Take a close look at your grocery spending over the last two or three months. Are you spending lots of time and energy clipping coupons so you can “save money” but still spending the same amount at the grocery store every week? If so, then you’re doing something wrong. There’s no question about it – Yes, you can save money when you use coupons. But what are you doing with the money you save? There’s a big difference between “saving money” and “reducing your spending.” Are you really saving it or are you just spending it on more stuff?
What it means to “Save”
You walk into the grocery store and pick up a box of cake mix that costs $1.25. You hand the cashier a coupon for 25 cents off and you pay only $1. That means you spent 25 cents less, but it doesn’t actually mean you “saved” 25 cents. The definition of “save” is, “To keep and store for future use” and this is where a lot of couponers make a big mistake…
They’re dazzled by the word “Save”
How many times have you seen a sign that says, “You SAVE $.25!” and thought to yourself, “Wow! If I buy 10 of these cake mixes I’ll save $2.50!” But you really won’t “save” anything. In fact, you’re probably spending money you didn’t plan on spending simply because you think you’re “saving.” You may even be buying something you don’t need just to “save” a few bucks, or after you’ve “saved” that $2.50 you turn around and spend it on something else you never planned to buy. So you never really saved $2.50 at all.
That $2.50 you saved is only imaginary money unless you can put it in your real wallet to keep for future use.
What it means to “Reduce Your Spending”
Over the last 8 months we’ve actually reduced our grocery spending by 60 percent – every week. That means we no longer spend $150-$200 every week at the grocery store. In fact, some weeks we don’t even go to the grocery store. Now, when we average it out, we’re spending $60-$70 a week. We’re not just saving money, we’ve actually reduced our spending every week.
How to Stop Saving Money and Start Reducing Your Spending
Set a Budget for Groceries
When we first started couponing we’d come home with bags and bags of groceries. As our stockpile grew we’d pat each other on the back and shout, “Look how much we got and look how much we saved!” It was only at the end of the month, when the bills started rolling in, that we realized we’d spent a lot of money just so we could see a big number in the “Savings” column on our grocery receipts. Now, we set a limit on our weekly spending. Before we head to the store we know how much we’re going to spend and exactly what we’re going to spend it on. The key here is to stop thinking that you’re going to “save money” when you use coupons and start thinking that you’re going to “get more for the money you spend” when you use coupons. And as you gain experience your money will go even further.
Shop with a List
Before we head to the store we create a detailed shopping list. Our list includes:
- The items we’re going to buy with coupons
- The number of each item we’re going to buy with coupons
- The items we’re going to buy without coupons
When we create this list we have our store’s ad in front of us, along with all of our coupons so we can calculate the exact cost of everything as we go. Then, we juggle our needs, the items on our list and the number of each item until everything we want to buy fits within our budget.
Know your prices
Stores and manufacturers know they’re going to get your attention with those big, bold SAVE! signs. They know the only thing you’re going to look at is how much you save. But you need to look at how much you’re going to have to spend. If you spend $2 for a bottle of dish detergent because the sign says you’re saving $.50 and you can get that same detergent at another store for the regular price of $1, then how much have you really saved? Nothing. In fact, you’ve spent $1 more than you need to. Know the regular prices for the staple items you buy on a regular basis so you know if you’re really “saving money.”
Know Your Needs
When you see a sweet deal on toilet paper you’re tempted to pick up enough to last for a year – and that’s great. By all means – do it! BUT… Remember, it doesn’t matter how much you save. What matters most is how much you spend. Do you need to buy a year’s worth right this minute: Every product goes on sale 3 or 4 times a year. Maybe you only really need enough to last until the next big sale. Do you have room in the budget: If you’re over-spending when you take advantage of these great deals then you’re going to need to cut back somewhere else. Otherwise you’re not really reducing your spending at all. Can you make room in the budget: We talk a lot about learning how to Think Outside the Box here at The Happy Couponer. If you want to take advantage of that great deal, take a look at your list and see where you can make some changes. For example, when we had the opportunity to pick up Betty Crocker cake mixes for 25 cents each we jumped on it with both feet . We picked up 30 cake mixes that week because we knew we could use them to make cookies, donuts and other desserts – things we could now remove from our shopping list because we got such a great deal on the cake mixes. Now, instead of spending $4 for a package of donuts, we just open up one of our 25 cent cake mixes and make our own donuts. If your goal is to reduce the amount of money you spend at the grocery store then it only makes sense to focus on how much you’re spending – NOT how much you’re saving.