As a single mother, I know how to pinch a penny. It’s become an increasingly valuable skill since the country slid into economic decline a few years ago. As is widely known, coupons can bring immense value to a shopping trip, saving you significant money that can be used for other expenses. As it’s necessary for me to adhere to a schedule, especially now that I have children to pick up and drop off, I need to make sure my coupon-driven errands don’t cost me more time and effort than the money they’re saving me.
When I first started clipping coupons, I think I cut out every offer I could get my hands on. I had an envelope set aside for new-to-me foods and products that I was determined to try, especially at a discount. Not surprisingly, I rarely picked up those items, although leaving the envelope in the car made it easier to swing into a seldom-visited store on a whim. Some items required trips to stores that weren’t convenient to my neighborhood or office park. I just lost interest in others. I had to accept that driving across town for just one item that might or might not have made its way into my weekly food menus was a waste of time and gas. Though I still clip out coupons for items I have the upmost intention of trying, I give myself one month to use them. If not, they get recycled or passed on to friends.
It’s also important to note that store brands can sometimes be cheaper than name-brand items that come with coupons. Always be sure to compare prices to make sure you’re actually saving money. Coupons applied toward sale items are the most useful. I just make sure to keep my tastes in mind. For instance, I don’t mind using a coupon for a name brand when the generic brand doesn’t offer the same quality or taste.
I also needed to keep an eye on the products that I bought with coupons. Household goods were one thing, but processed foods were another. As much as I like packaged foods like cookies, I need to limit how often they make it to the dinner table or go in my kids’ lunches. Coupon products make great treats and I’m happy to occasionally share them with my children, but I also complement our diet with fresh foods as often as I can. I like thinking about a day when coupons for farmers’ markets will also be printed in major publications across the country.
Using coupons has made my life easier and has made me more mindful. I established a system for shopping that includes knowing when a store offers to double coupons. I save money (and likely even more than I anticipated once I stopped trying to claim every available deal) and now try to make social occasions out of the coupons I trade with friends. A deal swap over coffee and conversation makes the process of saving that much easier and works well in combination with our kids’ play dates. Win, win.
written by: Nan Gibbons