We are going to have a short series on couponing and money-saving concerns and myths to see if we can honestly address the issues or concerns that you may have had about using coupons or saving money in general. We don’t want to be the ones to just sugar coat everything, but make saving money and couponing real and accessible for everyone!
We have been couponing and using money-saving strategies for several years and we have struggled with many of these issues ourselves on how to find the balance between saving money and saving sanity!
So for this first installment, we are going to address the Myth of “I don’t coupon because…. It Takes Too Much Time!”
First off, we hear this ALL the time! In most cases, this myth has been busted! But before you throw the baby out with the bath water… let us explain with all the caveats!
There is no doubt about it that any level of couponing and saving money will take time. You might see the people or hear the stories of those that make couponing and saving money a full-time job, even spending upwards of 30 + hours a week to coupon. We can obviously understand your reaction that it takes too much time. In this sense, you would probably consider couponing and saving money a waste of time! You have probably seen many of these same exact scenarios on the recent TLC series Extreme Couponing.
The first thing we would say is that those that are spending “full-time” on couponing and money-saving strategies are also seeing a “full-time” return on their time investment.
You also most likely hear the stories from friends, family, neighbors or co-worked that spend 20 minutes in total a week and grab a few coupons for their store shopping and nab a few deals from online and this may be more your style!
Well… guess what?!? Let’s say that the 20 minutes you spent for the whole of the week saved you $10. Now think about that person that spends 30 hours a week = approximately $600 – $900 + in savings that week. And your twenty minutes of time for a $10 return on investment is not bad hourly rate!
The main point is that it is not a waste of time. Whatever amount of time you put in, you will most likely get your return on the time you invested. It is up to you to decide just how much you want to invest, but it will be well worth it no matter how little time you put in. Even as little as 5 minutes a week could maybe pay an extra bill by the end of the month, or provide an extra dinner out!
But one thing we want to emphasize here is that you don’t have to spend your time just cutting coupons – there are plenty of ways you can save! One such area that will yield a massive amount of savings is to scale back spending as much as possible. It often means taking more time to make more meals from home, or more from scratch, repairing clothing, DIY oil changes, and do-it-yourself fixes and projects and all of these things, which we would consider as a part of saving money too.
If you did not have to spend $xx.xx on this project because you did it yourself and it took you 1 hour… then we consider that savings!
Here is the reality of it though – it is not just all peaches and cream and it is not always a guarantee that “spending twenty minutes will save $10” either.
There are many, many times in which you will “put in the time” by researching, planning, clipping, rounding kids up (this takes time!) and more just to get to the store and everything is wiped out and gone! This is happening more and more with the popularity of couponing.
When this happens, it totally stinks, it is a discouragement, and at times can make you want to throw in the towel completely. Your spouse, who was already skeptical, may become even more skeptical and possibly discouraging during these times. We know how you feel!
We are telling you this reality not because we are going to say “this happens rarely, so don’t worry about it” and expect you to shrug your shoulders and move on. But we are telling you because we want you to be prepared for this reality. Know that your efforts may come crashing down some times. Be prepared for this!
Now there are a couple of things you can do to help eliminate this reality a little more:
- Call the store/retailer before preparing to find out if they have that item. See if they will hold it for you if they do. If it is a grocery store, you can ask about stock and if they are out, maybe they will order/reserve some for you from their next truck.
- Ask for a raincheck. We just highlighted a trip in which we redeemed a raincheck and showed how our planning efforts paid off in the end. However, not all sales or items will qualify for a raincheck. On that same trip where we redeemed the cheese raincheck, there was also another hot item that we planned to get and were unable to due to no stock. We didn’t state it in the post, but we ended up going to the store 3 times during the sale in hopes of catching this item in stock. It never was and it was a special part of the grocery sale where they would not give us a raincheck. You just have to count those time losses and move on!
- Ask your stores if there is anything they can do to keep better stock! You could at least kindly voice your disappointment about the shelves being cleared. However, after talking with several store managers ourselves, this can be a bit of a challenge for them as they order the products many weeks before the sale and they have to guess which will be the most popular. The thing that complicates this the most is that they do not know what items will have coupons as well until just a couple of weeks before the sale starts, and it is usually those items that . Many store managers get “docked” by corporate if they have too much of one product left after the sale is over. So for many stores they are really stuck between a rock and hard place on this one. But again, it never hurts to kindly express your disappointments.
- There is one little trick that has worked for us on occasion, we are mentioning this, but don’t count on this solving your problem! If a store has been out of something we want and we are able to get a raincheck, there can be one more “problem”. And that is that you have these really hot coupons that go with the items you just got the raincheck on, but…. they expire soon and you will not be able to redeem them before they expire. We have then asked if we can go ahead and pay for the items and use our coupons, then keep our receipt and return to the store to pick up our paid for items. This has worked some times.
- Finally, you can get to the store right when the sale starts bright and early in the morning and depending on how hot the sale is, be fighting with the crowds and running through the store. We mention this as an option, because it is a slightly more of a guarantee that you will get those hot items, but still not a guarantee and it took you much more time to plan and shop this way. Alex is the type that will run and do these types of “grab and go” shopping (after paying of course ;)) but it is not worth it to me (Cassie).
There are a few things that do not make couponing worth the time you are putting in – these are our opinions, but something to consider.
- When couponing is running your life to the point that you can’t actually enjoy life.
- When couponing gets in the way of what matters most in your life.
- When trying to get a good deal tempts or pushes you to the edge to engage in unethical coupon practices.
- When couponing stresses you out to the point that you hate it. In this case, we would recommend not quitting, but scale back to a manageable level to help you achieve your goals. YOU DO NOT NEED TO COMPARE YOURSELF to other couponers around you or even those that you are being told on TV are “extreme, pro and reality” (we will address topics regarding Extreme Couponing soon too).
So there is our honest assessment of the thought that “it takes too much time to coupon and save money.” Do not avoid couponing and saving money strategies because you are afraid of the time commitment. Only invest what you are willing and able and based on what your financial goals are! And remember that what you invest in terms of time (whether 20 minutes or 30 hours) you will most often receive back!
Now the question on everyone’s mind is “how much time do YOU both spend couponing and saving money a week?” Right?
Our couponing and money saving has evolved and changed sooo many times over the last 8 years depending on where we were at in life, what our financial goals were and more! We have had those times that we were spending 10+ hours a week and it was yielding the equivalent of a nice paying 10 hour job in return. This was during the time period when we were cutting back as much as possible to pay off as much debt as was in our ability!
Currently, we have reached our “get out of debt” goal, and although we have more upcoming financial goals, we have scaled back and spend a total of 3-4 hours a week in total from researching, planning, shopping, etc. These 2-3 hours a week brings in several hundred a month in savings. This is from the groceries, clothing, eating out, basically a little bit of time in each area of our lives. At this stage in our lives, we are also trying to purchase as much organic and natural products as we can. This is a choice that we have made in our own lives with our own budget. There are significantly less actual coupons when you enter into the organic realm, but we spend just about as much time as we still research and plan to find creative ways to grab those deals on the higher quality items.
And now that we have told you how much time we spend, we want to know from you how much time you spend in this fun poll!
Do you agree with us? Why or why not?? We want to hear your experiences, thoughts and comments! Let us hear them!
Do you have other topics regarding couponing and saving money that you would like us to address? Leave us a comment and let us know!