I used to be an avid coupon clipper. And when I say “avid,” I mean “obsessed.”
My family members and friends would save me their coupon inserts, and I would spend hours on Sundays combining the coupons with sales and writing down my grocery list. My shopping trips would take me a long time, as I searched to match up the coupon with the item. I even printed coupons off the internet and checked daily couponing sites.
We were so broke at the time, that every penny counted. Our grocery budget for two people in southern California was about $350 a month.
Today, I’m grateful if our grocery budget is under $500 a month.
Why has our grocery budget gone up $150 a month?
Well, I can think of two main reasons.
The first is that we started eating better. We try to buy primarily organic produce, wild fish, organic chicken and grass-fed beef. We rarely have any processed food in our kitchen anymore, focusing more on whole fruits and vegetables.
This change alone has been the largest contributor to our increase in grocery budget.
But the other reason we’re spending so much on groceries is that we’ve stopped couponing. Why? Because frankly, I just don’t have the time anymore. Between working full-time, going to school full-time and freelancing on the side—I don’t have several hours to devote to try to shave off $20 off my grocery bill.
So are coupons worth it?
I know you may hate this answer, but it depends on your situation. Back when my husband and I were broke and our money was more valuable than our time, yes, coupons were worth it.
They were practically a lifeline for us, and allowed us to save money on groceries so that we could use that money toward other things, like rent.
Now? Not so much. My time is definitely worth more to me now. I am absolutely fine spending an extra $150 a month for good wholesome food that I know is better for us. If you had asked me two years ago, I don’t think I would have ever been one to purchase organic eggs or fair trade coffee, but yet here we are. Those things are important to us now.
That doesn’t mean we completely don’t use coupons. These are my favorite quick ways to save money with coupons:
- Always do a quick search for a coupon code before you purchase anything online. I’ve been able to save as much as $150 on a single purchase due to a coupon code that took me 10 seconds to find.
- Spend 15 seconds to go through those coupon mailers that arrive at your house. The other day, I found one for a free car wash and I went the next day to get my car washed for absolutely free!
- Sign up for email newsletters by using a spam email account. I have one email that I use for all those stores I visit but don’t want to receive emails for everyday. Before I make a shopping trip to a store, I search through my spam email account to check for any coupons or sales they’ve mailed out recently. Works like a charm!
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I do a lot of couponing, and I don't really find that it takes much time at all. I don't use many newspaper coupons, and focus primarily on online printables that I find through coupon matchup websites. It takes a lot of guesswork out of couponing, and I can look up a store, find out what coupon deals work with this week's sales, print my coupons, and be out the door in fifteen minutes.
I regularly save a lot of money on my whole / clean / organic foods by using coupons, timing sales, and planning my weekly meals ahead. There are so many great websites that match coupons to sales that it only takes me about an hour to plan my trip, print, and clip coupons. It does take an extra 10 minutes in the checkout line too. But last night I saved $77 on my groceries, so I think it works out to a good hourly rate. It helps to have a system set up too -- I have a printable grocery list, I file my coupon inserts by date so I can find them, and I use a coupon clipping service when there's a coupon available on a product I buy regularly.
My wife and I have the same experience. She's an avid coupon clipper, but she's running into the time/money tradeoff, and the savings just aren't worth the time.
She does still check the local mailer for anything she needs, but we no longer buy different brands, e.g. non-organic, just to save money. There's also the money / health tradeoff, and I'd rather eat better food and save the money on the medical bills I don't have to pay for eating junk.
Lately, we've been doing a lot of cashback rebate shopping and earning money when we buy things online. Interesting enough for me to run some numbers and find the best rebate site for us.