Before you clip that coupon…

There is ample couponing advice across the web.  If you want to learn about extreme couponing, visit The Krazy Coupon Lady.  That is not my niche, as I am not really a couponer.  On occassion, such as when I find a coupon in-store, I will use one.  But I rarely clip or print coupons.  So, before you start (or continue) couponing, I want to offer a few words of advice.  Er…a few questions with which to advise yourself? I always try to ask myself these questions before I give in to the urge to jump on the couponing bandwagon:

Is it worth my time?  My time is worth a certain amount of money. How much yours is worth depends upon what monetary value you place on it.  If you were getting paid per hour, how much would you expect?  And does the amount of time it takes to gather coupons, combined with the extra time spent  in the store equate with the amount of money you will save?  More importantly, is there something more beneficial that you could spend your time doing?  For example, I view cleaning as an investment in my family’s health and mental well-being.  Can you read a book and learn something new that you can apply to help your family or your career?  Does your house need a little bit of DIY love?  These, plus others, are all things I’ve found to be better uses of my time than is digging through coupons.

Are you cutting your time away?

Do you already use the item the coupon is for?  If not, is there a good reason for you to begin buying and using it now?  For example, if you can create a hamburger helper type meal from scratch, making it healthier and less expensive than the boxed stuff, is there really a need to buy that box?  And, chances are, the time it took you to find that coupon could have been using it to make that meal (or one similar, of course…but you get my drift, right?).

Is buying this item beneficial to me and my family?  Do I really need the bag of chips, that candy bar, or even the next fad diet bar?  Can I substitute healthier foods or cheaper foods?  Even if what I’m buying will save me money on my grocery bill, is it worth the money it could add to my health bill by perpetuating poor health?

Is “Brand X” really the best value, even with the coupon?  Before you just buy a product, compare.  I usually find that a comparable brand is cheaper overall, or that the value (health or otherwise) of my coupon product is lower than another product.  I have found that the best place to purchase our specific hygiene and beauty items, such as hair care, is online.  We love the Amazon.com Subscribe and Save Program for its great prices and convenience.

How do you get your coupons?  If you buy a Sunday newspaper just for the coupons, are you actually saving any money?  What about the deals you can get if you go to 10 different stores to stack coupons with their sales.  Is it really worth the hassle, the time, the gas, and the wear and tear on your vehicle?  For some of you, the answer to that question might be a resounding “yes,” especially if it is for items you use on a regular basis.  As a mom of four, my spare time needs to be smartly budgeted, and this generally doesn’t fit the bill. (Not to mention the fact that dragging my kids in and out of just 1 or 2 stores is difficult enough. I either spend extra time keeping them happy while I fit more shopping into one day, or I spend more money on other days taking extra trips…)

With all these questions, I usually find that coupons are not worth my time.  There are rare cases when I decide to splurge or when I luck upon a coupon for a product already on my list.  It feels nice when that happens.  One notable case was when Brown Cow Yogurt first came to my local military commissary, and there were coupons available both in-store and on the Brown Cow website.  My family adores their cream top yogurt.  I used a coupon every chance I could.  But now I don’t find their brand in the stores I shop in and thus I haven’t even looked for more coupons.  (I should make a special trip to find some as a treat. This would be a situation in which I would splurge with a coupon.)  Most of the time, I feed my family on a stricter shopping list than couponing allows.  Call me up when I can easily–the keyword here is easily–find coupons for produce and bagged rice and beans.