At the start of 2011, I started an interesting experiment.
I grabbed the first five Sunday papers of the year, clipped the coupons that I found in those issues, and saved them in a separate coupon envelope. Most of the coupons were for toiletries and household supplies. A few were for food items – mustard, bread, and cheese among them (remember, I’m the only person in my home that’s actually eating a non-dairy diet). One was for a trade-in discount at a local used video game store.
Once I had the coupons, I kept track of my actual use of those coupons, comparing the prices on the items to generics and figuring out how much I really saved by using them.
Over that five week period, using just the coupons clipped in 2011, I saved $13.11 over generics by using coupons (not including any sales tax that might have additionally been saved).
Each copy of the Sunday paper cost $1.50 at the newsstand, giving me a total cost of $7.50. The cost would have been lower had we been current paper subscribers, of course.
So, our total savings in this period was about $5.61. We do, of course, still have several coupons left in the envelope that will likely raise this total at least a little.
The time invested in clipping the coupons was negligible – it was usually a process done at the Sunday lunch table. I’d flip through the coupons and discuss them with Sarah while eating.
For curiosity’s sake, I took the most recent coupons from my envelope and attempted to find them online. I did locate them, but some required me to install additional software (not happening – it’s not a security risk I’m willing to take) and they were spread over several websites. While there are websites that do list some of the coupons together for you, you’re still clicking a lot and using unnecessary printer paper and ink. I find this method, on the whole, to be a wash compared to the Sunday paper, as the paper is much more convenient and doesn’t use resources, but it does cost $1.50.
So, is this all still worth it?
I think it comes down to a very simple question: is the act of spending part of your Sunday lunch clipping coupons worth a few dollars to you?
For some people, the answer will be no. The value of spending time focused on their family is more than the savings from clipping coupons to them. That’s a valid argument.
For others, the answer will be yes. The savings from a pattern of coupon clipping adds up in their lives and they’re able to do it at times when they’re not sacrificing anything else of value. That’s also a valid argument.
In the end, coupon clipping, like every other time and spending decision we make, comes down to what we personally value. There are financial savings to be had in the Sunday paper, but are those savings worth the time invested and the other activities left in their wake?
For me, it is worth it on the whole. Our children look at coupon clipping as a normal activity. They see frugal choices as being the norm, not the exception. I save a few bucks during the process. Plus, I still get to sit at the dinner table and exchange thoughts with my wife and children, which is what I’d be doing anyway during that coupon clipping session.
Is it worth it? Sure is, even if it doesn’t magically put a mint in my pocket. In fact, I think I’ll go re-subscribe to the Sunday paper now.