Money saving theory: Coupons

I decided quite awhile ago that couponing does not work for me.  Well, in tiny amounts it is fine.  I probably use a coupon every other month, for a grand total savings of  perhaps $10 a year.  But serious couponing, with the binder and the circular-sawingcutting and the combining sales and rebates and coupons?   I don’t have time for it.

Many penny-pinchers disagree with me.  Vociferously.  (Or politely, depending on their bent.)  There’s sooo much money to be saved with coupons, they insist.  You save many dollars for every hour invested. It’s like leaving money on the table not to use coupons!  And after reading a particularly well-reasoned argument, I will occasionally revisit that decision of mine.  Re-examine it. Sometimes even try again.

Most recently, this week.   I clipped a bunch of coupons from the Sunday paper, the most interesting of which were for toothpaste and canning lids.  Then I happened across a blog talking about this week’s good buys at Walgreen’s and Target.  I got about 8 windows open on my computer, planning to print coupons as soon as I got some paper in my printer.  Then the day dragged me away and beat me up a little.

When I got back to the computer and saw all those open windows, it looked exactly like a to-do list that I had zero energy for.  Not to mention my husband was already in bed and the printer which resided in the bedroom would surely awaken him.  And I never buy Hot Pockets.  Never, never.  My poor deprived kids.  I go to Target as little as possible because the pretties suck me in.  And (as you may already know)  I hate Walgreen’s with a white hot passion.

So let’s recap– couponing uses time I don’t want to spend and drags me places I have no time or inclination to go and coaxes me to buy things that nevernevernever get onto my grocery list in real life.  That saves me how?

No thanks.

I’d much rather save money by doing things that already fit my busy life and feel comfortable to me.  I’ll skip the Hot Pockets and make my own pizza.   I’ll buy 75-cent Aim when I’m already at Winco instead of matching sizes/brands and getting Colgate at a store that makes me bonkers.  I’ll can garden tomatoes instead of buying Prego on sale. I’ll buy dry beans and make my own chili instead of using coupons for Nalley.  I’ll make pancakes and oatmeal for breakfast instead of Cap’n Crunch.

I probably will use that coupon for canning lids, if I remember before it expires. But in general I will leave to couponing to the people who’ve already mastered it  and love it.  (You go, girls!)

I’m sticking with what works for me.

——-

Coming later this week:  a money saving theory that actually does work for me!  (Hint:  look in my sidebar at my July grocery spending!)

{ 45 Comments }

  1. I would say that you are very wise with money! All these vouchers and “special offers” are all very well, but the thing to remember is that they are the things that the shops want you to buy. Supermarkets/big stores pay hundreds and thousands to research marketing. Some stores use smells pumped out of the air vents to make customers hungry, they position their products along the central aisle to entice customers to buy their “special offers” on the more expensive brand name products, although the non-brand name is often still cheaper, just might not look so “pretty”.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. If you find a voucher for something that you normally buy, then fair enough, but if not, why waste your time and end up buying something not needed – and probably end up spending more in the long run!

  2. Amen. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with the fact that couponing is simply not a good fit for my life (at this point) or our diet (it’s hard to buy local with coupons!).

    I’ll stick with my coupon-less Aldi, thank you very much!

  3. Oh boy, Mary, I relate to what you are saying. I go hot and cold with coupons. I’ll read an article and get all excited but, truly, the upshot is I end up buying stuff that normally doesn’t make it in our grocery cart. I’m not sure wading through piles of coupon inserts is worth it for the few that would truly work for us either. It’s nice to hear of another frugal person who doesn’t go crazy over the coupons. Still…..when I see some of the deals that people get, I start to think about them again……a viscous cycle, I tell ya’. 🙂

  4. I do clip coupons for products I already use and buy on my regular grocery shopping trips. It’s not much – probably about $3 a week, but I figure that’s $150 a year…which is okay with me considering I put only a few minutes skimming the ads and clipping.

  5. I feel exactly the same way. I shop at places that do not have name brand items, so coupons don’t help there and I so rarely buy prepackaged food that it doesn’t make sense. Plus, our area has never heard of coupon doubling and it seems that that is where the best savings lie.

    Oh, and Target? I joke about the $100 socks they sell. Every time it seems, I step in ‘just’ to buy socks and suddenly I’m shelling out $100 to pay for everything else I didn’t know I need. It’s too dangerous, so I stay away.

  6. Everyone has their limits and it’s good to recognize them! Either way you have to be smart with your money and recognize the “traps” that are laid for you. I love couponing. My grocery bill has gone down about 60% over the last year. I don’t buy convenience foods at all and I haven’t changed what I buy. I don’t pay anything for drug store type items. I’ve reached my limit though. My stock pile is so large that I don’t by anything that I don’t need NOW or it has to make me money. Personally, I’m glad that there are people who don’t coupon. If everyone did, stores would probably stop doing this stuff!! 😉

    I have to say though, that the biggest reason for me getting so much free stuff is to be able to give it away. Our church of 500 is 85% single, so many of them students/interns. A lot of the ones who are married are students too. Living in DC with a fairly high cost of living can be tough. It’s the greatest thing to have someone over for supper and have them leave with a bag full of tooth paste, contact solution, Cherrios etc. It costs me nothing more than a few minutes of my time.

  7. Melissa Einersen says:

    It’s so amazing how “to coupon or not” can make some people’s blood pressure raise. 🙂 We are all different (thank goodness) and what works for someone else might not work for us. And our job is to do what is best for our family, and to be good stewards of our possessions. So glad you have decided what is best and works for you and stick to it. Personally, I do the drugstore game, mainly at CVS. I have been doing this for about 1 year now and have mastered it for our family. Knowing what we need and only purchasing it when I can get it the cheapest. It has been a huge blessing to our family and helped me stretch money through 13 1/2 months of unemployment and now a new job only making about a 1/3 what we were. On the grocery side of things, I can’t do it. (There I have said it!) I’ve been working on it really hard for the last 3 months but I just don’t purchase the items that there are coupons for. So for me I’m sticking with Aldi and I’m good with it. Oh, and on Target…it’s a sickness so I stay far away!!! 🙂

    • I agree with you! Why do mothers beat each other up? I can’t homeschool but admire anyone who can. I don’t judge how you feed your baby. I will teach you to coupon if you’re interested but if not I will shut my mouth.

  8. Coupons make me crazy, too.

    BUT I’ll say this for Walgreens: their “door buster” school supplies (e.g. five pack of highlighters for 19 cents) are worth it for me, especially as a teacher who is buying supplies for 150 students who pass through my doors every day.

    I just commit to buy NOTHING else there.

    Of course, easy for me, as Walgreens is literally 1.5 blocks away from my house! If they were far away or I had to drive to make a special trip, it wouldn’t be worth it. 🙂

  9. I have to say I 100% agree with you. Coupons are usually for brands I don’t buy because the generic is always cheaper and usually cheaper than what the coupon deal is. We don’t get the paper and like you, I don’t have the time to go searching all over the internet for coupons to print out. I get very frustrated when I’m in line at the store and someone ahead of me has a cart full of garbage groceries (aka non-healthy food) and 100 coupons the cashier has to scan one by one for this cartful of crud. I want to throw your book at them and say “GET A CLUE!” 😀 Heehee!

  10. I have had such guilt at various times because I hate couponing – like you – it is for things we don’t normally buy and usually at stores I don’t frequent. Good for those who are willing to do the coupon thing – just isn’t a fit for us at all – by the way – I’m about as anti CVS as you are Walgreen’s – used to be “drug stores” were better resources for things but any more – most big boxes like WalMart have the variety and price.

  11. I don’t use coupons either. Most often it’s for processed foods or brands we don’t buy.

    I try to stay away from Target because the pretties suck me in, too. (but it is a treat to shop there when I can.)

    Steph

  12. I totally agree. I will clip the occasional $1 off shampoo coupon, but that’s about it. I cook from scratch and buy a LOT of produce. There aren’t usually coupons for stuff like that.

  13. Kathleen says:

    Mary,
    I just wanted to say that you are NOT ALONE in feeling this way. My girlfriend feels the same way. I think what it is…is that your just not brand loyal. You save by making your own from scratch (that’s healthier too) and you just don’t care or see the value in buying by brand. I hear ya. But realise too that the “time” we spend couponing….is the “time” your spending making from scratch and going to several stores to get the best prices for things. That’s cool too! I am a good cook, but I’m not a “make my own bread” kind of person like you just to have a side item on the dinner table. But I have hope of trying one day, you insprie me that way. 🙂 Plus I understand that coupons tend to lure people to buy to junk food. Not many coupons are for healthy itmes.
    My strategy is this. I ONLY clip them IF I buy them frequently, and then I look at the flyer for my grocery store. Sometimes I check my CVS drug store flyer too for makeup and beauty stuff and canned items. I am brand loyal usually…I can taste the difference! I feel (and think you would agree with me here) to spend your money wisely on the things you value…and then get them for the best price possible! 🙂 So that’s my game!

  14. Kimberlie says:

    I feel the same way. About a year ago I got on to a few websites about couponing and getting rewards and I tried it out. What I found was that I purchased things I wouldn’t normally purchase and bought more than I would normally. It wasn’t worth the time spent clipping or driving around to different stores.

    One store that has helped us save money on groceries is Aldi’s. I feel fortunate to live near one. We can buy a lot of our pantry staples, milk, meat, eggs, bread and butter there for less. I don’t care about brand names so it works for us. I don’t mind bringing my own bags and bagging my own groceries. It’s even fine for some produce like bags of apples, oranges, bananas, potatoes, and onions. For items I can’t get there, or for the rest of my produce, I shop at a locally owned grocery store chain. Sure I pay more money there than if I went to WallyWorld, but I also don’t get distracted in the home or toy section. Now if I could just get my husband to give up his obsession with going to THAT superstore, our grocery budget would be in much better shape. 😉

    The other thing is that I don’t shop at warehouse stores anymore because I could never leave there without buying some items not on my list of “needs.” Even if it seems like a good deal, it isn’t if it wasn’t in our budget.

  15. I agree… my good friend is a coupon-aholic and her cabinets are always busting at the seams with all sorts of junk. She has more then any little family needs and I would imagine she’s not really saving money in the end – since she keeps buying more and more, because it’s “a good deal” – I just don’t get it.

    She once went and bought 7 My Little Pony’s at target with a coupon that would make them 75 cents each. She has two little girls. Why do you need 7 My Little Pony’s that are identical?? Yes that is a deal, but…? I don’t get it. I DO NOT get it.

    Why spend more $, if in the end, you are buying crap you really don’t need??

  16. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Sometimes I feel like I should be couponing – I know so many people who swear by it and rave about how much money it saves them. But as a mom who also works part time, I only have time for 1 grocery store/week and I’m getting what I need. I’d rather spend the time at home with my husband and baby. I’ve decided my time is more valuable to me, plus I so rarely would purchase anything that there are coupons for. If only there were coupons for things like fresh veggies and meat….

  17. amen! since i make nearly everything we eat from scratch & even a lot of our body care products it is extremely rare that i even FIND a coupon for an item i would buy….and then like you said, often in stores i try not to frequent (b/c yes, i would come out with far more than what is on my list…the one item i have coupon for)…nice to know i’m not alone in thinking it’s not worth my time. 🙂

  18. I just love you for posting this!!! I have been quickly deleting all of the posts from the couponing gurus since deciding on a whole food diet and a greener lifestyle because I simply have no use for 85% of the coupons that are out there.

  19. Yup, I agree. There are just never coupons for what I buy, whole wheat flour, eggs, milk. I guess the other day I saw a post on getting milk for free after buying a certain brand of cookies. No thanks! I’ll just make my own which taste better anyway. The only way I do coupons is if it is something I have to buy anyway and if it’s sold at a store I already go to. I never make a big fuss out of it because my time is worth more than the savings. That’s not true in most cases but it sure is with coupons. I usually use them for wipes and diapers, that’s it. Even then, I use cloth diapers except on occasion so rarely even need those coupons!

  20. Ok. Whew. Someone who feels the same way I do. LOL. Sometimes I think I am not being a good steward by not couponing. But it just isn’t for me on a big scale. Sure…coupons here and there, but the running around to 329 different stores just. isn’t. me.

    Thanks for posting this! Looking forward to your next post on saving money!

  21. I agree. I used to do the coupon thing, but it consumed me….and my family. I was going crazy trying to get that deal at Walgreens, trying to figure out when to get there without kids, and then they never had the right size/brand/ratio etc. etc. etc. Now I shop/cook much like you. Oh, and I did clip, (and use!) the ball coupon. And don’t forget the playtex tampons! Used that one too! Buy one get one 🙂

  22. Planning meals based on what’s on sale at the local grocery stores has helped me to keep my costs down. Making things from scratch helps as well. I only use coupons when I have them for things that I already use, as most coupons are for junk-in my humble opinion.

  23. Yes!
    There are almost never coupons for products that I actually buy! The only thing I ever use coupons for is Huggies pullups (with the easy de-tach sides!)Every now and then I get a $5 coupon and if they are on sale $2off then I will get them!
    I save money by driving an extra 5 minutes to a store whose policy is to have lower prices and more customers!

    Another tip (which you may already know) is one that I discovered by a saturday evening trip to the grocery store.
    At the back of the store they have the reduced shelf. Our old grocery store would put household items there at reduced prices on saturday evening. Once I bought 20(!) packages of Always maxi-pads for 50cents a piece! I’ve gotten expensive anti-perspirants for 50cents, $4 toothpastes for $1, $10 lotions for 3, makeup, cleaning supples etc!!

  24. As you know, I feel the same way!

  25. Woo Hoo!
    So true, so true!
    Loved this post and agree 100 percent! If I can’t make it myself or get it in a one stop shopping trip, we go with out!

  26. chrissym says:

    I like coupons but I am not super invested in it …everytime I’ve tried to be it proves to be like you said… time consuming and it seems like there are a lot of other things taking up my time (My two boys 6, and 8) 🙂

    I would also like to mention something about the hot-pockets . I made my boys your easy pizza rolls with your pizza crust recipe and that was sooooo worth my time . Hubby looked at them and called them “pizza cinnamon rolls ” lol !

  27. I agree. You know how couponers post pictures of all the stuff they got for .30 or free–I look at that and feel I don’t need any of it. I would like someone to just tell me one time when there’s free toothpaste print all the doohickies and go get a year’s supply.

  28. I do the coupon thing at work. We shop once a month. I check the online coupon places and print out what we could use, then I check Safeway’s coupons online. They have some good coupons on meat and veggies. Then I use the circular to decide what we need. Our last shopping trip (last Friday) between in store savings and coupons that were doubled up to .99 cents I saved $66 dollars. Not bad for maybe 30 minutes of planning.

  29. i am with you! we just don’t eat most of the food there is coupons for! glad i am not alone!

  30. Thanks for this! I was beating myself up for not being a “Professional Couponer” but I am with you about buying dried beans and NOT buying Hot Pockets.

    Sometimes when I try to use coupons the item isn’t there or it has too many stipulations which frustrates me. Not worth it.

  31. Kimberly H. says:

    Thanks for giving me the push I needed to get rid of my coupons and the guilt I had to go with it for not using them! It isn’t a good fit for us at this time.

  32. I hear you. I feel the same way about coupons. Plus up in Canada all the coupons are pretty crappy (save 30 cents! Wow!). I find the best way to save money of groceries is to send my husband out for them – he only buys what’s on the list, unless there’s cheese, cereal, ice cream or some other household staple on sale. I know not all husbands have this ability but it works for us.

  33. Amen!

    Now if we’d just get an Aldi’s down here I’d be happy!

  34. judy kay kyker says:

    Whew! Finally, permission to not love couponing! This is exactly why I don’t do it. Exactly! They are never for the items that I normally buy, they drag me (and my five little people!) all over town, and it takes 20 times longer to come up with a weekly/monthly menu and grocery list when I have to use items that I will purchase with my coupons!!! My brain felt like it was going to explode whenever I tried to make myself do it.
    Ok, wow, I feel better just typing that out! lol
    But I have felt badly about not doing it (assuming that I’m missing out on awesome savings) and revisiting it just helps me to feel ok about it again. For us, for right now, it’s ok. Thanks!

  35. We eat whole foods from scratch 3 meals a day with protein, shop at Aldi, have a Co-op delivery and garden on a narrow budget for 8 people. I still get fabulous deals at drug stores and don’t remember the last time I paid for deodorants, razors, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and MORE!

    Websites like moneysavingmom.com have the whole trip planned out with links to coupons so one doesn’t have to spend hours finding the deals thankfully!

    Skip the hot pockets and other fake foods thank.you.very.much. Yuck! I appreciate your blog; thanks for sharing.

  36. Yay, Mary!! I’m right there with you. [:-)

    Love, Rach

  37. I used to coupon, but found I was spending more money on things I hadn’t planned on buying just so I could use the coupon. It took me a while, but I realized that what I was doing didn’t make any sense (cents — HA!). So, like you, I quit. Plus, I have children with food allergies, and cooking from scratch/using fresh ingredients is what I have to do for them. Most coupons are for foods that come in a box. Coupon-ing doesn’t work for me, either. 🙂

  38. Teresa White says:

    Finally, someone who thinks like me.. it is too much work and I can not seem to get organize with the couponing to save the most.. i do save alot but like you–in other ways..Thanks for the article

  39. Walgreens IS from the devil. Ugghh!
    I have to disagree with you on coupons. They DO work for me. I spend a total of 4 hours per week and save over $800 per month, feed my family on $200 per month AND have a stockpile in my pantry. So, it works for me. I even get my kiddos in the action by cutting the coupons out. BTW, I do not buy papers. I’m too cheap.
    But totally understand if it doesn’t work for anyone else.
    If anyone is intimidated by couponing, http://www.moneysavingmom.com and http://www.thecrazycouponlady.com have excellent tutorials.

  40. I’m with you on this one. I realize couponing is a skill and it gets easier with practice, but it’s a skill I just don’t want to invest my time in. There are other ways I’d rather save/earn money, ways that are better suited to our family’s lifestyle, location, diet and talents.

  41. Mary, I stumbled on your blog while looking to purchase your book (can you imagine, my local Borders doesn’t stock it!) I was just thinking, “I’ll bet she is a couponer, all these frugal moms are!” Well I am very grateful that you are not. I’m not an angry person by nature, but I am infuriated by the junk that is passed off as food, then they hook you with a “great deal” just to get you to buy it again at full price. We don’t have an Aldi here in CO but I stick to the sale items at Sunflower Market (for produce, meat, bulk, and organic milk) or King Soopers (aka Kroger) for the very few packaged goods we use. We eat 90% scratch made whole foods and the very few times I use coupons it’s from those special treats. Like, when I found one for $1 off a bag of Dove chocolates…healthy eating aside, that one was worth using!
    Anyway thanks again, I’m excited to get your book in the mail. God Bless!

  42. I’m hard-core with coupons. Just this week I had a printable to save $.55 off two dozen eggs which I brought to my doubling store that had large eggs for $1/dozen so I got two dozen eggs for $.90
    I also got two gallons of Minute Maid OJ sale $2.50 and used B1G1 coupon to get two half gallons for $2.50
    And diapers! I pay under $5 for Huggies Jumbo packs with coupons and sales
    (Had to prove that coupons are for wholesome foods too)

    BUT, it’s a lot of work and definitely not for everyone. You have to find what works for you and your family and nobody needs guilt over little scraps of paper with barcodes. You can save just as much money by using a price book, snagging closeouts and using less.

    I love your blog, Mary!

    • I forgot to add that a lot of couponers are too quick to give you their ‘savings’ amounts without saying how much they spent to save that much, lol.

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