Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Clip Or Not To Clip, That Is The Question

Tip #59 - Is It Worth It To Clip Coupons? Coupon clipping seems to be all the rage lately. Frugal blog after frugal blog showcase coupon deals that can be had out there. Items are laid out in pictures to show what deals the blogger has captured. "Ten boxes of granola bars for $1.60!" "Three bottles of apple juice for 90 cents!" "Six containers of yogurt for free!" There are faithful followers to these blogs who don't want to miss out on a deal.

The question I have pondered over and over while reading these blogs is whether all of this coupon clipping is worth it. My conclusion? A resounding "somewhat." I think it is great that moms are watching how much they are spending at the supermarket. I also think it is worthwhile to cut coupons to get a better deal on something you would have bought anyway. And I am glad that there is a huge interest in saving money. However (you knew this was coming, didn't you?), I think many overzealous followers of coupon deals are short-sighted when it comes to how much couponing will help them become financially secure. Yes, clipping coupons may cut down on the food and toiletries budget. It may "save" them $200 per month. But unless this coupon clipping phenomenon is combined with time-tested ways to save money, there will still be a lot of people out there who are still in debt, who haven't saved for retirement, who haven't saved for a rainy day. And the only thing they have to show for their coupon clipping hobby is 25 boxes of AquaFresh toothpaste.

If clipping coupons is truly saving you money at the grocery store, then by all means continue to do it. Saving $200, $100, or even $50 per month on groceries can be a great start to a financially secure future. But that's all it is - a start. You will need to take that savings and faithfully put it away month after month into a savings account. Or if you are in debt, you had better be using your savings from coupons to pay down your debt. And hand in hand with your coupon savings, you should be doing all of the other steps people do to acquire wealth - live within your budget, save for a rainy day, put away money for retirement, and save for other needs you may have in the future - a car, an education, etc.
Also, keep in mind all of the time you are spending researching the deals, looking up coupons, cutting them, etc. It's possible that the time you spend clipping could be put to better use. It's up to you to make the call. Overall, while it may be fun and beneficial to find the good deals, make sure you also have a realistic view of your complete finances. Coupons are only one tool of many that can help you save money. However, it is not the only tool. They alone will not make you financially secure.

IRL - I clip coupons. I have never been very faithful about it. I tend to go through phases of coupon clipping. Lately, I have been on an "up" phase with my coupons - probably from all of those blogs I read about clipping them. I never seem to score the way others do. I generally just use coupons for products that I would have bought anyway or as a substitute for a product I usually buy. I might try a different cereal if it is a really good deal. If my kids or I don't like it, I know my husband will eat it. I don't, however, buy things just to get them for free. I think that is a huge waste of resources. We don't drink diet soda in this house. I would never buy diet soda even if the coupon was for a free one - unless of course we were having company soon who would drink the stuff. For my grocery budget, I tend to buy more in bulk and compare unit costs to keep my grocery expenses down. I try to do cooking and baking from scratch so many coupons don't even work for me. But when they do, I use them.

I do think some people get carried away with coupons and buy whatever they see that is a good deal. And I think for some people, it is the only thing they do to save money. But as I said in the paragraph above, I don't think this will lead them down a path of financial security. I think coupons can be used as a tool for saving money on groceries and that's it. But saving money in real life is much more than that. For me, it is a mindset or a lifestyle that incorporates all aspects of my life. I hope that readers and followers of coupon blogs look beyond the coupons to find additional ways of saving money and living their lives so that they can have financial freedom.


Anonymous said...

saving with coupons may NOT provide financial security but it does allow you to have money for some of the extras in life when you need it. If saving money for me allows me to have extra money for kids clothes or other necessities in life, with this economy, any amount of savings is a blessing.

Michele said...

I agree that using coupons correctly can provide savings and allow for extras in life. I try to save any way I can and clip coupons as well as do other things to cut down on our monthly grocery bill, hoping that my savings can allow us to pay for piano lessons, dance lessons, etc.

But I also think there are people who use coupons but don't necessarily save money - they buy things they don't use. If the goal is to save on ones monthly household expenses, coupons are one way to accomplish this, as well as buying in bulk, making things from scratch, etc. But I think some people get caught up in finding things for free or very cheap, that they lose sight of their original goal.

I also think that some people cut coupons and stop there - there is so much more to the frugal lifestyle that they can do to save money.

Thanks for your comment! It's always nice to know that someone reads this blog besides me. :-)

Anonymous said...

Michelle, I used to be known as the coupon queen back in the day--lol...and today I truly use way less coupons now than I did over 20 years ago. When I had my 1st son 25 years ago I could get an armload of laundry detergent for .09 a bottle ( small ones back then but still!!) and other things just as cheap but then coupons were issued for more "common sense" products ( as also there was less consumer non essentials too in which to issue coupons) to thus geared more for an item I used, hardly any had expiration dates or ones in the distant future AND the most important fact was that the savings were of a greater percentage than they are now . The implementation of double coupons was in its infancy..
Peggy Z ( sweeetchild on ysq)

Anonymous said...

I have to add that I am completely in agreement with your ideas of buying in bulk, used, at stores geared to save money on food etc as in no name places and also making food from scratch saves a ton of money.
This single change in one's life can save a ton of cash as it has for us for many years and IMO the food is always unmatched and superior to prepackaged stuff !!