With our house in foreclosure and my finances still in ruins two years post-divorce, I’ve been seeking ways to seriously reduce spending. Recently, I started taking out cash at the beginning of each week and using it for all purchases instead of plastic, because I have more control this way. I also started a daily expense log where I document every dollar spent to illuminate where I waste money (though, if I’m being honest, I may omit the occasional bottle of wine).
This past week I did something radical however. I bought a Sunday paper with the intention of clipping coupons. But once I got the kids to bed and sat down with my scissors in hand, I lost my inspiration. Instead, I posted something on Facebook about the colossal waste of time that is couponing. I wasn’t prepared for the fallout however. I think a racial slur would have received less response. Apparently, a lot of mommies I know have some strong opinions on the subject. So after reading all the comments and rather stern private messages, I reconsidered.
Yesterday, I went grocery shopping armed with a freezer bag full of coupons I clipped from both the paper and the internet. I used a coupon for almost every item I bought, or I chose items that were already marked down by the store. My savings were thrilling. I get it now. Nevertheless, shopping with coupons sucks and here’s why:
1. The Embarrassment
I aspire to be able to waltz up to the register at a Whole Foods with a cart full of all organic, healthy foods and not bat an eye at the total cost. Instead, my first day couponing, I hung my head in shame at my local grocery store as I apologetically handed over a stack of coupons while the older woman behind me sighed in annoyance. I don’t want to hold up the line, inconvenience anyone, or draw further attention to the fact that I am trying to cut spending these days.
2. The Time Investment
As a divorced, working mom of three young children, I don’t have time to search for savings online or comparison shop. I also can’t spend a lot of time in a store with kids in tow. While the 3-year-old stuffed himself with Oreos yesterday in the cart, I frantically searched through my collection of coupons in the aisle trying to match products on the shelves with the tiny print. I got lucky this time—the kid was extremely patient.
3. The Inconvenience
I don’t buy newspapers regularly, and I don’t have a printer at home. And while I know it’s the way of the world now, I am frustrated by the growing number of stores that are insisting I get an app to save. I’d rather use what limited storage I have on my phone for pictures and videos of my kids. Besides, getting an app requires first remembering my password for my phone, something I am simply incapable of doing for some reason. And what about those people (they must exist) who don’t have smartphones? They don’t get the savings? It just doesn’t seem fair.
4. The Absence of Healthy Foods
My biggest frustration with couponing is that most of the savings I have found are for foods that are processed and unhealthy and typically not foods I buy—like the aforementioned Oreos. Where are the coupons for organic foods? The one exception I found was for organic chicken breasts, but for some unknown reason I kept getting an error message when I tried to print it.
5. Buying in Bulk Is Not an Option
The children and I live in a little house and are preparing to move to an even smaller apartment when the eviction notice arrives. Buying in bulk is not an option and even if it were, who needs three boxes of cereal or 24 rolls of toilet paper at one time? While the savings are tempting, these coupons are just not practical for our limited space.
Bottom line, I think this entire system is flawed. We should all be entitled to the same price for healthy foods without having to play these games. But I am not going to convince the powers that be with my complaints, and yesterday I got a taste of the money that can be saved despite these drawbacks. So I will continue couponing. I am sold, but I don’t like it one bit.
Maybe I’ll treat myself with my savings from yesterday—a little indulgence. I wonder if there are coupons for wine. Now those coupons would be highly worth the trouble.