Monday, March 15, 2010

Coupons - Causing Me to Overspend?

I was talking with a friend on Friday about using coupons.  She told me how she was all excited about using coupons for awhile until she discovered an important thing - rather than her grocery spending dropping, it was RISING.  She was struggling with a very common problem - one I struggled with for awhile and still find myself battling - the lure of a deal.

What is the lure of a deal?  It is when you just can't pass up a great deal on something even when it is something you don't completely need.  My friend found she was buying food she normally wouldn't just because she had a coupon.  I find myself doing the same thing and I find myself pondering non-grocery deals for items I would never buy if it wasn't a super deal.

How can we get this lure-monster under control?  Here are some tips that have helped me.
  • Make a detailed "spending plan" at the start of the month before any money is spent (some people call that a budget but I don't like that term).  I love how Dave Ramsey teaches about using a zero-based budget where every penny is spent on paper (including savings and givings) before the month begins. (click here for details on a free Dave Ramsey lesson)
  • Use cash for groceries, household spending, and deal hunting.  It just feels different to spend cash versus spending with a debit or credit card.  I do better with deals and being wise about spending when I have my envelope with cash in it - when the cash is gone, I'm done spending for the month.  When I don't have that physical barrier, I'll keep spending.  Maybe just a "deal" envelope of cash would work for you.  Maybe you need the structure of a cash system for multiple spending categories. 
  • Create a menu plan for the week  - a REALISTIC one.  I plan for an extra meal or two each week so that if we just don't feel like stroganoff one night, we have a few extra meals to choose from.
  • Plan menu and shopping trips ahead of time.  Use your store circular to help plan meals around sale items.  Use your menu to create your SHOPPING LIST (oh - how I fail at bargain shopping when I don't have my list!).  Make sure to include all meals and snacks as well.  Use your shopping list to clip coupons. 
  • I have found that when I pull out the coupons that match my list, I am less tempted to buy other items with a coupon.  I do take all my coupons in the store with me, but I have a separate envelope with the coupons I plan to use that trip.  The others are there in case I find a great deal or clearance item AND have the cash to spare.
Now, what about all those tempting coupons just calling out to be used?  I try to take care of them IMMEDIATELY!  I see coupons as a form of money and HATE when they can't be used.  Here are a few solutions:
  • Don't clip the ones you won't use.  If you think you MAY use them, leave them in the insert with the date on the front in a file box (see the sidebar link to my coupon binder system) that doesn't come in the store with you. That way, you have the coupon if you need it but aren't tempted in the store.
  • Be a coupon fairy.  It is so fun to bless others with coupons in the store.  I have actually made friends this way!  If I see someone in line behind me with items that I have a coupon for, I'll pull those coupons out and give them out.  I'll leave coupons on or beside items throughout the store.
  • Coupon swap.  Get together with friends to swap coupons.  More coupons get used out of each batch.  It's fun to be on the lookout for certain coupons that you know a good friend will be able to use.
  • Coupon trade.  Check out the bargain forums listed under my coupon tab.  Those forums often have coupon trading boards.  I do a lot of trading.
  • Coupon RAOK's (random acts of kindness).  Simply mail coupons to someone who could use them with no expect of anything in return.  You can do this with friends and family or through the bargain forums.
How have you fought the lure-monster?  What works for you?

1 comment:

Deborah Ware said...

You ARE a good coupon fairy! :)

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