Stop Wasting Time and Start Clipping Coupons!

Today’s entry is a guest post from Joel Ohman. Joel is a Certified Financial Planner™, a lover of buy one get one free specials at Publix, and a big fan of using cash back credit cards at everywhere from the grocery store to paying for auto insurance and health insurance and really just about anything. Joel’s site is also tracking the Yakezie challenge stats.

Joel enticed me with an offer to write about the craziness of spending time clipping coupons, but realized some interesting things through the process of writing his post. Enjoy!!

I have a confession to make. When I first started to write this article it was titled, “Stop Wasting Time Clipping Coupons!”. However, after doing a little research I soon changed my tune and decided that it’s time for me to do an almost complete 180 degree turn and rename this article to its now current title of “Stop Wasting Time & START Clipping Coupons!” Why the sudden change of heart? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why I believe that clipping coupons is a smart financial strategy for just about everyone – well, almost everyone and I will explain below.

Who Should Clip Coupons

If your time is worth less than $100 to you then you should clip coupons. If your time is worth more than $100 than you should not clip coupons. Sounds pretty simple, huh? How did I arrive at this $100 threshold? According to the Wall Street Journal article titled, “Are Coupons Worth It? (Doing the Math on Coupons)” the author estimates that an hour spent cutting and clipping coupons out can yield approximately $100 in savings. While you may or may not agree with the author’s methods for arriving at this $100 number I would venture to say that the $100 figure is fairly accurate for the majority of people. In a nutshell:

  • Your time is worth less than $100/hour = get started clipping coupons!
  • Your time is worth more than $100/hour = put down the scissors!

Think that $100/hr really isn’t all that much if you only go grocery shopping once a week? Well, at $100 a week, $400 per month, and $5,200 per year you can see how the savings can really start to add up in a positive way to your net worth and quickly at that. Granted, you may only be able to find enough coupons to clip for things that you will actually buy to end up saving $100 per month rather than week but still – why say no to an extra $1,200 per year for an hour a month of your time clipping coupons in front of the TV? (Just make sure that your time clipping coupons in front of the TV doesn’t end up making you spend more).

Make sense so far? (I can already sense the flood of comments from those who refuse to do opportunity cost calculations but ignore the all important calculations for determining just how much your time is worth in dollars per hour at your own peril!)

Ancillary Benefits to Clipping Coupons

If the $100 an hour figure from above is not enough to convince you that clipping coupons just might be something that you should consider doing then how about some of these ancillary benefits to clipping coupons:

  1. Clipping coupons make you more price conscious when you shop (always a good thing!)
  2. Clipping coupons makes you more sensitive to the best places to buy certain items (i.e. meat at Costco, toilet paper at Wal-Mart, BOGO’s (buy one get one free specials) at Publix, etc.)
  3. Clipping coupons makes you less prone to impulse purchases (if you really get into the “let’s see how much I can save” mentality, that is).

Downsides to Clipping Coupons

Are there any negatives to clipping coupons? Well, apart from the obvious opportunity cost negative for those whose time is worth more than $100 per hour as mentioned above, there may be a few potential downsides to clipping coupons:

  1. Buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon (this is a big one and you could even substitute the sentence with the sentence “Buying things that are just downright unhealthy for you just because you have a coupon” – come on, we have all done it, right? Or am I the only one…)
  2. Buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon
  3. Buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon
  4. Buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon
  5. Well, you get the point – right?

What is YOUR Coupon Strategy?

Do you clip coupons?

How much money would you estimate that you save per hour of clipping coupons?

Do you have a coupon clipping strategy and if so, what is it?

Photo by cote

24 thoughts on “Stop Wasting Time and Start Clipping Coupons!

  1. Use ’em. Love ’em! By combining coupons (and double coupons at some stores) and sale prices, I routinely save as much as 80% on my grocery bill. It usually takes me about 20 minutes a week to get my shopping list organized, and it’s well worth it to end up paying $20 for $100 worth of groceries!

    Walgreens and CVS both offer many “register rewards” deals, which essentially give you free money to spend on your next visit to the store. I haven’t paid more than 50 cents for toothpaste or deodorant in a year, and many times, I walk out of stores with completely FREE items. Yes, it takes time. To me, it’s worth it. I have two teenagers–one going to college next year–and I need to save every dime I can.

    But beware….it’s easy to fall into the trap of using them to buy things you don’t need, especially if you’re prone to overspending or have debt issues already. You just have to talk to yourself and be smart about it. I also consider it unethical to wipe out a store’s supply of an item just because you’ve got a handful of coupons. It’s not competition. You don’t need to be greedy. Just use them to help save your family some money, and be happy with it!

    1. 80% is definitely awesome! Are you getting everything you would buy otherwise in terms of quality and food types or do you feel forced to buy products just because they’re on sale?

      1. Nope, I don’t buy things just to buy them. I don’t have the storage space for stuff I don’t need. We also try to avoid heavily processed foods for our family. But saving a lot on consumables, like cleaning products, paper goods and toiletries, frees up more $$$ to spend on good produce and high-quality meats. It’s a bit of a trade-off, but it works for us.

      2. Here’s an example….this week, Walgreen’s has a certain name brand shampoo, conditioner & styling products on sale 3/$10. If you buy $20 worth, you get $10 back in what they call “register rewards,” which are essentially FREE money to spend on your next shopping trip. In addition to that, I had six $1.00 off coupons for those particular hair products. So, I spent $20, they deducted $6 for my coupons and gave me back $10 to spend later. So I got six full-size, name brand hair products for $4 out-of-pocket. With two teenaged daughters, we can definitely go through the hair products, so that’s a great deal for us…and I end up with $10 that I can use for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, food or ANYTHING that Walgreen’s sells next time I go shopping. Running short on cash? I can whip out those register rewards and pick up items for free.

      3. Thanks for the example! Sounds like you’re getting some killer deals; I’ll have to quit relying on Costco so much and pay more attention, I think.

  2. I’m working on my shopping skills. But I’m taking baby steps!

    Step 1: Go shopping with a list on a REGULAR BASIS for an extended period of time
    Step 2: Take advantage of the in store coupons (I started doing this as well)
    Step 3: Seek out coupons from inserts and online (not there yet)

    I don’t deny that it’s a money saver…it’s one area that I am going to focus on!

    1. I don’t deny that it’s a money saver, either, but I have (and do) question the time. It may be that I just wasn’t very good at it, but when we tried serious couponing, it felt like a lot of time invested for not a lot of effort.

  3. I have really gotten into them now that I’m in a state where coupons are routinely doubled. (Fry’s doubles them up to a total of $1; Safeway rounds everything up to $1)

    I honestly don’t know how much we save because there are many things I just wouldn’t buy without coupons. This week, Quaker bars are on sale. So I sent off to eBay for some extras. Including that cost, the boxes will be 81 cents each. But my husband only gets those when I can find this kind of a sale. Similarly, I’m taking advantage of Toaster Strudels being on sale/having a coupon out, so I can load him up on 50 cent boxes.

    I know most of our savings come from cereal. Tim likes the kiddies sugary stuff. Between sales and coupons, I only pay over $1.50 a box if we’ve run out in between sales. Given that my guy can go through a box of cereal in 2-3 sittings, that’s a LOT of savings!

    I also stock up on my favorite snacks — Nature Valley and Fiber One bars — when they’re $1 or less a box.
    .-= Abigail´s last post: When is it okay to lie, cheat and steal? =-.

    1. Sounds like you have a strategy similar to ours–we have a set of things we know we like to get, but can go without for a while. When they go on sale, we stock up. It’s like a rotating “goodie” every week. 🙂

  4. I believe there is money to be saved using coupons, especially store coupons. However, I have found that most manufacturer’s coupons are for processed foods. They are high in salt, fat and calories. You need to be realistic. I doubt that anyone can save $100 using coupons without buying a lot of very unhealthy food. Better you should save money by buying healty food and cooking from scratch.

    1. You bring up a great point–sounds like ConsciouslyFrugal has had similar experiences. Anyone else care to weigh in? Are coupons encouraging people to feast on junk?

      1. About the only time I buy the junk is when there’s a coupon. But more often than not, I choose not to, because the generic brand is cheaper. Then I look at the list of ingredients and decide I might as well get my sugar and fat from actual sugar and fat instead of some freak thing cooked up in a lab.
        .-= ConsciouslyFrugal´s last post: Apparently, Organization Really Does Matter =-.

  5. I rarely, if ever, use coupons, primarily because I tend not to buy pre-packaged stuff (read crap). I buy meat directly from local farmers, veggies, etc. from the farmers market. I’ve found that more often than not (although certainly not always), the generic brand is cheaper than the name brand counterpart, even with a sale combined with a coupon. I do use them for shampoo, conditioner and deodorant when I can combine a sale and a coupon. But I’ve found store brands, particularly at Trader Joe’s, that aren’t tested on animals, etc. (Procter & Gamble usually have the best sale + coupon deals, but they have a horrible record of doing really sick crap to animals in testing labs. Goes waaaayyyy beyond anything justifiable) and are cheaper than the traditional counterparts.

    I think that coupons work best for people who buy prepped and pre-packaged foods and petroleum-based body care products. For freaks like me, they tend not to provide any real savings. Unless you count the munchies and a box of sugar cereal at 2am, of course. 🙂
    .-= ConsciouslyFrugal´s last post: Tuesday’s Tip: Treasure Box Groceries =-.

    1. You’re definitely echoing what Patricia is saying (echoing, not copying, since I hadn’t approved the other comment yet lol). Much of the stuff I get, too, is not coupon-able.

  6. I’ve started using coupons, but could probably spend a bit more time and find more. I really like going to the self-serve coupon websites to select which coupons I’d like, and they mail them to me ( comes to mind, for Canadians).

    The discipline, for me, is truly to only save (and use) coupons for products I actually use!
    .-= Tracy´s last post: March’s budget report card: D =-.

  7. The coupons I printed today are for cheese, yogurt, bread, and frozen vegetables. That might not be what everyone eats, but they’re not the most unhealthy foods on the planet by a long shot. And these are just online coupons. I guess it just depends on what you feel. For me, I have no issue with petroleum based body products (and there’s zero you can stay to change my mind :D), so that’s a non-issue. I do occasionally use a coupon for a packaged meal; if it prevents me and my boyfriend from eating out, then it’s worth it to us. Everyone’s just different, so couponing isn’t going to work for everyone. For us, we save around $40/month, and we check the receipt when we leave the store. We take the difference between what we spend and what we would’ve spent and put it in savings.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! $40 a month is still a very respectable amount, in my opinion.

      I’ve found that when I use coupons, it’s usually for non-grocery products, but it’s great to hear that non-processed foods make it to the coupon book, too!

    1. “Loss leaders,” especially are a great way to save without using coupons! Awesome point.

  8. I always use coupons. I always buy on sale. I rarely pay full price for anything.
    Menus are planned for the whole week based on what’s on sale that week. I must say that find it courious that many people associate coupons with junk food or stuff that is unhealthy. There is a wide variety of coupons available for almost any kind of product, including organic products.

    I buy fresh produce and meat for most meals but I am only able to do that because I take advantage of coupons for other things. To each his own (and for me, that includes coupons).

    1. “cheese, yogurt, bread, and frozen vegetables….”

      we buy bulk cheese, plain yogurt, make bread and grow vegetables… we only use coupons for pet food and toiletries. It’s not worth my time to look through all the things I won’t buy!

  9. I am a mother and a shopper . I am not sure how to come across the hundreds of coupons i see people on television obtain.. I need to so badly save this family money because i am an at home wife and we have a 3 yr old, we both cost money. Does your system have any tips for a woman that cant afford ink let alone have a printer to copy invalid coupons, that i can do my god darn best to make my shopping trip not such a hit that we cant afford shampoo i see it on tv i clip the coupons in the mail and i try but i know i am missing something .

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