It seems like with the rising price of food, lots more folks are clipping coupons. I know that I’m one of those who started to help offset bigger grocery bills in the last few months. At first, I my coupon clipping just helped me stay on budget, which was depressing. It felt like I was doing more work to stay in the same place. This month, though, I finally have the coupons working for me and am on track to end up about $50 under budget this month. Remember, with little savings like these, it always helps to calculate how much your saving over the year. At this rate, my coupon clipping will add up to $600 a year! Certainly much more worth the hassle. If you’ve been reluctant to start, perhaps these are a few reasons why:
“Coupons Aren’t Worth the Time and Effort.”
I know this is what kept me away from them for years. Somehow, stereotypes of miserly women (always elderly in my brain) hunched over the newspaper carefully cutting, filing, and sorting coupons for dog food made me shudder. Then, there’s the thought of inconveniencing someone in the grocery aisle or at the checkout by sorting through a big file of coupons looking for the perfect one. I just did not want to be “that kind of person.”
Then, I realized, “get over yourself!” Other people are getting great deals, saving money, and paying off their debt. I DO want to be “that kind of person.” I started out with the Grocery Game. You could also start with a couple of great web sites, like Money Saving Mom and the Coupon Mom. Now, though, I can handle serious saving all on my own. On Sundays, I clip anything and everything that I might ever buy. I do sort them into separate envelopes for categories on my grocery list like “frozen food” or “baking aisle.” Before I go to the store, I look up their sale circular online and pull coupons that match anything on sale. Since my grocery store also doubles coupons up to $1, I often save two or three times what the face value of the coupon is. All told, coupon clipping probably takes me an hour a week. On weeks where I save $30-$40, that’s time well spent!
“Coupons Won’t Save You Anything Because You Just Buy What You Don’t Need”
True, early on I got suckered into some great “deals” on things that now sit in my pantry. Especially with CVS, I have to be ruthless about using the coupon. If it’s not something that fits a category in our regular rotation like dishwashing soap or toothpaste, then I don’t buy it. The way I catch myself is if I look at the ad and find myself thinking, “well, I could use that for X” or “I’ve always wanted to try Y.” If I don’t think “great! that’s something we use” then I don’t put it on the list.
“Coupons Won’t Save You Any More than Buying the Store Brand Will”
I often buy the store brand, especially when it comes to staples. So, I thought coupons wouldn’t help me much. I do always compare. For example, I have yet to make a coupon for name-brand aluminum foil pay off. The store brand is always significantly cheaper. However, when you pair coupons with sales, you often can come out significantly ahead. Last week, I got dishwashing detergent for 25 cents and toothpaste for free.
“Coupons Won’t Help Me Because I Cook From Scratch and Buy Local”
If you’re like me, you’ve already cut your grocery bills by using your local farmer’s market. My mom keeps wanting to tell the farmers at her market that they could easily charge more! You may also save significantly by cooking rather than buying pre-packaged things. For me, my biggest coupon use comes for tolietries, soap, cereal, and dairy items. Even though I bypass lots of coupons in my Sunday circulars, I have found lots that work for me. My spending at Target has dropped from $200-$300 a month a year ago to $30-$40 a month because I now fit most of what I used to buy there into my grocery budget.
A final note: If you’re going to start clipping, give it three to four weeks to stock up enough coupons to be able to match them to the circulars. Also, subscribe to your Sunday paper rather than buying it off the rack. I’ve found that our subscription paper has twice the inserts that the newsstand papers have. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or if people sneak inserts out of open papers, but I did really notice a difference.