About 18 months ago I started couponing. I jumped in with both feet and started seeing immediate results. Our grocery bill dropped by $200-250 a month. It was great! I followed the advice I found in magazines, tv shows and on Living Well, Spending Less. I got a Qubie to hold my coupons (envelopes never worked for me) and I proved Mr. O wrong by using it every single week.
I got a rush from checking the bottom of my receipt to see how much I’d saved. 32%, 40%, up to 52%!
I started ordering the newspaper and had my in-laws give me whatever coupons they didn’t use, too.
But there were problems, too. Couponing is not easy. It can be very time consuming. I found myself spending Saturday nights clipping coupons and planning my shopping trip instead of relaxing or enjoying time with my family. On top of that shopping trips took longer because I was checking and double checking coupons, receipts, etc.
I also noticed junk food piling up. There aren’t many coupons for apples, but there are tons for chips, crackers, sugary yogurt, cookies, and processed food. Sure, I was getting a great deal, but my family was eating crap. I started paying attention to what I was buying and toned it down, but there was a definite dent in my total savings.
Finally I started to look at my receipts. Yes, I’d saved 40% on a $120 shopping trip, but only $4 was from coupons, even doubled coupons! Once I factored in the cost of the weekly paper I was left with a coupon savings of $.85. That was kind of a slap in the face, honestly. All that time and work for less than a dollar? Ouch.
Where did the other $44 in savings come from? Shopping the sales and stocking up! Using the techniques I learned while becoming a couponer, I try to only buy things while they’re on sale, and then I buy a lot. This change of habit has saved us more than anything else and even allows me to skip a week of shopping if life gets busy.
Last week I cancelled our paper delivery. (At least I tried to… If you heard a random pay phone ringing outside the bus station, I’m pretty sure that’s the paper’s “Cancellation Office.”) I’ll still flip through my in-laws coupons when I get them, but I’m not going to spend more than 15 minutes a week on them.
The thing is, not every tool is right for every person. I know people who’ve had great success with coupons, but they weren’t the right tool for me.
Have you tried couponing? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.