Monday, September 24, 2012

My Couponing Don'ts

My sister-in-law and I are going to put on a workshop to teach other women how to coupon and save money.  I've been thinking about it for the past few months, what I would teach someone so they could save money without expending a lot of time and energy.

Which of course led me to think about the things that I've tried that only led to MORE spending and wasting LOTS of time without really benefiting me.  So here are my top time wasters that I now avoid.

1. Swagbucks.  Unless you are only using it for searches, it's a time waster.  Doing the surveys, watching Swag TV, participating in the various day long super Swag days.  Time suckers.  Yes, the Amazon gift cards are nice, but is wasting hours of your time worth it?  For me, the answer was a resounding no.

2. Surveys.  Again, you can earn money doing surveys, but you have to consider the time you are spending doing surveys.  A thirty minute survey may net me three bucks.  For a while I thought it was worth my time.  I like free stuff.  But adding up the time I was spending doing surveys ended up equaling a whole lot of time that I wasn't spending on homeschooling my kids, taking care of my house, spending time with others, etc.  And with the exception of a few select survey sites, the rewards weren't really worth it.

3. Multi-Store Shopping.  For four months last fall I was an empty nester with all of my kids in school.  Which meant I now had time to shop at multiple stores to hit the savings.  I tried it for a while.  I shopped at my regular two stores but then added in two more, plus shopping the drug stores--Walgreens and Rite Aid.  While I did get a lot of stuff for little or no money, I was left to wonder...did I really need three netipots jeust because they were free?  Was I really saving money by hitting the sales?  Or was I really spending more money because I was now stepping into 4-6 stores a week versus 2?  After adding up my receipts, I concluded that I was going over budget regularly because I was buying so many "extras" because they were a good deal.  I immediately cut back to only shopping at my two stores (a regular super center and a farmers market store for produce).

4. Buying Things Just Because They're Free or Super Cheap.  I would pick things up for free or only cost pennies that I didn't even want, and then bring them home with the intention of donating them.  They sat in my house for days, weeks, months.  I realized that this was just a form of hoarding that I needed to cease doing. As I mentioned in #3, just because I could get three netipots for free does not mean I should buy them and bring them home.  I now limit myself to only purchasing things that we will actually use, even if it's free.

5. Becoming Obsessed With Couponing.  For a while I was buying a lot of newspapers and collecting lots of coupons.  While it's nice to have six copies of one coupon, it also means I now have six times the amount of coupons.  Which I have to cut out, sort, and deal with.  My family started making comments about my coupon cutting sprees.  They joked that couponing was my favorite hobby.  At first I thought it was funny, but then I started pondering...was the time I was spending worth saving a few extra bucks?  The answer was mixed.  Couponing in moderation is an easy way for me to save my family money.  On average I save 30-40% off our grocery bill using coupons and shopping sales.  But I was allowing myself to become obsessed with trying to save over 50%.  But before I got really into couponing, the truth is that we were already eating frugally.  I was already making smart purchasing decisions.  So my cutting 30-40% off my bill using coupons and shopping sales was actually a really good amount of savings because I wasn't starting at ground zero when I got more into couponing.  Allowing myself to become consumed with the need to save even more wasn't healthy.

Over the past year I have gradually cut back on the amount of couponing and deal seeking that I do.  I spend no more than an hour a week on couponing and grocery list making.  I print off internet coupons as I find them, I check my MPerks coupons and clip what I want, I cut coupons from only two sets of inserts each week (mine and my Grandma's), and I utilize the stockpiling method of stocking up when I find great deals so I rarely have to buy something that's not a good deal.  These efforts alone help save me an average of 30-40% a week, which is good enough for me.

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