by Brad Hoffer
Extreme couponing and buying in bulk are crazes that have been around for quite some time. There are these ridiculous stories of people spending hours upon hours over coupons to get stuff for free and/or routinely shopping at bulk grocery stores which results in having a year or two of products in the pantry, closet or basement. All of this is done in the name of 'saving money'. The problem is, are you really saving money? It becomes very hard to measure at times. For instance, if you save $.50 a tube on a year's worth of toothpaste, let's say you go through 12 tubes a year, you have saved $6. However, if you make one errant purchase, such as a huge tub of pickles that you don't eat, or a pack of 12 kitchen brushes for $30 that you end up losing, you are at risk of throwing away your savings. The same thing happens with coupons. If you purchase something you don't need, the savings from your coupons are quickly eliminated. I have no doubt, there are super-disciplined people, who never make a wrong purchase and only purchase the necessities, and to you, I say, 'good job', 'keep up the good work'. However, for the rest of us, I think a careful look at how we are arriving at our savings and the 'extras' we end up buying needs evaluated. If your efforts to save money is failing, why are you doing it? Isn't it far worse to have the illusion that you are saving money, but in reality you are actually spending more?
Keep in mind, the goal of the companies issuing coupons and operating bulk stores, is to get individuals to buy more. If you are buying more than you need, you are losing the game. Call a time-out and re-evaluate your buying habits, your needs and your wants, and then shop smartly for only those things you need. This is at the core of saving money, buying only what you need. Even when you go to your local grocery store, everything is centered around getting you to buy more than you need. Every aisle has random stuff hanging from the shelves, trying to get you to make that impulse buy, that is, buying something you don't truly need. Think about it, one $3 'excess' item per trip, based on consumers' average 1.5 trips per week*, equals $234 a year. Think of the grocery store's motivation, every customer spending an extra $234 a year times an average of ~11,500* customers equals $2,691,000 in additional annual sales! As with any game, everyone likes to win, don't let the grocery store win! Develop a strategy and stick to it. For my household, we like to shop around the outside perimeter of the store and avoid going down the inside aisles. This approach will typically get you fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, the deli counter, milk, OJ, yogurt, eggs, cheese and bread. There is always something we need down the middle aisles, but we walk those aisles with trepidation!
In every game, big and small, there is a winner and a loser, well, except for some kids' sports where every participant gets a medal. The problem with not keeping score is you don't know how good or bad you really are. Also, if you don't keep track of past scores, you don't know if you are improving. The xlyf excel budgeting spreadsheet will help you keep score better than ever before, keep your history so you know if you are improving, and help you set appropriate goals.
Download the xlyourfinances spreadsheet today and start winning the game against impulse purchases from coupons, bulk stores and grocery stores.
I have been an Auditor, Analyst, Accounting Manager, Business Systems Manager, Controller, School Board Vice President, Director of Finance and CFO over the past 19 years of work experience. In my free time I developed the XLYourFinances spreadsheet and website I enjoy golf and spending time with my family. We attend church at LCBC.