Who uses a freaking coupon for DEL TACO?

Ramit Sethi

My parents.

I found this on the kitchen counter when I went home to visit my mom and dad the other day.


Seriously, look how ready it is to be used. All folded perfectly.

My mom proudly told me that she sometimes uses the coupon on Tuesdays “after I go shopping at Ross because of the Tuesday discount.”

Yet another reason immigrants are better at managing money than you? Or pointless frugality?

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. Moneymonk

    Old habits are hard to break. It may be pointless to this generation, but if you were raised to be frugal, it just becomes part of your DNA

  2. DanP

    While i think that saving 3 dollars once in a while on fast food is fairly pointless, i think we should appreciate the mentality of this type of frugality. It’s the mindset to save money when possible, to always try to spend less when one can.

  3. Rosa

    Obviously this isn’t the point of the post, but I’ve always been jealous of my grandparents for getting the Tuesday discount 😉 On the other hand, I’ve used fast food coupons before–but mostly because it’s a rare ‘treat’ for me, and if the ‘treat’ is cheaper than super-cheap, even better!

  4. Yanina Wolfe

    I wasn’t born in America and my family has this Soviet Russia frugality. I have invented a large amount of recipes of things that “it would be a shame if we threw it out…” 1/2 cup of sauce at the end of the jar, broccoli stalks, bits of beet, and other what have you’s. We’re not suffering that we have to eat scraps, but the entire family (except me) has grown up with some sort of food deprivation or another, so most of it is pure habit, and we all do hate waste so much. I think that ultimate frugality may be a badge of honor for them. Although when I ask for only one Cadburry egg (they are too sweet for more) since I haven’t had them for 4 years, they buy me 10.

    Part of it is also some odd bonding. My family knows I’m creative with food and I like a challenge. Can I make something delicious out of the blue with some scraps? Ah, why not true? Then we all sit down and eat.

  5. ami

    Well – these days, if they are skilled at accumulating coupons (especially the biggies), there’s gold in them thar coupons. Assuming (1) you have optimized your income stream and (2) you have the time to hunt for coupons (and you’re not taking time away from valuable activities), you can save a pile of money looking for coupons. And, perhaps, it’s not just couponing but part of a larger mentality of frugality, which can make those dollars stretch much further.

    I used to think couponing wasn’t worth the time, now after seeing other people bring their grocery bills down to astonishingly low levels, I’m reconsidering.

  6. AD

    I won’t go out of my way for coupons, but yeah, if I find one and it’s for something I like, I’ll use it.

    Unfortunately, there are no food coupons for anything I’d actually eat, so I have no use for those.

  7. Manu

    A penny saved is a penny earned.

    I actually use fast food coupons on occasion – I don’t go looking for them, but if they show up in the mail, and I know I’m going to eat there eventually, I hang onto them just in case. I don’t do this as my primary savings plan, and if I add up all the money I’ve saved by using these coupons in a year it would be less than one month’s interest (probably even less than 1 week’s), but I still use them when I see them.

    I earn a decent wage, am single, and have no debt, so using coupons isn’t something I need to do to keep bills down, I just figure why pay more for something when a cheaper price is staring me in the face, ya know? That’s like paying full menu price for delivery pizza (papa johns, pizza hut, dominos) – how many people still do that?

  8. Thursday Bram

    My granddad immigrated and he’s been known to take frugality a little far. If he finds a great deal, he’ll take it, no matter what. He once bought an entire church worth of pews just because he got a great price on them.

    He took them apart and used the wood in other projects, but, boy, you never know what he’ll come home with next.

  9. Erica Douglass

    *raises hand*

    I used coupons for Del Taco & other fast food until I got diagnosed with Celiac disease…now I can’t eat most of it.

    My income puts me in the top 1% of Americans, but I use coupons all the time. I also don’t buy things unless I need them. And I’m happy! 🙂


    • Dickhead

      Fuck the 1%

  10. Siddhartha

    I think coupons are a mixed bag.

    You were going to buy the product anyway
    You don’t have to expend much effort to obtain and use the coupon

    It’s not a bad deal. But most people either buy things they didn’t intend to or spend more effort to use the coupon than it’s worth.

    In the end I think most of the time it’s not worth it.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  11. impertinent

    Hm, my parents do that. Furthermore, they cut open shampoo bottles to get the last bit out, flatten toilet rolls to keep people from using too many sheets at the same time.

    But they’re not immigrants. They’re upper-middle class double income earners, themselves from upper-middle class families, natives to a Western-European country.

    Consider the possibility that Americans, not ‘immigrants’ are the odd ones out.

    In most parts of the world, debt is considered deeply shameful. It also, generally, has serious consequences. Consequently, frugality isn’t seen as being cheap. It’s seen as a commendable quality. A way to communicate to others (say, ones mother-in-law) that one leads life in a disciplined manner.

    That coupon is a neatly-folded signal to everyone who understands it.

  12. Arthur

    Hey, not everyone is a NY Times Bestselling Author.

    Jokes aside, I’m realizing more and more that coupons are more effective as targeted ads rather than actually trying to save someone a buck (at least in the times I’ve used them). How else could I justify a mid-week trip to Wienerschnitzel to buy a 79 cent corn dog?

  13. John

    My wife actually funs of me for this, but if someone says let’s go out to eat. First thing I ask is where, then I go looking for coupons.

    To go one step further, I heard a guy at work (@55+ years of age) complain that his mother and father-in-law share the cost of the daily newspaper with their neighbors. Then in the same breathe talk about these 2 being worth millions… coincidence or correlation?

  14. Mneiae

    This is definitely typical of my parents. I love this post! It is a great example of immigrant frugality.

  15. Jackson

    It actually brings genuine joy to my wife to use coupons. Like, it makes her day better. They’re worth it for that alone.

  16. Mrs Soup

    If I find them…I use them. I don’t spend 3 hours a day sorting through pages of newspapers looking for coupons on things I won’t use. But. We have a clippy that goes on our fridge for things we buy already at the grocery store. When we go shopping, we grab the clippy and grab the things at the store. Any coupons for fast food or meals go in my wallet. We rarely eat out, but where we go is usually determined by if we have a coupon. And 2 for 1 deals? Totally all over that.

  17. Kelly

    This is remarkably similar to your savings suggestion, just on a smaller scale.

  18. Amber

    I do. In fact, I only go to places like that when I have a coupon. For instance, Baja Fresh will give you $2 off your order of $5 or more if you fill out a stupid 5-minute survey on their website. Because they’re not that web-savvy, the number is hard-coded into the site and therefore can be used over and over again without needing to take the survey more than once (the code isn’t randomized). I feel like everyone in line *not* using the coupon is throwing money away.

  19. Douglas

    Del Taco is a fine eatery indeed. As a poor college student i order wisely. If i had coupons i would use them.

  20. Liz

    Also a poor starving college student, so I say “Yay for coupons!” I don’t even pretend to have the time to go actively searching for them, but every week when I get the fliers and coupons in the mail I look through them to see if there’s anything worth saving or using (I especially like oil change deals!). To me, it’s the same as going on to every week and looking up the grocery deals. It can save me a ton of money on things I already buy with minimal effort or time.

  21. Brian

    Whenever I buy things online, I will search around for “promotion codes.” About 50% of the time, I find one good for free shipping or something else. Not bad for 2 minues of time at work 😉

  22. Dawn Winningham

    Hey, money is money. What you save today can be used ,or not, on another purchase or bill. Hell, I’d use a coupon at the “dollar store” if they had them. Call me economically frugal.

  23. Mike P

    Coupons freakin’ rock!!!

    If you do your research you can use coupons, rebates, and store rewards and get all sorts of stuff for free or practically free. My wife goes crazy doing that stuff. I haven’t paid real money for a razor in two years and I’m not going to run out of shampoo anytime soon. Thats just the tip of the iceberg.

  24. Robert

    If you really use or eat that product, then might as well use it. But to switch to another product which you haven’t previously patronized, then buying it just to be able to use the coupon is simply crazy.

  25. Asita

    Its about finding a balance.You shouldn’t let coupons run your life (like my parents do). However, if you’re making any sort of sizable purchase, you’d be a fool not to do a quick Google search for a coupon. There’s a coupon for virtually everything out there, and it literally takes you 2 minutes to save some substantial $$$. If you don’t have to go out of your way to get a coupon and you aren’t a slave to them, then why not use them? If you don’t, you’re essentially throwing away free money.

  26. Neelam

    It is not the money saved that thrills me, but the thrill of saving.

  27. Jules

    It’s only pointless if you’re not saving the money for a reason.

    All snarking aside: I don’t eat out very much–about once every other week or so I’ll buy lunch at the cafeteria where I work, but they serve cheap-healthy-good food (sandwich, soup, milk for the price of a Big Mac & fries). It never ceases to appall me how much fast food costs, and what a crappy job it does at filling you up.

  28. Leif David

    I have nothing to add to the coupon discussion. I’m simply commenting to increase the comment count so that it encourages Ramit to post more often.


  29. Tim Rosanelli

    Using coupons and shopping at a store on a discount day is not frugal behavior because you are doing exactly what the retailers want ~ shopping and eating out when you normally would not.

    A truly frugal person would not window shop. They know exactly what they need, go buy it, and leave the store without a hundred extras.

    As for coupons… Using coupons are not frugal because they promote purchases that are unnecessary. Also, in the grocery store, the coupons are usually for more expensive items that another brand sells cheaper. A frugal person would purchase by the price per pound.

    Even purchasing groceries in bulk for a better price is faulted because the biggest problem with our food budget is we buy more than we eat. 20 – 40% is thrown out before its eaten.

  30. gimena

    No fast food or groceries coupons here but, I do use one for $8 off my oil change and one that gives me 10% off all my auto maintenance and parts. I have saved these coupons to my computer so they only take about a minute to print out.

    Also, I am a HUGE fan of the certificates. I only buy them when they are 80% off, and for restaurants that I would normally go to.

  31. simplesimon

    A penny saved is more than a penny earned (unless you somehow avoid taxes).

    I’m not going to buy food just because it’s on sale. Just like I’m not going to buy a house because there’s a tiny tax credit. I look at if I need it and was going to get it anyways (is this going to be my dinner? am I ready to settle and buy?) before deciding.

    Coupons are fine and all but it does push people into thinking they’re losing out on a fantastic deal when it’s not really necessary to be purchasing that item in the first place.

  32. Brent

    It all depends on what you do with the saved money. If you spent it on soda or something useless, then it’s pointless. If you saved it, earned interest on it and can eat out one more time a month, then it’s valuable.

  33. sarah

    My mom is like that too. She keeps a giant envelope full of coupons in her car. Then whenever she stops at a store or restaurant, she checks the envelope for any coupons from that place before going in.

    But me? Food is my big splurge and I will deprive myself of new clothes, shiny gadgets, nice furniture, etc. just to be able to shop at the “nice” grocery store, not deal with coupons, and eat out at local restaurants quite frequently.

  34. Frank

    Not that big on coupons but I sure do save the oil change coupons that come in the mail. $10 off goes a long way. Any fast food ones I also keep cause my roommate likes to hoard those.

  35. Smarter Spend

    My immigrant parents do that too, for KFC, El Pollo Loco, whatever you can think of.

  36. SusanO

    I definitely keep my eyes peeled for those oil-change coupons. I also love it when a local mechanic offers those 10-changes-for-$70 dealies (they contract it out to a marketer who literally goes door-to-door). The mechanic brings in new business, and the new customer gets ultra cheap oil changes for a couple of years.

    Also, there’s Groupon – I get a daily email for a local vendor offering something, usually at half off. You have to purchase the “groupon”, but when it’s for something that I’d be buying anyway it’s a sweet deal.

  37. Manu

    Update – I got a coupon for a free pineapple from Earth Fare with a $5 purchase. Did I use it? Heck yeah! I like everything I get from Earth Fare, plus, FREE PINEAPPLE!

    Again – not part of my savings plan, and I probably wouldn’t have spent the $5 this week (or any week soon, as I have similar stores nearby…..and by ‘nearby’, i mean 3 miles away instead of 6, so Earth Fare was by no means out of my way) if not for the coupon, but….FREE PINEAPPLE!

    At the end of the day, I technically “lost” money, but one thing I’ve noticed that is important on this site and in the book (which I’m currently reading) is not to trade your happiness for pennies. For a small price, I got some food I liked (Talenti gelato), and a free pineapple.

  38. The Other Josh

    Coupons are what the stores use to get inside the head of their potential market.

    Moms (and sometimes other folks) don’t want to make dinner. They don’t want to have to make dinner (after dealing with their daily grind) so much that if you can get a smidgin of an excuse to not make dinner they’re pleased as punch.

    “What I wouldn’t give to have someone else make for me … WHOAH! Here is a coupon for an X … and I don’t have to make tonite.”

    The coupon can be both an enabler, and also a benefit, but most of all if you can find one with minimal effort for something that works within your targeted cost expenditure plan then they’re good as gold.

    • Ramit Sethi

      The Other Josh = best comment in this thread. So true — and so powerful to understand the psychology of the coupon recipient.

  39. kris

    @ impertinent or Ramit

    ” In most parts of the world, debt is considered deeply shameful. ”

    Where? I want examples so I can quote it to others when I try to explain to them they should get out of debt now (and point them to Ramit’s websites, of course) .

  40. Joe

    Dude, why not! If you’re already gonna eat there, save a dollar or two. I get them in the mail and then stick it in my car’s glovebox. I wind up using maybe use one or two for when the Del craving strikes. Save 2 – 3 dollars. Pretty minuscule but harmless.

  41. Tina

    I was raised to be frugal and love it when I can find real bargains i.e. things I need not what I want. I always look at coupons and definitely look for promo codes when shopping on line – can equal big savings.

    However, I often shop at budget stores that don’t take coupons and there prices are more often than not lower than supermarkets even after taking coupons into account.

    So long story short – if you are going to buy something then look for a coupon/code – don’t use a coupon just because it is there.

  42. Laura

    I am a little confused! Why is it such a bad idea to save money on something you are going to buy, anyway? If everyone was as smart as your mom, we wouldn’t have so many people on welfare and other entitlement programs, because they would have grown up with the same common sense of “why pay more when you don’t have to?”

  43. Dave Doolin

    Rich people buy their avocados on sale.

  44. Kris

    I always use coupons when I can! This is how I look at it – if I save $3 with a fast food coupon for lunch, that will pay for a happy hour glass of wine later on (that I was going to have anyway). So while some people might think, “whatever, a free taco”, I think, “cool! free booze!”

  45. Adam

    Hilarious! And a little shocked to see how many people commented…

    Not sure if it’s immigrant financial wisdom or pointless frugality. It is funny which is much more important. (“…All folded perfectly”)

    Kind of reminds me of something Robert Frost said in regard to a question about the meaning of his poetry and some respectable academic interpretations of it and Frost said (approximately) “Who cares? I write about trees, birds and the world around me and people take it and make it about God or whatever else they want…I don’t get it.”

  46. Tamarisk

    Seriously…you totally crack me up. I so love your take no prisoners writing style. LOVE IT!

  47. Sean

    If it’s something you normally buy and would have spent the money on the item you are using the coupon for, don’t be stupid, save the few extra bucks. If you are buying something just because you ahve a coupon (like my grandmother does), then you are getting suckered and it’s a waste of money.

  48. Rose

    I use coupons to try new products. I try something I might not have, and either it’s good enough to use again or it isn’t. If it is, we’re both on a winner, if it isn’t, well they won this time, but it had to be something I might have thought about buying without a coupon anyway. I won’t buy just because I have a coupon, and plenty of coupons end up in the recycling box because I just have no use for the product at all. From time to time if I feel like a treat I will search for an online coupon for a Pizza. If I keep coupons for other takeaways they are usually still sitting there waiting for the recycle bin way past their expiry date. The manufacturers coupons to entice me to try things though have a decent length of time to use them and I keep those in my wallet for when there’s spare money in the grocery budget and the product might be on special as well. Add the coupon to the special you’re getting a better deal than the cheaper alternative often. And price per pound isn’t always the only consideration, you need to look at ingredients too. The tin of condensed milk, for instance, that is cheap is often watered down and just won’t match in quality. Where quality matters I’ll pay the price to enjoy my purchase.

  49. Rob

    Dude, I haven’t seen a Del Taco for like 15 years. I thought it went out of business. I do live on the east coast, though.

  50. Cathy in Oz

    This whole coupon thing is fascinating to me, as in Australia we do not have a ‘coupon culture’. You guys have whole web sites devoted to the art! About the only coupons we get are pizza discounts in the mail occasionally. However, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time… 🙂

  51. financiallyfreeinbc

    You know, if we, in Canada, had to couponing ability you do in the US, I would be on that in a heartbeat. I have read about people getting groceries/eating out for little or nothing. Not to mention that they occasionally get paid to buy things because they have such an amazing coupon deal.

    I am not for coupons you can’t use… only what you would buy anyways.

    I used to laugh at my grandmother who watered down her dishsoap with water, her creme de menthe with vodka and used “dinosaur” in her meat pies after living through the Depression. I am now eating my words. I make my own dishwasher detergent, my own laundry soap, and, knowing I have a bad squeeze habit with the dishsoap bottle, water down my soap. I make beans from scratch and freeze them for recipes and mostly cook at home after making a menu plan. I also keep leftover food for soup and freeze any extra soup. People may laugh and ask why?? Because a buck is a buck is a buck. After years of being in debt and now working my way out, each dollar I save means one less dollar I have to pay interest on and one more dollar in the future I will have to buy the things I need/want without going into debt for it.

    I think your parents are fabulous for thinking ahead! 🙂

  52. Elizabeth Gage

    I know this isn’t the main point of this thread, but the good thing about being creative with leftovers, watering soap, reusing alum foil (maybe)…is that we keep excess crap from going to the landfill or other parts of the waste stream. Wastefulness is nasty whether you are aiming to save money or not.
    By the way, I am probably the last person in America to buy pizza without a coupon. We buy it so rarely that thhe coupons don’t register on my awareness.

  53. E West

    Hilarious! This made me laugh out loud.

    Though I am more likely to use this than my parents. My friends say I am “the cheapest person they know.


  54. Max

    Hey, if you can get 2 tacos for the price of 1, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of that, especially if you plan to eat there anyway. Every time I go to eat anywhere, I always check their website first for coupons or see if I have any in my batch of current coupons that I keep. It’s confusing to me why somebody wouldn’t want to check for extra savings or use a coupon. Now, if only I had a Del Taco near me, I’d be in heaven.

  55. SusanO

    I do that too, Max. Whenever I sign up for a service online I first google to see if there’s any kind of special offer code, and whenever I am buying anything major (over $50 for me), I google for a coupons. It’s just become second nature, and since I spend most of my day in front of a computer it’s not out of my way . . .

  56. SkinnyD

    My wife has started to really learn how to work the coupon system. The scope of tactics and methods for saving money using coupons is way beyond anything either of us ever imagined. She’s been able to stretch our budget further than it has ever gone before. I’ve been amazed and extremely proud of her!

  57. aviad

    Great Post!

  58. Revanche

    Yo, American born and raised and if there’s a coupon for a place I would like to go – I would collect and use it. B1G1 for Del Taco? Definitely. Heck, I try to combine those with gift certificates because super free is better than just 1 free.

  59. Elizabeth Gage

    Sometimes it’s the thrill of the chase.

  60. Anthony

    I’d do it to fucken save MONEY!

    But I don’t want to have to clean up the mess in but a FEW hours!

  61. Dr. Pepsi

    Are you people working for minimum wage? That’s who coupons are for.

  62. Randall

    Your comment
    “While i think that saving 3 dollars once in a while on fast food is fairly pointless,…”
    POINTLESS? You mean you would rather pay the $3.00?
    Someone who does not realize that $3.00 saved is like earning $3.00 to clip a peice of paper. It’s like people that won’t bend over and pick up a penny on the ground. If the ground was covered with pennies, how much do you think you could make per hour? Do the calculations and you will be surprised.

  63. kat

    people who do not use coupons (for stuff they intend to buy anyway) are crazy! so what if it’ll only save you a few bucks here and there.. randall is right.. would you rather pay for it then if you don’t have to? being a broke college student, i hunt for coupons before going out (there is no such thing as wasted time if it’ll bring you money!!) ..

  64. Claire at Saving Money Plan

    Dear Ramit,

    Coupons ROCK!

    Your friend,

    Coupon Claire

  65. north9nj

    coupons are a marketing tool. i awe at people who can go to a grocery store and get $200.00 of stuff for a $1.00 using coupons. i don’t know if this a immigrant thing or not?

  66. Sheri

    Coupons are most definitely NOT only for people making minimum wage, as someone suggested. In fact, a recent poll taken at the coupon forum to which I belong asked members about their household income. A full 20% of respondents make over $100,000 a year, while only 10% make in the $15,001 to $30,000 range. In the comments attached to the poll several of the more well-to-do members mentioned having the “Millionaire Next-Door” mind-set, specifically, not paying full price for anything as a means to build wealth.

  67. Coupondunia

    This is an awesome story that inspires me to keep blogging and keep working.

  68. Millionaire Taco Man

    OK Gang,
    Here is my post. Well, I am a millionaire, several times over. Just the typical family man who decided to like tacos with the kids instead of McDonalds. Yes, I can eat anywhere I want, but there is no fun in that. It’s all about the hunt of a good deal. Here is my latest: Bought $100 in gift cards on Cyber Monday, getting “8 free” combo meals on that day for the purchase. Now that is a $56 retail savings. Not that I would ever buy a combo meal or a drink, but hey, it’s free. Then I have the kids pick-up tacos on taco Tuesday (3 tacos for $1.09). Now I get 12 tacos, making the order $4.62 with tax included. I do an online survey every time to get a dollar off my purchase. That brings the total down to $3.62 or .30 a taco (tax included). The sauce packets are free, costing Del Taco maybe .03 to .06 each, so how can anyone complain about .30 tacos. The ingredients are great, fresh, and tasty. Nothing like Taco Bell (YUCK dog meat). So, yes, it is fun and inexpensive to work the system. Just ask any Democrat. The funny thing is, it is likely the Democrats who will call this non-free loader Republican cheap. Ha, isn’t America great.

  69. Deej

    So when did not saving money because ” I’m embarrassed to use a coupon” happen ? Oh you sad little Millenials…