can be through coupons, negotiating or just shopping around.  Spend an appropriate amount of time for the purchase.  If you’re working strictly within a written budget, spending less than you take home after taxes and saving for retirement and emergencies, you’re probably going to be fine whether you use coupons or not.  You might be able to buy less if you’re not getting good deals, but you’ll be OK.  For large ticket items, shop around more – look for more savings.  If you’re buying something for $1.00 spending an hour to find a 10% off coupon is probably not worth it – to me.

At the end of the day, the easiest way to not spend too much is to be deliberate with your money.  You work hard for it.  Know where it’s going.  Remember this is personal finance.  Do what works for you. 

And if all else fails, put the credit card away and slowly step away from the mall!

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