For years I’ve resisted using coupons because I was very skeptical that the time and energy spent would justify the savings. But last August (fifteen months ago), I finally decided to do some research and try using them for a while in a organized and strategic manner to see how much money I could save. I heard of people getting significant savings, or even getting things for free, on things that would be helpful for our family. So I set about learning how to work the system for CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid.
First, I did my online research, reading and figuring out the lingo and system for each store. Then I asked a relative in the area for the insert of their Sunday papers, and started clipping the coupons in them. And then I headed to the stores.
The first visits to each store weren’t fun. It took a long time, I didn’t know where anything was located (I didn’t shop in any of these places before), and it took time to learn how to apply for rebates, what order to present coupons in, etc. But after the first couple of visits, it got easier, and it got to be more enjoyable. My kids got to the point that they expected me to walk in from these stores telling them I paid nothing for all my items.
Yes, you can definitely save money by using coupons. If used well, you can come home paying small amounts for your items or even getting them for free. I had fun doing this with particularly with shampoos and soaps; since these are things that we always need, it was nice to get them significantly discounted. I also got some things that were nice gifts for extended family members last Chanuka.
But after a few months, I felt I had given coupon usage a fair shot and decided not to bother anymore. Yes, even though I figured out the system and knew how to use them very effectively. Why? I felt it was using way too much time for insignificant things. I really don’t use a lot of consumer items. I don’t like constantly thinking about buying or sales or having to shop. I don’t use processed foods. And alot of the health and beauty aids I don’t want, even if they’re free. I didn’t see any benefit for us in using coupons for our food bills, because the foods we eat are rarely discounted and I have yet to find anyone with a family our size that spends less than we do by using coupons (or even smaller families spending proportionately less).
Too many store clerks have no clue how coupons work and it’s a pain to spend an hour having your transaction cancelled, speaking to a manager, having it rung up again, having to explain to those who work there why their store rules allow you to use your coupons to get items for free (it got to the point I’d buy an inexpensive item so they wouldn’t realize that I wasn’t paying anything out of pocket for everything else). Even when everything goes smoothly, you still need to drive to the stores, stand on line, etc. My life energy and time is worth much more to me than the piddling amount I saved (piddling referring to the amount saved on things I truly needed, not the amount I supposedly saved by getting things for free that I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased).
I feel my time is spent much more effectively by stocking up when there are sales, cooking from scratch, and minimizing my use of health and beauty aids. There’s almost nothing left that we buy in the drugstores. I mentioned buying a fifty pound sack of baking soda six months ago, and since then have been meaning to share with you what we do with all of that! I’ll write a more detailed list sometime, but in short it replaces almost everything I would have bought or got for free with coupons. And it benefits our health and the environment to boot!
While there may be couponers who spend less than we do on health and beauty aids a year, we don’t spend very much. I’ve seen what the cost to saving money with coupons was and it wasn’t a true savings for me. Now I’m back where I love being most, home with my family, focusing on things that I enjoy!