April 28, 2008

Crazy for Coupons or Just Plain Crazy

Since the beginning of the year, I have gone Hook, Line & Sinker into couponing. I love the strategy game of matching coupons with sales, hitting each store at the right time, and the immediate reward of getting something for nothing...or very close to it. I prefer to do things I am good at right away, and this fit the bill...a combination of strategy and shopping, how am I to resist? ...and who can pass up a good bargain, right?

Recently though, it has occurred to me, that I allow myself to spend an incredible amount of time on my fascination with coupons and getting deals. In a typical week I spend probably 4 hours a week preparing to go grocery shopping. I plan my menus, write my list, scour grocery ads like it's going out of style, and gather my coupons to match them up with what's on sale for the week. On shopping day I hit at least two grocery stores and CVS in one trip. The actual shopping takes me about 3 hours. Did you do the math? That's 7 hours of my precious life every week devoted to the grocery store. We don't spend that much time at the dinner table as a family on an average week! It's a new take on the old time vs. money thing...do I spend the time to save the money, or do I spend the money and save the time? Where's the balance? Something is seriously off-kilter in my priorities!

Also, my skill at the couponing game has caused me to become a bit overwhelmed in stuff. I used to think that was a sign of my success. I did a great job, and ended up with more stuff...but let me be clear...the last thing my house needs is more stuff. Why then can't I resist yet another free tube of toothpaste? Is a 2-year supply of the stuff not enough? When my husband can't open the linen closet because 30 rolls of paper towels come spilling out, you'd think I would get the hint...nope...clueless. My bargains have crossed the threshold of meeting a need or stocking a pantry (i.e. only one replacement item per item in use) to being just plain clutter. While I am trying to restore a neat house on one hand, the other hand is full of toothpaste and paper towels!

But with couponing. boy, oh boy, can I save some cash! There's not a better feeling in the world than walking out of a store with a boatload full of groceries and looking at the bottom of the receipt to find you saved 67% due to sales and coupons. But where is all that savings going? We don't have a budget...we haven't needed to pay that close of attention to our spending in years. We could afford to pay full price if we had to. Why spend the time on searching out deals when the savings has little meaning at all because it's not being put toward a tangible goal? I would love to be disciplined enough to look at my receipts and transfer the amount equivalent to what I save into a dedicated account for a specific purpose, be it something practical like a home improvement project, or something fun like a special vacation.

While I sort out my mixed emotions toward couponing, I am officially taking a break...what that means exactly, I am not sure. All I know is that I need to more wisely choose how to spend my time and money. Check in with me tomorrow as I review a great food store that just may be the answer to my couponing conundrum!

No comments: