ROI on Coupons

Do you think clipping coupons is a good use of time?

It seems like there are different answers to this question by personal finance enthusiasts. Some view coupon clipping almost like a sport. There are even some in this category that partake in “Extreme” couponing strategies to save money.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have people that think cutting coupons is a waste of time, and not worth the investment of one’s energy and efforts for the resulting savings.  Some people in this category look at the opportunity cost of time, thinking they could be more productive doing something else.

Personally, I’m not at either extreme but somewhere in between.  Admittedly, that “somewhere” is definitely more closely aligned with the latter group. For me, it’s about how much I’m being compensated for my time.  This means that I’m not going to be spending an hour clipping coupons that will save me $3.00.  There are better uses of my time, and that’s a terrible hourly rate. I did better than that over 20 years ago as a kid.  Now, if it takes me 5 minutes to save $3.00, that’s a whole different story and I’ll be more favorable toward it in that case. If minimal effort results in some savings, that’s a win-win.

This is where internet coupons come into the discussion.  We all know about daily coupon deals that come our way, and offer great savings with just a few clicks.  These can potentially fit the mold I’m talking about, of low effort resulting in savings. However, they often cause you to buy things you don’t really need just because they’re priced a steep discount.

Clearly, it’s not only important to be efficient with your time, but also buy things you actually need – thus being efficient with your money.

I have taken these factors into account when trying to use coupons, and try to quickly and efficiently search for coupons I can instantly print, or use via coupon codes.  One example from my own life is the use of coupons for a local restaurant – actually part of a national chain.  I go there once every few months, and before I do, I go online to find coupons. Within a few minutes, I’ll find something that will save us at least $4.00.

It’s possible to find discounts for all kinds of things, not just restaurants.  For example, if you wanted to save money and time by setting up an online meeting you could find a GoToMeeting coupon code and do it for a discounted price.  Money can be saved in a very short time – which is music to the ears of someone who values both money and time.

This is what it comes down to for me: what is the ROI, where the “I” represents invested time.  If an investment of time results in an appropriate level of savings, it’s worth it.  If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth it. This is where internet coupons offer a potential advantage over traditional clipped coupons.  Instead of wading through different flyers and newspaper sections, one can quickly find a relevant coupon online if it exists. If you know where to go, it makes things go even easier.

My Questions for You:

  1. Do you spend time trying to find/use coupons, or do you have issues with their value proposition in terms of your invested time?
  2. If you do use coupons, do you mostly clip/use traditional coupons, or do you primarily use internet coupons? Has this changed in recent years?


  1. says

    I do use coupons, but not obsessive about it. If I need something, but don’t have a coupon handy, I’ll still get it. What I lost in a coupon, I saved in time! You can’t preplan everything!

    • Squirrelers says

      Moneycone – well said, you can’t preplan everything. Those who are obsessive about all coupons might be forgetting the value of time.

  2. says

    About a year ago I did an experiment and started clipping and using coupons for groceries. This was at the same time I was moving away from buying ‘boxed’ (processed) foods. It was really easy to find coupons for processed food but it was still cheaper to make it from scratch. The next question was did I want to put my time into making it? Yeah, I did.
    I don’t know if it’s a regional thing because I could NOT find coupons for staple items like flour, sugar, baking soda…….

    • Squirrelers says

      Molly – if you want to put the time into it, then you might be dealing with a win-win: cheaper and maybe even healthier too!

  3. says

    I don’t clip coupons for food – we eat mostly stuff that doesn’t have coupons like produce. Like Molly we couldn’t find coupons for our staples. However, I will do a quick search for coupon codes if I buy anything online.

    • Squirrelers says

      No Debt MBA – Good plan to do quick online searches if buying online. Short time investments are best!

  4. says

    I don’t think my lifestyle aligns well with most of the coupons I see. Like you, though, I’ll use a coupon if the time investment is pretty low. I actually just used a coupon today to buy lunch at Subway. I usually try to pack my own lunch every day, but I had to cut myself some slack today. The coupon made it a little more agreeable to me.

    • Squirrelers says

      Linda – I know what you mean about a coupon making it more agreeable sometimes when using a coupon. It gives us an excuse to live a little, which can be a good thing. As for your use of coupons based on the time investment being low…good way to put it, I see it that way too as you can tell.

  5. says

    About the only coupons we use are the store type that come in the mail, in the form of $5, $10 or $25 debit card. We occasionally get a small booklet of supermarket coupons from the local dairy/food market, with amounts such as $5 off on a $50 total purchase. Those we’ll use, but as for regular food coupons, they don’t pass the ROI test.
    Just an opinion….

  6. says

    I use most online coupons that other blogs matchup with sales. I also check the online coupons from mypoints for other items I need. I have never had a bad ROI with coupons, but then again I do not spend more than 30 minutes per week.

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