Holy Spoons

The gift of hospitality sometimes comes with food.

I am a coupon drop-out

I confess that I have become a coupon drop-out. In fact, it has to be something really special for me to use a coupon these days. If it is a coupon for something that is already a “regular” item on my grocery list, that’s one thing. But more often than not, coupons seem to me to be a “come-on” to make me buy something that would not normally be in my cart. And I think that is simple seduction on the advertisers’ part to separate me from my budget and our best intentions to not over-spend what we earn.

I often am tempted to buy something “just because it’s on sale” but more often than not, it is NOT something I “need.” It is something I have been made to “want.”

Marketeers, go ahead and hate. You know I’m right!

For instance, a friend recently bragged that she saved 65% on a recent grocery store purchase. She bought:

  • several boxes of pre-sweetened cereals (way too much sugar for the “whole grain” content)
  • instant ramen noodles (artificial flavors, starch, high salt)
  • potato chips (bad nutrition, any way you slice them)
  • processed baby food (artificial colors, sugar)
  • canned soup (high salt, fat)
  • frozen vegetables (fat and salt added)
  • frozen chicken tenders (fried, breaded, salted and artificially flavored)
  • apples (OK, that was great!! but then she bought…)
  • caramel sauce to dip them in
  • mixes and flavor packets to put on meat (salt, MSG, artificial flavors)
  • frozen pasta meals (salt, artificial flavors, more)
  • toilet paper, paper towels and paper napkins (this I get — no issues)

I could go on. What disturbs me about this style of grocery shopping is that there isn’t enough in her cupboard now to feed her family for a week, and she’s pretty much spent her budget. By buying processed foods and prepared foods, she cut her potential grocery purchases in half.

So what would be the right way to use coupons?

Use them for things you already buy! For instance, cat litter, pet food, car maintenance items like washer fluid, motor oil, etc. BUT – be careful if it is a come-on to get you hooked on a a “NEW AND IMPROVED” product which will cost more in the long run. Hey, if your cat doesn’t care what kind of cat litter you buy, go for it. There’s also a lot of “convenience” packaging which can add up to a lot of money. Do you need “pretreated” wipes to dust your furniture? Probably not! A spray bottle and cotton rag will do just great. Same for bathroom cleaners. Buy the cleaner you like and start recycling those old tshirts into cleaning rags.

Other common items you can buy with coupon power (with common sense applied!):

  • paper towels
  • paper napkins
  • toilet paper
  • feminine products
  • deodorant
  • toothpaste and other dental care items
  • lotions and shampoos
  • baby items like diapers and wipes
  • laundry detergent and fabric softener
  • dishwasher detergent

In any case, do the math! The cost-per-ounce may not be worth it if the store brand is acceptable to your family. You also need to think about why you are buying six of an item, when for the next 6 months, you will only need 2. Do you really want to warehouse boxes and boxes of detergent and TP and soup? Probably not. If it hurts your cash flow in the long-run, re-think it.

Another good way to analyze is how much you are spending on “prepared” foods — and is it REALLY saving you all that much money if you don’t buy fresh fruits, vegetables and meat and prepare the foods yourself? What does it cost to make chicken noodle soup from scratch vs canned?

I’m not just talking crazy here. Here’s some links to some folks who have also weighed in on this coupon craziness. Some of them are couponers now, so it isn’t just “anti-couponers” that I’ve lined up for you to read.

Apartment Therapy blog
Couponing 101
A Full Cup
Everything Finance: When it might not work for you
An opinion from BlogToRead
And a hard-hitting reality check from Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post (column: The Color of Money)

OK. End of lecture. Just one last thought, as Mom and Dad always said, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Do the math. Think about it. And then don’t spent your hard earned bucks unless you MUST on couponed merchandise.

About Deb

Wife, mom, sister, pastor, chaplain, friend and Buckeye. I Yam what I Yam. Frequently imperfect, completely loved by the Divine, and grateful.

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2011 by in budgeting, weird things you won't find on most "recipe blogs".
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