Why I Terminated the Grocery Coupon Experiment

Stop! Before you unsubscribe, just be aware that I’m still going to help you with grocery coupon use. :) This post is more about why it didn’t work for us, and why it might not work for you. It all depends, like just about everything in personal finance.

See all the grocery coupon experiment posts.

What’s more, I am now very interested in using coupons for non-grocery items, like¬†toiletries, paper towels, etc. So while my approach didn’t work for our groceries, it may still have positive effects on our “home goods” budget.

I’ve tried to evaluate our failure with some objectivity and list the primary reasons why it didn’t work:

  1. We currently spend about $300 each month to feed a family of 3. In the grand scheme of our budget, there’s not as much savings to be had as, for example, a family that spends $1,000 on food per month.
  2. Over 75% of our grocery budget is spent on fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Since coupons for these niches are rare, that leaves about $75 of our total food budget that could be reduced by coupon use. You also can’t “stockpile” fresh groceries like you would with typical “extreme couponing.”
  3. Coupons don’t often align with the rest of the groceries we buy. On the remaining $75, we rarely want to buy the products that are advertised on coupons.
  4. A majority of our fruit & vegetable budget is spent in cash, at the local farmer’s market. They would laugh at my coupons. ;)
  5. We try to buy organic foods, whenever possible and affordable. While the organic coupon market is expanding, deals are still not as widely available.
  6. As coupons become more popular, I believe they will become less sustainable. As shows like Extreme Couponing become the latest craze and get people excited about coupon use, manufacturers and grocery stores may start feeling the pressure and change their policies.
  7. Coupons are time-consuming. Given the small savings to be had, and the amount of time required to find, sort, track, and use coupons, it’s simply not worth it for us.

Finally, since drafting this post, I noticed Wise Bread came up with their own list of reasons they’re avoiding extreme couponing, which include the time commitment and space required to store your stockpiles. I agree with most of their points, so I would encourage you to take a look at their post.

Do you use coupons? Why or why not? How have you overcome some of the reasons they failed in our situation?

Introducing Joyce House – The Coupon Diva

I very rarely watch morning television, but several weeks ago I saw a unique report/interview on the TODAY show that sparked my interest and got me thinking. Matt Lauer interviewed Joyce House, better known as the “Coupon Diva” about her tricks of the trade. What’s so special about Joyce, you say? She’s made quite a name for herself in Philadelphia, helping other shoppers not only save money while shopping for groceries, but to get commonly used items for free. Too good to be true? Think again…

Some of the tips the Diva shared with Matt:

  • If you forget to use a coupon, you can come back to the store for up to 30 days to get your money back.
  • If an item scans incorrectly at check-out, you can often get it for free.
  • Know your grocery store’s coupon policy inside and out.

If you think cutting coupons takes too much time – Joyce says “you haven’t been broke enough.” In today’s economic climate, many are hearing her all too well. Joyce says that people are not utilizing all the resources available to them to get a lot of very common grocery items absolutely free.

Her last grocery bill? Joyce purchased $71 in groceries for a mere $11. And that doesn’t even come close to the times the store owed her money!

This got me thinking – can I achieve these same results and how easy or difficult is it?

UPDATE: If you’re interested in getting more information about saving money on groceries by using coupons, check out my new Grocery Coupon Challenge series, which started January 2011. Follow along as we learn how to use coupons together!¬†

If you want to watch the video from the TODAY show, I’ve embedded it below: