I know what you’re thinking: Dude, really, what’s to discuss? Coupons are a no-brainer, the cornerstone of a frugal lifestyle. What could possibly be bad about them?
Well, as I explained in my initial post, some of my ideas are contrarian. And while I am certainly in favor of wise coupon use, we need to realize that there are traps in the game – so many that this is the first of a short series on coupon traps for the unwary.
First is what I call the package offer. This is the coupon that works only if several products are purchased together. Many of the more popular cereal brands, for example, now require the purchaser to buy three boxes of cereal in order to qualify for the discount. This may very well pay off for you, but, please, first consider the expiration dates and whether you can reasonably expect to consume the same cereal for the next two months. That 75 cent savings does little good if you find yourself tossing the last box.
Other varieties of the package deal require the buyer to purchase multiple different products. You might have to buy a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, plus still some other product. Again, this might be a perfectly good deal for products that you fully intend to buy with or without the coupon. If so, go for it. But if you had no pre-conceived intention of buying even one of the required products, chances are that you will lose on the deal.
The problem with these package offers is punctuated when applied to products with short shelf lives. Buying laundry detergent and paper towels in bulk is one thing. Buying four cans of Pringles is another. If there is any doubt whether you will consume the product in your normal course of life, forget the coupon. What’s the point buying four cans of chips if you will have to force feed the things in order to beat the expiration date?
Above all, you can’t allow coupons to entice you into buying a product that you have no true need for. If you’ve made it your entire life without using laundry softener, why use a coupon that provides a discount only when you purchase your favorite detergent and a bottle of softener. Many a person has been introduced to, and ultimately hooked on, a new product line by the allure of an introductory coupon. That’s no way to a frugal lifestyle.