The question of whether coupons influence my purchase decisions is not as straight forward as it may seem. The basic answer would be yes, but it is determined primarily by the circumstances. The only true purpose of coupons for the consumer is their ability to save the consumer money. If i were to purchase everything I may want or may use based upon the coupons that I come across, then I would actually lose out on the value that the coupon provides, which is savings. In this scenario, I would save less money because I would allow coupons to push me to spend money on things I otherwise wouldn’t have purchased.
The true value and influence of coupons should, and for me, will be found in the area of substitution. For example, if I were in need of a hair cut and I prefer a certain store, but I come across a coupon for a competitor’s store, then I actually saved money by using a coupon on a service I were to pay for either way. Now the same thing could work for something like breakfast food. Let’s say that I prefer to eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I have a coupon for a certain brand of breakfast cereal, it would benefit me to buy the breakfast cereal as a substitute.
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One thing I keep in mind is quality versus savings in the case of substitution. Now this is less of a guageable decision by weighing the two criterion but comes down mainly to personal preference. If in the former example of hair cuts, the one store cuts hair much better than the competitor’s store and was only five dollars more, I, based on my own preference, would choose the store I normally go to, and I would disregard the coupon. Also, if I really didn’t like breakfast cereal because of how crunchy it is and the oatmeal was thirty cents more, then I might purchase the oatmeal regardless of the coupon.
The issue of quantity versus savings is also a valid factor. If in the oatmeal example, the servings per box is eight and the price is three dollars, but the breakfast cereal that has the coupon is only six and the savings is only thirty cents, then I would save about seven cents a serving with the oatmeal. In this case, if I already prefer the oatmeal and the oatmeal is less expensive per serving, then it would be beneficial to ignore the coupon’s savings.
Another issue that may come up would be distance against savings. As another example, if I were to have a coupon for three cents off per gallon of gas at a certain gas station, the gas station is five miles from where I live, my vehicle gets twenty five miles to the gallon and has a fifteen gallon tank, and gas is three dollars a gallon, then I would lose fifteen cents in trying to use a coupon to save three cents a gallon.
In a situation where the cost of fuel negates the savings of a coupon (such as the previous example), it is best to save the coupon for a time where I am in the area and in need of fuel. If I begin to save too many coupons and it becomes too much of a hassle, then I find it better to throw them away and only buy the necessary items I am in need of.
Time and savings are another factor that should be accounted for. Once again, this may come down to preference, but if I spend one hour per week clipping out coupons, and I am able to save thirty dollars doing so, and I make fifteen dollars an hour at my normal job, then I would consider that worth it. If, however, I spend two hours a week, and I only save fifteen dollars, then as my own preference, I would not consider it worth doing. This one not only comes down to preference but also to efficiency.
All in all, coupons do have a great benefit, but there are many things to take into account and should be used in necessary purchases to receive the greatest benefit from them.