Is It Time to Give Up Coupons?

Those who have known me since college know that I have been a fairly faithful couponer over the years.  Never extreme.  But faithful.  I never subscribed to 5 newspapers a day, but for about five or six years my dad would give me his two sets of coupons each week.  I would maybe take a few of his coupons, but usually I just passed those coupon sets onto my friends.  I couponed almost 2 decades faithfully.

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Spring a year and a half ago I wrote about Couponing and Extreme Couponing or Not and then How I Organize My Coupons , but even as I wrote about Extreme Couponing, I was acknowledging then that we were changing our food purchasing habits as a family.  We started buying a lot more produce and dried bulk foods and way less boxed items. 

As life continued and we had more kids and more responsibilities, couponing started to become extremely stressful to me, and one more thing on my to-do list that would literally weigh me down since I would often carry the un-viewed coupons in my purse.  They became a burden.  To clip coupons for a whole bunch of things that I might buy, and stop and take the time to organize these little bits of paper that might fly away or might be grabbed by a little hand became quite stressful, especially as a mom with young kids.

Is It Time to Give Up on Coupons

And I tried to get into Internet coupons, but it took a lot of time researching coupons, and then trying to print out coupons on my not so printer-friendly printer for coupons I ultimately ended up throwing in the recycle.

WASTE. OF. TIME.

I can’t afford to waste time.  It’s not good stewardship of my time.  Time is a gift.  There are too many things in life that I want to do.  My list is long.  L-O-N-G.  So slowly over time (I usually don’t make changes quickly), I started clipping less and less coupons.  I am constantly asking myself  ‘am I (or a family member) really going to use this?’

So have I given up on coupons completely?  No.  I still look at the coupons that come in the ads every week, but I do it very quickly, like in one minute.  There will be the occasion organic coupon or toilet paper coupon I’ll use, so I’ll give coupons a minute of my time these days.  If you look at my Grocery List and Prices to Meet or Beat, you’ll see that I don’t buy much prepackaged food that might have a coupon.  So now it’s to the point that I may not clip one single coupon from the paper, and I don’t pick up my dad’s extra coupons anymore.  Yes, there are some weeks where I may clip a few, but I just don’t coupon like I did. And I try to organize the coupons away right away.  I have moved from two skinny coupon holders that stay in my purse to one.  Sometimes it will be a couple of months between times where I purge my unused coupons.  It’s not so stressful now because there are hardly any coupons in the organizer.

I still aim to be a good steward of our money, consistently being aware of grocery prices and looking for good deals, but coupons aren’t consuming me anymore.  As we prepare more good whole foods at home like refried beans and bread, we use prepackaged items less.  And homemade foods are more frugal (and more nourishing) then buying them in the packages anyway.  On the occasion we go out to eat, we’ll seek out a coupon, but those times are so few and far between.  My husband does that now, and I think he secretly enjoys finding a good deal on the Internet.

Anyway, here’s to reducing stress and being a good steward of time and money!

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Comments

  1. Raechelle says

    OHmygoodness! I couldn’t agree more! I truly tried to get into couponing. I really, really did. But we simply don’t buy the stuff they’re giving coupons for, and I don’t shop in most of those stores. I also tried the on-line coupons, and just felt like I was spending a huge amount of time for no real outcome. I shop at Costco, Fred Meyers for almost all organics, trader Joes, places where coupons just don’t appear, or for foods that just aren’t on sale. I think the biggest turn off was when I found out in WA state that you couldn’t double coupons (I think that was it. It was some rule that made extreme couponing impossible here.) So, lots of time, for no point. Again, better stewards of our time by just eating healthy. :-)

    • Sonja says

      Hi Raechelle! I totally forgot to mention double coupons! Those ended up stressing me too since it was only Albertson’s from Sunday-Tuesday when they felt like putting them out. So there were times I’d be at Albertson’s on a Tuesday night at 11pm trying to get the deals, which were almost ALWAYS sold out. Frustrating waste of time!

      I shop were you do with the addition of WinCo. I agree it’s much harder to be an extreme couponer in Washington State.

      Also, the more you learn about food, the more you understand it doesn’t take a whole lot to make food taste good.

      Have a great day!!

  2. cynthia says

    I agree! I couponed a bit in my early years of marriage when the kids were younger and we ate more processed foods. Now I almost never use coupons because they are mostly for the processed food. I agree couponing can become stressfull. It also would make me feel like I “had”to use that coupon. Even if it wasnt something we needed.

    • Sonja says

      Hi Cynthia, I agree with you and do think think if we have a coupon we do sometimes feel obligated to get the product because we went through the effort to cut out and tote the coupon around. So silly. Thanks for your input, Cynthia!

  3. D'Ann Martin says

    I myself have pretty much stopped all couponing. It was like a burden was lifted off! My best friend is always telling me how she saves a gazillion dollars couponing, but I never got the hang of it. Plus, I’m also transitioning to basic staples like beans, rice and produce, so the coupon thing just wasn’t working any more. I also shop at Aldi now to reduce buyer fatigue (I think that’s what they call it.) Fewer choices equals less stress! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your blog, and how it’s helping our family<3

  4. Nikki says

    I second the comments! I was heavily into couponing when I first got married since I learned about budgeting before I learned how to cook. I loved the thrill of the hunt, but then I started actually looking at the ingredients of what we were eating. Saving a few cents wasn’t worth that. I still glance at winetags every month or so when I’m at a grocery store that might have them.

    • Sonja says

      Hi Nikki. Yes, it’s exciting to get a deal, but you are right with the lack of good ingredients, it makes it hard to justify using coupons. Thanks for visiting!

  5. Rachael says

    Totally feeling your pain here. It really is not worth it for me, despite the lost hours and wasted printer ink.

    Personally, I spend little of my time shopping at standard grocery stores. The ones I do use either don’t take coupons or sell mostly organic, non-couponed items.

    Plus, my love of bulk food sections and buying in bulk online really knocked out the option of couponing. Sure, sometimes I’ll do searches for match-ups online, but that’s about it.

    Thanks for sharing! Glad I’m not the only one. Also, we must be neighbor-ish since I see you’ve got a Winco link in your sidebar. I’m in Western WA. :)

    • Sonja says

      I hear you! I am all about the bulk foods section! Nuts, organic oats, coconut flakes, dried beans, and more!! We live in W WA, too. Snohomish County.

  6. christina says

    this is good! we buy mainly fresh and you are so right … not a whole lot of coupons! my new favorite is the cartwheel app and the target app/// you can use them together! for double the savings plus all they have to do is scan your phone! :) newest follower … found you through the link up!

  7. Rebecca says

    Rachel…you buy in food in bulk online??? I have never heard of that! Sonja…thank you for making us feel ok for not using coupons. It seems like if you tell someone that, they look at you like your are breaking some big national rule! It is so good to hear that a lot of others do not use a lot of coupons. Those ladies at the grocery store that I see with the binders, I wonder how they do it. I just never really understood how they get all that stuff for free. And don’t even get me started on all that crazy over the top stockpiling they do!

    • Sonja says

      Hi Rebecca, Those binders stress me out just looking at them! I also think it’s harder to get things for free these days since there are more restrictions on coupons, sometimes 4 like items in the same transaction kind of thing. Anyway, no national rules to follow here on coupons. Just eat good food! Thanks for sharing, Rebecca!

  8. heather says

    I know what you mean. I had seen all these people saving tons of money in line in front of me at the grocery store I was getting jealous. Then I came home and wanted to start clipping coupons. Then I too realized that the way we eat doesn’t really work with couponing. I occasionally use coupons for cheese and sour cream. But the rest of the coupon packet is a waste of paper for me.

  9. Kelsey says

    I TOTALLY agree. I keep pretty tight control over our budget, but have always found couponing completely overwhelming. We just eat in budget and stay in budget, but it has nothing to do with the coupon offers. It’s always nice to have a second opinion, though. Makes me feel less guilty! ;) Thanks for writing! –Kelsey

    • Sonja says

      Hi Kelsey, No need to feel guilty! Coupons are less relevant these days, I believe. Yay for eating in budget. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Claudine says

    Hi Sonja…. First time visitor here…and I thought I was the only one who did not clip coupons! I must confess, my husband and I do not even subscribe to the local paper, so I don’t have access to the coupons. Back before I was married, I use to subscribe to the Sunday paper only because the coupons were there, but our coupon section started turning into advertisement and very little coupons. I also tried to print coupons, but as one other reader mentioned, the price of ink and my precious time just don’t add up to the savings. I too enjoy cooking from scratch…and the coupons for that don’t exist. Thank you for the great post and for letting me know I’m not alone.

    • Sonja says

      Hi Claudine. Yep! You aren’t alone. There are WAY more ads in the coupon section now, you are right. Thanks for sharing and visiting!

  11. acorn hollow says

    My daughter is a couponer and does very well and I use coupons now and then but when I would watch extreme couponing all I would see is processed food or soda etc just general crap. I have always cooked from scratch and coupons are not very available for fresh fruit and veggies. So like you I scan and if they have the mustard I use I will use the coupon but other than that I pass. Cathy

  12. Cindy Harris says

    I couldn’t agree more. Our 6 children are now raised–I have always shopped carefully (we lived on one income). You just don’t find coupons on 50 lb bags of oatmeal! We even had a co-op and bought our grains by the truck load! There are plenty of ways to ‘shop smart’ coupons just didn’t fit our lifestyle or eating habits. As empty nesters I spend most of our food budget at the produce section. I watch for sales at a couple of my favorite stores and use plenty of store brands–it works for me!

    • Sonja says

      Hi Cindy. Most of our grocery budget is also spent in the produce section, a little meat, a little dairy, and a lot of produce. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Chrystal says

    Hopping over from “From the Farm” blog hop. I could not agree with you more. I wanted to be a couponer. I knew it could save my family as we hit troubled times. I live in a rural area and the cost of newspapers or coupon clipping services was something I could never justify.

    The papers never carried coupons for things that I would buy normally and I did not want to buy boxed crap just because it was cheap or in some situations – free. So on my quest to healthier living, I started to eat cleaner and since I love making things from dry beans I have been able to take time stressed over coupons and use that to create my own beans and mix ins. I save money by staying away from prepacked premade meals. I shop sales and discounts and we have a ‘scratch n dent’ market about 45min away that I go to once a month and stock up.

    In the case of coupons – what works for some, doesn’t work for others.

    • Sonja says

      H Chrystal. Yes, coupons can work for some. But if you are trying to eat whole foods, it’s really hard to justify excessive use. We are really eating a lot of beans now, and even when we buy the organic pinto beans, it’s still cheaper to make my own organic refried beans than to eat them from a can. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Tanya @ Kentucky Sketches says

    I decided long ago that my time was worth more than the dollars I saved couponing. And I also realized there were lots of things I bought for no other reason than I had a coupon for them. I can buy worthwhile things and save money with coupons, but if I’m also buying things I don’t need and don’t even particularly WANT, then I’m cancelling out any REAL savings.

    For some people, it’s almost like a hobby. They seem to enjoy couponing and that’s wonderful. Personally, I have other ways I’d far rather spend my time!

  15. Shannon (@DEsUnion) says

    We used to coupon then made the choice to only have boxed food occasionally eating more whole foods and buying from the local bulk health food store. At this point we have decided to do a couple months of crazy couponing for body care/first aid type of items. This stocks us up for about a year. I agree, it can be too stressful!

    Shannon

  16. Raki (Outside the Box Mom) says

    I’ve struggled with this for some time, too. I used to be a semi-extreme couponer. But, after having my second child, it just became too much with work, household tasks, etc. My main strategy is sticking to a budget and loosely using a pricebook. Thanks for your perspective.

    • Sonja says

      Hi Raki! Sounds like the way to go. I was finding it was taking too much time and I wasn’t utilizing them for the efforts I was putting into them. Thanks for visiting!

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