Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I tried couponing.

My mother-in-law invited me to a couponing seminar.

Yeah, that was my thought too.

I went, with a smile smeared across my face.

The cheesecake and hors d'oeuvres made the trip worthwhile.

Then the seminar started, and it was actually good. A hip young woman had all kinds of info about blogs she uses to find deals, printable web coupons, online rebates, and which stores in my area do double coupons on which days (I've always been too lazy to find out).

So I decided to try couponing one time. (Don't you love it when ing is added to a noun to make a fake verb?) Instead of buying three copies of the Detroit News and two of the local paper just for the coupons, I decided that finding coupons online only would be my limit. I also had a handful in my rarely used coupon folder. Most were long expired, but a few manufacturer's coupons had no expiration date.

I spent an hour online, mostly at, finding deals. At the seminar I appreciate that the speaker narrowed down the list of money-saving sites to the few she likes best, and this was one of them. I tried looking for online coupons once before, but I spent tons of time online with few results and an inbox full of spam. This site does make it easier.

I then spent two hours shuttling the kids among three stores. One was out of what I wanted, so that was a complete bust. I guess the other couponers beat me to it. At Kmart, my best buy was a can of Pledge that was free after an in-store sale, plus Kmart double coupon days. On a regular day with no coupons, my total would have been $13.27. Instead it was $6.00.

At Walmart (which I abhor, but I have few choices in my rural area) I got a number of freebies or nearly free items. Did I really need these things? No.

  • I had a $4 coupon for cat food, so I chose the small, $4.50 bag, making it 50 cents.
  • Trial-size Wet Wipes were 97 cents, less my 75-cent coupons. I'll give these to my brother who keeps them in his truck. Total spent: 22 cents for a little goodwill.
  • I got a little money back for buying two little Johnson & Johnson first aid kids for 97 cents each, less my coupons for $1 off on each. I made 6 cents (but paid 11 cents in tax, so really I paid 5 cents for them). A nickel is worth it for the number of Band-Aids we go through.
  • Another freebie was six bars of Johnson & Johnson toddler soap. Each was 97 cents, and I had two coupons for $3 off three J&J items. Total spent: 17 cents in tax for six bars. We'll use these, but I don't feel great about the overpackaging as compared to what we usually buy. I'll also be storing these for more than a year.
  • Baking soda was also free. It was 46 cents each and I had a coupon for $1 off of two. I actually made 8 cents on this. It will now take me two years to go through it.
  • Wheat Chex was at a good price of $1.66/box. We go through a lot of this anyway. Less my $1 coupon off two, I paid $2.32 for two boxes of cereal. That's less than one box normally.
At Walmart I used a total of $13.30 in coupons. It paid for me to watch the cashier carefully and have an idea in my head what the total should be, because she initially missed one of my $3 coupons.
Was this all worth it? For me, not really. I spent three hours to save about $18, some on odd items I didn't have to have, or at least not right now. Some of the time I would have spent shopping for groceries anyway, but not the hour of online coupon time and not nearly this much time looking for oddities such as trial-size Wet Wipes in the store.
If I were younger and without children to drag from store to store (like the seminar speaker), this may be more worthwhile. If I lived in a more urban area with more store choices so I could flit from retailer to retailer scooping up only the best buys, this might be worthwhile. Staples, CVS, Kroger, Meijer and Rite Aid are apparently among the favorites of couponers and rebaters, but none exist within an hour drive of my home. If I didn't have a completly scuzzy house needing to be cleaned, if my kids were 100% caught up on their homeschool lessons, if I didn't have a pile of free-lance writing work clamoring for my time, if I didn't have volunteer work I promised to get done ... this might be worthwhile.
As a happy medium, I'll probably check one or two money-saving blogs before my regular grocery shopping trip. If I find something good, I'll print it and try to limit my time. I won't go off on wild goose chases or spend an hour looking in the wrong department for that elusive bar of free soap.


Luke said...

Thank you for posting this. Sometimes I feel bad that I just go to Costco instead of clipping coupons for six different stores. This has reminded me that I'm not doing too shabby in this area.


mary grace said...

I agree wholeheartedly: for me, coupon*ing* :-) is just not worth it. The area where I live is fairly rural, and our choices of stores is slim. The cheapest way we've found to buy what we need is to haul the crew out to Costco or WalMart and buy store brands.

Anonymous said...

You did some bottle returning too. That always helps.