When I first went to a coupon class and learned how to start couponing, I was excited about all the money I would be saving on groceries . I started clipping my coupons and organizing them in my cute little binder…and that’s when the madness began. It almost became an obsession; running to all the different stores trying to make it to all the sales and frantically trying to get as many free things as I could. I’ll admit, in ways it was incredible and 3 years later I am still using shampoo that I stocked up on at an unbelievable price!
But there were some serious drawbacks to saving money this way. I’ll explain what they were and then I’ll reveal the better way.
Drawbacks to couponing:
1. TIME CONSUMING! I was getting 5 papers a week and just keeping up with all the clipping and organizing was enough to drive anyone mad! Sure, you can get a rotary board and find ways to make it faster but it’s still time-consuming. You also need to pay attention to expiration dates and make sure you are rotating the expired coupons into the garbage. My grocery shopping also turned into a much lengthier process as I had to be keeping track of my coupons as I shopped: “Wait…did I just put 14 boxes of cereal in my cart or 15?” “Oh crud. I’m supposed to buy in quantities of 5 to get the sale price but I only have 4 coupons!” “Have I seriously been on this isle for 20 minutes?” “I’m about to pee my pants, the bathroom is on the other side of the store, I still have 47 more items to get, and now I have to recount my coupons because I lost focus.” Then there’s that moment when you are sitting at home feeling content that all your shopping is done and you hear about a sale. This one is good, you can get a year’s worth of pasta for practically nothing! You feel exhausted and you really should be fixing dinner for your family, but couponing has turned you into a crazed lunatic and you just can’t miss out on this sale or you won’t stop thinking about it all night. You rush to the store, to find that there are only 5 boxes left on the shelf, and you came to get 20. Some other innocent shopper is also on the isle (probably there to buy one box for dinner that night), and all of a sudden you feel like a panther ready to pounce. You quickly grab all five boxes, throw them in your cart and scurry away while avoiding any chance of eye contact. Okay, so I never got this crazy…but I ran into plenty of extreme couponers that were like this and that was enough alone to make me want to quit. More on that later.
2. OUR CONSUMPTION OF HEALTHY FOODS DRAMATICALLY DECLINED. Before couponing I opted for the healthier cereals: Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, granola, etc. Once I started couponing I was eating all kinds of “practically candy” for breakfast: Reeses Puffs, Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, etc. How could I NOT eat them when I only paid a quarter for the whole box? I also found that things like Oreos, chips, and Ding Dongs frequented our house much more often. I used to only buy items like that for special occasions, but how could I turn down such an amazing price? Who could turn down a package of Oreos for a dollar? Not me. I was saving money on groceries, just the wrong kind of groceries.
3. YOU GET CATEGORIZED WITH THE CRAZIES. and sometimes you actually become crazy. Some will never know the animal within them until they start couponing. I’ve seen people get so obsessed that they lose all respect for other human beings and only care for themselves. They clear the shelves, they rush to beat out the others, and they yell and get upset with the checkers and grocery store managers just to save money (30 cents). That’s not you? Well you are a couponer so be prepared to automatically be put in that category. As much as I tried to be completely cheerful and kind to grocery store checkers, it was still hard to avoid the look that many of them gave when they glanced at my cart and saw “the coupon binder” or all the items in my cart that were in multiples of ten. Or how about the people behind you that realize they got stuck behind “the coupon lady.” What these people think is not your fault, I get that; and saving money for the family is important enough for the sacrifice, but there’s a better way.
4. SOMETIMES IT’s JUST PLAIN EMBARRASSING, FRUSTRATING, and HAIR-PULLING AWFUL! Have a cart full of groceries and forgot that 5 of your coupons are expired? No biggie, just apologize and ask the checker to remove the items. Forgot that your coupon was 50 cents off TWO items, not one? No biggie, just ask the checker to hold on a minute as you mad rush to the back of the store for more. Did the couponer ahead of you clear the shelf completely with no regards to your happiness and success? No biggie. Think happy thoughts. Is the store completely out of 13 of the 15 items you came to get? No biggie, just walk away and try again tomorrow. Are you completely confused why your total came to much more than you expected? Did the clumsy checker only scan 10 of your 13 coupons? No biggie, just drag your kids back into the store and ask for the error to be fixed. Oh yea, try not to be embarrassed.
5. It wasn’t always a good way to save money. Sure I was getting good deals, sometimes even getting things for free but I had to sacrifice my grocery money towards coupon deals and get less of the items our family really needed, Like produce and whole grains. Even if we already had a stock of 15 bottles of shampoo, I couldn’t help but use grocery money to get more because “they were only like 25 cents!” I had a really hard time resisting good sales (I think I’m revealing too much about my addictive characteristics in this post).
I could go on, but anyone that has ever couponed probably gets where I am going. Unless you are a rare species of human being and you just love every aspect of couponing, it may not be worth all the perks.
After I had a good long break from couponing I still desired to save money, but I vowed to never go back to the Ghost of
Christmas..er..Couponing Past. And that’s when an idea sparked in my head. “What if I only got one deal a week”?
So that’s how my new way of saving money on groceries started.
(In my opinion).
1. LOOK FOR LOSS-LEADERS and FOCUS ON ONE OR TWO DEALS A WEEK. Stores advertise certain items at a loss to them to lead you into the store. These are called loss-leaders. Look for these items and other great sales in your local ads. Make a list of some possibilities for your “stock up” items that week.
2. CHECK FOR COUPONS AND BUY THEM ALREADY CLIPPED. To help you narrow down your items, go to Ebay and see which items there are currently coupons for. Coupons aren’t to be sold, but certain people clip them for you and then charge a small amount for the time they spent clipping. I usually spend a dollar or two for about 20 coupons. Totally worth it for me. Make sure that your aren’t paying too much for the amount on the coupon and decide which items you are going to go for that week. In order for your coupons to arrive in time you must order them the day the ad comes out. I rarely have a problem with sellers getting me the coupons in time, but if one happens to be too slow, write down the name of that seller and avoid them next time. You can also check where the seller is from and only order from states closer to you although I rarely have a problem getting mine in time.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RAINCHECKS. If my store does rainchecks and is out of a particular item, I usually prefer that option because it gives me a longer amount of time to use my coupons, and sometimes a new coupon will come out before my raincheck expires. If you don’t want to deal with the chance of your store being out of the item, just price match at Walmart. Here is a blog post about price matching at Walmart if you have never done it before.
4. GRADUALLY GET A WELL-STOCKED PANTRY and FOOD STORAGE while keeping your sanity, your sleep, and your budget. I have found this strategy to be the best for me because it makes my grocery shopping a much more positive experience. I know that I will only be focusing on stocking up on one or two items which saves me a lot of time and prevents a lot of unneeded stress. I can also save money, stay within my grocery budget, and buy healthy items for my family at the same time. Now this doesn’t mean I won’t use a good coupon that comes in the mail, it just means my days of ordering multiple papers and couponing in a more extreme way are over.
One week I chose Hefty bags as my stock-up item. I paid $20 for 40 boxes. Now I won’t need baggies again for quite awhile!
How do you save money on groceries?
Any moms out there that used to coupon? What were the drawbacks for you?
Please comment and add to the discussion!
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