Hi, my name is Cindy. I am a recovering couponaholic. Welcome to the first ever meeting of CCA.
I’ve learned to hate coupons. If I had to choose between shopping with a stack of coupons (as I did for nearly three years), or paying 3 times as much per week as my usual $40-$50 budget, I’d choose to pay the extra. (Update: I am now paying $70 a week for groceries, and I’m happy with that. Very happy.) I. Hate. Coupons.
Hundreds of mom-bloggers all over the United States are at this moment clutching their bargain-filled tummies, completely unaware of the cause of their collective indigestion. They think it’s just the Velveeta Shells and Cheese doing its usual gut-destroying digestive dance–but no, I did that! I spoke against the Mighty Strategy, the Holy Organizer.
How could anyone hate coupons? Are you nuts, lady?
Well, no! I’m clothed and in my right mind, thank God! I’m not really going to attack couponing. Couponing is one way among many to Food Nirvana. I’m Unitarian when it comes to money-saving methods. Whatever works for you is fine by me. But I’ve shopped every way known to man, and I’m telling you, this is not the best way.
A few years ago, I had a budget that worked. I gave myself about $90 every two weeks to buy groceries. I had a kitchen full of good, healthy food, and I was a happy cook. Then I won a a Coupon Binder System from some frugal living/mom blog. I was very excited to try this system, as I’d been assured by many brilliant homemakers (this one, for instance, whose shoes I’m not worthy to unlace) that I could indeed get my big, fat budget into a smaller pair of jeans using strategic couponing. I’m always looking for new ways to save money, so I jumped in feet first!
I started couponing with great enthusiasm. If I had been the usual shopper, running down the aisles of Harris Teeter like it was a timed shopping spree, throwing everything I see into the cart without regard to cost, couponing would absolutely have saved me a ton of money. For me, though, coupons didn’t change the amount of money spent. They just changed what I was able to buy.
After that first thrill of seeing how much brand name stuff I could bring home for so little money wore off, though, I started to notice that couponing was changing the way I fed my family. I never got dragged into anything as drastic as those frozen toaster pastries or anything, but there was a noticable decrease in the quality and taste of our food. You know how the healthy-eating gurus (not to mention professional chefs) always say to shop the periphery of the grocery store for the most wholesome fare? Well, good luck finding coupons for carrots and milk!
On my previous, no-coupon budget, I spent about $45 a week and still got to buy wine and good cheese from time to time. With coupons, shopping the available deals still cost me about $45 a week, but there was barely enough room in the budget for milk. The quality of the food dropped off so severely that I started having trouble getting anyone to visit us for dinner anymore. That was just too much for me to bear. Couponing completely destroyed my reputation as a cook!
It was fun for a while, having a huge stockpile of condiments and canned goods I could boast of having gotten for so little money. I like to play games, and this is a fun one! Once I’ve mastered a new skill, though, I get bored. This was a game not worth continuing, in my (always-contrary) opinion. What I found out from my experiment is that you can bring home just as much stuff, for the same amount of money, without ever clipping one of those dirty little squares of paper again.
In my next post on this touchy subject, I’ll give you low-down on how I feed my family on a budget without driving myself crazy with scissors and baseball card organizers. For this post, I just want to say to those of you who have learned to hate the Sunday paper as much as I do that there is hope. You don’t have to keep doing this if you don’t enjoy it!
To be perfectly honest, I only quit the coupon habit in the last month or so (after threatening to do it nearly a year ago and then getting sucked right back in). My grocery budget has gone up in that time by $10-$15 a week. This is because I’m still re-stocking some things I’d neglected, and re-learning some of my old habits. I expect this to come down to my usual budget in the next week or two. In fact, I’ve bought a lot of extra food to cook and freeze for easy meals when the baby comes in August, so I can’t really say whether I’ve actually spent more. I don’t expect to be spending much at all in the last weeks of summer, so I’m really just spending ahead.
Even if my spending doesn’t come down much further, I can’t imagine going back to the binder. It didn’t just bind my coupons. It bound my creativity in the kitchen, and limited the quality of meals I was able to prepare. I’ll let you know if the budget improves! (I know it will, but I’m sure some will be skeptical.)
How about you? Love coupons or hate them? I’m not sure there is a middle ground!