Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mythbusting: I Don't Use Coupons Because . . . .

If you know me, you know it's a rare thing that I step foot into a retail establishment without some form of coupon on my person. Coupons are a kind of hobby for me, much like quilting or scrapbooking are for other women, insofar as they all require scissors and elevate cutting things into small pieces into high art.

I started young, at the feet of my dear Granny T. She was a handmaiden of the Depression, raised 3 children and lost one during that terrible time in the middle of the Dust Bowl, and as a result was not one to let a penny get past her without some serious negotiation. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper Granny T showed me how I could save a nickel or dime or sometimes even a quarter just for cutting out squares from the Sunday papers. It stuck with me and I think I was the only teenager in my little Southern town who used coupons to satiate my desire for all manner of Cover Girl, Maybelline, and White Rain.

I recognize I am unusual. Most people don't get it. In fact, most people don't get it in a big way. Most people, when they find out I have this sickness, this obsession with not paying full price for anything, proffer some version of "I Don't Use Coupons Because." People, I've heard them all. And not a one of them is true.

Myth #1: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Eat Processed Foods

While it's fair to say that the majority of coupons out there are for what I call "flourescent foods," or "foods" that would not be recognized as such by my dear sweet Granny T were she still with us today (Yogos, anyone?), there are coupons a-plenty for fresh, wholesome foods, meats, produce, dairy, and other pantry items. A quick flip through my coupon file and I see coupons for bagged salad, cherry tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, milk, baking powder and baking soda, chicken, ham, bacon, Cornish game hens (yes. Cornish game hens). Also, do you eat cereal? That is processed. Do you eat condiments like ketchup and mustard? Processed. Yogurt? You guessed it . . . processed (though you can make your own!). If you live in the twenty-first century, you eat processed food.

All this talk of "food" also completely ignores the vast number of coupons out there for health and beauty aids, cleaners, detergents, and other products people use on a daily basis. So what if you don't eat processed food? You use toothpaste, yes? Laundry detergent? Of course you do. And coupons make those products less expensive. Myth #1 busted.

Myth #2: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Like To Stick To My Brands.

Shoot! If you know what brands you prefer, all the more reason to have the coupons that are available for those brands! Combine those coupons with a sale, and buy enough to get you to the next coupon and sale. You just saved money and time. And don't tell me they don't have coupons for what you use. Use your handy dandy google and enter the name of your brand with "printable coupon" in the search box. Click and print. Take to store and save. Easy.

Myth #3: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Save More Money Buying Generic

Although I have no problem with generics per se and they can be a great "gateway tactic" for saving a ton of money at the grocery store, I can beat the generic price 80 percent of the time when I use coupons and wait for a sale. For example: I could buy weird-brand peanut butter for 1.59 per jar at my local supermarket, but if I wait for a sale, I can get a jar of Skippy Naturals for .62. If I wait for double coupon day, I can get that jar of Skippy for .25. Which would you rather pay?

Myth #4: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Have Time

I wouldn't say I have a lot of time either. But I also don't think using coupons takes that much time. I estimate I spend about an hour a week clipping, matching, and sorting. I save at least $100 per week. Do you make $100 per hour? Is the third re-run of Jon and Kate Plus 8 worth $100 to you? Turn off the tube, or at least clip and sort while you're watching Kate ber8 Jon.

Myth #5: I Don't Use Coupons Because I'm Not Organized Enough

Okay, this is the one myth that hovers on that line between truth and fiction. Some people are organizationally challenged, and I get that. Believe me, I do (said as she looks over her shoulder at Baboo's desk). That said, it is not impossible to save with coupons even if you do not love the idea of clipping, filing, and matching. Look at your grocery list. What shows up regularly, every single time you go shopping? Take five or ten of those items. Clip coupons for those five or ten items. Place with your list and/or your money/debit card (you aren't using a credit card to pay for your groceries, are you?). When you hand your money to the cashier, hand the coupons over as well. Done, and you will have saved a little moolah in the process.

Or, do what I did in the beginning. Focus your efforts on one store. For me, that was CVS. I learned how to match sales with coupons and Extra Care Bucks deals and focused on that until I got the hang of it. I also was able to learn what a "good deal" really was by watching the prices in the ads and at the store fluctuate. Fast forward a couple of years, and I now have a nice little stockpile of toiletries, household items, and other needed stuff that I got for pennies, and I can wait for the "really good" deal.

Myth #6: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Think They Save Me Enough Money.

Please. I regularly save 40% on my grocery bill without even trying very hard, and save 70-90% on toiletries, household goods, and other items we need (think school supplies, dishawasher detergent, light bulbs). Many times, I get items we need for free or I am paid to take an item out of the store. For example, this week I got pens, rulers, notebooks, and school scissors for free. How is "free" not saving you money? Yes, it requires effort. Yes, it requires time. But if you calculate the time spent multiplied by the amount saved, you will find that your hourly rate of return is more than most lawyers make, and it's pre-tax (a dollar you save is a dollar you don't have to earn). How is an hourly rate of $40-100 not saving you money?

The reality: for most people, "I Don't Use Coupons Because" is code for "I Don't Want to Be Bothered." This is fine, if you are within your budget and you have enough money to do all the things you want to do. But if you are consistently frustrated by the high cost of living, if your money ends before your month does, or you are simply trying to squeeze out a little money or raise your standard of living without working harder or longer for The Man, then why not try coupons?

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