Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coupons Don't Work For Me; I'm Going Back To Basics

Although Clay is back at work, we plan to stick to our "layoff budget" of $160 a month for food. Our pantry and freezer are well-stocked, so this shouldn't have been a problem at all. I spent $159 in January, and I really expected our February total to be less than that, but I ended up spending $220!

I can tell you the biggest reason why, too. It's because I used a lot more coupons than usual. Now, I know I have readers who are avid coupon users, but they just don't work for me and the way I shop.  A couple of times a year, I give them a try and I always overspend. I will admit that I was able to buy a lot of items at very, very low prices, but that's just it...I bought A LOT of items just because they were cheap. I guess I just have no willpower and got caught up in "look how much I saved" rather than focusing on "look how little I spent".

It's not as if any of the food I bought will go to waste, because it won't. It's just that I bought food we didn't need. We usually buy a single box of cold cereal a month, but I ended up buying four -- because they were cheap. I bought noodles and sauce packages. I don't think they taste that great, and I'd much rather throw together a homemade sauce and boil some plain pasta, so why did I buy them? Oh yeah, because they were on sale and I had a coupon. I bought 10 cans of tuna (we usually buy a couple a year) and Oscar Mayer weiners (I don't think I've ever bought that brand before) and I even bought Pop-Tarts. If you knew me well, you'd know that I'm practically anti-Pop Tarts -- but I bought them anyway, because I had the coupon.

Now, I'm not saying I won't every use coupons again...after all I did get 6 boxes of Cheese Nips absolutely free. What I am saying is that I need to quit buying things we don't need (and in some cases, don't even really want) just because I can get them at a great price.

This is not a statement against stockpiling. I'm all for it, and I have a big stockpile already in place. Realistically, we could easily eat our way through March, April and into May with what we have on hand with just the addition of milk, eggs and a little fresh produce.

Which is exactly how I intend to play the game in March. I plan to cook from the stockpile and buy only what we need, even if I have to quit looking at the coupon inserts and weekly grocery ads. 

I'll let you know how I do.


A.Marie said...

Hi there! My coupon game is to see what I can get for free...or for mere cents. I agree that it is very easy to get caught up in the, "well I do have a coupon for it" mode and buy it even if you don't really need it. I used to do that but I have changed my tactic. I have a motto, "If I can get it for cheap, why can't I get it for free?"

This is a new "game" for me and I am definitely not a pro at it. I like to go to Walgreens and do the manufacturer coupons matched with walgreens coupons and buy items that generate the RRs. Now, that is fun!

Good luck with this month's food planning. I can't wait to see what you make from your stockpile.

You don't seem like a Hotdog/PopTart kind of gal to me! You are definitely more of the I'll-make-it-myself person!! :)

Annie Jones said...

I'm all for free stuff. Or even really cheap stuff. For example, from our Health & Beauty budget, I was able to get deodorant for 25¢ or 50¢ each with coupons and sales. That was great, but I'm not really sure I needed to get 8 of them when we already had a stockpile of several. Especially not now while money is tight. Yeah, that's just $2-$4 dollars, but those small amounts add up quickly.

You're right that I like to make food from scratch when I can. But I'll be first to admit that a hot dog on the grill sure is good sometimes. :)

Lisa said...

I've never been big on coupons, but have tried using them recently. I found the whole process very frustrating and time consuming. My 1 hour grocery trip took at least 2 hours, because I keep analyzing unit prices and comparing cost of store brands vs coupon brands. My goal now is to look for coupons for the things I need to buy, rather than buying things just because I have a coupon.

Annie Jones said...

I think that's the smart approach, Lisa, and it's always my intention to use them that way. But then I find something really cheap and lose my willpower. If one cheap thing is good, then a dozen is 12X as good, right? :(

It's something I need to work on, I guess.

Frances said...

I am an avid couponer, and have been one for many, many years. BUT I never buy something we won't use, just because it is cheap or free. I know a lot of people do that and donate the items, but I don't. I DO stock up on items that we, or our adult children and their babies, will eventually use.

Couponing definitely does not work if you end up spending money for things your family won't use.

SonyaAnn said...

It's all about self control and I have none! So I agree completely. That said I have been trying to stock pile with coupons. I think you have to coupon every so often just to get it out of your system.

Frances said...

"If one cheap thing is good, then a dozen is 12X as good, right? :("

Yes, it IS!!

I had a drawer full of deodorants last Fall, so passed on some freebies, because we didn't need them. Then I made "goody bags" for my kids and some of their friends for Christmas. My deodorant drawer and toothpaste drawer were wiped out!

I no longer pass on freebies, even if we already have a ton.

Sheila said...

I was so glad to read this post today. I feel like I should be using coupons because it seems people make such a big deal out of saving money with them but it just doesn't work for me. I do use them around the holidays when I buy different things than we use through the year though. I hardly ever find coupons for things we use regularly--except for my Costco coupons--I try to use those but I don't get there every month so sometimes that flops for me too!! I find if I go grocery shopping by myself and stick to my list, I save more money. Good luck with your food plan for this month.

Annie Jones said...

SonyaAnn: You have a point...sometimes you just have to get it out of your system. I will still use some coupons, but I really want to reign it in compared to February.

Frances: I didn't buy things we won't use, just things we don't need. I think there's a difference.

I stockpiled a lot of shampoo (on clearance for 50¢ a bottle) back in 2005 and we're still have a ton of it and that's with me using it as body wash in addition to shampoo. I stockpiled enough toothpaste a couple of years ago that some of it literally dried up in the tube before we could use it. I have 12 deodorants in my bathroom closet right now. That will take well over a year...maybe two...for me to use. It's time for me to stop stockpiling and start using for a while.

Besides, I keep thinking of that $60 I went over budget and know it would have been better spent as extra toward the van loan. :(

Annie Jones said...

Sheila: I find I save much more money when I use coupons for things like haircuts (I cut Shane's and Kat's but I can't cut my own), discounts to amusements or activities, discounts on services we may need, oil changes (Shane does them himself in good weather, but we have nowhere to do it in the winter), etc. I always save those kinds of coupons.

I rarely find coupons for the things I use week in and week out...flour, sugar, milk, eggs, etc...and even if I do find a few, I can still get those things for less at Aldi most times.

Heidi said...

How in the world are you finding free items or items that are only a few cents? I never find the good bargins!

Annie Jones said...

Heidi: I got the Cheese Nips at Price Chopper. They were on sale for $1 and I had three coupons for $2 off 2, so I got 6 for free. Unfortunately, I don't think the Price Chopper in your area is the same as those here in KC.

Last week Walgreen's had Right Guard deodorant Buy 1 Get 1 Free for $2.99. I had a coupon for $2 off 2, so they ended up being 2/99¢ or 50¢ each. Earlier in the month (or it might have been January) they had a similar deal on Sure that, with coupons, cost me 25¢ each. I did both of those deals more than once and now I'm "full up" on deodorant.

If you're interested in how the other (more expert) ladies do this, check out their blogs. :)

Frances said...

Annie Jones, I totally agree about there being a difference in things you will use and things that you need.

I stopped buying poptarts for that reason. I don't care how cheap they are, we don't need them. LOL!

Tug said...

I don't have much luck with coupons. Since I *hate* shopping, I only go to the store when I abosultely need something, and it never seems as though that particular coupon is available that week. I do need to keep a better eye out, though...can't hurt (if I have any self control - lol).