Maybe it’s just me, but it sure seems like there’s a lot more talk about coupons than there used to be. I listen to folks brag about their coupon deals and sometimes I’m left in utter disbelief, not necessarily at the size of their savings, but at the thought of them using coupons at all! People who wouldn’t have bothered with a coupon 10 years ago, (let alone bragged about it!) are suddenly all wrapped up in the magic of couponing.
Chalk it up to the bad economy. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and I’m sure a nation short on jobs and long on debt has proven fertile ground for the growth of couponing/money saving websites and some of these “extreme couponing” shows I’ve heard so much about.
Coupons are nothing new. It took me about two minutes’ worth of research to learn that one of my favorite companies in all the world produced the first known coupon. In 1888 Coca Cola launched what for its day was an innovative, (and pretty risky,) marketing technique–coupons for a free Coca Cola! Soda fountains across the U.S. were supplied with the syrup and within the first 20 years Coca Cola gave away around 8,500,000 free beverages. It was promotion of a product on an epic scale. And it was a gamble.
But I think it’s safe to say it worked. Worldwide, Coca Cola now delivers 1.7 BILLION servings per day. (And just to show my appreciation, I’m doing my part to up that number as much as possible. ;))
Here’s my issue: While the benefits of coupons are talked about a lot, the drawbacks of them aren’t. Granted, the money saved at times can be pretty impressive. Once on a trip to Walgreens, for example, I purchased $80 worth of merchandise for $43. Not too shabby, eh? And while that kind of savings isn’t exactly typical for me, with coupons I can usually save at least $10 every time I make a trip to the grocery and, hey…ten bucks is ten bucks!
Saving money is awesome!
But blowing time isn’t.
And to be a committed and successful coupon shopper, you have to blow a lot of it!
Now I’ve learned some organizational tips that can save a few minutes here or there and I’ve heard about and even tried some of the websites designed to make couponing easier and less time-intensive, but none of these things negate the sad fact that couponing takes a lot of time! The clipping takes time. Matching the coupons with the sales ads takes time. Organizing the coupons you plan to use right away and saving the ones you’ll use later– all of it takes time!
Now no doubt the dedicated, even obsessive coupon shopper will read this and shout at me, “But think of the money you save!” Yes, but think of the time you lose! And you know what they say; Time is money! Especially when you consider that, let’s be honest, a lot of the stuff we’re buying with coupons are things we probably wouldn’t buy otherwise and don’t necessarily need. Around our house, we’re trying to eat healthier and 95% of the coupons I find are for processed foods I don’t buy anymore. That gives me even less reason to coupon!
Now I’m not saying couponing is a bad thing. I know for some people clipping coupons and keeping it all organized is a hobby they enjoy just as much as I enjoy writing or reading. And saving money is a wonderful, often needful thing. But the savings is really only beneficial if it’s not at the expense of my time. That’s exactly why, though I was an ardent coupon shopper when I was newly married, couponing went down the tubes as child 3 and 4 came along. It’s not that I didn’t want or need to save money, but I struggled to find time to bathe and brush my hair, let alone sit down to clip $.25 coupons out of the Sunday paper! Even now I only use the most basic coupons and only when it’s convenient and usually only when they offer a fairly substantial savings.
So I think it’s important to weigh the pluses against the minuses and then make the decision which is more valuable to me–my time or my money? And when shopping with children in tow, the question is often more like–my SANITY or my money? Sometimes I’d rather pay more money if doing so would save me some time and some wear-and-tear on my nerves!
In the days before price-matching, I remember my mother driving all over town to take advantage of the sales at various stores. Looking back now I can’t imagine that! My mom meant well, but she probably burned more gas running from place to place than she ever saved!
To me, sometimes the extreme couponing mentality is much the same. Save money, but burn time. Of the two, generally I find my time to be far more valuable. I’ll coupon happily, but only so long as the savings aren’t costing me more than they’re actually saving me.
That’s just my never-to-be-humble opinion. You die-hard coupon junkies just clip to your little hearts’ content and if you find yourself with leftover time, feel free to come on over and organize some coupons for me. And maybe you can do a load of laundry while you’re here. Believe me, that would be appreciated!