Yesterday, I received the following comment in response to my June budget update:
So many other sites are all about “extreme couponing” and you seem to have a balance that fits my lifestyle.
I have actually been mulling over for some time now who I am as a couponer and what The Coupon Project is all about. If given the choice, I think you’ll find the majority of what I share falls more into the category of what I’d now like to coin “Common Sense Couponing” vs. “Extreme Couponing.” Here’s what I mean by that.
1. Not all deals are crazy, amazing, put-that-up-on-my-blog worthy. Do I know how to work a hot Albertsons promotion? Sure. Have I ever turned a profit buying stuff at Rite Aid? You bet. Are the majority of my trips like this? No. Do I care? No. Can I be done with the questions already? OK.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are two kinds of shopping trips. The first are my stockpiling trips. These are the ones where I try to hone in on those freebies and cheapies. And incidentally, these are the ones I often feature on my site for inspiration. But guess what – I also have trips (such as one I had yesterday) where I used no coupons and just do my best finding deals (which I did!). These are called need-based trips. And sometimes, you can have stockpile items mixed in with stuff you need – see my picture above from a recent June trip.
2. Don’t be surprised if other bloggers are like me, too (even in secret). Sometimes readers mention that these other amazing bloggers only post amazing deals on their site. Guess what? I bet if you asked a majority of them would admit to the occasional splurge grocery trip or trip where their savings rate was only a meager 25% or less. Or maybe they coupon so they can enjoy eating out once a week or some other nicety. I just don’t want you thinking that there are people out there that get this 100% perfect all the time. We’re human.
3. It’s all about the budget. Did you know it’s entirely possible to save an average of 80% on your groceries yet STILL be over budget? If you do all the deals you can find, you can actually start spending more than you want. If given the choice, I’m going to focus on living within my budget vs. getting lots of great deals just because they’re there.
4. Getting items you want. Sure there have been hot deals on Hamburger Helper in recent months, but what if my family doesn’t eat Hamburger Helper? A lot of folks will say “donate it!” OK, I can do that. But what if I wasn’t planning on going to the store? This might come off as selfish or mean, but I think the purpose of couponing should be first and foremost to save YOUR family money on YOUR groceries. I have a limited amount of time to shop and coupon each week, so it’s important to me that those efforts are working first to help my family. Now I do go through my pantry regularly and donate items to our church. And pretty soon, I’ll be talking about working with local food banks. But what I don’t get is this obsession about getting every darn deal out there whether or not it serves any purpose in your family’s pantry. That, my friend, is the antithesis of frugality.
5. Understanding the importance of your time. This ties in with #4, and it’s something that’s become increasingly important to me. There are times, more frequently than not, where I have to stop and ask myself, “is this deal worth my time? My effort? My gas?” Recently there was a pretty hot deal on yogurt and fruit snacks at Albertsons. I let it ride after contemplation. I knew the fruit snacks would turn into binge items in my house and I’m pretty much the only one around here that actually starts and finishes an entire container of yogurt. So…not worth my time. Don’t be afraid to sit out a deal. Don’t be afraid to let a coupon – even a high value one – expire. YOU, my friend, are worth more than the deals you get.
I want to conclude with a confession. There are bloggers out there, and even readers out there, that can do this couponing a whole lot better than me. And I’m completely unafraid to admit this! What I will say is that having couponed for less than 2 years, we’ve effectively slashed our grocery budget in half and our pantry is stocked. I’ve slowly shifted my deal-getting tactics to a more manageable, common sense approach.
If you’ve been beating yourself up about getting every last deal or thinking you could never compete with the extreme couponers out there, stop. Remember that everyone’s cart and everyone’s approach will be different. I give you permission to coupon this way, and you should too.