As I prepared for my weekly shopping trip to Target today, I realized that I no longer wanted to bother bringinging the clipped coupons in my collection — and to boot, I didn’t even want to clip coupons any longer. This was an eye-opener as I’ve been a couponer (not quite of the “Extreme Couponing” ilk, but still always looking to save as much as possible) for probably 10 years now. I spent my drive to the store thinking about why I was ready to cut the coupon clipping habit. Here’s what I came up with.
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4 Reasons I Stopped Clipping Coupons
1. Clipped Coupons No Longer Save Us Much
I have found, at least in the Indianapolis area, clipped coupons are not terribly helpful unless I’m prepared to spend hours getting them organized, matched to sales and sorted. And I don’t want to do that anymore. Our local stores no longer double coupons and our newspaper does not offer a significant number of coupons for the things I buy. I’m tired of digging through recycling bins looking for extra or better coupons or buying extras online. The number I clip versus the number I use no longer makes it worth taking the time to clip them.
2. There Are Better Uses for My Time
Link: Instacart Grocery Delivery Service (get $10 off your first order with this link)
Clipping coupons and using them to their maximum advantage takes more time than you would think. If you aren’t working and you feel like the time you can devote to this pays off significantly for you and your family more than another use of your time, then go for it. But it no longer does for me.
The time spent couponing includes clipping the coupons, sorting them (throwing out the expired ones, as none of my drug stores or groceries take expired coupons), looking through sale ads, matching coupons to sale ads, visiting each of the stores to get the best deal on a particular item, sorting and storing extra items you bought on sale, reading the coupon blogs that tell you the best deals at each store each week, looking online at coupons and printing them out, etc., etc.
I am all about “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. Both teach the idea of putting as much time as possible toward the ONE project you have identified that will make a big change in your life and cutting out as much of the unimportant stuff as you can. I think my time is better spent generating income and saving BIG MONEY on travel than saving $5 a week on groceries via clipped coupons. A trip for four to Europe definitely takes precedence over the small amount I am saving compared to the amount of time it takes. This is one unnecessary task I can eliminate.
Here is a great article on “good procrastinating” by Silicon Valley’s Paul Graham. There are plenty of things, like clipping coupons, to procrastinate — and eliminate — in order to give the “big stuff” priority.
Another time saver is to have someone shop for you and then have your items delivered or pick them up. I used Instacart recently to try this out and it was AWESOME. Your first delivery is free and if you use my ink you get $10 off your first order! CVS also offers a similar service where you can pick up your items once they are collected.
3. Coupons Create Clutter
In January, I listened to “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo, a bestselling book that helps you discard any item that is not absolutely essential and that you do not absolutely “love.” This leaves you in a space surrounded only by things you love with none of the clutter. Doesn’t that sound lovely? A simple home without a bunch of stuff, perhaps a vase of flowers on the table, your favorite poster or painting on the wall, your most cherished books on the shelf and that midcentury modern couch you scored at an antiques sale? Ahhh… sounds great to me.
What DOES NOT sound great is 10 boxes of cereal on a shelf in my laundry room, 20 bags of Doritos in the garage, 50 tubes of toothpaste in my bathroom and 15 bottles of cleaner under my kitchen sink. Not only do you end up with all this extra food and toiletries cluttering your home, which creates mental stress just looking at it, but the coupons themselves and newspapers they come in also create a mess.
I had mine organized in a file folder sorted by date (just in case I needed a coupon that came out 2 months ago that I didn’t cut but there is now on sale) and the old coupons would sit there for six months sometimes before I got around to recycling them. Eventually I moved to a wallet size coupon holder and only kept clipped coupons (versus the whole coupon insert) but it, too, would overflow with coupons and I’d find myself at the store sorting through a stack only to drop half of them on the floor.
To clip coupons, at a minimum, you need to get the Sunday newspaper. I used to enjoy getting and reading the newspaper each morning, but something has changed. I now feel like reading the same old bad news is not a good use of time and the papers are stacking up on the counter, creating another area of mess, because I don’t get through them. I’ve decided to cancel my newspaper subscription and spend the time I used to read the newspaper instead reading one of the many inspiring books on my list. Much better use of my time. If the world ends, someone will surely let me know :). So bye-bye newspaper and bye-bye coupons.
4. Alternate Ways to Coupon With Minimal Effort
Link: Ibotta App (get a $10 welcome bonus when using this link to download the free app)
Link: Find & Save App
I have not totally quit couponing — only clipping physical coupons. You can look at couponing under the “one thing” lense and ask “What’s the one thing I can do to save money on groceries such that everything else is easier or unnecessary” and I would add… “that generates the most savings in the least time.” I’ve come up with a few simple tools that help me save with as little effort as possible.
1. Shop at Target for Groceries and More — Why? Because they have great digital couponing tools along with a card that saves you 5% on EVERY purchase. I have saved up to $50 in one transaction using a combination of the benefits below in five minutes or less when shopping for my groceries, as well as clothing.
1. Target Red Card Debit Card – The Target Red Card Debit Card is one of my all-time favorite money-saving tools. It is NOT a traditional credit card (though you can get the credit card version if you want and the DEBIT version does not require a hard credit card pull nor has it shown on my credit report), but simply connects directly to your bank account just like using a debit card, EXCEPT IT TAKES 5% OFF of EVERYTHING! It truly gets no easier than that. Automatic 5% off every time I shop just by pulling that card out of my wallet. Win! Win! As a bonus, you also get free shipping on Target.com (making it comparable to Amazon Prime), as well as an extra 30 days on returns (and you don’t need your receipt if you paid with the Red Card).
2. Target Cartwheel App – The Target Cartwheel App has all available Target coupons (every few months they offer $10 off $50 grocery purchase, for example) along with percentages off tons of items in the store. I usually don’t bother looking before I arrive, but you can if you want to plan ahead. I do my shopping, pull my cart out of everyone’s way and then use the app on my phone to quickly “scan” the barcodes of everything in my cart. If there is a discount (anywhere from 5% to 50% off), it appears and I can add it to my offers. This probably takes me five minutes total. Recently, this saved me $8 — a much bigger haul than a few clipped coupons, though certainly you could stack those on top if you want to take the time.
3. Mailed Coupons – Target regularly mails me coupons as well, which I stick in my couponing folder (just a regular school-type folder) and take with me to the store. I can give it a glance as I’m checking out to see if any coupons match anything I am purchasing.
2. Ibotta and Find & Save FREE Apps – Another thing I do as soon as I get home from the store and put away my items is check them against the Ibotta and Find & Save — both FREE apps. These apps let you earn money back for items purchased by answering a question and then submitting a receipt. Again, this takes maybe three minutes tops and it’s best to do as soon as you get home while you have the receipt and the items out.
For Ibotta (use this link and get a $10 bonus when you download the app), I open the app, select the store where I just shopped and then quicky glance through the items with deals. If I see any, I answer the question, scan the barcode of the item and then scan my receipt. The money is saved until I reach $20 at which point I can move it into my bank account via PayPal. They also have movie theaters, restaurants, online stores and more.
For Find & Save, it’s even easier. They offer percentages back if you reach a total spend at various stores. So I open the app, scan down the offers and see if there’s a match. If so, I scan my receipt and wait until I reach $25 to move it to my PayPal, and thus, my bank account. In addition to grocery stores, they have deals at places like Best Buy, Olive Garden, Panda Express, Sally Beauty and Dairy Queen. They also have the weekly ads within the app, making the Sunday paper unnecessary to see those.
3. Store Apps – I also use the apps for stores like CVS and Walgreens, which let you add coupons from the app to your loyalty card. CVS usually has tons of great coupons, so when I walk in the store, I open the app, load on any coupons I might potentially need and they automatically come off at the register. I especially like CVS, because you get a percentage back of your spending every quarter in Extra Bucks, so it’s in theory similar to Target’s 5% off.
Do you clip coupons? Why or why not? Is it worth your time or is there something better you could be doing with your time to earn a return? I’d love to have my couponer buddies weigh in!