Coupons have been around for years and people have been taking advantage of them more than ever over the last few years with the rising cost of food and the troubling economy. So are you throwing away money by not using them? This really depends on a lot of factors. First, how much time do you have to devote to saving money on your grocery bill? To save the ultimate amount of money requires a lot of time. I’ve heard of people spending upwards of 40 hours a week couponing. This is, of course, very extreme.
I have tried couponing in the past and did get a lot of free and extremely cheap items in the process. I had a coupon binder, bought 2-4 newspapers every Sunday, spent countless hours cutting and organizing coupons, scouring the web for good deals, and then go to the store, coupons in hand, only to find that some of the items I couldn’t even get because other couponers beat me to it and cleared the shelves. It was kind of fun while it lasted, but I found that I really didn’t save enough money for it to be worth the 5-10 hours a week I was spending on it. Why you ask? A lot of the coupons out there are for expensive brands of processed foods, premade snacks, and junk food. I found that when I was couponing I was buying foods I wouldn’t normally buy and loading my family up with junk food that we didn’t need. On top of that, I was paying for these items! Even though I was getting them cheap, I still had to buy meat, dairy, and other essentials that there are never coupons for. I would get so caught up in getting such a great deal that I didn’t realize I was buying things we would never eat or that we didn’t need to eat.
Then there are all the rules. Every store has different coupon policies. Drug stores, Target and Wal-Mart all have the same policy at all of their national stores, but the same grocery store chain can have a different policy at each location. You have to know which stores double, how much they will double, how many of the same coupon you can use in each transaction, and the list goes on.
Now that I have told you about all the cons of couponing, I will give you some pros. If you have a little time to spend, I do still like to take advantage of some of the Walgreens and CVS deals once in a while. Occasionally you can get free items by paying up front and getting a coupon at the register for the same amount off of a future purchase. As long as you know you will remember to use these coupons in the future before they expire, this is a good deal for items you would normally use in your household. Sometimes you can even make money on these items if you have a coupon for the item itself.
I will also say that I had quite the stock pile of toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, razors, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, paper towels, dish soap, and other items that don’t expire and will get used up eventually. I think my daughter will have enough panty liners to last her a lifetime (all free)! These are things I can’t really complain about because they will always be used and these are deals I would never pass up. I have also donated things I got for free that we will never use so that’s certainly a good thing.
With all this being said, I will tell you that I don’t coupon much anymore. I just haven’t had the time to devote to it. I do try to load digital coupons and use the free Kroger coupons that come in the mail. I will also stock up a little on items that are at a good sale price so that we don’t have to overpay for these items in the future. We also don’t buy much premade foods and cook mostly from scratch. We really try to limit how often we eat out. It amazes me how expensive that can get!
Couponing can be worthwhile if done right. Find the system that works best for your family’s needs, stick to only buying things that you really need, don’t get carried away with all the great deals to be had, stock up only when an item is the cheapest you know you will ever get it for and you know it will get used before the expiration date.
Some of my favorite couponing resources: