Clipping Coupons Pays You Big: The Math Behind Coupons

Earlier this week I was very excited to read an article in the Wall Street Journal tackling whether coupons are worth it or not.  Of course, I know I am preaching to the choir here and all of you know that of course they are worth it.

However, this article does the math for you on the hourly rate you can earn by clipping coupons.  It even goes a step beyond that by adjusting it for taxes.  This is something that I had not considered myself actually.  See, if you calculate the hourly rate you earn when you clip a coupon, in actually that rate is higher.  Because that hourly rate you just “earned” by clipping coupons is not adjusted down by social security, federal or state taxes.  Since all of you are here to find out the best deals to maximize your coupons your hourly rate may even be considered a  higher.

I have said this many times, while you may have found yourself needing to clip coupons because you had to, I hope that as your financial situation improves you won’t stop doing this.  Most of us are often wishing we could earn more money.  Consider coupon clipping that side job you wish you had to earn some extra money.  Be thankful that this is a job you can do while watching TV and in the comfort of your own home.  Personally, I think that’s a pretty awesome side job.

Doing the Match on Coupons by Brett Arends.

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  • I am ALWAYS shocked by my friends and family who tell me that clipping coupons or sending in rebates is just not worth it –
    um, WHAT? spending .44 for a stamp to get a $10 or more rebate back?
    I don’t know where they learned their math – but…to me, it’s TOTALLY worth it and there are soo many things I just flat out refuse to buy without coupons!
    Thanks for providing such a valueable resource to us coupon clippers!

  • Califrugal

    My hubby laughs when I say “my boss paged me and I have to go to the office” which is our code for red alert Mercedes just posted a major hot deal, load up the children I have to go shopping now! You have changed my family’s financial tree. Please don’t stop and from the bottom of my heart Thank You!!

    • Thank you! That totally just made me smile 🙂


    • I think that’s code that I should start using, too! I feel the same way lots of times! 🙂

    • Angie

      LOL…I’m still laughing!

  • Great article, Mercedes! I agree that saving with coupons is like working a 2nd job- but it is much better (and a lot more fun). I really enjoy finding the deals and seeing how much I can save. 🙂

  • AW

    I like your point of looking at coupon clipping as a side job. I work full time for a non-profit and I take a pay cut for doing so. i love my job but have thought about getting a second job to improve my financial stability. However in this economy I can’t find a PT job. Coupon clipping is something I do casually but I think I’m going to take it more seriously as a way to “make” money. Combining this with the idea of saving the money from couponing (ie putting it into a savings account) should help!

  • gwendolyn

    I live in a small town so my local Rite Aid and CVS are used to me now and don’t really look at me strange with my coupon obsession now. My manager at Rite Aid gives me the paper on Saturday so that I can “study” it a.k.a match up your coupons so that I can SAVE. It’s pretty cool that you can take products home now and get money back just for buying products as part of rebates. We have to remember that as ladies that coupon and wonder if it “saves us money”, yes. Whenever we can go into our stockpiles and pull toothpaste, soap, etc. to replace an empty tube vs loading up the car, using gas, and paying the off sale price for a tube of toothpaste I can surely answer “yes, I am saving money”.

  • Rhonda Devine

    Great post~just thinking of this very thing the other day–the more you make the more they tax–how about “making” money by spending less? We have a nice tax free shelter in coupons–hopefully it will stay that way:) Thanks for the great work you do in helping us “earn” money for our families by spending less!

  • Mandy

    Thanks for posting the article! The math makes perfect sense! I already had pride in my couponing, but now I feel even better about it!! 🙂

  • JLR

    I just discovered the great coupons available online in the last month or so. I’ve managed to save a few bucks each week (but nowhere near the $25/week mentioned in the article) but I’m happy with that. I buy a lot of generics so I don’t have the opportunity to use coupons often. However, what makes me sad and a little nervous is the fraudulent use of coupons. That sort of thing will hurt everyone in the long run when manufacturers stop offering big savings coupons.

    • Jaime

      The more that you use coupons and get in the habit of watching sales, the less you will buy the generics because a namebrand product on sale paired with a coupon (yes I’m talking about the legitimate coupons) is often cheaper than the generic. When I started couponing 5 months ago, I never would have believed it but it is so true! The only time I end up buying generic now is for spur of the moment purchases (usually prompted by my hubby) that I haven’t had a chance to look for sales for! And believe me, I definitely compare the prices. I’m already at the point where I don’t pay more than a dollar for most food items and toiletries I get for free with manufacturer coupons paired with sales for register rewards at Walgreens or ECBs at CVS!

  • Thank you so much for calling attention to this article! My hubby has helped me to “do the math” on my couponing, to see how much I am “making per hour”. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s nice to know that I AM contributing to our bottom-line–by using coupons and shopping smarter!!

  • Daphne

    I’m sorry but this article seems like a bunch of garbage to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love clipping coupons and it has saved my family tons of money, but it doesn’t seem like this article is based on much empirical evidence. The writer assumes we spend 1 minute per coupon – where does he get that number? I think he just makes it up. So his whole calculation is meaningless.

    Secondly, check out all the NEGATIVE comments about coupons people have left for this article on WSJ’s website!!!! wow!

    • Califrugal

      Hi Daphne,
      reading those comments just confirms that a number of the statements are coming from people who have no concept of what couponing is and the value to be reaped from employing it faithfully. I have been able to open my home more freely to friends/family because my bathrooms are overflowing with toiletries (many obtained for no cost or at a profit). My cupboards (food) and laundry room (cleaners) are similarly well stocked. All this while my darling hubby has endured a pay cut of greater than 50% over the last year. As for processed food, coupons allow me to get those free to be consumed in moderation. If something from my garden fails to produce I have enough money to buy from the farmers market. There is REAL value in couponing.

      • Daphne

        you should totally post this on WSJ’s website!

        • I totally agree,you really should!

          And Daphne, I think we eat rather healthy. I cook all of our meals from scratch with only the occasional processed foods that I can get for next to nothing or free with coupons. And yet I still save $100’s. If you want to see how much it saves me and the kinds of things I buy, check out my blog and go to the “My Deals” posts.

  • karen

    My husband and I both work full time and have 3 children ages 6,6, and 8. He works swings and I work a straight shift M-F. We can’t afford a babysitter, so we can’t get 2nd jobs. He gives plasma twice a week to bring in extra cash. I have started cutting coupons. In the last month I have noticed our grocery bill go down significantly and our cupboards are a lot fuller than they have been before. I thank this site and several others for their helpful ideas and great deals. I consider couponing my second job and my kids like to help. We actually make it a sorting game with them separating the coupons into different piles and matching them with like ones. They help cut them out and know to not cut off any numbers or words. My 8yr old helps me look for expired coupons. My part time job lets me stay home and spend quality time with my kids!

    • Jaime

      That’s awesome! No kids here but I’ve been amazed to see our grocery bill go down dramatically and my pantry is FULL!

  • Mary Jane

    Another point that people forget is the sales tax savings. In my state, sales tax is calculated on the amount paid out of pocket after coupons, etc. So, if I pay $4 for a pack of diapers instead of $10, the amount saved with a sales tax rate of 7-8% can be significant over time.

    • Heather

      Not here. We pay sales tax on the total before coupons (WA).

    • JLR

      In my state sales tax is calculated before any discounts are applied.

    • Mary Jane

      I know states do differ on this. I live in a city that borders two states (MO and KS) and Kansas calculates the sales tax before coupons, but Missouri does it after. So, I do my shopping in MO whenever I can!

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  • the artical itself was great however, the comments attached to the article really got under my skin! But hey, all those naysayers are just leaving more deals for the ones of us who know how to get a good deal right?!

    • Laurie

      AMEN! That’s what I’m thinking! That’s less people clearing shelves! I’m not gonna write articles in the paper and beg people to start couponing. I know how smart I am (and how smart the rest of you reading/writing this are!) and I don’t care who else sees/understands it. At first I tried to tell everyone I knew, but I’ve come to see that frankly most people don’t want to put in the time or energy to go after the deals.

      I went per diem (as needed/fill-in basis) at work over a yr ago and started clipping coupons and living more frugally. In the last year, we have managed to save over $10K! I don’t care how much per hr that comes out to- those are real results! And best of all, it’s meant more time w/ my darling 2yo daughter. My husband (who was soooo skeptical at first- and didn’t want me to quit my full-time job) is absolutely amazed, and finally takes my couponing “job” seriously now!

      Thanks a million, Mercedes for this wonderful website!!! You’ve all taught me so much and I’m so grateful!

  • Chris

    Is it worth it? Let’s see … I’ve recently made a more concerted effort to buy things with deals that I can donate to charity. For the first 10 days of February, I spent $7.28 on items that went to charity. At full price, these items would have cost $83.79. And I am couponing for myself as well. I just don’t calculate that because the last time I tried that, I burned out after a month.

  • Chris

    Wait a minute. It would have cost me $91.07 … $83.79 was what I saved.

  • Kathy

    I ABSOLUTELY agree that I am saving much by using coupons, matching them to sales, etc. It really helps! However, I disagree with the assumption of 1 minute per cpn – yes, that makes the “hourly rate” higher, but minimizes the hard work involved! I only wish it was that easy to coupon EFFECTIVELY!! I have a “love/hate” feeling about coupons. I love all the money it saves, espec when I match w/good sales, cats, etc., but sometimes I HATE dealing with it all!
    I look back at my savings in order to motivate myself to keep up with it all. I also do think it is easy to get caught up in buying too many items that are not as healthy when they are “free or cheap”, but self control and the newness of that wears off and I find I won’t buy tons of warm delights or cookies, etc, but still am significantly ahead. Thanks for the link to the article.

  • Julie

    I am a mostly stay-at-home mom with two little boys and a very hungry husband. He is the primary breadwinner, but I’ve worked two jobs online from home for a few years now, partly for the income and partly because I enjoy it. Recently, I was able to take an out-of-home part-time job that I had wanted for years, and we had to talk about how we were going to change things around so that I could find the time and not have to pay for childcare and so on. While we were having that discussion, we crunched some numbers and found that my couponing is “making” us more per hour (by quite a bit, actually) than one of my online jobs was. Coincidentally, it was the job I didn’t really enjoy. So, now I only work at my three (or four if you count “mother” and five if you count “wife”–heee! “mother” and “wife” are low-paying jobs, though! Low in money, anyway) jobs that I really like and want to do: teaching, being a librarian, and couponing. I don’t really care what the naysayers say, and I guess I even was one previously, but once I started getting serious about it, I saw the light, and I won’t ever go back. I am glad that some bloggers, like you, are doing most of the hard work for me. I really couldn’t do this and keep up my other jobs without you and PYP and Fabulessly Frugal. But it sure the heck is working for us. Never have our cupboards been so full, and I cut our grocery budget down by half (I could cut it more, but instead I chose to spend a little more getting some higher-quality products in a few categories, like hormone/antibiotic-free meats and so forth). So, thanks!

  • Angie

    I will clip coupons forever!! My friend once challenged me to calculate how much money I saved in coupons in a month and even I was shocked that it was over $300.

    My husband lost his job in January. My first reaction was to panic. That lasted a few hours until I realized we’ve learned to live on so little already. We’re doing fine financially and it’s been great spending more time together and getting some projects crossed off the To-Do-List.

  • Melanie

    What a great post Mercedes! I always say that my couponing saves me as much money as I would earn if I went out and got a part time job. Now I have some proof to back it up! Plus, I ENJOY couponing and shopping the way I do. It’s a game to me and a game that saves me some serious cash. Every week I think, “What will they pay me to buy?”

    A huge thank you to all that you do. Your site is one of favorites and I read it every single day. I can’t thank you enough for all of the time and effort you put into it!!!

  • LOVE IT!!! Thanks for sharing the article!!

  • Lindy

    THANKS so much for sharing this article! I forwarded it to my hubby and many other family and friends (especially those who laugh)!

  • Pam

    I am a retired grandma, no more kids at home, no real need to clip coupons…Years ago I was big into refunding (saving my trash for the next big rebate to be offered), but making the coupon deals (thank you so much, Mercedes) is so much easier and less time consuming, not to mention cheaper as I don’t have to mail upc’s to get the rebate. When I see some great deals on products we don’t personally use, I may get them for our local food pantry. Toy deals are great for our Awana store at church. Baby items can be saved to make up a gift basket for a new mom. As I’ve told others, “It has become the thrill of the hunt!” I’ve even had some young women from church ask me to teach them how to save money with coupons. Of course the first place I direct them is “Common Sense with Money!” Thanks, also, to you who leave comments. They have made me feel less frustrated when I just can’t get an online offer to go through.

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