The Best Deal? or a Bad Habit?

If you are like me, you LOVE getting a deal. A 5 lb bag of apples for $1.99, awesome (Shelby could live on apples, if we let her); a laundry detergent BOGO, I’m there; a jumbo box of diapers for %5…stop me before I have a heart attack! But, seriously, I am a gawker when I see a woman clearing the shelf for pasta. Or a man who has three carts full of toilet paper. I don’t look with admiration, I am kind of disgusted.

Over at The Happy Housewife, the idea of extreme couponing is being discussed in depth. Those of you who have cable and/or satellite (of which I am no longer a number) might have caught the Extreme Couponing show on TLC the other night. The Happy Housewife points out that these extreme people are not the norm nor are the savings they get and if you haven’t read her post, you really should.

There are a few reasons I, overall, don’t coupon. I do use them, especially if money is tight and/or I am getting something we really need at a very deep discount, but I don’t overbuy and I don’t have a three-ring binder dedicated to the subject. So, here are the reasons:

1) Coupons rarely come for products I use. The most common coupons I do use are for toiletries. But I’m not going to buy something we never use, for example: Rotel tomatoes, just because there is a coupon. I am now spending more money than I would have. So, it defies logic.

2) Coupons may save money, but they cost time. Now, some moms are very capable of doing the couponing quickly and efficiently. Not me. To keep up with a coupon book, I must keep a constant inventory of what coupons are expiring, what items I really need and searching for coupons I need. The searching by itself could take hours of contacting people who might have the coupon, scouring online ads or (and I have never done this, nor do I plan to) dumpster diving. I can find a lot of better uses for my time.

3) Couponing can cost money too. I’m not just talking about the people who pay a certain fee per month to get coupons delivered. No, it costs money to drive to different grocery stores to use the coupons because each store has a policy as to how many can be used in a visit or how many can be doubled or tripled. With the rising prices of gas, the money you save in coupons quickly might not be enough to offset that. Not to mention, I know people who have bought a couple of deep freezes for items they buy while couponing. If my electric bill AND the gas is going to be more expensive, I’m looking at taking out a loan for daily living!

4) Coupons are rarely offered for whole foods. Take a look at your circulars and most coupons are for processed foods. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say we never buy Hamburger Helper or pasta, we do, but it certainly doesn’t serve the double benefit of being cheap AND healthy. At least not as healthy as cooking our own food. I have, occasionally, found coupons for butter and eggs, but rarely if not ever for milk or fruits or (fresh) vegetables. Ratatouille is playing in the background and the father rat’s saying, “Food is fuel, you get picky about what you put in the tank, your engine will stop,” is, unfortunately a mantra for many Americans.

5) Couponing could easily lead to hoarding. A few boxes of spaghetti will last a few weeks, maybe a month here, but the kinds of bulk buying that I’ve seen couponing inspire is bordering on gluttony. When you are buying so much that the food will never be consumed because it spoils, that is wasteful. A few of the people I know are donating to food banks, but not many. I am enough of a pack-rat, that does not need to extend to food items, in particular.

6) With non-food items, space is an issue. I live in a small home that is stretched to capacity by two adults, three children and two dogs. My garage has some empty space, I’d like to keep it that way. I already can’t fit a car in there, which makes me sad, if that space was filled with toilet paper, I would cry.

7) Pride. Not that I don’t want to take advantage of a discount. Far from that. No, I mean the sin of pride when a person gloats about the good deals they got. I have known people who have blogs where the only posts are pictures of the food they got followed by a listing of their receipt. With the items YOU SAVED: $15 bazillion  and TOTAL: .33 bolded. It feels great to get a deal, and it feels good to share it too. I’m not saying those things are bad in and of themselves, but when it becomes all you talk about, all your facebook posts are about, when people coming over turns into them always admiring your stock of canned peas or frozen fishsticks or wall of deodorant, it’s time to take a serious look at the reason one is so motivated to do these things.

So, now here is where you ask, “Well, Kristen, if you’re so against ‘extreme couponing’ how do you save money on groceries and sundries?” Well, a few things, I shop sales at stores within a three-five mile radius. I only purchase what we regularly use/need unless it is a special occasion. As I said before, I do use some coupons when I have them on items we use. We grow a lot of our produce on our own. A pack of squash seeds is .33 and yields squash all summer long. When friends have bumper crops we graciously accept their offers of extras and we offer ours when we are blessed with them. We buy generic for many things, including toiletries when we don’t have a coupon that makes a brand name equal to or lesser in price.

I think it’s great that so many moms out there are able to and or trying to coupon. If you are new, especially, please read the Happy Housewife’s post which I’ll link again to here. It will help you tremendously with some great info on how to coupon responsibly and reasonable expectations of what you may be able to save. Happy Saving!

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5 thoughts on “The Best Deal? or a Bad Habit?

  1. I don’t coupon either. I just don’t buy the types of things that have coupons. I’ve seen that show and I think it is an addiction of sorts to go to that kind of extreme in anything.

  2. Just visited your site. I love it! Great blog today! I save about 400 dollars a month on stuff I buy. I usually go directly to the manufacturers sites and Coupon mom, plus I go to different stores,and only carry my coupon caddy with me when I go to the stores, just in case. I have happened to save a lot of money that way as well. Where I live and the size of my family, I use BJ’s Wholesale Store to buy the bulk stuff, like diapers, wipes, etc. Even there at the store, there are certain catches to everything. I do agree. Most coupons as well are very unhealthy products. I try to go directly to the manufacturers site after I use a product, and they send me an email from time to time letting me know of a new product to send me or a coupon/discount offer. That’s how I save, and they keep me loyal to a favorite product that is used daily or on occasion by our family.

    Great post. God bless! I will be visiting often! =)

  3. I don’t coupon but I also don’t shop at stores like Ralph’s (Kroger) and Von’s (Safeway) unless I have to- too expensive- I usually shop at the Russian/Latino/Armenian store- much better produce and cheap

    • Oh how I wish we had a Russian/Latino/Armenian store here. Unfortunately our Latino stores are in areas known for gang activity and we live in a fairly rural area (yet somehow there are still gangs). We try to make it to Farmer’s Markets whenever possible, but they are a pretty far drive and one one state-income (from the husband who is a teacher) the gas we spend doesn’t get off-set by our savings anymore :(. My husband would love to live in a much larger urban area where there are more smaller ethnic grocers…if God agrees, we’ll be there!

  4. I just recently started saving coupons for this we already buy. I also go back and forth between: “Should I shop @ the Commissary 4 min. from my house, or Walmart which is 7 miles, but has more selection”. For me, time = money, so for now I’m just doing whatever is easiest at the time. Walmart has everything, so I can get everything I need in one shot. The Commissary may have this or that way cheaper, but it’s no use going there for a few items.

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