April 25, 2008

Why don't people consistently clip coupons and use them to save money?

It's hard to believe that such a large population of people would pass up the chance to keep even just a small portion of money. Why don't people just take a small amount of time to clip out coupons from the newspaper for items they know that they will need to purchase?

For some people the answer could be as simple as laziness, but is it just that? Many people who don't clip coupons might contend that their time is more valuable than the potential savings. Why wouldn't someone take the time to flip through the sale paper for maybe twenty or thirty minutes to save a total of around say five or ten dollars? Often times the best coupons can be found in the Sunday morning paper so then the question could be whether to save money at some time in the future or to relax and take a nap now. The opportunity cost of clipping coupons and losing a nap is too high, and those who are unwilling seem to be somewhat less sensitive to prices.

So some people may feel that their time is better spent napping than it is cutting coupons. What about the rest of the people, what are their reasons? If the potential money that shoppers can get back is not enough to give them the incentive to cut the coupons, then maybe they feel it is a wast of time and effort. They know that in the end when they go shopping they won't even have all the coupons they clipped when they go to purchase their items. Some shoppers may also chose not to cut coupons because they may then just purchase new items that they don't ordinarily use or need, but they will still get them at a discounted rate. The coupons are merely a signal to buy.

Some people might not clip coupons because they also have rules or stipulations that make them somewhat less easy to use. Most coupons have expiration dates, or offers that are only valid when more items are purchased. The phrase, "buy one items, and get a second item of equal or lesser value free," is common and familiar to many shoppers. The buy one get one free or half off idea is a great way to market to consumers who are looking for that good deal, but it may once again lead to excess spending. These types of coupons encourage overbuying or unnecessary purchases. Good for the seller, bad for the buyer. Some people may just take advantage of the savings on their own and share the wealth by bargaining with a friend. "I'll buy this shirt and get another one for half off in your size and then we'll split the total cost between us." It is in a sense a type of savings trade which benefits both parties and leaves everyone potentially better off than they were before the transaction.

With all the coupons out there, one can only guess why many consumers choose not to take advantage of the savings. For people who have the patience, time, or need there are a multitude of opportunities to find and use coupons for substantial savings.

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