Extreme Couponing: Are the Savings Worth It? Part 2 of 2

Photo by ilovememphis

I do use coupons sometimes, but I am definitely not an extreme couponer. I spend an hour a week at most clipping and printing coupons--time that I'm not always convinced is well spent. I don't make enormous bulk purchases because I'm kind of a minimalist. I just don't like having more than a few extras of something taking up space in my house. Also, I only have one small fridge/freezer, and that limits how much perishable stuff I can buy at once.

Extreme couponers seem to experience a real high from their coupon deals. They also seem to experience a great deal of stress in the checkout line. I can relate to both of these feelings. But to be honest, my overall feeling is that I would rather shop somewhere with groceries that are reasonably priced every day, where I don't need to use coupons to make my grocery budget work. This saves me time and allows me to buy what I want instead of what I have a coupon for.

When I go grocery shopping at Target, I can grab pretty much anything and be assured that while I may not be getting the best deal ever, I am not getting ripped off and I am not going to blow my budget. In contrast, all of the big chain grocery stores in my area inflate their prices so much that I would be crazy to do my shopping there without first arming myself with a store loyalty card and an envelope full of coupons. I don't like shopping at these stores because it really does feel like I am fighting a battle against the store for my money. The way their registers ring items up makes it extremely difficult to tell whether items are scanning for the correct price, so I have to scrutinize my receipt before I leave the store. It's all very stressful.

Another reason I don't enjoy couponing is that for me, time is literally money because I am self-employed. I realize that for homemakers and for people with regular jobs, this isn't the case, so saving tons of money with extreme couponing techniques is kind of like becoming self-employed or taking a second job and turning idle time into money. But for me, I have to think about whether my time is better spent clipping coupons or writing a blog post, clipping coupons or pitching an article idea, clipping coupons or giving myself a break so I will be well-rested enough to do my best work later. I also find that when I shop with coupons, I spend much more time in the store, so that's another time cost that I have to factor in. I also don't care much for shopping and find it irritating to spend a lot of time at the store, so for me, there is also a psychological cost to using coupons.

Though I have never been an extreme couponer, there have been times in the past when I used coupons much more heavily than I do now. These days, I usually limit myself to coupons for five items. Whatever coupons offer the best deals for things I actually want or need to buy are the coupons I use. I no longer go to multiple stores, spend two hours hunting around one store for coupon items, or drag my husband to the store with me to try to maximize my deals. I don't make special trips to the store to use coupons that are about to expire, I don't spend hours planning out my shopping trips, and I only clip coupons during idle time, such as while I'm heating up food in the microwave. I am much more aware of the need to balance saving money with saving time and saving my sanity.

Like fellow financial writer Katherine Preston, I don't think that extreme couponing is a viable option for most people. I think that being aware of the different techniques for saving money on groceries and household items is wise, but extreme couponing is not a one-size-fits-all activity. There are many paths to saving money on groceries, and everyone should use the money-saving shopping techniques that work best for them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are so right, I started trying those extreme coupon methods only to find out I was spending more time and money because I started getting addicted to buying things I didn't really need and feeling guilty when the coupons expire. When you get coupons for items you never use but buy anyways because the coupon is there it doesn't save you anything. Also I hate shopping I rather be doing something more productive with my time I had to give up couponing because like I said it was not saving me time or money I spend more time at the store and whenever it was time to shop I started dreading it and becoming really stressed if the coupons where going to expire next week. So now I just clip a couple of coupons that I get with my free Sunday paper (the girls at the coffee shop keep the Sunday coupons for me so I don't pay) and I buy only what I need and either throw away or give away the unused coupons. I'm am glad I'm done with that stress. No Thank You!