Consumers are using more coupons than they did before the recession, and 37.4% are using them "to stretch a limited grocery budget out of necessity," according to NCH Marketing Inc.'s "2010 Annual Consumer Survey".
If you're hoping to save money by using coupons, watch out because stores and manufacturers expect coupons to increase their total sales, which means you could end up spending more, not less. To protect your wallet, learn about these strategies in my Financial Edge article for Investopedia, 6 Sneaky Ways Coupons Make You Spend More.
In addition to the points in my article, consider these:
-Coupons can send you on a wild goose chase. When you have a coupon that you want to use for an unfamiliar item or for an item that you usually buy at a different store, you'll have to spend more time in the store hunting for that item. Sometimes the store won't even carry the item, especially if it's new, but while you were looking for it, hundreds of other items probably caught your eye, and if you didn't put a few of them in your cart this week, you might next week. Avoid this problem by asking a store employee to point you in the right direction.
-Coupons entice you to buy premium products when you really only need the basic version. Have you been using two-ply toilet paper your entire life? Well, wait until you use that coupon for three-ply toilet paper and see how thick and plush it is. Now the two-ply that seemed fine for years seems inferior, and you want to keep buying the premium product, coupon or no coupon. Coupons are often used to upsell consumers into buying a more expensive version of something they were already using.
-Coupons can get you hooked on a new product at a low price that will soon increase. Try a new product at a low, introductory price--then keep coming back for more later when it's selling at full price. When a new product is released, you can often find a high-value coupon for it and combine it with a store promotion to get the item for an unusually low price. If you like it, you may get sucked into buying it in the future when it's selling at full price and there are no more coupons available.
-High value coupons can be irresistible. When you clip a coupon, you often don't know how much the item it advertises will cost--only how much coupon is worth. You might get excited about buying a product when you see a coupon for a whopping $3 off. When it turns out to be a $12 item, you could be looking at buying something that costs more than you would normally spend.
Even someone with a lot of self-discipline can succumb to these tactics because of the thrill of getting a deal. But if you're aware of what's going on, you might think twice before you clip another coupon for a product you don't already use regularly.