How Coupons Can COST You Money

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It sounds ridiculous. How can coupons cost you more? Here's my story from the grocery store.

The following post comes from Rich Finzer at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.

We’ve all heard the urban legends about coupon fanatics claiming to have bought $300 worth of groceries for $19. And maybe it’s true. But personally, I view those tales with the same skepticism I reserve for reports of alien abductions.

I use coupons whenever it makes economic sense, but I’d rather do simple math than be blinded by coupon-inspired madness. Here’s a stark example.

My local grocery recently ran two specials on multi-packs of paper towels. Both were well-known national brands, and both were advertised at $6.99. I was placing an eight-pack of mega-rolls into my shopping cart when this happened…

A generous but math-impaired, coupon-obsessed shopper offered me a $1 off coupon on the other brand, a six-roll package, selling at the same price. I just looked at her. “I’m buying two packages,” she exclaimed, and then politely asked why I was so averse to saving money.

Just as politely I replied, “I love saving money. In fact, I just saved $5.40 cents more than you did.” At this point, my fellow shopper was confused. So I did the math for her:

  • My package of eight mega-rolls has a total area of 454 square feet and cost $7.
  • Her two six-roll packages have a total area of 418 square feet and cost $14.
  • With her two $1-off coupons, her cost was lowered to $12.

So the difference in what we paid was $5. The sales tax on the difference was 40 cents. The per-package price difference was $2.70. So my cost per square foot was 15 cents. Hers was 29 cents.

Strange as it may seem, and despite the use of her dollar-off coupons, my fellow shopper was about to pay twice as much for essentially the same product. Therefore, just because you have a coupon, it doesn’t mean you’re actually saving any money.

Follow The Dollar Stretcher on Twitter.

Stacy Johnson

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