This is part five of a series I’m doing here about coupon misconceptions. Before I started strategically shopping with coupons, I really thought they were a waste of time. I couldn’t imagine that the $.20 I’d save on potato chips was really going to rock my grocery budget’s world. After all, I wasn’t overspending on groceries. Right? Wrong!
So, how did I come to this conclusion? Well, two things happened to change my mind.
1) I kept track of everything we spent for one month. I got a tiny little notebook that I kept in my purse and every time my husband or I spent any money, I wrote it down.
After the month was over, I tallied it all up. I was SHOCKED. I had figured we were spending a couple hundred dollars at most at the grocery store. Boy was I wrong. It was almost $1,000. No wonder I couldn’t make our budget work!
I was right that the big weekly trips added up to a couple hundred dollars, but then there were all the little trips. And those ‘little’ trips had sprung a big leak in our budget.
2) I learned about strategic shopping. I started reading coupon blogs in the spring of 2008. As I’ve said before, I couldn’t really figure out how people were saving all this money from tiny little coupons.
What I learned is that there is a science to coupon shopping. Or more like a strategy. Combining sales with coupons nets the lowest possible price. People were saving 50%, 80%, even 100% on their grocery staples. If I could shave even 20% of my total, I figured, I’d be doing great!
When I put these two realizations together, the light bulb went off!
I hadn’t thought I was overspending, but my one-month experiment showed me I was wrong.
I hadn’t thought coupons could make a dent in my overall grocery budget, but learning about strategic shopping showed me I was wrong.
The first step in bringing my budget under control was to be more intentional about what I bought: To make lists, to menu plan and to stay out of the stores. But even with all these strategies in place, I still needed to find more ways to save.
That’s where couponing came in. At the beginning, I just focused on stockpiling things like free toiletries and almost free school supplies. Later I incorporated staples like pasta, flour, sugar, dairy and even eggs. Then I used these savings to reduce our overall budget while having enough left over for ‘treats’ like grass fed, free-range kosher beef!
If you think that coupons are a waste of time since you’re not overspending on groceries, I’d encourage you to try my little one-month experiment. I’ll be curious what you discover.
I’ll tell you what: Even if it turns out you really aren’t blowing your grocery budget, I bet you wouldn’t mind paring it down to free up money for other categories!