YOU DON’T NEED TO USE EVERY COUPON THAT YOU GET YOUR HANDS ON
I know it sounds strange that I’m saying to let your coupons expire and save money but the reality is for some people, they can’t let them expire. The coupon binder seems to be a fixture in most grocery carts (British: shopping trolley) these days and if you don’t believe me have a gander inside other people’s carts next time you shop.
I’m not saying it’s a negative, but we stopped bringing our binder because we would overspend on the odd occasion while shopping. Now we leave the coupon binder at home or in the car and only take out the coupons we need for that shop. There’s not many times we have the heart pumping “start the car” moments anymore and we’re happy with that.
What We’ve Learned
If you follow Canadian Budget Binder you know that I started The Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) back in early 2012 with much success over the past year. The birth of the GGC was because my wife and I were spending far too much money on groceries for 2 people.
We thought we were doing better than our friends saving money using coupons and for the most part we were saving lots of money. I don’t remember the exact number off-hand but it was over $5000 in coupons that we used in one year. That was money we didn’t have to spend out-of-pocket to pay for items we “thought we needed”.
That’s right we eventually realized that we didn’t need all the products we were buying. We were so engrossed in the entire game of using coupons that we forgot about the main goal and that was the budget. We also lost sight of our path towards debt freedom which consisted of becoming mortgage free and potentially an early retirement.
Clearly you can see how wrapped up some people can get with coupons by watching that Extreme Couponing television program in the USA. Although we can’t go to the extremes like our North American neighbours we can still spend more than we anticipated even if we are saving money using coupons. A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post from my friend Mandy the Money Master Mom Blogger about “why I hate coupons”.
It’s not as bad as it sounds really but what she did was explain her reasoning about why she hated coupons. It made sense to me because we’ve experienced the turbulence of how perceived savings can halt the progress of our overall goals. Mandy brought up a good point in her post,“Most coupons do not help you value your spending. Instead they lure you into a deal to buy a product you weren’t going to buy before you had the coupon”.
She cites the Hamburger Helper with the Save $3.00 on beef coupon but the catch was you needed to buy another box of Hamburger Helper to get the coupon savings. She explains it well with a mathematical breakdown of the expenses. Don’t think the company doesn’t know what they are doing, they are winning in most cases.
We’ve been stung many times but are smarter now with our money, or at least we are trying to make positive changes. What’s in these boxes and what people spend on them cost peanuts to make homemade and they are making a mint off of consumers. That’s the price consumers pay for convenience foods without realizing it.
Buying Too Much
I’m not kidding when I say that we have roughly 10 boxes of cereal on the shelf that will end up in the garbage because we bought too many boxes. We had a coupon and we did get a great deal but simply could not eat it fast enough.
By the time we noticed it was too late to donate to the food-bank. Sure it sounds great that we would donate and we have but we want it to be because we went out and stocked up on a few items and brought them directly to the food-bank, not because they were out of date.
If you have to go through your pantry to find items that are near expiry to donate that means you are buying too much food. This is exactly why I started the grocery game to help us and others who do use coupons and sift through the flyer inserts for deals to stick to a grocery budget. We hardly if ever stock up on food items unless it’s something we know we will use such as dry beans, tomato paste, tuna, milk, pasta etc.
Related: How to stock your pantry on a budget
Mandy takes it one step further and blogs about “why I love coupons” and how they work for her family. You can clearly read that the only coupons she values are the ones that actually save money for her family and she can combine with in-store sales.
If you’re getting to the stage where you’ve actually started throwing stuff in the garbage, you bought too much. How much did those coupons really save you? It’s better to stock up on items that have no expiry or a long expiry such as cleaning products, toilet roll, shampoo etc.
Watching Coupons Expire
If you follow my Facebook page you know that I enjoy communicating with the fans and listening to what they have to say. It was just the other night when Katrina Bearinger said something that had me thinking. She said, “I’m also getting better at watching coupons expire” and that was money to my ears. As a society we are lured in by coupons, sale signs, discounts, buy one get one free perks and for what reason? Because they know it works!
The marketing companies know exactly how to target products they want you to buy. They know we thrive on these deals and it psychologically gets the juices flowing in our brains. All we have to do is look at all the boxing day line ups every year after Christmas. The general public enjoys the thrill of saving money, but do you really need it?
We’ve Changed Our Couponing Style
In order for us to stop spending so much money even if we are using coupons is to plan and stick to the grocery budget. We don’t need to get every coupon that is available to us and use them. That is not what coupons are all about and many of us miss the mark and rush out before a coupon expires just to buy something. We tell ourselves instead of $8.00 it will cost $3.00 and we “might need it” down the road. That’s what we used to tell ourselves as well but have since gotten smart about using coupons to our advantage.
Using Your Coupon Savings
If you take the money you save from using coupons and put it towards paying down debt that makes even more sense. We track all the coupons we used in our budget spreadsheet so we know exactly how much money we have saved. Spending your entire grocery budget every single month just because you think you have to is not necessary, use the savings or extra money in your grocery budget to pay down debts if you have any.
If you notice that you don’t really need to spend $400 a month on groceries then lower you grocery budget and put that extra money towards another category in your budget. You could also put the savings away for another day or for a purchase you wouldn’t normally make, such as a weekend away. That’s true savings after the fact.
It’s Only A Bargain If You Need It
My friend Amanda at T-shirts and Twine says it best “It’s only a bargain if you need it” and goes on to give us some tips. The best one I thought is if you find a bargain that is not on your grocery list to switch it out for something else. She also says to avoid the clearance aisle as much as possible but I don’t know if we could do that.
We do find some great deals especially those pink sticker deals although I understand her reasoning. If we didn’t have clearance items on our list we obviously didn’t need them in the first place. That’s true for some items but for others that we may be able to use we could classify them as a “need” in our grocery budget.
The key points to remember here is we need to
- Either make sure we don’t go over budget for the month.
- Put something back on the shelf to stick to the grocery list.
Carrying cash is a great idea if that helps to control overspending. If you only have $40 cash in your pocket than that’s all you have to spend and there’s nothing you can do about. It’s always nice to read what others do to save money.
What the Fans Say (I made slight edits as needed)
I’m finding that I take inventory of everything in my pantry then plan my meals based on what’s already here. I sometimes ask myself why I bought something when I’m putting away the groceries in hopes of trying to stop both food and money waste. I’m also getting better at watching coupons expire! I used to find myself using up a coupon that was soon to expire because what couponer wants to pass up a good deal?
I would find myself buying things that I had nothing to combine with for a meal and would end up throwing away or donating to the food-bank. I love to help the food-bank any way I can but this wasn’t making sense. My goal is to save money and I’m spending money to store something in my house just to later pass on. Before any grocery shop I take a look at what I have and plan my meals before I pull out my coupon binder. I notice now that I am not needing as many coupons as I used to. Using what I have on-hand in the kitchen does help me save money. I do value my laundry soap and toilet paper coupons so I stock up when I have a good amount of coupons and find a great sale.
I don’t cut out anything I won’t use. For example, I won’t clip dog food coupons even if I can get it free with a match up because I don’t have a dog. I don’t want my house filled with clutter from “bargains”. I do know some people who WOULD do that though and donate the food. We used to have a box at work where everyone could drop off what they didn’t need and take what they did need. I received a LOT of diaper and wipes coupons when I needed them.
I find it very hard to walk away from a sale or coupon. It took a lot of work to perfect the skill. I will instead leave the coupon on the shelf for someone who was going to buy a product because they needed it. I still have a hard time with free!
I’m on a local coupon train so what I don’t use I know someone else will and I don’t take coupons unless I know I will use them.
I am not a big couponer but I am certainly willing to take a coupon that I will actually use. I tend to tailor my coupons to my shop, not the other way around.
Although using coupons such as Canada online coupons, in-store coupons and coupon apps are an excellent way to lower the overall expenses in our grocery budget we have learned to limit what we purchase to what’s on our list or ensuring that we stick to our monthly budget. There’s no shame in letting a coupon expire, heck we throw lots of coupons in the bin each month and that’s OK.
Related: Where to find Canadian Coupons
Get to know your limits, take inventory, plan your meals and shops with coupons you need rather than what you don’t need. I’m betting that if you watch some of your coupons expire for a few months you will see that you might just save yourself a few dollars!
Question: Do you let coupons expire or have you changed the way you use coupons over the years?
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