Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How much does couponing cost me?

Previously I've blogged about cutting the cost of couponing. I thought today I'd try to make a list of expenses I incur due to couponing.

If I were not couponing, I would purchase groceries at the stores with the cheapest regular prices. For me, this would be ALDI for most pantry basics, Walmart for the things that ALDI does not stock, and BJ's Wholesale for items like paper goods and toiletries. So since I would go there anyway, I am not including the cost of trips to those stores in my calculation.

Here's what I've spent (or not spent money on) to coupon:

  • The coupons themselves.  Some people order coupons from coupon clipping sites, or they get several copies of the newspaper.  I generally do not do this.  I get one copy of coupons from the newspaper I would get even if I didn't coupon, and several more sets from a free local newspaper.  I pick up copies of this newspaper at stops I normally make throughout the week, so there is no extra cost to collecting them.

    But the free newspaper doesn't always have the best coupons, so maybe once every three months I'll buy a second copy of the newspaper to get a second set with the better coupons. The newspaper is $1.00 at the dollar store, so that's a per-year cost of $4.

    So far I've never ordered coupons, but I am not ruling out that I won't in the future. If I did, I'd have to include the cost of the coupons and the shipping, as well as the cost of coupons that I ordered but did not end up using.

    I also get a subscription to All You magazine, which has some great coupons. I purchase this as part of my children's magazine subscription fundraisers at their schools. Since I'd buy something anyway from the fundraiser, I'm not including the cost of the subscription as an added expense.
  • Coupon storage: I file my coupon inserts in a filing cabinet my husband got for free when his previous company downsized and got rid of excess office furniture.  The hanging files that the inserts are left over from a previous business venture.
  • Coupon binder: I do store some coupons in a binder, such as coupons I pick up at stores or coupons that I cut out but end up not using.  I use a binder from some previous work project.  I did buy two packs of trading card storage pages for the binder - these cost about $5 per pack, or $10 total.  These do rip and break, so let's assume I'd buy two sets of pages per year.
  • Printer toner and paper: I print out coupons from Coupons.com, RedPlum, and Coupon Network., so there is an added cost of extra toner and printer paper.  I'd have a printer anyway, so I'm not going to include the cost of the printer itself (or for that matter, for my computer or my Internet connection).  I'll estimate I go through two extra pack of printer paper and two extra toner cartridges (1 color and 1 black) per year, beyond what I would use for other purposes  I bought a pack of paper at Walgreens for $1.99 recently, and a twin pack of the toner is $58, full price.  So that is an extra cost of about $62 per year.
  • Mileage: Besides trips to ALDI and Walmart, I generally make one trip to Publix (round trip of 2.8 miles) and one separate Sunday trip to CVS and Walgreens (round trip of 4 miles).  Charging 50¢ per mile to cover gas and repairs, I'm spending $3.40 per week to make special trips to those stores, or $176.80 per year.
  • My time: This is harder to quantify.  I only spend a few hours a week looking for deals, planning my trip, and doing the extra shopping.  I wouldn't be spending that time earning money elsewhere, so I'm going to call this free for the purposes of this calculation. 
So the total expenses for one year of couponing is $252.80.

And how much do I save?  I calculate my real savings each week - how much I'm saving with coupons compared to buying the item at the lowest possible regular price.  I generally save a minimum of $30 per week by couponing (and sometimes much more than that).  So for the year, I'm saving $1560.  Subtracting out the cost of couponing for me, I'm saving around $1300 per year, at a minimum.

Of course, if the costs of couponing were more than what I was saving, I'd change strategies.  But couponing saves me lots of money, even when taking the costs into account.

For more frugal tips, please check out the bloggers listed on the left sidebar under Frugal Tips Linkups. There are lots of great ideas on each blog and I'm sure you'll find lots of wonderful tips!
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    Anonymous,  August 31, 2011 at 3:31 PM  

    Hi, Might you share what specific stores you find the Forum in South FL (Publix, CVS, Walgreens, etc)? I'm in PB county and looking!


    content2be August 31, 2011 at 4:31 PM  

    Interesting and detailed. Enjoyed reading the actual number breakdown vs. the "Oh, I save thousands!" :)

    candice.qpn September 1, 2011 at 8:48 AM  

    Thank you for the well thought out cost considerations for clippers! I've gotten in the habit of considering gas cost. It costs about 10 cents per mile (in gas) when I drive my car. This has challenged me to REALLY consider whether a special trip to a store is really saving me money & has also encouraged me to incorporate my coupon trips into my normal routes.

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