For years I’ve been a person who has used coupons. For me it usually wasn’t a bother to spend a little extra time clipping and organizing coupons and reading through grocery ads so I could use coupons on sale items. In fact I’ve always kept my wallet-sized coupon organizer in my purse at all times so I would never be without my coupons for those spur of the moment shopping trips or in case I stumbled across a great sale that I could pair with a coupon for an even better final price.
But lately it seems like things have changed. I’ve almost stopped using my coupons.
And perhaps because it’s the beginning of a new year when I sometimes take a moment to give some consideration to how I’ve been doing things and if it makes sense to come up with some new strategies for the year ahead, I found myself wondering . . . What’s been changing with coupons? Do I even want to give coupons my time anymore?
Well, I think several things HAVE changed when it comes to coupons, along with some changes in how I’m doing things too. Here’s a few thoughts I came up with and perhaps you’ll find that you agree.
1. So many coupons aren’t for food.
I think there’s been an ever increasing shift in the percentage of coupons that aren’t for food. When I page through a coupon circular from my newspaper I see all kinds of coupons for cosmetics, hair products, over-the-counter medicines, disposable razors, and so on.
We are blessed with good health in our family and so we usually have no need of muscle pain creams, laxatives, antacids or heartburn relief. I also feel like I don’t need new cosmetics or hair products that often and I get tired of storing coupons for them that expire before use (more on that in the next point). It seems like I used to see many more food item coupons but now they are fewer and farther between.
2. Expiration time seems shorter.
I don’t have any hard and fast proof on this one, but it really does seem to me that the expiration dates on coupons are shorter than they used to be. I swear coupons used to often expire three or four months after they were published and now sometimes it may only be three or four weeks!
More and more, I would find myself clipping coupons only to toss them out a few weeks later unused which felt like a really unproductive use of my time. Does anyone else feel like expiration periods are shorter these days for coupons?
3. We don’t have babies or pets.
This point, again, is that many coupons aren’t for food. In addition to cosmetics and medicines, I see a lot of pet food coupons and baby item coupons. Once upon a time this made sense for us and I remember almost always using a coupon when I bought the Little Friskies cat food my kitty liked. But now we’re in a different stage of life. Once in a while I pass along diaper or baby formula coupons to my daughter who finds them helpful for the stage of life she’s at, but at my household there’s currently no need for those items.
4. We make more of our own stuff.
You probably knew this one was coming! Since beginning this blog, I’ve learned more about making my own cleaning products and have tried many recipes for homemade items, some of which have now become the normal way of doing things at our house. For instance I used to almost always rely on a brownie mix from the store, but now I prefer my recipe for brownies from scratch that uses chocolate chips. Where I used to clip and use those Duncan Hines brownie mix coupons, I can very rarely ever find a coupon for chocolate chips that’s worth using for my scratch recipe.
Laundry soap is another example. Where I used to clip coupons for various laundry detergents, I have never seen a coupon for borax, washing soda, or Fels Naptha soap which are the main ingredients in my homemade laundry soap version. AND, I feel the homemade version still saves more money in the long run, compared to the little bit I would save using a coupon on the manufacturer laundry soaps. So the more we’ve switched to homemade alternatives, the less we’re needing coupons.
5. Store brands are plentiful and good quality.
It sure seems like there’s now a store brand version of almost any item that ends up on my grocery list. Now maybe I don’t have very sophisticated taste buds, but I think store brands taste just fine! I find them every bit as good as the more overpriced fancier brands. Because store brands are always at a good price anytime I want to buy them, it feels like more and more a waste of my time and energy to try to get a few cents off on a traditional brand by using coupons.
6. Aldi came on the scene.
Let me just say right off the bat that I love Aldi grocery stores! I know they might not suit everyone (such as the reasons in this article), and not everyone has an Aldi in their area, but for me Aldi has been a great fit. It’s been several years now since we’ve had an Aldi in our area and I now shop there almost every week.
Aldi grocery stores are much smaller and carry only their own brands. They also save on operating expenses by having the customers bag their own groceries and by using a 25 cent grocery cart system (you have to put 25 cents in the cart to “unlock” it for use and then return the cart to the cart area to get your 25 cents back). Because it’s all their own brands and they have low overhead, they usually have VERY reasonable prices on their products without the need for any coupons.
I also like that’s there’s just one brand to choose from! Just one brand of ketchup, one brand of chocolate chips, one brand of milk, one brand of bread, etc. It’s always quick and easy to find their items and I can get in and out of an Aldi grocery store in no time flat. The down side is that they don’t have everything you might need and you might find yourself needing to make one more stop at a major grocery store to get everything on your shopping list. I’m not finding any washing soda or borax at Aldi, for instance. Nevertheless, because I now regularly shop at Aldi, I’m getting good prices on many of our staple food items without the need of coupons.
7. There are digital options.
When I set up my coupon organizer many years ago, paper coupons were the only coupon option we had. But now the grocery chain where I shop (Meijer) has their digital MPerks program for saving money. Dear Daughter has been bugging me for awhile that I need to get with the program and sign up for MPerks. So because it’s a new year and I’m in the mood to get lingering things off my mind and get some new stuff started, I’ve finally signed up for MPerks! I’m the most interested in the reward options for certain dollar amounts spent (because I’m a regular Meijer shopper and I’m sure I’ll be spending money there) but I’ve got the option for digital coupon clipping too.
So those are a few trends I’ve noticed and some changes I’ve made that I think are reasons for the dwindling paper coupon usage at my house.
Should I Give Up Coupons?
Will this be the year I give up coupons? We’ll see. It’s kind of hard to make the break after all these years! I did get a chuckle though that at the moment, my coupon organizer only has 12 coupons in it!
Sheesh, I used to have my organizer stuffed with 10 times that amount of coupons! Here’s what the sorry situation looks like:
Coupon for Edge shaving gel– I tried to make my own shaving gel once (and tried shaving my legs with olive oil too) and both were yucky.
Coupon for contact lens solution – I was going to pass this one along to Hungry Son, who will probably just roll his eyes and say it’s too much bother.
(2) Coupons for Ortego products – Because my menfolk go through sooooo much salsa.
(4) Coupons for Wonderful pistachios – I thought I might buy these pistachios for a Christmas gift but bought the Aldi brand instead that came in a very nice cloth bag.
(2) Coupons for Nabisco crackers – I do like munching on crackers and it’s really tedious to make your own.
Coupon for Celestial Tea – I love peppermint tea and can’t always find it in a store brand.
Coupon for Brita water pitcher filters – I love my Brita Water Pitcher too 🙂
Yes, when you’re down to a measly 12 coupons, it makes you wonder if it’s worth the time and energy anymore. BUT, when it comes time to buy those Brita water pitcher filters for instance I also think, why not save a few bucks if I can?
It guess it ultimately boils down to if the time and effort spent clipping and organizing coupons still brings you happiness when you save money and let’s you feel like it’s all worth it. Then things still feel logical and good. When it tips too far towards time and effort spent with little payoff or satisfaction, it’s hard to keep going. This might be the year it finally tips that far for me.
How about you? Have you seen a change in your use of coupons too?