Coupon Clipping: Financial Fitness For The Rest of Us
It’s Sunday, and for many that means Sunday coupon clipping. The majority of our population has probably used or at least seen the coupons in the Sunday paper. Coupon clipping is something everyone can do, and it’s not just for grandma anymore! With most of my posts being about health and fitness, I decided to focus today on an aspect of financial fitness – how to efficiently use those Sunday paper coupons, even for the most amateur among us.
No matter your current income level, I encourage you to try (at least once) clipping a few coupons and taking them up to the register to watch your savings begin to add up. Have you watched the TLC show called “Extreme Couponing” and wondered where in the world will they put all that food? I mean, seriously, I’ve seen I think one episode where a family used all their bargains to donate meals to their church every week. That, I can see. But there are others who stock pile 50 cases of cat food just because it was double coupon Tuesday at Vons. I am all in favor of a great deal, and I know having an emergency stash of food and supplies is a good thing, but we must assess at some point, how far to the extreme we want to take it.
If you even clip coupons at all, you might go through the weekly ads to see what products you already buy, and those are the ones you target with your scissors. You probably have good intentions, but if you’re like me, without some form of organization you either lose the coupons before your next trip to the store, or worse yet, purchase something (or many things) you don’t even need, just because it looked like a great deal, and your kids start calling you a hoarder (whoops, did I just say that?).
Here’s how to alleviate getting carried away buying more STUFF than you really need:
- Check your inventory first, then plan your list (I keep a list on my phone, but if you’re really into couponing there are several binder systems online that might be useful with a quick Google search). Bring the list to the store and stick to it.
- Keep your coupons somewhere where you will actually SEE them. Otherwise it might be “out of sight, out of mind” and they may expire on you. I keep mine right next to my cash slot in my wallet as a visual reminder.
- Take a set amount of cash with you to the store, along with your list, to avoid overspending. There’s nothing worse than coming home from Target to put away the “2 for 1” shampoo deal you were so excited to snag, only to find you already had 5 bottles of shampoo on the shelf! Been there, done THAT!
Use the System: Clip and Hold
Another great common sense tip is to WAIT before you shop. When the product you need goes ON SALE, you can get some amazing bargains by multiplying your efforts with coupons. On the other hand, though, if it’s on sale, but it’s something you really DON’T need, ask yourself if it’s been on sale before (chances are it has, and will be again). If you have enough of it at home at the moment, and your coupon isn’t about to expire soon, delay the gratification and hold on – wait until the next shopping trip. BUT…if you really need it AND it’s on sale AND you have a coupon – well then, by all means go for it! By holding on to your 25% off coupon until the item you need actually drops in price at the store, you’ll get much more bang for your buck, potentially saving you 50-75% or more.
Pocket the Difference
If you really want to get crazy, and you have a bit of self-control, try this: Take the savings (the DIFFERENCE between what you WOULD have spent and your new coupon-induced price) and sock it away…stash it, hide it, hoard it – somewhere safe and sound, and out of your consciousness (like maybe into your kids’ college savings account or your family emergency fund). Chances are you’ll never miss it, and this tip alone can really add up over time. It will take discipline, but the reward will be great!
Just Not That Into It?
If you haven’t tried clipping coupons or just think it’s more trouble than it’s worth, I encourage you to test the waters. Why pay full price when a little piece of paper you offer the cashier says you don’t have to? There’s something about NOT paying full retail that just gets my juices flowing! Using coupons, whether you find them in the Sunday paper or online, can be a tool to help you get better bargain deals on things you will need and use anyway. Coupon clipping may not save you enough to fully fund your 401k account, but then again, why not start somewhere?