Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Couponing - Why I Decided to Call It Quits {for Now}

Ever since I can remember shopping for myself, I have been an avid couponer.  My mom got me started when I was younger and still lived at home - I'd help her cut coupons and organize them, and she taught me how to search for deals, shop where the stores double the coupon values, calculate prices per unit, etc.

I carried the lessons she taught me off to college, where I would buy a weekly Sunday paper simply to collect the coupon flyers.  My roommates and I would then use the coupons I clipped to save on our food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.  It was great and I was always so excited to see how much money we saved.

When I moved to North Carolina for grad school in fall of 2005, coupons became even more valuable to me.  Suddenly I was completely on my own, and every penny saved was a penny earned.  I would diligently cut every coupon I could find and scour the weekly ads.  I would take 2 1/2-hour shopping trips to the local grocery store, where I could walk out with a full cart, paying less than 50% of my total bill after coupons and savings.  It was wonderful and SO beneficial and saved me so much money.

Fast forward almost six years.  I am now married with a son, I have another son due in a little over a month, and I'm working 32 hours/week.  We leave town a lot.  I am pressed for time.  About a year ago I discovered that I am gluten intolerant.  Combine all of this and you get a working, tired mom on a limited diet who feels like she can't keep up.  (Doesn't every woman feel like that though?)

And recently I have been feeling very overwhelmed by my coupons.  Let's just say that I'm not maintaining them too well.  Weeks' worth of coupon flyers stack up on our counter, begging for me to clip and organize them.  I feel guilty when I run to the store (for the fifth time this month) without an updated coupon binder.  When I do get all my coupons cut and take them to the store, I become frustrated at how long it takes to go through them and search for savings in each aisle.  (If I go through a whole section's worth of coupons and don't find one for the product I'm buying, GRRRRRRR!!!!!)  I've recently begun to wonder if the hassle of couponing is worth it for this stage in my life.

SOOOO....I did a little evaluating.  Thought long and hard about it.  Did some calculations in my head.  Read an article about it.  And last week finally made the decision that I'm hanging it up for a while.


I never in a million years thought I would willingly put down the coupon flyers and scissors.  But before you hit "X" on your browser and dismiss me as a crazy woman, listen to my reasoning:

When my son Krewson was 12 weeks old and I had to return to work from maternity leave, I requested to be put on a reduced schedule of 32 hours per week instead of 40 hours per week.  I am SO SO SO grateful to have the opportunity to do this at my place of employment.  Of course, with this 20% reduction in hours came a 20% reduction in pay.  Which thereby made money even more tight for us.  However, we figured out that we could still make ends meet and it meant that I would get a day at home with my son, so I was incredibly grateful and willing to accept the consequences.   I have been working 32 hours ever since.

Due to the fact that I'm on a reduced salary, this encouraged me to coupon even more.  I needed to save, save, save.

But hit the pause button and let's think about this in terms of numbers.

I willingly quit working 8 hours per week so that I could be at home with my son and also do homemaking type things like menu plan, clean house, etc.  Let's say that if you break it down, my hourly wage at work is $XX/hour.  Ok.  So I am willingly denying the opportunity to work 8 hours at $XX/hr, right?

Now, based on that information, it seems pretty obvious to me now (although it never has before), that I should not be doing anything during my time at home, in attempt to save or earn money, which pays me less than $XX/hour.  If I am spending my valuable at-home time doing something to save or earn money and my return is less than $XX/hour, then I should be picking up more work hours at the office instead.  Otherwise, I'm simply defeating the purpose of working a reduced schedule.  Right?  Doesn't that make sense?

And when I do the calculations in my head, my $$/hour return from couponing is no where CLOSE to my hourly working wage.  Was it at one point?  Yes. When I had the time to do all kinds of crazy couponing and clipping and organizing and planning and long trips to the store.  It seems that the return investment for couponing increases as you spend more time on it.  The more searching, clipping, reading, planning, and store hopping you do, the more you save per hour.  And that was great when I was a single grad-school lady living by myself in my own apartment with just my pup.  But those days are gone.  I have a little boy I want to spend time with (soon to be two little boys).  I have a husband I want to bond with.  I have meals I want to plan and cook, a house I want to clean, books I want to read, pictures I want to edit, a blog I want to write.  I simply do not have enough spare hours in there to reach the point where couponing saves me the same amount as what I make in an hour at my job.

Add to this the fact that I can't eat any products with gluten.  I'd guess that about 30% of coupons for food products that you find in flyers are for foods containing gluten.  And I also now cook using fresh food a lot more, while I used to do a lot more frozen meals, canned soups, etc.  There aren't many coupons for fresh food, and even when I do eat a frozen meal at work or use a canned soup for a recipe, there usually aren't coupons for the gluten-free brands I'm able to eat.

So what this all boils down to is simply this:  right now, couponing is not a smart choice for my life.  It takes away from my time with my husband and son and stresses me out.  It makes me feel guilty every time I shop without my coupon binder in hand.  It frustrates me when I spend forever searching through my coupons at the store and don't find any savings for the products I'm buying.

What do you think?  Would you quit?

Coupons - I love you, but it's time for us to take a break.  So sorry.  Scissors - I'm sure I'll still find some use for you.

What about you readers?  Are any of you previous couponers who have given up??

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