Couponing Doesn’t Need to be Extreme

Every day, I hear people say that they don’t use coupons because they don’t have the time to go through the papers and mailers and clip the coupons. “It just takes too much time” they say. Those same people, will spend hours budgeting and finding ways to save themselves money, but they don’t see couponing as a viable use of their time and efforts. While coupons may not be as important to your financial health as a budget, they can be just as good as many of the other saving methods that you will employ.

With the popularity of extreme couponing, it’s no wonder that people feel that they need to spend hours each week pouring over newspaper inserts, clipping coupons, then sorting them all into categories and then making plans for where they’ll shop and what they’ll buy. In their mind, they see piles and piles of inserts, and closets full of extra supplies that they’ll need years to use up.

Box o' couponsCouponing doesn’t need to be extreme, though. If skipping your daily latte can be a good strategy for saving a few dollars a day, so can clipping a few coupons. Taking a few minutes each week to flip through the inserts in your paper and clipping the few coupons that you find for the things that you buy regularly can easily save you a few dollars a week. Signing up for manufacturer email newsletters can often result in an electronic coupon to print out once or twice a month. A few extra emails a month is a small price to pay to save a dollar or two.

Now, the thing to remember here is that you aren’t going to retire off of the money you’ll save. And, you certainly won’t be sending your kids to college with it either. But, saving money is saving money. A few dollars here, and a few dollars there all adds up in the grand scheme of things. Heck, maybe you clip coupons so that you can treat yourself once a week to that latte that you’re currently skipping.

Anything that can be done, has been done to an extreme. But, just because the extreme version of something is popular, doesn’t mean that it has to be the only way. Just like there are people who run extreme marathons of 100 miles or more, doesn’t mean that you can’t be a runner. Just because there are hyper-milers who squeeze every extra bit of MPG out of their cars, doesn’t mean that you can’t employ a few of the same methods to save a bit on gas. And, just because there are people who spend hours each week clipping, sorting, and analyzing coupons, doesn’t mean that you can’t spend a few minutes each Sunday to save a few bucks.

photo credit: sdc2027

Flossing with Chest Hair

Being a frugaler means making some sacrifices.  We sacrifice in order to save a few bucks.  Sometimes, it becomes a bit of an addiction.  We get a small high off of the act of saving.  While you can certainly have worse addictions, even an addiction to saving can be a bad thing at times.

Taking Frugal to Extremes.

Before you get any funny ideas, I really should let you off the hook.  This post isn’t really about flossing with chest hair.  (It’s a catchy title though, isn’t it?)  I don’t actually know of anyone ever having flossed with chest hair, nor would I suggest it.  But, it serves as a good example of a way that people could take saving to an extreme.  There’s a growing movement to do things in a sustainable manner, and using things that are renewable (like chest hair) is a big part of that.  But, there are extremes.  For instance, I’ve read about people who use a special kind of stick that is very fibrous, and they chew on it instead of brushing or flossing.  Some things, I’d just rather pay for.  Being frugal is good.  Being so frugal that you chew on sticks?  I’m not going to judge, but it seems a bit too extreme for me.

Finding a Happy Frugal Medium.

There is seldom a cure to any addiction.  Overcoming one usually entails years of counseling, and hard work on the part of the addicted.  Part of the treatment is usually to completely forgo whatever it is that you’re addicted to.  If you’re an alcoholic, drinking any alcohol at all is forbidden.  But, I can’t, and won’t, condone abstaining from frugality.  Overcoming an addiction to being frugal is just a matter of finding a happy medium where you can still save money, while still living in a way that doesn’t have to include extreme cutbacks.


The Cure to Extreme Frugality.

Without thinking about it too hard, come up with something that you spend money on that you can’t do without.  Again, I’m not going to judge.  For some, it will be their car.  For others, it will be their morning coffee.  Now, come up with something that you currently spend money on that you can do without.  For some reason, for most people, it’s harder to come up with something we can do without than it is something we can’t do without.  Why is that?  The answer is that it’s psychological.  As frugal people, we’ve thought long and hard on ways to save money and to pay off our debt.  In our minds, we’ve analyzed everything that we spend money on.  We then justified everything that we spend.  In some of those cases, we’ve created justification for ourselves so that we don’t have to get rid of something that we would rather not.  So, it’s harder to find something that we know we can do without because, in our minds, we’ve created a justification that makes it something we need.  The cure to finding a happy medium and avoiding the extreme frugal addiction is to take a close look at the things we’ve justified and find those things that we’ve created justifications for that really aren’t all that justified.  In short, stop lying to yourself.  Once you do, you’ll have found several things that you can cut back on, or remove entirely, that will save you money without going to extremes.

It’s just as hard to overcome the addiction of lying to yourself as any other addiction.  There should (and maybe is) be a 12-step program for it.  Until then, try and be truly honest wit yourself.  Understand that you’ll probably slip up once or twice.  That’s forgivable.  Just recognize that you’ve slipped, and get back on track.

photo credit: Just Add Light

Have a No Spend Month This Fall to Save for Holiday Gifts

Have you ever watched your family open up Christmas gifts while mentally calculating how much each gift cost and comparing that against the amount you have in your checking?  Have you dreaded opening the bills in January because you know the credit card statement from holiday shopping will be coming soon and you do not have the money to pay the balance in full?
When my husband and I were newly married and dirt poor, we carefully planned our Christmas purchases to fit within our meager budget.  We didn’t buy many gifts, but the ones we bought were well thought out.  When we went to visit my mom over the holidays, she kept telling us about all of the presents she had bought for us.  There were so many under the tree!  Because we are the only people to buy gifts for my mom because my dad has passed, we started feeling guilty about the few presents we bought her.  Noticing that her bathroom towels were worn, we went out Christmas Eve night and bought her an entire set of 6 new bath towels including hand towels and washcloths with money we did not have.  Then we bought her some jewelry.  We charged everything knowing we didn’t have the money to pay.

50mm HBWOn Christmas morning, she delighted in her presents.  When we opened ours, we were in for a surprise.  She too had bought a few well thought out gifts for us.  But all those extra gifts we found under the tree?  They were leftover t-shirts from a conference some of the professors had hosted at the university where she works.  She bought them for a $1 each.  Each time I or my husband opened another one of those presents that contained a t-shirt, I felt sick.  We had put ourselves in debt to try to make sure our presents were equal to hers, but she had stuck to her financial budget by giving us “filler” presents.  There had been no need to buy those extra gifts on Christmas Eve. . .

We worked like crazy selling off things in our apartment such as textbooks we no longer used so that we could pay off those credit cards used to buy the extra gifts.  On our meager salary, it took us until March.  Thankfully, we have learned our lesson.

If you don’t want to spend the months after Christmas worrying how you will pay off the new debt you just acquired, consider having a no spend month now.  We still have nearly three months until Christmas.  Pick a month such as October or November to drastically reduce your spending.

If you normally spend $1000 a month on groceries, gas, entertainment, eating out, toiletries, etc., decide how much you want to cut that amount.  Maybe you will decide that in October you will only spend $500 a month.  To make up the difference, perhaps you won’t eat out or you will eat from the pantry to use up those groceries that have been on the shelf for awhile.  Maybe you will do something for free as a family rather than catching the latest movie.

By reducing your spending for just 4 weeks, you will be able to come up with a good amount for your holiday gift giving.  If you normally spend $1000, but only spend $500 of that in October, you now have $500 saved for holiday gift buying.  Yes, you sacrifice now, but it will be well worth it when you know that every present under the tree has been paid for.  Best of all, there is no reason to dread the bills in January.  Isn’t that a great way to start the new year?

photo credit: kevin dooley