How to Overcome Coupon Anxiety

Everyone enjoys saving money but why does using a grocery coupon cause such stress? Turn your grocery saving experience around and keep on saving.

It’s mid-afternoon and you’ve just finished picking out your groceries. Being a savvy shopper, you’ve based your shopping list on this week’s deals. You load up on what you need and also found a few things you wanted on sale. You excitedly head up to the checkout with your stack of coupons and then you start to feel a little anxious.

Maybe that’s not the best description but you feel something.

It could be that you’re excited to try a new cold brew coffee you found. Maybe that’s not something you would normally buy but a store digital coupon doubled with a manufacturer coupon plus cashback from Ibotta brought the total to just 50 cents.

Now it’s your turn to checkout. The digital coupon is already preloaded on your store card so all you need to do is hand over the manufacturer’s coupon.

It’s time to scan the coupon. Will your plan work out? If not, will you put it back or just get it anyway? Is it worth it to get the manager over a dollar?

There are a few people in line behind you. You hope everything goes smoothly and you won’t hold them up.

Will they get annoyed at how long you are taking? Or will they think you don’t have enough money to afford your groceries if you decide to put them back?

Does all this sound familiar?

Do you get anxious in public when trying to save a few dollars with coupons?

I get flustered just thinking about it. But I often ask myself why am I having these feelings about using coupons? I am not doing anything wrong. I am just doing what I always do, trying to be efficient with my money.

In this post, I will explain why you might have similar feelings, how to get past the anxiety, and why you should feel proud to use coupons. You will learn that it is perfectly acceptable to get the best deal possible with your coupons.

Your Emotions and Couponing

Why do people get anxious or flustered at check-out when snagging a deal with a coupon? Why does saving money by turning in a piece of paper cause us such a bout of emotions at all?

Coupons can be a great way to save money on your groceries and everyday essentials. Planning and keeping organized takes time when preparing for your shopping trip if you really want to stack the deals. But if you are like us, you’ll be thrilled to save so much money in one transaction!

Once you reach checkout, there can be a lot of problems that can deflate your excitement and make you anxious about using coupons.

How to overcome coupon problems

At one point or another, I’ve had all of these thoughts and emotions while standing in the checkout line waiting to have our coupon issues resolved. For a split second I may get worked up and then it passes just as quickly as it came because we found a solution.

If these situations arise, try to have a solution ready to keep your coupon excitement alive.

Problem: Sometimes coupons do not scan as expected and ruin your careful planning.

When this happens to us, I get completely flustered because I have to make a quick decision I wasn’t prepared for. And often it’s over just a few dollars. If I don’t attempt to get it to work, then I feel all of our planning time was wasted.

Solution: When things don’t go as planned at checkout, have a dollar value in mind that you will fight for. Usually, if you ask, the cashiers want to keep you happy and will make it right. If you do need to go to customer service to fix it, sometimes you may get refunded the coupon value in cash. You can always simply put the coupon item back, especially if you don’t need it.

Problem: Asking for help will hold up the other customers. You are worried they will be annoyed that you need extra attention.

Using coupons may mean you need more time than others but so does the lady with the overflowing cart in the next aisle. That doesn’t stop her from buying what she needs.

Solution: Take the time to plan ahead but do not hesitate to ask for help when something doesn’t work out. You don’t want to let all your time go to waste. Often items aren’t coded correctly and they just need an override code to work. The cashiers are there to help you, especially in the self-checkout line.

We typically use the self-checkout line in order to go at our own pace. This way we can double-check that everything rang up correctly before calling over the cashier to scan the coupons.

Problem: Causing a delay in the line will draw attention to your use of coupons. You may feel judged by everyone around us.

Sometimes I think to myself, “do they think that we are broke and can’t afford our food or that we are cheap?”

Solution: If you feel like others are making an opinion of you and your coupon usage, try thinking about a similar situation. Do you feel judged when you buy food off the meal deal menu at Mcdonald’s? Or if you get a lower interest rate on a loan? Probably not. Yet, in all three situations, you are getting something at a discount. Remind yourself, all you are doing is saving money.

If drawing attention to yourself really bugs you, go at off hours and be sure to plan ahead. Stay organized when you check out and keep all coupon items grouped together to make it easier for the cashier to identify. And remember, everyone must wait their turn, that is why it’s called a line!

Be proud of couponing

You have to remember that coupons are just a marketing tool to get you to try things. They are not a red flag of your financial situation or your relationship with money. When you find a way to work your magic and make a coupon deal even sweeter, then good for you.

If you feel embarrassed to use a coupon because of what people might think, know that most coupon users are not poor. In fact, the average coupon user makes between $25,000 and $100,000 per year according to Nielsen studies.

You have the right to use coupons no matter what your financial situation is and you should not feel bad about it. Instead, you should feel proud of yourself for sticking to your savings goals.

Coupons are created with the intention of being used. It is your right to utilize these discount tools to stretch your budget and save money. Being creative by double stacking coupons with a sale is just one example of good money management.

If you have any emotion attached to the use of a coupon, it should be pride. Be proud of yourself for saving for your future in your everyday life.

We shout it out whenever we end up making money on a grocery bill. It can be fun to get paid to shop.

Why we use coupons

I grew up clipping coupons out of the Sunday newspaper with my Mom and Grandma. We even had a cute little coupon organizer. They were always finding the best deals and shopping the clearance sections first. Watching them provide for our family of six on a budget helped me start my frugal life.

I didn’t grow up with a negative connotation of coupons.

Today, we are pretty coupon savvy over here at TicTocLife. Chris is probably more so than I am. We love getting a deal and find pleasure in the hunt for the steepest discount. It’s a hobby that we can do from the comfort of our home and save money on the things we need. Saving money is the main reason why we coupon.

Coupons save money

A lot of things are overpriced. Paying the full cost for certain things can just seem wrong. You have the tools at your fingertips to compare prices online, find discount coupons at the store and cashback offers through rebates.

Go ahead and utilize your savings tool belt for your everyday needs and for a few fun things too. Demonstrate your money management skills at the grocery store. Maybe we can squash negative coupon vibes, together.

Coupons are a good way to stock up on the essentials while saving you money throughout the year. When you find a great deal, load up. You know that you will use nonperishables over time and they won‘t go to waste.

We haven’t bought laundry detergent, paper towels, or toothpaste in over two years. Chris even applies this concept with his favorite pair of running shoes.

stack of dark chocolate bars
Stock up on the essentials like your favorite dark chocolate bars when they go on BOGO.

Using coupons can also be a great way to try new things, like cold brew coffee we spotted on sale—and when combined with a coupon, was less than free! We were able to have a small luxury upgrade and save a few bucks in the process.

Avoid the Coupon Trap

Remember to be a smart shopper. Coupons are designed to pull you in and get you hooked. Be careful to not fall into the marketing trap of coupons. Don’t just buy something because it is has a coupon.

This is why I keep emphasizing “the things we need”. Even if we discover we like something new purchased with a coupon, we won’t get it again until it is on sale. Our coupons match our shopping list except on the rare occasion in which a coupon gives a positive return.

Yes, we bought that cold brew coffee as a treat, but we won’t make it a habit at the regular $4 price.

Takeaways: Couponing Tips

Tools to help you meet your financial goals should not be embarrassing or cause you anxiety. Coupons are just one of those tools to save you money for the things you need. Next time you are about to reach the checkout line, take pride in your savvy shopping skills remind yourself of the following coupon tips:

  • Clip your coupons without embarrassment and save your money for a rainy day
  • Research digital coupon sites, Groupons, cashback, and rebate programs to match your shopping list
  • Don’t buy what’s on sale just to get a deal—avoid the trap of coupon marketing and just get what you need or what you want when it is on sale
  • Stock up when you find a good deal—especially on essentials—or consider helping a family member or making a donation to a local community organization
  • When using a coupon at a restaurant, let the waiter know upfront and always tip on the pre-discount amount

Don’t let others negatively judge your use of coupons. Maybe they are the ones with the money issues. Relax and go ahead and clip your coupons! Save your money to use on more enjoyable things.

Are there times when you wanted to use a discount but didn’t? Is there a situation where it would be inappropriate to use a coupon? Why? What suggestions do you have about using coupons?

If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing via email to receive TicTocLife's infrequent newsletter for more on how your financial life crosses with money psychology and day-to-day FIRE strategy!
Want to try before you buy get for free? Read the Newsletter Archive!

By Jenni

Jenni began her path to financial independence after pharmacy school left her with six figures of debt and no clear path to digging out. She started absorbing personal finance strategies and built a plan to pay down her debt quickly as a pharmacist.

Years later with her debt at zero and net worth approaching her FI number, she made the jump to semiretirement as a part-time PRN pharmacist.

Learn more about her: Meet Jenni.

6 replies on “How to Overcome Coupon Anxiety”

Wow, I thought it was just me that I feel the anxiety at the check out line. It’s not about using the coupon, it’s about using the coupon and have there be some sort of problem pop up at the cashier line.

Which means, if the manager does need to be called over, I caused an inconvenience to the rest of the people in line.. When they haven’t done anything!

I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way and I should be more proud that I’m using a coupon 🙂

Well thank you! Now I know that I am not alone as well.

I find it hard to distinguish if it’s the coupon or the inconvenience for others. I don’t like to be a bother for others but also can be bothered by what I think others think of me. So it’s hard to tell.

But it’s great to know I am not alone and now I will be more confident at check out.

Haha I always get that line anxiety, even ordering a coffee or something at a place I’m not familiar with. I feel shamed into ordering too quickly. I really like using apps for grocery savings–kind of stealth couponing if that’s available to you at all.

I call that choice paralysis mixed with a little nervousness. Whenever there are too many choices for coffee or ice cream I just go with what I know. But then I feel rushed and that I missed out on trying something new.

With celiac disease, I am used to sticking with what I know. I’ve found to take my time and not order til I am ready helps me. I also always have a few options since half the time I can eat the best sounding thing I want and I have to go with plan B.

Thanks for the comment

I used quite a few coupons growing up, and also with a family of my three sons. But I have since learned to shop at alternative stores such as the 99 cents only store, which carries fresh produce and has sales. Also Aldi’s which has incredible private label food which is sort of like Trader Joe’s. I first shop at the 99 and get basics like beans, rice, produce, canned goods and mixes like cake mix, rice a Roni etc. then I hit Aldi’s for wine, meat, and frozen food. I have found it’s where you shop and what you buy. We love beans and lentils.

Great point about Aldi and Lidl. These stores actually have a lot of good inexpensive foods as well as produce. I’ve found several GF products I can’t find elsewhere.
Their app also gives you discount alerts and sales for even more savings.
Stores like these are great but always a word of caution with other type of discount stores like the dollar stores or family dollar. Always remember to pay attention price per unit and don’t over pay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *