There exists an entire blogging community of coupon junkies and money savers that helped me figure out how to get the most of little. At first I thought that it was time consuming because I was new to all the double deal talking, but no, this coupon business is very time consuming. Not only does it take time to clip the coupons, sort them, organize them, pull out expired ones, etc., but I could easily spend an hour roaming the aisles trying to find what item matched my coupon. I found it a challenge at first and didn't even mind the strange stares as people maneuvered around my buggy, but I gradually lost patience. After the first newspaper, then on and on, I had acquired so many coupons that I couldn't manage them well. I realize there are coupon organization systems out there, but what can I say? I just couldn't be bothered.
No matter the inconvenience of all that, the real test is did I save money? I'm going to say yes and no on that count. Yes, if you add up all the coupons I used, I did save money. However, I would have not bought many of those items if I hadn't had a coupon, so that would be no. At first I clipped all the coupons, even Depends and hair dye. The thing is that I would read one of the blogs telling how they got items for free because they had the coupon, and I didn't want to miss out on the free stuff. Never mind that I wasn't going to use it, I could give it away!
I really tried to buy things that weren't terrible for me, but I was often seduced by the Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts and yet another mediocre body wash. The truth is that there is a reason for most of the coupons being high priced, heavily packaged, processed food. The companies make the most money on these items and they want you hooked. I can't remember the last time I had a Pop Tart and now I am strangely addicted to maple and brown sugar with it's crusty edges and sugary frosting. In fact, I had one today-out of a vending machine, but I digress. There are some companies like Cascadian Farm that offered some great coupons from their website, so they are not all bad.
This leads me to the most disturbing effect of all during my coupon experiment. I gained 5 pounds. My eating patterns have been fairly fixed for a lot of years and this is the first time I've succumbed to the processed food like this. I am not impressed. Rice Krispy treats homemade are way better than the individually wrapped ones. Yes I know that all Rice Krispy treats could be considered processed, but you get the point, right? I didn't think I was overeating, but the basic changes in food can be attributed to the weight gain. That's my story on that.
Using coupons created a sense of urgency to use them and that made me shop more. I would look for "deals" from other blogs to see what store had the great coupon and store sale match-ups. The deals may be at Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and I would feel compelled to go there and see for myself. At first, I was suckered in and ending up spending way more than I normally would have. Previously and from now on, it's back to business as usual. I will go once a week to Central Market with fill-ins to Wal-Mart or HEB. Some things are just cheaper at Wal-Mart and just because I'm not gung ho clipping coupons, I still want to save money. The bottom line is that I want to eat what I have learned over the years is good for me. I stay away from processed, faux foods and like to cook from fresh ingredients. That is a choice I made a long time ago and we decided it's better to save money by eating less.
One of my favorite things about clipping coupons is the makeup deals. I was completely enchanted when I realized that when a store has a buy one get one free (BOGO), and you have a coupon BOGO, you get them both free. Very cool. Previously I wouldn't have used drugstore makeup but I have to say that I'm loving my Cover Girl foundation.
My last note about coupons is the phenomenon of "stock-piling". Being someone who doesn't like a lot of extra clutter, I found this notion intriguing and disturbing at the same time. Maybe it's because we are only two in our house, but already we have enough body wash, razors and deodorant to last two years. I had to just stop the madness and stop buying these products no matter what the deal. I don't want all that stuff in my house!
The verdict is that I will still use some coupons, but will no longer put all the effort and gaming that is involved in all-out couponing. I'll miss those makeup coupons though. And I will still do CVS because they have an internal savings system that doesn't require coupons for saving money. Each family has to do what works for them and for now I think all coupons and Pop Tarts must be taken in moderation.