Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Coupons Don't Work For Me

There are numerous places on the Web touting the frugality of using coupons to lower one's grocery bill. However, I have to disagree with this concept for myself. I found out the hard way that I sometimes end up actually spending more by using coupons.

It saves a little, but I cannot justify using them unless it is for things we would be purchasing anyway. For instance, there are hair care products which only work for some of our hair types. So, we look out for those coupons and special deals in the ad papers. However, coupon clipping can become a full-time job all in itself if you're not careful.

My husband heard an ad on the radio about a program in our area called Savings Angel. Since this program is expanding to other larger metropolitan areas, I feel it is important to let you know what it's all about before you decide to fork over monthly payments.

That was the first concern I had: the $20 monthly payment for the service. With that subscription, you get access to a database which compiles most of the sales from stores in your area each week. It really was convenient to see all the sales in one place rather than searching through them all myself. They also had the percent off and all the matching coupons for those sales from the coupon inserts from the local paper.

That, however, was another added expense: getting the local Sunday paper -- even two or more to get more coupons -- for $11.00 - $13.00 per month, per issue.

There were some offers which ended up being either free or even netting me money with what Walgreens terms "register rewards": coupons with cash value which may be used on one's next purchase from Walgreens. Some offers required keeping track of monthly purchases and turning them into the store, usually Walgreens, for rebate checks. Thankfully, Walgreens now allows you to enter those monthly rebate receipts online -- sweet!

The idea is for one to stock up on groceries which are on sale with a coupon and either use it yourself or pass the excess on to others who are less fortunate. They were right. I saved money. I stocked up. I gave to others. However, I ended up leaving the program for these reasons:
  • I spent more gas money and precious shopping time -- sometimes making extra trips to town -- in order to get all the good deals.
  • I rarely got any good deals, however, because all the other "savings angels" got there before me and emptied the shelves with their multiple coupons.
  • Most of the coupons were for cleaning and laundry products, toiletries, home fragrances, and baking doughs found in the dairy case (i.e. cookie dough, crescent rolls, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, etc.), many of which we do not need nor use.
  • Storage space became a problem, especially for all the toiletries and cleaning products.
In short, it just wasn't worth it in time and space. Also, I seriously doubt that we saved more than the $35.00 in subscription and newspaper fees, plus the extra gas expense, to justify using the program.

Now, we go through the ad papers ourselves, get coupons from folks at church, and match them with things we will really use as we need them. By shopping at Aldi and using coupons at the Wal-Mart Superstore, I find it is not necessary to use all the ads and coupons at the other stores in town who have their prices too high to start with.