Jessica Streit is the owner of The Debt Princess and a staff writer for Moolanomy Personal Finance. Moolanomy.com is an online personal finance blog aimed at helping its readers gain control of their finances, earn more, spend less, and live better.
About two days ago, I pitched an idea to Andrea to host this blog post. I suggested a post about using coupons since I knew that she didn’t really write about them. I figured we could be helping each other out. She’d get a great post on content that she isn’t too familiar with and I would be able to fulfill a client’s dream to post at So Over Debt.
Her reply to me was:
“That’s fine…Just don’t be offended if I add something about the fact that I hate them. “
I literally stated out loud, “Who hates coupons?” I mean they can save you money on your grocery bills with very minimal work and just a little bit of planning. They aren’t hard to use and they are readily available. But then I read Andrea’s post about her feelings on using coupons and I was stumped.
Confession #1 – I actually agree with Andrea on a few of her points!
This surprised me. I love to use discount coupons! I love saving money on my grocery budget. I love trying new items that I wouldn’t normally try because they are usually too expensive. But there are some points in Andrea’s post that resonated with me. After years of being an avid coupon user, I have to admit she is right about a few things.
Confession #2 – I once had a ten year supply of dishwasher detergent.
It’s true. In 2007, my supply was so great that it filled multiple tubs (they are the little gel packs that you drop into your dishwasher compartment) in my basement. When I moved (and I have moved with them twice) I gave a huge amount to my family members who helped. I have given a friend of mine months worth of dish washing tabs a couple of times as well. And I still have at least a couple of year’s worth of supply in my stash. At least now, it’s down to just one, easy to carry tub.
I never took a class on how to organize coupons but I have spent more money than I should have finding an approach that worked for me. I had the small accordion folder, I used a file box (you do not want to drop a file box in the middle of the grocery store, trust me), a large bulky binder and eventually a more manageable system that works for me.
Confession #3 – I’m actually quite proud of the way I organized my coupons and I think everyone should be using it.
I have it organized in such a way that I can get out of the checkout lane without drastically disturbing those behind me in line. I frequently let those with less items in front of me before I check out. I am certain that my coupons are being used in the exact way that they should be so that they do not cause a problem for the cashier.
I have separated an accordion file folder into categories and then placed envelopes into each category with sub-categories in them. For example, I have the Perishables spot and in it there are envelopes for produce, dairy and meat.
Staying organized at the check out and in the store helps me and keeps me from being a reason for others to complain.
Confession #4 – I once got very close to becoming an out of control extreme couponer.
It was scary for awhile. I literally felt like I needed to find the best deals and I needed to buy as much of them as I could. I learned my lesson rather quickly but I can understand how it can become an obsession for others. It is just like impulse shopping or other addictive behaviors. You can get a rush of adrenalin when you find a great deal. I believe that those who feel that way probably could become addicted to any number of behaviors. And much like hoarding, it becomes completely mental.
While I think that coupons are an excellent way to reduce your grocery bills and they should be used by everyone who is trying to cut back on expenses. I think, just like so many other things in life, that moderation is key.
I have drastically cut back on the amount of coupons I use for a couple of reasons. First being my health. I have changed the way I eat and the foods I eat have fewer coupons available (I’m Gluten Free and about to make the move to Vegan as well). Another reason is that I do not have the space in my apartment to store a huge stockpile. I do it in moderation now and it works for me.
Whether it is with coupon usage, the speed at which you pay off debt or how committed you are to exercising, finding what works for you is the key to success.
And if all else fails, write a humorous blog post about how you failed. Chances are, dozens of others have too but were too afraid to talk about it.
From Andrea: You guys already know how I feel about coupons. While I would never dissuade someone else from using them, especially if they need them, I hate the way that it’s become “trendy” to coupon (and the fact that coupon is now a verb). I totally agree with Jessica’s assertion that you should do what works – if coupons are beneficial to you, by all means, buy all the binders you want. Just don’t expect me to use them!
On a semi-related note, if any of you couponers want to come over and organize all the random papers on my desk into a cool binder or accordion file, I wouldn’t be offended. 🙂