You Should Stop Using Coupons

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I like to knit, sew, and do assorted crafts. So, for a long time, I was a big fan of the Jo-Ann flyers that would come in the mail. There would always be at least one really valuable coupon, giving you 40% off any full price item, which I would usually save for a big cut of fabric. But you couldn’t use it if your chosen item was already on sale, so I would check out the sales, too. This strategy had implications. Some coupons were better than others; some sales were better than others. I ended up with an encyclopedic knowledge of what makes a good deal at this particular store, and would jump on those when I could, even if I didn’t have a particular project in mind yet.

From the point of view of “how can I save the most money on this particular dress I’m making,” this was a sensible strategy. But in the bigger picture, the question of “how can I spend less money on crafting,” it was an utter failure.

Why do you think companies offer coupons and sales in the first place? It’s because doing so nets them more money in the big picture. You have a coupon for one thing, so you go to the store and fill up your cart. Or you buy something you otherwise wouldn’t. Or you sign up for the newsletter to get that 10% off code, and now you’re stuck in their marketing loop forever.

But you don’t have to just take it from me. Here are some of the reasons marketers advise companies to issue coupons:

Of all the reasons why customers buy something, saving money is near the top of the list. This need to save is why discount coupons have become a bigger part of running a successful ecommerce business. Studies show that customers spend 25% more money with a coupon than without one.Sellbrite 

Consumers love to feel as if they received a ‘deal.’ It’s a positive feeling and reassuring (even if it’s not as profitable for the consumer) to complete a transaction with some discount or incentive applied.BigCommerce

The pros of offering coupons include introducing new customers to your store or website. Coupons can also introduce new product lines and help sell excess or unwanted inventory to make room for newer products. Coupons can be used to strategically encourage customers to buy a new, more profitable product to help boost your profit margin. Also, coupons can create loyalty with existing customers by using the discount as a reward to ensure they continue to buy from your store.Investopedia

The flip side of loving to find a deal is that I hate feeling like a sucker. Eventually it dawned on me that I was spending more money on discounted craft supplies than I ever would have spent on occasional purchases of full-price ones. My first step toward freedom was to stop looking at the Jo-Ann flyers. If I decided on my own that I needed a specific craft supply, I would grab the flyer on my way out the door. These days, I don’t even save the flyers. I now shop there once every month or two, instead of feeling tempted to visit every week.

Along the same lines, I once had a Costco membership, and dropped it after a similar realization. Sure, almost everything there was a good price per-unit or per-pound compared to the same thing somewhere else. But did I really need a gallon of salsa for $6 when I only wanted a normal size jar’s worth, considering I could buy that jar for $4 at the regular grocery store?

There’s a sort of galaxy brain meme to be had here. First is paying full price when you don’t have to. Next is discovering coupons. After that is putting enough time and effort into the couponing game to make sure you’re not one of the suckers who makes couponing profitable. Finally, there’s the realization that you can save money and time by quitting the coupon game entirely. Sometimes the only winning move is not to play.