Is Couponing Worth Your Time?

Posted on Mar 11, 2012

Canadian CouponsCouponing has become pretty trendy these days which I feel is partly due to the fact that it has been showcased on TV programs like TLC’s Extreme Couponing.  From what I have read and seen in the media I get the feeling that some people think coupons are going to be the answer to all of their financial concerns. I hate to say it but while coupons can save you some money, they aren’t going to make you wealthy. In fact they may do the exact opposite if you end up using them to buy things you don’t really need. I remember seeing a preview for Extreme Couponing where a woman was buying a ridiculous amount of mustard, something like 200 bottles and she didn’t even like mustard.  This is an example of someone getting caught up in the excitement of a bargain and making purchases that they really don’t need, definitely not the best idea if you are looking to save money. I know some of these extreme couponers donate their excess items to charity, which I think is a fabulous idea and better than hoarding the un-needed items so I realize these exaggerated buying trips aren’t always done by someone in need of an intervention. It is definitely a creative way of giving back to your community but probably not the get rich quick scheme some envision it to be.

HOW I USE COUPONS

Many of the things my husband and I buy on a weekly basis would rarely offer coupons like our favorite locally made bread (from Prairie Mill Bakery) or fruits and vegetables. Because of this I only use easy to find coupons for a small amount of the items I buy regularly. Coupons tend to be available for processed or branded foods, items like cereals, diapers, hygiene products, etc… This is because coupons are a method for companies to advertise and get new customers to try their stuff. As much as these corporations don’t want you to know it I think that most of this stuff we don’t actually need. A large class of these items that I would consider un-necessary include cleaning products.  Not only are many of them toxic but I find that a majority of my cleaning can be done with some good old innocuous vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice but I think there is enough information to be shared on that topic to be part of a different post so I will stop there for now.

Remember it is not a deal if you don’t need it in the first place! I always try to remind myself that the best deal is always not buying anything at all. When I am making a purchase my thought process usually goes something like this:

  • Do I need it?
  • Is there something I already own that I can use instead (this could mean modifying something)?
  • Is this the best price I can get on it?

I can see how this can sound a bit exhausting but believe me once you have done this for a while you can think through these questions very quickly and this method has definitely helped prevent a lot of un-necessary purchases!

Coupons are also a tool for companies such as Walmart or Safeway to attract customers into their stores. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but please know that if you need to drive way out of your way to get to a big box store to get $1 off your Special K then you most likely have just spent more on gas (don’t forget about your valuable time).

I think the draw for me to use coupons is related to my obsession towards always paying the lowest price for my purchases (I enjoy certain brands and quality with the products I buy, so it isn’t about buying the cheapest item but the best price on a good quality item). This savings obsession is almost like a game or a challenge for me and I get frustrated when I find out I paid more for something than I had to.

As far as the numbers go I save around $30/month using coupons towards my everyday purchases (I am only talking about coupons here, this excludes any extra promotions or money-saving techniques). I would consider this savings to be fairly negligible in the grand scheme of things and realistically only makes up for the few times I need to pay full price for something (if I need it immediately and can’t wait for a sale). That being said, I do it because this small savings comes with little effort since I spend around 15 minutes a week finding, printing and organizing coupons. I made a calculated choice to give up this time but I think it is important to evaluate the time you want to spend by always keeping in mind that the time could be better spent on other areas of your life that have higher monetary or lifestyle quality (family or personal time) value. If you could spend 15 or more minutes a week working on one of your talents you will probably end up with a larger return than that offered from a mere $30/month coupon savings.

Basically what I am saying is I think you should only spend time couponing when you have absolutely nothing else to do! It doesn’t pay out, and if you’re not careful you’ll end up with 200 bottles of mustard…

COUPONING RESOURCES

There are lots of great coupon websites out there that will help you minimize your time spent couponing. I don’t plan to write very often about coupon savings unless they are great, but I do however want to share with you a listing of my go to Canadian coupon sites:

Canadian mail out Coupon sites

Save.ca
Websaver.ca
Brandsaver.ca

Printable Canadian Coupons:

Smartsource.ca
Livingwell.ca

The Best Canadian Deal Blogs:

Mrs January
Frugal Edmonton Mama
Save A Loonie
Bargain Moose

MORE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY

Always keep your coupons with you because you never know when you will find a great deal. The best strategy for me is to have them in a small ziplock bag in my purse. It is rarely worth the time or money to go back somewhere just to save a few bucks when you forget your coupons. Don’t bother to make a special trip across town to save a buck on Corn Flakes, remember your time (and gas) are worth more.

Combine your coupons with in-store promotions for added savings.  This is what couponers call Matchups.  Examples of ones I use frequently: On the first Tuesday of the month Safeway has 10% of your purchase of $35 or more, this includes things that are already on sale.  So you can use a coupon on a sale item and then get 10% of that. Then don’t forget to use a credit card that gives you 2% cashback on grocery purchases for even more savings!!  Another situation I like to take advantage of combining savings is when Shoppers Drug Mart is running one of its good promotions for additional points or cash back.  For example this week they are giving you $10 back on a purchase of $50 or more (March 12-16).  This week would be a perfect example of stacking up savings, check the coupon Matchups at shoppers this week, spend the $50, use your credit card to get back 2% and you could easily save over 50% on your purchases!

1 Comment

  1. Katy
    March 11, 2012

    Thanks. Great approach!! so easy to get overwhelmed with all the ‘deals’ out there.

    Reply

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