The trouble with coupons

Do you want to save money when you shop? How do you go about saving your money? Do you look for sales, shop at thrift stores, don’t shop at all, or clip coupons?

Shopping with coupons is one way of getting a better deal. The challenge however is to remember that you have the coupon handy when you need it.

I am eternally challenged with this coupon clipping. But I am also optimistic that proper coupon clipping and shopping will save me money. We’re looking at a pro and con situation here.

The pros for clipping coupons are:

  • they will save you money
  • they will keep you focused on your list (not as much impulse buying)
  • they help make you aware of similar items for which there is no coupon which may end up being a better price

The cons for clipping coupons are:

  • forgetting that a coupon was clipped for an item you just purchased
  • remembering the coupon after it expires
  • clipping coupons for items you don’t normally buy but will this time because you have a coupon

Personally I like the whole idea of using coupons, especially those that do not determine which store I can redeem them at. But clipping the coupons isn’t enough. If I forget to use the coupon, then I’m not saving the money. In addition I find myself getting irritated that I wasted the time clipping the coupon which didn’t get used.

Ultimately I have to ask this question every time I do clip a coupon: is it really worth it? Frankly, if the item is only 15 cents off, I probably won’t even bother clipping the coupon. Another brand may be on sale and a better price than using that particular coupon on the first brand.

Having said that, proactive coupon usage can and does help save money. The trick is to make an appropriate list. And this is the one thing I have not been doing.

Right now I go through my weekly flyers. I clip the coupons I need or think I will need. Many are for products that are non-edible (cleaning items, laundry items). Some are for edible items but are usually for processed-food, or food in jars (jams, nut butters, canned items), and sometimes frozen items (fish sticks, french fries).

When my coupon selecting and clipping is done I leave it either in my wallet or in a see-through plastic bag in my purse. Easy, right?

By the time I get to the store, and refer to my list (either in my phone, or on a notepad), I find myself getting flustered. Did this item have a coupon? Do I want this item just because I have a coupon for it? Is the coupon worth it to use for an item I can get cheaper if I choose a different brand that is on sale?

It seems I am coupon-challenged. Either that, or I make simple things complicated. Probably both…

But all hope is not lost. There is great advice out on the internet, and CommonCentsMom has blogged about it as well. It’s starting to look like the problem is mine for not using the coupon system properly. With a little help, perhaps I will become the kind of coupon-clipping gal I strive to be. And the first thing I have to do is make better lists.

My lists currently look something like this:

Keeping lists in various places

Keeping lists in various places

If I were to be a proactive coupon clipping shopper (ha) I would itemize the list with available coupons. I would either clip those to the paper list, or have them near or with my phone. I mean, how hard is it to write beside “Froxen blueberry” the word “coupon exp Dec 13”?

What I don’t want to become is one of those obsessed coupon clippers with alphabetically organized binders, or scrap books (not that there’s anything wrong with them*…). For one thing, I don’t like shopping much to begin with, and for another, to use coupons to the degree where you become passive-aggressive over 50 cents savings, well, it’s just not worth it for me. But if the toilet paper is on sale AND it allows a coupon for another buck off, hey, I’m all for that. Same with bulk stores. I have long waited for the Bulk Barn coupon to arrive via some flyer prior to loading up on raw almonds, or basmati rice.

Are there any tips you can share? Anything I missed? Looking forward for some inspiration here.

*I came across this 10-day lesson on how to become a Krazy Coupon Lady (click on the Beginners tab). Although I may not quite go to such extremes, there are some decent tips in there…

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