Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is Couponing Really Worth it?

I have spend some time thinking about our reader Evaly's comment:

I spent a lot of time in Alberstons/Walgreens today redeeming coupons - it takes a while to find what you're looking for, then they don't have it, and then I realize that if I just buy the store brand at Winco or Walmart, it's cheaper anyway and without all the hassle. (Case in point: Prilosec at Walgreens - I could have saved $3.00 with a coupon and got $7.00 back on a rebate - or I could buy the store brand for the same end price without all of the hassle).

When I first started learning about the Krazy World of Couponing I was so overwhelmed with all the deals at all the stores, I was going krazy if I wasn't cashing in on ALL the deals. In a given week I was going to Albertson's, Target, Walmart, and Walgreen's. Regularly. Of course, (especially since I live about 25 minutes from a Target, Walmart, and Walgreens) this got old real quick. I have since learned that it really is best to focus on 2 stores. Mine are Albertsons, and occasionally Target (really, who can resist Target- even at full price!)

--I only buy things my family will use (and by the time that they expire) and occasionally things that I can donate. If there is something we haven't tried before but I think we will use it, I take advantage of buying it cheap to test it out!
--I buy in BULK! Like KCG Rick, if Halls Cough Drops are near Free I will buy 6 of them to stockpile. I live the mantra- Buy Before You Need It AND While it's Cheap (or free) To Save You from Running to the Store when You NEED them and Will Pay Full Price.

This way of shopping did take some getting used to, especially where meal planning/cooking is concerned. I have had to COMPLETELY change the way I was doing things... which wasn't a bad thing, I was the girl running to the grocery store at 4pm, 4 days a week! Sad, I know! Now, when I see what is a Krazy Deal for the week, I plan my meals around that. Plus I have a food storage to call upon! Amazing!

Sometimes, it is cheaper to just buy the generic brand- but often if you combine a sale price with a promotion, (like Albertson's Spend $30 Save $10) you can get killer deals, and then you will be able to stock up so when you need it, you have it!

One last thing to note- I didn't notice a difference in my budget until several months of couponing. I was stockpiling so much that I may have even been spending more, but after month 3 or 4 of consistant coupon use, my budget was SLASHED in half! And-- It hasn't gone back up since!!


jenna marie said...

this is an awesome article! i've been reading your blog for a couple months just wanting to get started on all this coupon craziness. while it still seems overwhelming and time consuming to me i can definitely see the light. hoping one day i'll become a pro! thanks!
also, is there a site designed more for utah couponers? or should all rules apply for the most part wherever you are?

Rick said...

There are many things that have upfront costs (both money and time).

An analogy I use is driving. If you had to learn how to drive TODAY to go a few blocks to the store, you might think it would only take 30 minutes to walk there and back, but it would take hours or weeks to take lessons, get a car (insurance, registration, gas), pass a driver's test, and then go to the store.

In this example, your car and your car skills are sunk costs. You are now free to use them at a minimal cost because the largest chunk of time and effort has been invested months and years ago.

The reality is, any new skill (couponing included) involves different variables. You have to stop doing some things you were doing - impulse buying, repetitive purchasing of the same group of items, making/eating/consuming the same things in the same ways, etc.

You also need to be aware of new things - where to find coupons, how to assess their value to you and your family, how to match the right coupons with the right sale at the right store at the right time in the right quantities to maximize the value for you and your family.

Once you have invested enough time in the practice or art of couponing, you will find the right balance of time spent for value received to maximize (or optimize) the costs associated with the purchases you make.

With the help of KCL and PYP and other sources I am now aware of, I find my overall grocery bills are decreasing rapidly and, hopefully, will continue to do so until I find my balance point of costs vs. benefits.

Even then, it will be necessary to stay vigilant with regard to analyzing all the sneaky ways manufacturers, advertisers, and retailers have to entice and prod me to buy products which will maximize their benefits at the least cost to them.

In theory, I knew all of this for many years. In practice, I didn't practice what I knew until recently.

Amber said...

Here is my story: I have only been couponing for a few months. About 3 months ago, I had this constant thought that we really needed to start budgeting better and trying to save money. I somehow found this site and it told me exactly what to do and where to go. I learned really quickly that the newspaper was the best source for coupons, and until I got it, I just was using IPs. About 3 weeks after I got into this, I lost my job and have not been able to find one since. And now saving money is not just a choice, it's a necessity. My husband was SO impressed by what I paid for the Post cereal, and has seen all of money I have saved and has told me a few times thank you and good job. At least for us, it has been well worth it. At least if I am not contributing to our current income, I am helping it go further. True that sometimes the store brand will sometimes cost the same in the end, but for things that are free with coupons, well, nothing is cheaper than that! And aside from saving money, this has given me something to do other than clean my house! lol.

I still do not have a very good coupon stash because I haven't been getting the paper very long but I can see that over time it will more than pay off. I'm not a huge fan of Walgreens because they are often out of what I want, so unless it's amazing (like the Huggies sale) I don't bother. But I go to Wal-Mart all the time anyway so while there, instead of making a special coupon trip, if I have coupons and I know exactly what they are for (like the free Kotex) I just use them while there since the prices pretty much stay the same anyway.

For us, this is definitely helping. My mom and one certain friend I talk to on the phone all the time have a joke now that every time we talk, I just have to tell them about my latest deal. Well at first it was funny, and now they are starting to want to learn how to do it too! Maybe couponing isn't for everyone, but I am loving it!

E. Poole said...

Thanks to both Heather and Rick for their well thought out response to my comment. I am an empty nester now, my four children are grown and gone and I was a stay at home Mom and always looked for the most cost efficient way to feed and clothe my family over the years, so consequently I bought my food at Winco and not Albertsons or Freddies. I used coupons occasionally - but not in the "Krazy Way" which I can see does have it's ups and downs, but mostly ups. Especially when Heather and her very diligent friends are willing to do all the leg and brain work - it makes it A LOT easier for people like me.
As I looked over the Alberstons ad today to get $10.00 of free meat if you buy $25.00 worth of their "deals" I know that many of those things (for instance, they are charging $1.00 for a box of Jello, at Winco, the store brand would be about .50 to .60)are over priced - so my point is I could almost buy the same number of the designated items at Winco or Walmart and get $10.00 worth of meat for almost the same price. I guess the key there is to find one or two of their items that are actually a good deal and buy $25.00 worth of those items and then get the meat. So anyway - thank you to Heather and the rest of KCL group - I read your blog regularly and have already saved a fair amount of money, especially on things like, and I will just figure out how the couponing experience will work best for me.
My next thought is that I bet with all the resources of the KCL Bloggers that we could find a companion for Rick to take to the store with him and maybe out to dinner on a disount ticket!!! A new challenge for the KCL Crew. (Of course Rick will have to let us know whether he's interested, or whether he woudl rather coupon solo.)

Niki said...

Exactly E. Poole...
I have been at this for a few months and both myself and my husband are floored at what I can come up with...ONLY with the help of these sites though! Otherwise I would have given up by now.

I have now shown my mom and two sisters about this but have to warn them that ALL the deals are not great! A dollar for way...even for $10 off of $25 later. Some of the prices on those items are "so-so", combine with a MFR coupon and they become "pretty good" then add the additional 40% off of dollar priced items after the free meat is factored in..then it's a super deal.
But you have to be careful ;-)

Joanna said...

I’d have to say yes, using coupons is “worth it” now that I know how to get the most out of my coupons. I’ve been clipping coupons for over 15 but just recently started using them to maximize my savings. Since learning this I’ve saved (the most) shopping at Walgreens and Target (using store coupons and MQ’s. In the past if I remembered to bring my coupons with me I’d use them at random stores, never really aware if I could get a better deal somewhere else. Now I’m organized, and try to maximize my savings. I’m pretty much set in my ways about what brands and products I use, but I’m able to get those same brands for much less than before.

I agree with Heather about focusing on 2 stores, for me it’s 3stores. I seem to be smack dab in the middle of the Walgreens mecca in Meridian and have 6 different Walgreens, 2 Albertsons and 1 Target within 5 miles of my house.

Jennifer said...

YES! Couponing is worth it but for ME not every deal is worth it. I have a large family with several small children and its not always worth my time to be driving all over the place to get a free tube of toothpaste. I have learned that Albertsons has some GREAT sales and if I use the PYP list and the blog deals that I can really stock up for way less. I only like to go shopping once a week, so I hit albertons sales and stock up and then go to winco or walmart for my regular purchases where I can get them at their everyday low price plus my coupons.

I love Target and if I'm going there anyway, then I'll bring my coupons and hope for some deals. But I don't have time to go there JUST for the deal.

For ME, walgreens isn't really worth it. I haven't had very good experiences there. They are either out of stock or my catalina won't print. Its not worth a special trip. If I'm driving by the store without my kids, then yeah I'll go in and hope for the best.

I love this website!! Its my favorite coupon blog. It has totally changed the way I shop. Thank you for helping me learn to help cut back our family budget. Its been a real blessing!