Should A Frugal Person Bother With The Coupon Section In The Sunday Paper?

Each Sunday, my wife and I receive the Des Moines Register on our doorstep. It provides us material to read over while we eat breakfast on Sunday, and we usually peruse the flyers inside the paper as well to see what’s on sale at various Iowa grocery stores in the next week (most of these flyers cover most of the state of Iowa).

We also usually take the time to leaf through the coupon flyers in the paper. There are usually one to four flyers that contain coupons from large food and consumer goods companies, usually touting various name brand products. We usually find about two to three coupons per paper worth clipping, and the savings is usually enough to pay for the paper and a bit more.

The question that most frugal people ask about this situation is how is this worthwhile? Most of the coupons in such sections don’t offer enough of a discount over the generic product to make it purely cost-effective. The ones that are cost-effective are often for products that we don’t buy anyway. So why look?

The real reason is there are about two coupons per issue that are really worthwhile, and finding them while eating breakfast is definitely worthwhile – for me. For example, a while back I found a $3 off coupon for Luvs diapers which, when used during the next grocery store visit on the least expensive package, got us 40 diapers for about two cents each – an incredible deal.

Is the time invested cost-effective? Probably not. If it doesn’t happen as a leisurely activity over breakfast, we usually don’t bother with the coupon section at all. It is simply not cost effective to browse the Sunday flyers for coupons as a separate activity. That’s not to say it’s a worthless activity – you can often save a buck or two from the browse if you know what to look for.

The best approach I’ve found? Browse through them very quickly, just looking for items that are very similar to things you regularly purchase. If you know the price and the coupon is worthwhile, clip it; if you don’t know, the coupon should be a dollar off at least before bothering. If you find one that’s really stellar for your use, you might find it worthwhile to find an online coupon broker and get a bunch of them. Using this quick rule of thumb might cause you to miss a coupon or two that’s worthwhile, but it will very quickly lead you to good coupons that are worth your while. Of course, if you don’t have that casual time with the Sunday newspaper anyway, the coupons aren’t worth the effort.