We have always lived rather close to the US border so quite often we cross-border shop in the US. We also own a vacation home in the US. At one time my husband would have been considered the coupon king! He used to clip coupons from a locally available US newspaper each Sunday then when he had enough we went on the dreaded shopping trip. His best score was close to $400 worth of groceries/sundries for 49¢. The Canadian customs agent was so impressed he did not even charge duty on the purchase! Fast forward to 2012 and we very seldom use coupons. The reason being most frugalistas do not view coupons as being frugal.
Coupons are usually not the bargain they appear to be. In the US, some stores would double the face value of the coupon meaning they actually paid you to take the product out of the store. Then they went to double the face value to a dollar so you only had to pay a few cents for the product. Those days are behind us. I haven't seen any stores recently doubling the value of the coupon. In Canada, doubling the value of a coupon is unheard of and coupons tend to be few and far between. In general, coupons are not frugal for the following reasons:
- While there are Canadian coupons via various sources, they tend to be few and far between so availability becomes a real issue. Even with using a coupon exchange, finding good Canadian coupons can still be a challenge.
- The effective use of coupons takes a lot of time, effort and organizational skills something that may be better spent in other ways to cut costs in the kitchen. I know first hand how much work my husband put into coupons and while it worked for a young, larger family it really is not something many are interested in committing to.
- Coupons tend to be for higher priced, brand name and heavily processed foods rather than those foods in the outer perimeter of the grocery store where the healthier foods are. Even with a coupon for something like canned green beans, store brand or home canned is still less expensive. It is not often that coupons are available for fresh fruits or vegetables.
- Coupons are rarely available for locally produced foods, farmers' market or farm stand where the real food bargains are. They are seldom available for the staples (eg. sugars, flours, salt, pastas) that every home cook must have on hand.
- Coupons are really not eco-friendly and while some would not concern themselves about this issue, any time I can reduce the use of paper I will. Some grocery stores are now offering a discount at the check-out if you have their store loyalty card which is a nicer, eco-friendly solution however, you may be paying extra through higher prices so even that is not always a bargain.