Mom to Mom: I Hate Coupons

coupon clipping scissors

Coupon clipping is not her thing. Credit: Morguefile

Up for grabs: our Sunday paper inserts. Seriously, if I wasn’t already fed up with the time and effort I’ve put into clipping coupons, I’d put some time and effort into handing them off to someone else who wants them.

Two things happened yesterday to solidify my coupon hatred, but I’ll tell you about them in reverse order:

I was doing my semi-annual coupon organizer clean out, getting rid of the expired ones, when it dawned on me that each little square of paper was like a message from my past yelling at me: “Rachael! Quit clipping us! Seriously, dude, you’re wasting precious minutes of your life.”

The thing is, I had just spent about 15 minutes cutting out new coupons, many of which were–except for the dates–exact duplicates of the ones I now had to remove because they were expired.

Did I ever use that $1.00 off any Cover Girl product offer? Or the 40 cents off a tube of crescent rolls? Or the $1.00 off three boxes of General Mills cereals? No, nope, and no. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve redeemed any of those coupons in the past year, and yet I keep clipping new ones to replace the old ones. And, all the while, there are WAY better things I could be doing with my time.

Now, you may be thinking that the problem is I’m doing it wrong. And, you’re probably right.

But, I know–at least, I have a general idea of–the “right” way to coupon. Which leads to the first of yesterday’s coupon-centric occurrences: I watched an episode of “Extreme Couponing” on TLC.

I see the methods, and I understand them. I get how it works. But I can’t shake the feeling that getting whole flats of energy drink or Hamburger Helper for free is wrong, somehow.

In the first place, I hate being the person excited to shop with my one puny little coupon for something I really want, only to find that someone got there at the crack of dawn to clear the shelves of that product. In the interest of good karma, I don’t want to be the person who does that to others.

Also, the fair trade educator in me can’t help but wonder who really pays the price for all of this free stuff. Because someone, somewhere, does. I guarantee it.

I’m also quickly becoming a major paper phobe, as each of my children brings home like 20 pages we don’t really need every day, and it’s beginning to feel like we’re drowning in the stuff. I’m sure that’s a contributing factor to my coupon hatred.

Some feel that love and hate are closely linked emotions, perhaps even two sides of the same coin. I don’t know if I believe that, but in the case of couponing, I guess it makes sense. I know the thrill of a great deal, and I’m sure there’s an avid couponer in me somewhere, but I feel that the paper-hating, life-simplifying Rachael has finally wrestled her to the ground.

Where do you stand on the couponing trend? Do you love it, hate it, or land somewhere in the middle?

Rachael McMillan teaches sixth and seventh grade history at Campus Middle School for Girls. She also tutors at The Reading Group and serves as the education coordinator for Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer in downtown Champaign. She is totally in love with her Chambana life, which she shares with husband Scott, second grader Jack, first grader Kate, and sweet, cooing baby William.



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  1. Meijer mPerks! Much faster, no paper!:) also you only get one- no extreme shelf clearing.

    • ETA: They also have coupons for everything, even produce, e.g. $1 off bag of onions, or 50 cents off mushrooms, tomatoes, pineapple. So in other words, *HEALTHY* foods! :)

    • RachaelMcMillan says:

      I L-O-V-E mPerks! Great suggestion.

  2. I follow a few blogs that post when there are deals that are worth getting the coupons out! I don’t always get the newspaper, but when I do, I just save the inserts and don’t cut out the coupons. Then if I need to use it I will cut it out.

    Sometimes I don’t have enough time to plan ahead, and I know I could do better. But I do my best to watch the sales and match up any coupons I have with the sales. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if I obessed to the point of making a binder and visiting multiple stores like some of the people I’ve seen on those shows.

    Even if I only save $5-10 every trip, it all adds up and is worth it to me! And I agree that m-perks is really helpful, and there are a few coupon apps being developed right now that should make couponing even easier and more fair.

    • Couponing with apps is not “more fair” to shoppers who do not have mobile phones and therefore pay more. And of course the store is simply “paying” shoppers with coupons for the opportunity to track everything we buy–same story with frequent shopper cards. How creepy is that?

      When frequent shopper cards first came out, there was a backlash. One group offered alternative cards to present to grocery store cashiers that read “A free people does not present identity cards to buy bread.”

      • LMW – MPerks is not an app for smart phones. You “clip” them online at the Meijer website at home (or if you don’t have internet at home the library where there is free internet). It takes at most 20 min. Then when you’re going through the checkout line you just punch in your code. There’s no discrimination against non-smartphone customers.

        Frankly, I’d rather save hundreds of dollars a year than care that Meijer knows I buy lemons. :shrug: I’d be more concerned about what political organizations, the government, or even news outlets have done with our info (much much more invasive), than the supermarket.

      • I suppose it is up to each person whether they feel comfortable giving up that information or not. It doesn’t really bother me if the store knows exactly what I buy or not, but it is something interesting to think about.

        I guess thinking about it more it doesn’t really make things more fair, but does make it more readily available to those who have mobile devices.

  3. I used to cut coupons and even enjoyed it before having kids. But lately I just shop at Aldi and don’t need coupons. Those coupon shows are entertaining but ridiculous for real life. I don’t care to spend 20 hours a week on coupons so I can stock my basement with junk food.

  4. I “like” products I actually use on Facebook, or sign up for their e-mail lists. I get coupons for Earthbound Farms produce every week, and occasional $1 off Sunbutter and Van’s gluten-free products. It’s a lot less time spent clipping coupons when the ones you’ll actually use show up in your inbox or feed!

  5. The only coupons I ever seem to find are for processed junk food or pet food. Stuff we need is rarely on sale. I’m with you, Rachael!

  6. I actually find it relaxing to clip coupons. I try to only focus on products we use, which means the majority of the coupons I have I printed online. Soymilk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, rice and pastas, sunbutter, juice — things like that. Yes, there is the cost of printer ink to incorporate, but THAT’s when you use your Staples Rewards ink cartridge recycling program to get a discount. Schnucks just had a triple coupon week, which helped me to get some of our favorite organic french fries really inexpensively and helped the Easter Bunny out with three bags of pistachios. I saved 1.50 instead of just .50 on a bag of cuties, and saved 2.25 on the bottles of cranberry juice I was going to get anyway. For me, it’s well worth it to have a hobby that saves money instead of costs money. My bill went from 50 bucks for two bags (eep!) to a more respectable $20. Totally worth it in my book.

    Now, in my ideal tilly-homemaker fantasy, I’d buy only minimally packaged whole foods from bulk bins and the produce aisle and cook everything from scratch. I bow down to those that can do that. I do cook A LOT from whole foods, but there are the odd nights when I want to pull something out of the freezer, heat it and eat it. With coupons I can afford to get higher quality products.

    Just FYI, my fave websites are:,,, and is just plain inspiring (if you have a green thumb).