We are a household that coupons, and have been for almost two years now. Thanks to an accidental conversation with a friend that long ago, our family has been blessed by the savings coupons bring. In the first three months of 2011, I calculated our savings to be around $600. With all of the new hype about the Extreme Couponing show, I got to thinking about just what couponing means to me and why I do it. I’ve always said that it’s part job and part hobby: It helps my family and it’s fun for me to work through deals and the success at the check stand is indeed a source of a unique kind of “high”. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to stop myself from skipping out the front door of the store..lol. Just as often I look at how much is in my cart, have a moment of guilt/panic for buying so much, but then have to remind myself that I only paid a few dollars for it all. *WHEW*As with most things, couponing is all about attitude. So many that we’re seeing on TV these days, clearing shelves and bragging about overages, aren’t the reasons that most of us coupon. There is something fun about getting paid to shop, but as I left the store this last week with five gallons of milk, four dozen eggs, eight half-gallons of orange juice, four cans of evaporated milk and five packages of my long time, MOST FAVORITE cookie that I NEVER buy because they are usually VERY expensive, and my wallet was only lightened about $8 ~ beyond the high of the great deal was a larger portion of gratitude for the gift of matching coupons with sales and what it means to our family.
It isn’t every shopping trip that coupons for milk and eggs and juice come together. One of the complaints about couponing is that so much of what can be bought for cheap isn’t “real” food. It’s snacks or just plain junk. Things that are fun for treats, but you can live on a fruit snack/granola bar/cereal diet for too long without some consequences..
This week might have been unique in some ways, but these weeks do come around. Our biggest household savings is more typically non-food items: I paid $1.53 for diapers a few weeks ago. I don’t pay for toothpaste or toothbrushes anymore. Laundry soap is never more than $1.99 and really great fabric softener is just…cheap now. I got 12 boxes of dishwasher detergent for 25-cents each a while back. This week I bought packages of 6 rolls of paper towel for $3 each. Tampons are no more than $1 a box. Ever. In fact, once they were 30-cents.
This is very normal, run-of-the-mill couponing that many find week after week. Of course not every product comes up each week, which is why we stock up when the stars align and sales and coupons match.
Those same calculations that told me we saved $600 in the year’s first three months also showed me we only spent about $87 for non-food items in that period of time. That feels amazing for our household of seven, including two teenagers and all of their “accessories”.
But what do all of these numbers mean? The first thing that has always come to mind is the smaller amount of stress I feel in making sure we have what we need. Before couponing, things like paper towel and fabric softener were luxuries we often just could afford to do without. We’d get down to the very last diaper and hope it lasted long enough to be able to get to the store. (the last few months of wearing diapers my recently potty-trained 2 1/2 year old would say, “they’re in the garage!” And she was right. Diapers aplenty right on the shelf).
With so much savings going in to these household items, paying regular price for milk isn’t a terrible thing (and we go through 6-8 gallons a week). Or fruit. Or any number of staples that don’t often have coupons put out for them.
Less stress is always a good thing and reminds me of the saying about how when mama’s happy, everyone else can be, too. So true!
I know I’m not alone in these feelings of gratitude. I know that many households are just like mine. With all of the publicity the naughtiness of the TV’s version of couponing is getting, it seems like it’s easy to group everyone with a coupon binder into that hoarding/greedy/selfish sort of category. But that is not the case. I see moms (and dads!) in the store who are just like me. With small kids in tow while the big ones are at school, just like me. Using their coupons with sale prices to get the best deals to bless their family, just like me.
Like so many other things it is the minority that gets the most attention, and often ruins something wonderful for the multitude. I hope that doesn’t become the case with couponing, but we are not ENTITLED to any price being less than the tag on the shelf says it is. Remember no manufacturer is obligated to produce a coupon and no store is required to take them. We are living in such a fortunate set of circumstances with regard to both of those things, I hope we never lose sight of how blessed we really are.
With a happily stocked pantry and refrigerator this week and a few dollars left in my wallet, I am feeling that extra measure of gratitude. It’s a feeling I hope never goes away.