It’s About Spending Less, Not Saving More
One thing new couponers are eager to learn is how to save more money. While it is important to learn how to save more, I think the more important thing to learn is how to spend less.
It may seem like the same thing, but let me give you an example. The Jones family wants to learn how to save more. They are a family of four and have a grocery budget of $60 per week, they cook 2-3 dinners from scratch each week and eat out once or twice a week.
In an effort to save more, they might begin couponing and buy a bunch of things they don’t need that are free or cheap. They might drive all over town to take advantage of the deals at every store. Soon they have a basement full of toiletries that they got for over 75% off and their pantry is full to the brim.
Now, while they did increase their savings significantly (from 20% savings to nearly 60% savings), their grocery budget has gone up to $80 per week, they are spending more money on fast food (due to being too tired to cook after chasing deals all day), and their gas budget has increased. Have they truly saved money?
My suggestion to the Jones family would be to learn how to spend less. Their grocery budget is already pretty low, but I do have a few ideas. First, they could search for coupons for the things they already buy. I would suggest finding free sources for coupons (like printables or homemailers) that offer coupons for products they buy regularly.
I would also suggest cutting back on fast food. For a family of four you would pay around $20 for a drive-through meal. You can easily cook a meal for four for about $10 at home instead. Cooking from scratch and using fewer convenience foods will also shave a little bit off their budget.
By cooking from scratch, using coupons when possible, and eating out once a month instead of once a week, the Jones family could cut their grocery budget down to $50 per week or less, and lower their fast food budget from $40 to $10 per month. This lowered their spending by $70 per month! Now THAT is the type of savings you should aim for.
Saving 90% at the drug store is not really great savings if you bought things you didn’t need. That means the 10% you did spend was unnecessary.
Savings should be measured by comparing what you used to spend to what you spend now.