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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Is Cutting Coupons Worth It?

I apologize in advance to those of you who could not care less about couponing, grocery store trips or our Dave Ramsey budgeting trials and tribulations....but I know several of you are geeks like me, so this post is for you!

We have been tracking our finances on a monthly spreadsheet since July of 2007 - which means I have 32 months of spending history to analyze and average when I'm feeling particularly geeky. (Which is far more often than I will admit here.)

This week I decided to take a look at our "Grocery" line item and see if I could pinpoint a pre-couponing and post-couponing difference. Sometimes I really feel like I'm saving tons of money with my pile of coupons and then I wonder if maybe I'm spending the same amount (or more!?) and just getting more for it. I guess either result would be a good thing, but the goal in general is not to see how much stuff I can get for $400, but to supply our family for the month on the money we've allotted to groceries - and anything leftover means saving, giving or playing more.

(Editor's Note: Our "Grocery" budget encompasses perhaps more than the average family's. We buy all of our toiletries, cleaning products, diapers, etc. out of it. Since I shop at Publix for the most part, it doesn't make sense to me to have separate envelopes for those things.)

I can't remember exactly when I began couponing, but it was sometime towards the end of my pregnancy in 2009. So I thought I'd look at our grocery budget from Feb 08 - Feb 09 and then again from Feb 09 to Feb 10.

Here's how things shook out:

Pre-couponing ('08-'09) - $339.71/month
Post-couponing ('09-'10) - $364.43/month

An increase of roundabout 7%. Hmmmm. None of that can be chalked up to inflation (I told you I am a geek - I checked) as consumer prices fell ever so slightly on average from 2008 to 2009. But the post-couponing budget does include diapers and formula which we obviously never purchased before the little man was born.

(Here's where it gets real nerdy - feel free to check out if you were only sticking around to be polite.)

If you consider that we go through approximately 155 diapers (avg. price $0.21) and three canisters of formula (avg. price $18) a month, that's an additional $86.55 we're now spending each month on "Groceries".

Once you back that out of the budget for the 9 months E has been freeloading at Casa Leipprandt (joke!)...our monthly average drops to $299.51.
A decrease of almost 12%!! (12% sounds SO much better than forty bucks doesn't it?)

Which brings me to the main reason I wanted to look at this - I now spend 15-30 minutes each week planning my grocery store trips and cutting coupons. With a real savings of $40/month that means I'm getting paid anywhere from $20/hr to $40/hr to coupon.

As a full-time stay-at-home mom, I'm okay with that hourly wage...but maybe you're a lawyer, a nurse, a chemical engineer...does it make sense for you to coupon too?? Maybe not, unless you can do it much more quickly and save way more than I do.

So I'd love to know your thoughts...

Feeling relieved that you now have an excuse not to coupon? Is $40 a pathetic amount to get excited about? Do people with coupons make you angry? Is our budget way out of whack?

Let me know your thoughts and I'll award a randomly chosen commenter or emailer a $40 gift card to the grocery store of their choice! : ) (Ha! Now you're excited about $40....)

(P.S. Comments/emails will be accepted for drawing until next Wednesday at midnight EST - winner chosen next Thursday morning once I've had my morning coffee)

(P.P.S. Please only comment once! But feel free to encourage your spouse, child, or couponing geek buddies to comment as well.)

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