I decided a photo would help me summarize my coupon experience so far. Voila.
That's right, my zen experience of coupon cutting has since been trumped by a few facts: 1) the stuff that has a coupon is stuff I never buy (mostly brand name products and prepackaged food) and 2) the whole waiting-for-things-to-be-a-low-price-before-using-the-coupon strategy seems to lead to a lot of crumbling expired coupons into my purse. A few lessons:
Coupon websites will only get you far if you are a certain kind of buyer.
If you do buy a lot of packaged foods or brand name products , here are some sites where you can print coupons:
To be fair, I did find a coupon for Sean's contact lens solution and a coupon for Benefiber that saved us a combined $2. Sean also has a bizarre fascination with the smell of Tide so I'm keeping the Tide coupon in reserve. That was about it.
In-paper coupons seem better in both quality and useability in your area.
My combined coupon savings from coupons I've physically clipped from fliers have saved me much more money (about $6) then searching and printing off of online websites.
Usually there is a reason they are giving a coupon for a product.
As far as deals went, I found the lower unit price was often on a generic product or on a similar version of the product not on sale. The coupon sounded like a good deal…until you had to buy in major bulk (do I need 3 Tide-to-go pens ever?) or try some new gimmick-y product (that cereal that comes pre-poured into a bowl just seems lazy to me!).
That said, there is plenty of useful information online.
If you buy online, see my buy online guide. It'll change your life.
Summary: While I'm not cheerleader-excited about coupons, I'm going to only spend my time going for the ones I like.
I'm going to check online coupon sites only monthly; stay subscribed to the coupon blogs above; and read my grocery and drug store fliers religiously. Saving money on food is certainly worth a little effort but only if it pays off.
This post was submitted to the Carnival of Personal Finance.