I consider myself a fairly frugal shopper. I love finding bargains, I rarely buy anything full price, and for the most part, I discipline my purchases to only buy what we truly need. So when it comes to using coupons, I find I can often do better by either not buying the item to begin with--finding, instead, a more frugal alternative or doing without altogether. However, I still like to peruse the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper and on Internet sites like coupons.com. Usually, I'll find at least a few that I can use, and I'll save a bit more money at the store by pairing these coupons with good sales.
So what I love about coupons is the extra savings they can provide.
But here's what I don't like about couponing.
First, our Sunday paper does not receive the same coupons found in a larger city paper. This can be discouraging and frustrating when I read about the deals certain bloggers advertise, and I can't take advantage of those deals because I don't have the right coupons. Right from the start, I'm at a disadvantage there.
Second, when I really try to give couponing a good effort and get really into it, I find myself becoming a little too obsessive about it. I don't like what it does to my psyche. :) It starts to feel like a game, and, as a perfectionist, I want to excel at it. So when I can't score the same deals as the big coupon blogs describe, I get frustrated.
But let's say I push past all that. Trying to score the deal can also be frustrating. With the rise in popularity of extreme couponing there is a lot of competition among shoppers to get the deals that are out there. For example, Target has a coupon for $1 off a Nivea lotion. There is a coupon from the insert for $3 off this lotion, making it only $1. But everytime I've looked for it, it's been out of stock. Target is on the other side of town for me, and I'm not going to make a special trip to save a few dollars on a lotion. (Again, that goes back to: 1) do I really need that lotion? Is there a more inexpensive one to begin with, and 2) Do I need lotion at all?).
Another example--Walgreens is running a register rewards deal on men's Gillette products (shaving cream, deodorants, body wash, etc.). I have buy one, get one free coupons for all of those items, and $2 off coupons that I can use with the buy one, get one free. Altogether, I would spend $10 out of pocket for $30-worth of stuff for my husband, and I would get $10 in a register reward. So essentially all of that would be free.
The other day, I dropped off a roll of film at Walgreens and checked the price of these items, to see how much they were to begin with. The product shelves were fully stocked. An hour later, when I returned to get my film, the shelves were completely wiped out. An extreme couponer, I'm assuming, came by and cleaned everything out. That's the part that makes me grouchy. If I still wanted to try to get the register reward, I'd have to time it just right to be at the store when the shelves were restocked so another extreme couponer with bad manners doesn't come and wipe everything out again. It can start to feel too frantic.
But if I just back away, I realize my husband does not need all that stuff. Sure, he wants antiperspirant. But I can use my buy one, get one free coupon to buy him two on sale somewhere, and he'll be a happy camper. I'll spend a few dollars out of pocket, and I'll be a happy camper, too, because I'm not getting caught up in the fact that Walgreens continues to not have the products for the register reward, and I can't get the deals, and wah-wah...
All that to say, I decided it's in my best interest to be a moderate couponer. I'll watch the sales and see if there are any coupons that match up real well. But I'm not going to go tons out of my way to score those deals. I've tried it, and like I said, I don't like what it does to my personality. I get much too caught up in it. It's much better for me if I can back away and realize that getting three salad dressings at Albertson's for .60 cents each (versus almost $2 each) is really not worth the hassle of making a special trip out on a Tuesday night before the sale ends to pick those up. Besides, making homemade dressing is usually less than .60 cents anyway. But, I love saving $3 off any size pack of Huggies diapers. That makes them the same price as the generic brand, and I think they're better quality. Diapers, we need. Store-bought dressing, not so much. It all comes down to perspective.
I'd love to hear what you think about couponing. Does it work well for you? If you coupon, how do you keep from getting too wrapped up in it? On the other hand, maybe you are ok with devoting a lot of time and thought to it, and it pays off in the savings you get. That's great! We're all different, and we're all going to reach different conclusions on it. What works best for your family and budget? Let's talk!