The whole idea behind a company offering a coupon on their products is similar to that of a free sample. If they can convince you that the product is good, then you will come back and buy it again without the coupon. While there are many factors that go into the use of coupons when deciding what to buy, it is safe to say that coupons do influence purchasing decisions. If nothing else, a coupon may bring an item to mind that I otherwise would not have considered.
One of the factors as to whether I will use a coupon or not is its ease of access. Sometimes you weigh out the benefit of standing in line for an extra five minutes while they scan your stack of coupons and try and figure out why you can’t use one, or anything else that goes wrong as they go through it. If you’ve got the time, bring the whole stack out. But time is money, and sometimes it’s better to pay the extra dollar for the bag of cereal. If there was a single mass coupon that they could scan and it would just deduct the money from all the individual coupons included, it would be great. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes it’s just easier to leave the coupons behind and buy what you normally buy.
Another factor is what the coupon is for. When I’m buying my food, I have no qualms about buying the generic brand if it’s considerably cheaper. So if a coupon lowers the name brand price, but leaves it more expensive than the generic brand, I’ll leave the coupon at home. It’s not worth it. However, if it the name brand with the coupon is considerably cheaper, I have no issue bringing the coupon along. One thing that can almost always influence my purchasing decision is a coupon for a car service. When big names offer coupons, I have no problem going to them to get my oil changed or tires rotated. Restaurants are another area that I can easily be swayed on. If I have a coupon for a cheap dinner, I’m far more likely to go there than another more expensive dinner. In the end, money talks. While I won’t use a coupon just to use a coupon, if it saves me a substantial amount of money, it’ll be hard for me to pass up.
I also consider how much the coupon will save me, or any catch that might come along with it. Buy One, Get One Half-Off coupons I generally avoid, since I’m buying more than I actually need, and paying more for it as well. It also pays to read the fine print on some of the coupons, as they say you get something for “free”, but have to buy said items first. If I wasn’t going to buy those items before, why would I buy them to get something of a lesser value for free? Once again, it’s deciding whether or not it’s worth it to use the coupon, or if it’s a money trick to get you to pay for more than you need or want. And let’s not forget a coupon that is for $0.20 off a two dollar product. Sure, it’s 10% but it’s also just $0.20. If you can only use the coupon on one of the products, I’m not going to hassle with it. Being able to use it on a bulk number of items makes me more likely to use it.
In the end, I try and be a savvy shopper with coupons. If I wasn’t planning on buying something similar to start with, I’m not going to buy it just because I have a coupon. However, if I was planning on buying something similar and I have a coupon that lowers the price, it’s highly likely I will bring it along.