She said: Tonight, we’re here to talk about couponing. Since this entire blog is about extreme saving, decreasing spending and early retirement you probably think you know what I’m going to say about couponing. It’s probably something along the lines of “couponing is great! I get $400 of groceries for $1 just like the ‘Extreme Couponers’ show, and you should do it too!” And I will tell you what I always tell L when he thinks he knows what I’m going to do or say…YOU DON’T KNOW ME! (He totally does and is usually right, but that’s why it’s funny.)
Here’s how I really feel about couponing… it’s stupid. Don’t get me wrong, when I come across a great coupon for a product I use, I cut it out and use it. I never shop online without looking for a coupon, about 90% of the time I can get some kind of deal. It’s true that every dollar counts, however it’s ALSO true that Time is Money. What I found when I tried to be an extreme couponer is that the time I spent doing it was not worth the money saved.
First of all, we made the mistake of paying for the Sunday paper just to get the coupon inserts, so we had to earn $92 back from coupons over the year just to break even on that cost (quick tip: you can call the newspaper and ask them to deliver just the ads and coupons without the paper, and they do it for free. You’re welcome!)
Secondly, you would think it’s a simple as cutting out the coupons you want and taking them to the store, right? WRONG! Say you get a $2 off shampoo coupon. Awesome, we use shampoo! But then you have to look up sales, because maybe this week the shampoo is $4 so with the coupon you’d get it for $2, but last month it went on sale for $2.50, so if you combine the coupon AND wait for the next sale, now you get it for $.50! But wait, there’s more! The $2 coupon was a manufacturer’s coupon, but next week you also get a store coupon for the brand of shampoo! Score, double coupon! But wait, if you go on Wednesdays they will double manufacturer’s coupons, so now that’s like a triple coupon!
Ok, now that takes care of shampoo, let’s move on to the 300 other food and grocery items you need. See what I mean about the time it takes? Not to mention, the shampoo deal you found was good at one store. But now you have a coupon for coffee, but the coupon for that is for another store. And you have a coupon for eggs, but the best sale price for eggs is at a 3rd store. Now after spending hours finding and planning your couponing, you have to go to 3 different stores to get all of the deals.
Are you as tired from reading all this as I was typing it? Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I’ve heard the women on the Extreme Couponing show say that they spend up to 40 hours a week doing this. Um, hello! That’s a job! So after you spent 40 hours cutting coupons and driving all around town grocery shopping you got your $400 grocery bill for free? That’s a HORRIBLE deal! If I had put in those 40 hours at a job I would have made way more than $400. I could have paid the $400 for my groceries and still had more money to spend.
Finally, you will notice that most coupons are for name brand items and crappy food. Great, you get $1 off brand name cereal, but the store brand cereal in the bag is still $3 cheaper so it doesn’t even do you any good. And when was the last time you saw a coupon for lettuce? You may be able to get 47 frozen pizzas and 19 boxes of Coke for free through couponing, but it’s also important to remember that one key to retiring early is staying healthy, and those are not going to help you get there.
He said: Like S said, in our opinion couponing isn’t worth the effort. What we have found to work is price matching at Walmart, and no I will not get into the employment issues with Walmart. However, if you are not a Walmart fan Target does the same thing. They will literally price match anything they sell with another competitor as long as there is a price written on the ad you bring in. (I do not know about Target but at Walmart you don’t even have to bring the ads in!) For instance, Sprouts always has great deals on produce but we want to avoid the multiple store shopping trip. Instead we bring the Sprouts ad into Walmart and price match the produce we buy. If a red pepper at Walmart is $1.50 but it is $.50 at Sprouts they will reduce the price by $1 for every pepper we buy.
Before we go shopping we will collect the ads and find all the items we are planning to buy. We make a list of the competitor’s price and compare it to Walmart’s when we shop (And by we I mean S). It’s relatively quick, easy and will save us about $40 every trip. We typically buy groceries every ten days so it saves an additional $120 a month (that’s $14,400 over the next 10 years!).
Also, Walmart has an app called Savings Catcher that will do this for you. All you have to do is take a picture of the barcode at the bottom of your receipt and they will automatically price match for the next few days. However, this app does not include produce and they have recently eliminated 22 stores from our location, which means this isn’t the most effective method. We like to price match ourselves and then use the app just in case we get lucky.
S stated time is money and we feel this is time well spent. Where else are we going to make $40.00 for thirty minutes worth of work?
We said: As we’ve said before this blog is about OUR journey to early retirement. Everyone is going to have their own opinions about the best ways to save. We don’t want to bash extreme couponers, in fact we can appreciate all of the work that goes in to what they do. However, it’s not the method we’ve chosen for ourselves, and we want to share with the world that there are other ways to do things.
Total Small Change, Big Difference Savings over 10 years:
$ 7,765 – Monsters
$20,176 – Cutting Cable
$14,400 – Price Matching
$42,341 – Total Savings